During the last presidential election, Barack Obama’s multicultural background and exotic, peripatetic childhood helped elevate him in the view of many voters from mere politician to symbol of a new kind of America, one more diverse in its body and more global in its perspective. (His background also continues to fuel fear and conspiracy theories within a certain nativist strain in our culture.)
Well, turns out Obama’s years in Indonesia were, by American standards, even more unconventional than we knew, according to the New York Times :
Mr. Obama’s family rented the guest house inside a compound belonging to a prominent physician. There, according to the neighborhood’s longtime residents, the young Obama, who had already experienced differences in class and religion in his short stay in Indonesia, was exposed to another aspect of Jakarta’s diversity.
His nanny was an openly gay man who, in keeping with Indonesia’s relaxed attitudes toward homosexuality, carried on an affair with a local butcher, longtime residents said. The nanny later joined a group of transvestites called Fantastic Dolls, who, like the many transvestites who remain fixtures of Jakarta’s streetscape, entertained people by dancing and playing volleyball.
Photograph of Obama and daughters by Saul Loeb for Getty Images.