RELIGION
07/14/2015 05:35 pm ET Updated Jul 14, 2015

Indonesia's Transgender Muslims, Known As Waria, Celebrate Ramadan

YOGYAKARTA, INDONESIA - JULY 08: Shinta Ratri, a leader of a Pesantren boarding school, Al-Fatah, for transgender people know
Getty Images: Shinta Ratri, a leader of a Pesantren boarding school, Al-Fatah, for transgender people known as 'waria' prays during Ramadan on July 08, 2015 in Yogyakarta, Indonesia.
YOGYAKARTA, INDONESIA - JULY 08: Shinta Ratri, a leader of a Pesantren boarding school, Al-Fatah, for transgender people known as 'waria' prays during Ramadan on July 08, 2015 in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. During the holy month of Ramadan the 'waria' community gather to break the fast and pray together. 'Waria' is a term derived from the words 'wanita' (woman) and 'pria' (man). The Koran school Al-Fatah was set back last year's by Shinta Ratri at her house as a place for waria to pray, after their first founder Maryani died. The school operates every Sunday. Islam strictly segregates men from women when praying, leaving no-where for 'the third sex' waria to pray before now. (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images)

During the holy month of Ramadan, a group of transgender Muslims in Indonesia meets regularly at the Al-Fatah Islamic school on the outskirts of the city of Yogyakarta to practice their faith.

Like millions of Muslims around the world who are also partaking in the fast, they abstain from food and drink during the day and listen in as the Quran is recited, according to Stephen Suleeman, a lecturer at Jakarta Theological Seminary who helps organize programs relating to LGBT issues. They visit the graveyards of relatives and other transgender people who have passed away. When the sun sets, they break their fast together as a family, in one of the few sacred centers in the Muslim-majority country where there is space for people of a "third gender."

The Islamic school, or Pesantren, is a haven for waria -- transgender Indonesians who were assigned male at birth but feel that they have women's souls. The word is a mixture of the Indonesian term "wanita," meaning woman, and "pria," meaning man. Other worship centers in the country strictly separate women and men from each other during prayers, according to Getty, leaving the waria with few options for places to pray.

The Al Fatah Pesantren was established by a waria named Maryani, to help fellow transgender Muslims gather and worship God freely. 

Waria are visible in Indonesian pop culture, although they are often the victims of discrimination in the real world.

They haven't yet been accepted by the wider Indonesian society, Suleeman said.

"They appear in the news, in movies, on TV comedies, etc.," Suleeman told HuffPost in an email. "But only as entertainers. People have not yet given them the full status as equal with the other two sexes."

Scroll down for a glimpse into the warias' spiritual life during Ramadan, captured by freelance photographer Ulet Ifansasti.

YOGYAKARTA, INDONESIA - JULY 12:  Members of a Pesantren boarding school, Al-Fatah, for transgender people known as 'waria' p
Getty Images: Members of Al Fatah pray during Ramadan.
YOGYAKARTA, INDONESIA - JULY 12: Members of a Pesantren boarding school, Al-Fatah, for transgender people known as 'waria' pray during Ramadan on July 12, 2015 in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. During the holy month of Ramadan the 'waria' community gather to break the fast and pray together. 'Waria' is a term derived from the words 'wanita' (woman) and 'pria' (man). The Koran school Al-Fatah was set back last year's by Shinta Ratri at her house as a place for waria to pray, after their first founder Maryani died. The school operates every Sunday. Islam strictly segregates men from women when praying, leaving no-where for 'the third sex' waria to pray before now. (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images)
YOGYAKARTA, INDONESIA - JULY 12:  Inez, a member of a Pesantren boarding school, Al-Fatah, for transgender people known as 'w
Getty Images: Inez, a member of an Islamic school for transgender people in Indonesia, takes a rest while waiting to break the fast.
YOGYAKARTA, INDONESIA - JULY 12: Inez, a member of a Pesantren boarding school, Al-Fatah, for transgender people known as 'waria' take a rest as waiting for break the fast during Ramadan on July 12, 2015 in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. During the holy month of Ramadan the 'waria' community gather to break the fast and pray together. 'Waria' is a term derived from the words 'wanita' (woman) and 'pria' (man). The Koran school Al-Fatah was set back last year's by Shinta Ratri at her house as a place for waria to pray, after their first founder Maryani died. The school operates every Sunday. Islam strictly segregates men from women when praying, leaving no-where for 'the third sex' waria to pray before now. (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images)
YOGYAKARTA, INDONESIA - JULY 12:  Members of a Pesantren boarding school, Al-Fatah, for transgender people known as 'waria' p
Getty Images: The school gives these women a place to pray.
YOGYAKARTA, INDONESIA - JULY 12: Members of a Pesantren boarding school, Al-Fatah, for transgender people known as 'waria' pray during Ramadan on July 12, 2015 in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. During the holy month of Ramadan the 'waria' community gather to break the fast and pray together. 'Waria' is a term derived from the words 'wanita' (woman) and 'pria' (man). The Koran school Al-Fatah was set back last year's by Shinta Ratri at her house as a place for waria to pray, after their first founder Maryani died. The school operates every Sunday. Islam strictly segregates men from women when praying, leaving no-where for 'the third sex' waria to pray before now. (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images)
YOGYAKARTA, INDONESIA - JULY 12:  A member of a Pesantren boarding school, Al-Fatah, for transgender people known as 'waria'
Getty Images: A member of the school prepares for prayer.
YOGYAKARTA, INDONESIA - JULY 12: A member of a Pesantren boarding school, Al-Fatah, for transgender people known as 'waria' prepares for pray during Ramadan on July 12, 2015 in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. During the holy month of Ramadan the 'waria' community gather to break the fast and pray together. 'Waria' is a term derived from the words 'wanita' (woman) and 'pria' (man). The Koran school Al-Fatah was set back last year's by Shinta Ratri at her house as a place for waria to pray, after their first founder Maryani died. The school operates every Sunday. Islam strictly segregates men from women when praying, leaving no-where for 'the third sex' waria to pray before now. (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images)
YOGYAKARTA, INDONESIA - JULY 12:  Members of boarding school for transgenders known as pesatren 'waria', called Al-Fatah, pra
Getty Images: Indonesia is a Muslim majority country.
YOGYAKARTA, INDONESIA - JULY 12: Members of boarding school for transgenders known as pesatren 'waria', called Al-Fatah, praying during observe ramadan on July 12, 2015 in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. During the holy month of Ramadan the 'waria' community do activities gather to break the fast and pray together. 'Waria' is a term derived from the words 'wanita' (woman) and 'pria' (man). The Koran school Al-Fatah was set back last year's by Shinta Ratri at her house as a place for waria to pray, after their first founder Maryani died. The school operates every sunday. Islam strictly segregates men from women when praying, leaving no-where for 'the third sex' waria to pray before now. (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images)
YOGYAKARTA, INDONESIA - JULY 12:  Members of a Pesantren boarding school, Al-Fatah, for transgender people known as 'waria' p
Getty Images: A quiet moment at the Islamic school.
YOGYAKARTA, INDONESIA - JULY 12: Members of a Pesantren boarding school, Al-Fatah, for transgender people known as 'waria' pray during Ramadan on July 12, 2015 in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. During the holy month of Ramadan the 'waria' community gather to break the fast and pray together. 'Waria' is a term derived from the words 'wanita' (woman) and 'pria' (man). The Koran school Al-Fatah was set back last year's by Shinta Ratri at her house as a place for waria to pray, after their first founder Maryani died. The school operates every Sunday. Islam strictly segregates men from women when praying, leaving no-where for 'the third sex' waria to pray before now. (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images)
YOGYAKARTA, INDONESIA - JULY 12:  Members of a Pesantren boarding school, Al-Fatah, for transgender people known as 'waria' e
Getty Images: Waria break their fast during Ramadan on July 12 in Indonesia.
YOGYAKARTA, INDONESIA - JULY 12: Members of a Pesantren boarding school, Al-Fatah, for transgender people known as 'waria' eat as break their fast during Ramadan on July 12, 2015 in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. During the holy month of Ramadan the 'waria' community gather to break the fast and pray together. 'Waria' is a term derived from the words 'wanita' (woman) and 'pria' (man). The Koran school Al-Fatah was set back last year's by Shinta Ratri at her house as a place for waria to pray, after their first founder Maryani died. The school operates every Sunday. Islam strictly segregates men from women when praying, leaving no-where for 'the third sex' waria to pray before now. (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images)
YOGYAKARTA, INDONESIA - JULY 12:   Inez, a member of a Pesantren boarding school, Al-Fatah, for transgender people known as '
Getty Images: Inez applies makeup at the Pesantren.
YOGYAKARTA, INDONESIA - JULY 12: Inez, a member of a Pesantren boarding school, Al-Fatah, for transgender people known as 'waria' applies make-up to her face during Ramadan on July 12, 2015 in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. During the holy month of Ramadan the 'waria' community gather to break the fast and pray together. 'Waria' is a term derived from the words 'wanita' (woman) and 'pria' (man). The Koran school Al-Fatah was set back last year's by Shinta Ratri at her house as a place for waria to pray, after their first founder Maryani died. The school operates every Sunday. Islam strictly segregates men from women when praying, leaving no-where for 'the third sex' waria to pray before now. (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images)
YOGYAKARTA, INDONESIA - JULY 12:   Rulli, a member of a Pesantren boarding school, Al-Fatah, for transgender people known as
Getty Images: Rulli prepares to apply fake eyelashes.
YOGYAKARTA, INDONESIA - JULY 12: Rulli, a member of a Pesantren boarding school, Al-Fatah, for transgender people known as 'waria' holds fake eyelash as clean her face during Ramadan on July 12, 2015 in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. During the holy month of Ramadan the 'waria' community gather to break the fast and pray together. 'Waria' is a term derived from the words 'wanita' (woman) and 'pria' (man). The Koran school Al-Fatah was set back last year's by Shinta Ratri at her house as a place for waria to pray, after their first founder Maryani died. The school operates every Sunday. Islam strictly segregates men from women when praying, leaving no-where for 'the third sex' waria to pray before now. (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images)
YOGYAKARTA, INDONESIA - JULY 12:  Inez, a member of a Pesantren boarding school, Al-Fatah, for transgender people known as 'w
Getty Images: Inez deep in prayer.
YOGYAKARTA, INDONESIA - JULY 12: Inez, a member of a Pesantren boarding school, Al-Fatah, for transgender people known as 'waria' pray during Ramadan on July 12, 2015 in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. During the holy month of Ramadan the 'waria' community gather to break the fast and pray together. 'Waria' is a term derived from the words 'wanita' (woman) and 'pria' (man). The Koran school Al-Fatah was set back last year's by Shinta Ratri at her house as a place for waria to pray, after their first founder Maryani died. The school operates every Sunday. Islam strictly segregates men from women when praying, leaving no-where for 'the third sex' waria to pray before now. (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images)
YOGYAKARTA, INDONESIA - JULY 08: Shinta Ratri, a leader of a Pesantren boarding school, Al-Fatah, for transgender people know
Getty Images: Shinta Tatri is the leader of the Pesantren.
YOGYAKARTA, INDONESIA - JULY 08: Shinta Ratri, a leader of a Pesantren boarding school, Al-Fatah, for transgender people known as 'waria' prays during Ramadan on July 08, 2015 in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. During the holy month of Ramadan the 'waria' community gather to break the fast and pray together. 'Waria' is a term derived from the words 'wanita' (woman) and 'pria' (man). The Koran school Al-Fatah was set back last year's by Shinta Ratri at her house as a place for waria to pray, after their first founder Maryani died. The school operates every Sunday. Islam strictly segregates men from women when praying, leaving no-where for 'the third sex' waria to pray before now. (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images)
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