For describing Indonesian island Bali as “queer-friendly” and suggesting she could help foreigners enter the island amid the coronavirus, Black American woman Kristen Gray was deported Thursday. Immigration officials on the island said they deported the 28-year-old for “spreading information that could unsettle the public” and getting involved in “dangerous activities” that could endanger public order.
Gray was arrested three days after posting a thread on Twitter about Bali being LGBT-friendly and praising it for its low cost of living. She also went ahead to promote an e-book, “Our Bali Life Is Yours,” that she wrote with her partner, Saundra Alexander. The couple had left the United States last January largely due to its high cost of living and had planned to stay six months.
However, they continued to stay in Bali after Indonesian authorities halted international travel following the spread of the coronavirus. In the Twitter thread, Gray wrote that their stay has been worth it as they were now paying $400 for a treehouse compared with $1,300 for a studio in Los Angeles. “This island has been amazing because of our elevated lifestyle at a much lower cost of living,” Gray wrote. “Being a digital nomad is everything.”
Balinese are mostly Hindu, though Indonesia is the largest Muslim-majority nation in the world where LGBT people do continue to face discrimination, BBC reported. In a statement, the immigration office in Bali said Gray’s posts on Twitter, which caused a backlash online, could “unsettle the public” as it could suggest that the island was welcoming to gay men and lesbians or that it’s not difficult entering Indonesia during the pandemic.
Gray and her partner, Alexander, 30, were deported on Thursday morning after flying to Jakarta from Bali on Wednesday evening and staying overnight, The New York Times reported. The two boarded a flight to Los Angeles with a stopover in Tokyo, the report added.
Gray had said she was targeted because of her comments on LGBT. “I am not guilty,” she earlier told reporters at the immigration detention center on Tuesday. “I put out a statement about L.G.B.T. and I am being deported because of L.G.B.T.”
Her lawyer, Erwin Siregar, couldn’t agree more. He argued that the deportation of Gray and her partner was “unfair” as they were not even given the opportunity to prove their case in court. “They are good people,” Siregar said of the couple. “They can persuade tourists to come to Indonesia after the pandemic is over without a cent of payment. We should thank them, not deport them.”