Former Los Angeles resident and graphic designer Kristen Antoinette Gray is being deported from Bali over her viral tweets that celebrated the Indonesian resort island as a low-cost, LGBTQ-friendly place for foreigners to live.
Gray, a travel influencer and her partner, Saundra Michelle Alexander, moved to the south-east Asian country in 2019 as so-called “digital nomads” after booking one-way flights and wound up staying through the COVID-19 pandemic. Her posts on Twitter, comparing the costs of living in Los Angeles to Bali began to go viral in Indonesia. “I was paying $1,300 for my LA studio. Now I have a treehouse for $400,” one of Gray’s tweets said.
Her posts were considered to have “disseminated information disturbing to the public,” which is the basis for her deportation, said Jamaruli Manihuruk, chief of the Bali regional office for the Ministry of Law and Human Rights.
Many Indonesian social media users were furious that she was showing off living and working in Bali without a proper business visa.
“I am not guilty,” Gray told reporters after Indonesian immigration officials announced her deportation. “I have not overstayed my [tourist] visa. I am not making money in Indonesian rupiah. I put out a statement about LGBT, and I am deported because of LGBT.”
Homosexuality is largely frowned upon in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation, and LGBTQ people can face social and legal discrimination.
Gray and Alexander, are currently in immigration detention while waiting for a flight to the United States.
Indonesia has temporarily restricted foreigners from coming to the country since Jan. 1 to control the spread of COVID-19, and public activities have been restricted on Java and Bali islands.