Indonesia's waria commonly assert that the bodily transformations they undertake on a temporary but daily basis, which they call déndong, are central to their understanding of the self. The onerous efforts that waria make to craft their male body in line with frequently glamorous forms of feminine beauty nests within efforts to achieve visibility on the national stage. Waria also describe their gendered embodiment in terms of a personal narrative of self-actualization that sees it as one aspect of a process they call becoming. However, waria do not see déndong primarily as the expression of an individual self but assert that it is a reflection of the work of others. In this view, meeting more waria and interacting with them results in irrevocable changes to one's outer self. This article describes the historical emergence of this common understanding of selfhood and embodiment during the New Order in Indonesia (1967–98), a period characterized by the rapid growth of the mass media in the context of military rule. Emphasizing waria's own memories of this period alongside archival sources and personal photographs helps us understand how gender presentation both animates and undermines the fragile promise of national belonging in Indonesia.

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