Kristen Gray and Saundra Alexander Los Angeles black lesbian couple to be deported from Bali after calling island queer friendly and encouraging migration amid the pandemic as outraged social media responds.
Exploiting their Western privilege? A Los Angeles woman in a same sex relationship who moved to Bali with her girlfriend are set to be deported following outrage over tweets in which the woman, a social media influencer detailed the couple’s idyllic new life on the holiday island in South-east Asia.
Travel influencer and graphic designer, Kristen Gray came under fire for promoting and selling an e-book she wrote to help others considering a similar move to Bali.
Gray has since told that she is being kicked out, along with her girlfriend, ‘because I am LGBT’.
The social media outrage prompted an investigation by immigration authorities, who said while Gray had a valid visa she was suspected of breaking the law and would be sent home on the next available flight to the United States. As of Wednesday she and her girlfriend Saundra Alexander were still on the island.
The couple moved to Bali in January, 2020, with the plan to stay for six months but extended their stay due to the COVID-19 pandemic – BuzzfeedNews reported.
‘low cost of living, luxury lifestyle, queer friendly…’
The pair had been living as ‘digital nomads‘ on the island ever since, sharing images of their ‘idyllic life’ on Instagram and TikTok.
Gray came to broader public attention over the weekend after sharing a Twitter thread (since set to private) in which she described how the decision to move to Bali had been a ‘game changer’.
‘This island has been amazing because of our elevated lifestyle at a much lower cost of living,’ Gray said in the now-deleted tweets.
‘I was paying $1300 for my LA studio. Now I have a treehouse for $400.’
In one of her many tweets, Gray listed ‘major benefits’ of her move to Bali, which included ‘safety, low cost of living, luxury lifestyle, queer friendly and Black in Bali community’.
Gray also promoted her e-book, Our Bali Life is Yours, which sells for $30 and includes ‘direct links to our visa agents and how to get into Indonesia during COVID’.
The thread sparked fury in Bali and throughout Indonesia, with many criticizing Gray for encouraging an influx of Westerners into the country during the pandemic, and raising concerns it would lead to further gentrification of the island at the expense of locals.
For those averse to reading, here is a succinct video regarding this for your heart’s desires. pic.twitter.com/fEgspkHyJY
— Kai Mata🏳️🌈 (@kaimatamusic) January 18, 2021
Exploiting Western privilege at the expense of locals?
Her description of Bali as ‘queer friendly’ also hit a nerve with local members of the LGBT community in light of growing fears of state-sanctioned homophobia in conservative Indonesia, which introduced a bill last year that would force LGBT people into conversion therapy, including raids on local queer venues.
Others took exception to Gray flaunting her ability to pay $US400 a month to rent her house while the average monthly wage in Bali was around $US177 according to Coconuts Bali.
Bali is a major tourist attraction for many Americans, Europeans, and Australians. It is heavily reliant on tourism, but its booming expatriate population has accelerated the gentrification of some neighborhoods, where foreigners build luxury properties and open businesses that cater to tourists and expats. Locals have been steadily priced out of certain parts of the island, and unfettered development is decimating the industries that Balinese people have historically relied on to survive.
While concerns of locals being displaced in their own homeland made the rounds, some on social media claimed criticism of Gray was driven by the fact she was a Black woman. The back and forth on Twitter has also included some users pointing out the outrage over incidents involving white and other non-Black tourists.
But there’s more.
Questions had also been raised whether the couple paid taxes to the Indonesian government, however Gray’s partner Saundra said in a tweet the money they made was in US dollars and they paid taxes to the US government accordingly.
Excuse me neng Kristen Gray, and other bule’s who want to live in Bali, y’all need to watch this video👇 pic.twitter.com/CiX0XZZ1AR
— Javanese Pride🇮🇩🌹🇸🇦🌹🇦🇪 (@nndjavanese) January 18, 2021
As outrage mounted online, Indonesian immigration authorities confirmed they were looking into the matter.
Gray was found to have a valid visitor permit to stay in the country until later this month, however on Tuesday authorities confirmed she would be deported, pending the next available flight.
In a statement to Coconuts Bali, Jamaruli Manihuruk, who heads the Bali office for Indonesia’s Ministry of Law and Human Rights, said Gray may have violated a number of immigration laws, including ‘spreading information that could unsettle the public’.
We have to talk about Kristen Gray and how she’s encouraging people to move to Bali during a pandemic pic.twitter.com/8Azu8bPPt4
— tope (@liveauthentic_) January 17, 2021
Did social media influencer break Bali laws?
That is understood to be in reference to her comment about Bali being queer friendly and general encouragement of visitors to enter the country during the pandemic.
Indonesia shut down its international border for a second time this month amid a steadily rising number of COVID-19 infections news.com.au reports.
‘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,’ Mr Manihuruk said in a statement.
Gray has locked down her Twitter and Instagram accounts in light of the backlash.
She told reporters on Tuesday she had not broken any rules and was being deported because of her comments about LGBTI community.
‘I am not guilty, I have not overstayed my visa,’ Gray said, according to the AP.
‘I have not made money in Indonesian rupiah in Indonesia. I put out a statement about LGBT and I’m being deported because I am LGBT.’
The couple has been held at Denpasar’s Immigration Detention Centre awaiting the next flight to the US. Of note, Gray’s visa had been set to expire on January 24th.