Social media influencer is deported from Bali for 'LGBT haven' tweets

A SOCIAL media influencer who promoted Bali as an LGBT-friendly haven to wait out the pandemic is to be deported from Indonesia.

In a series of viral tweets, American Kristen Gray described how she and her girlfriend, Saundra Alexander, were enjoying a low-cost lifestyle in the tourist paradise since they arrived early last year, describing the island as the "perfect medicine" for a prolonged escape from the pandemic back home.

"This island has been amazing because of our elevated lifestyle at much lower cost of living. I was paying $1,300 ($A1,675) for my LA studio. Now I have a treehouse for $400 ($A515)," she tweeted, along with a picture of her new home.

"Being a digital nomad is everything. I was able to successfully transition my graphic design business on road."

She praised Bali for being "queer friendly" and promoted the e-book Our Bali Life Is Yours which the couple wrote to help others move there.

The Twitter thread prompted a backlash, with Indonesian social media users alleging Ms Gray was cheating the system by dodging taxes, and accusing her of exploiting her privilege to create gentrification and displaying an apparent lack of cultural awareness. Indonesia is the world's largest -Muslim-majority nation, and the LGBT community has been marginalised, targeted by police raids and sometimes violently attacked.

The immigration office summoned Ms Gray for questioning on Tuesday. It said she may have violated immigration laws, including by spreading information that could disturb the public, such as suggesting that Bali was "queer friendly" and easily accessible to foreigners amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

I Putu Surya Dharma, a spokesman for Bali's Law and Human Rights agency, told Reuters Ms Gray was being held at an immigration detention facility until a flight back to the US was available. Her lawyer said Ms Gray had a social cultural visa valid until Jan 24. Officials said they were also investigating whether Ms Gray had violated Indonesian law by carrying out business activities through the sale of her e-book.

After her deportation was announced, she told reporters: "I'm not guilty. I am not making money in Indonesian rupiah. I put out a statement about LGBT, and I'm deported because I'm LGBT."

Indonesia has restricted foreign arrivals since Jan 1 to stop the spread of Covid-19. The country has seen 4,452 people die from the virus in the first 19 days of the year.

The Telegraph, London