A school opened in 2008 in a hair salon continues to offer transgender women a safe space to pray and study.

In 2008 transgender hairdresser by the name of Mariyani, opened her hair salon in the Javanese city of Yogyakarta as a place for trans people to gather to study Islam and pray.

LGBT Muslims struggle to find an accepting space to practice their faith as they are often turned away from Islamic schools and mosques.

PRI reported earlier this month, quoting Bunda Yeti, a trans woman or ‘waria,’ who spoke about the importance of the school: “Normally I would have joined the men’s section, but I was wearing a dress and makeup. And could I pray with the women? Of course not.”

The school gives space for trans individuals to practice their faith without worrying about discrimination or feeling they don’t belong.

Indonesians have largely followed a more moderate form of Islam recently, however the Ulemna Council declared homosexuality evil, ushering in a more hard-lined interpretation of the Islamic faith.

The current director of the school, Shinta Ratri says: “These days society is more open-minded about transgender people … except the religious establishment. Religious thought is stuck just the way it’s always been.”

Although the religious establishment is slow to change their views on the LGBT community, Shinta is hopeful about the future. Recent support for her school has come from a university run by Indonesia’s largest Islamic group, Nahdlatul Ulema. They are providing Shinta’s school with teacher and support.

The symbolic affect importance of this partnership is very important for the transgender community.