Barack Obama had gay transvestite nanny in Indonesia

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Barack Obama had gay transvestite nanny in Indonesia

Toby Harnden

Toby Harnden is the Daily Telegraph's US Editor, based in Washington DC. You can read more about Toby here. His email is and he is @tobyharnden on Twitter.

By Toby Harnden World Last updated: November 10th, 2010

Barack Obama as a child in Indonesia (Photo: AP)

A delicious little detail buried away in Norimitsu Onishi’s excellent NYT piece on the childhood of Barack Obama (then known as Barry Soetero) in Jakarta:
His nanny was an openly gay man who, in keeping with Indonesia’s relaxed attitudes toward homosexuality, carried on an affair with a local butcher, longtime residents said. The nanny later joined a group of transvestites called Fantastic Dolls, who, like the many transvestites who remain fixtures of Jakarta’s streetscape, entertained people by dancing and playing volleyball.
Of course, this rather undermines the notion of Obama being strongly influenced by Islamic fundamentalism during this period. But it does underline the remarkable exoticness of his upbringing.

Not many parents would hire a gay transvestite nanny to look after their son. Not many American mothers would take a job in Indonesia and leave their son with her parents in Hawaii, as Obama’s mother Ann Dunham did for a period. Not many mothers would temporarily give their son another surname.

But whatever one thinks of these unusual parental choices – or of Obama’s politics and presidency – it has to be said that this very unconventional upbringing helped produce a remarkable person.
In related news that will both cheer and disappoint Birthers and other conspiracists, CBS reports that when Obama arrived in Indonesia at the age of six and enrolled at the St Francis of Assisi Catholic School, his religion was listed as “Muslim”. School officials said it was standard practice to give the religion of a student’s father (Obama’s stepfather Lolo Soetoro was a Muslim . His birthplace, however, was listed as Honolulu.