The government of Bali, Indonesia had two Black women deported back to the United States after one tweeted the island was “queer friendly” and provided a “luxury lifestyle” at a low-cost.
According to Kristen Gray, 28, she and her girlfriend Saundra Michelle Alexander relocated to Bali in 2019 after she “was broke, struggling to find work the entire year.” Since she wanted to take a stab at entrepreneurship and was having no success at home, Gray said she and her girlfriend booked one-way trips to the island in now protected tweets.
Though they hadn’t planned on staying permanently, when the coronavirus pandemic hit, Gray said they hunkered down to “wait it out” and the move was “the perfect medicine.”
Gray said not only was her graphic design business thriving, being able to work in Bali as a “digital nomad” was helping her heal from childhood traumas.
She also said Bali – the world’s largest Muslim-majority country that is known to be stern in its views against homosexuality – was friendly to the LGBTQ community.
Gray and her girlfriend, she said, were able to live in Bali in luxury at a fraction of the cost. “The island has been amazing because of our elevated lifestyle at a much lower cost of living. I was paying $1,300 for my LA studio. Now I have a treehouse for $400,” Gray tweeted.
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Gray concluded her tweet thread with a promo for her e-book “Our Bali Life Is Yours” in which she encouraged other people to move to Bali during the pandemic and gave them tips on how they did it.
Many native Indonesians were angered by Gray’s tweets. They said she was encouraging people to move to their home in the middle of a global health pandemic that is worsening, exploiting her Western privilege and may have evaded taxes. They also noted she was out of touch with the island’s culture based on her assessment of the island as “LGBTQ friendly.”
Some defended Gray and said the criticism of her was racially motivated. Other critics said what Gray did was a form of gentrification that could potentially hurt native Indonesians if more Americans followed suit.
When the authorities in Bali got wind of Gray’s viral tweets, they began an official investigation into the couple.
Jamaruli Manihuruk, Head of the Bali office for the Ministry of Law and Human Rights, said findings revealed Gray likely violated a lot of their information laws including “spreading information that could unsettle the public” by suggesting foreigners enter Indonesia amid coronavirus.
“The concerned foreign national is suspected to have done business by selling her e-book and putting up consultation fees on traveling to Bali, which means she can be subject to sanctions according to the 2011 Immigration Law,” Manihuruk’s statement continued, adding the action violated her visitor stay permit, Coconuts Bali reported.
Gray, who apologized for any offense through her attorney upon deportation, maintained she is not guilty.
“I am not guilty. I have not overstayed my visa. I have not made money in Indonesian rupiah in Indonesia. I put out a statement about LGBT, and I’m being deported because of LGBT,” Gray said in a statement.