Before he became president, Barry Obama was an eight-year-old boy living in Indonesia under the care of Evie, a transgender woman in Jakarta.

Today, his ex-nanny is forced to hide her identity to avoid being beaten or killed, and her powerful story sheds a light on the abuse suffered by the transgender and transvestite community in Indonesia.

'That used to really crack him up.'

As a child, Evie was often beaten by her father, who was disgusted that he had such a sissy for a son.

He wanted me to act like a boy, even though I didn't feel it in my soul, she told the Associated Press.

After years of being teased and bullied, Evie dropped out of school after the third grade and decided to try her hand at cooking.

By the time she was a teenager in 1969, she had made her way into the kitchens of several high-ranking officials in Indonesia. It was then that her beef steak and fried rice caught the eye of Ann Dunham, Barack Obama's mother.

Dunham, who had moved to Indonesia two years earlier after marrying second husband Lolo Soetoro, offered her a job cooking and taking care of Barack and his sister Maya.

Neighbors from Obama's old Menteng neighborhood remember seeing Evie leave her house in the evening fully made up and dressed in drag.

When she cooked and cared for Dunham's children, however, Evie says she dressed as a man, and says it's doubtful Barry ever knew.

He was so young, Evie, now 66, told the AP. And I never let him see me wearing women's clothes. But he did see me trying on his mother's lipstick, sometimes. That used to really crack him up.

'I didn't want to die like that.'

It was when Barack Obama's family left Indonesia in the early 1970s that Evie's life went downhill. After breaking up with her live-in boyfriend, Evie tried and failed to get work as a domestic servant.

I tried to get a job as a maid, but no one would hire me, Evie said. I needed money to buy food, get a place to stay.

She decided to become a sex worker.

It gave her enough money to survive, and allowed her to express her femininity. But it also put her on the radar of then-leader Gen. Suharto's soldiers. The dictator's men often rounded up banshees or warias, as Indonesians called transgenders and transvestites, who would take them to an abandoned field to beat and abuse them.

Evie recalled one time when the soldiers captured her. They shaved her long, black hair down to the scalp before putting out cigarettes on her hands and arms.

But the raid that changed everything happened in 1985, when she and her friends were forced to split up to evade soldiers and some locals. One girl, Susi, disappeared, possibly jumping into a nearby canal to escape.

We searched all night, Evie said. Finally ... we found her.

Susi's bloated body floated up from the sewage canal, her face disfigured by abuse.

It was horrible, Evie told the AP. Her body swollen, face bashed in.

It was too much for her to risk. Evie gathered up all her feminine clothing and hid them in two large boxes. She collected all the makeup she owned-lipstick, face powder, eye shadow-and gave them away to anyone who would take it.

I knew in my heart I was a woman, but I didn't want to die like that, Evie said, her lips trembling. So I decided to just accept it...I've been living like this, a man, ever since.

'Their fate is to be ridiculed and harrassed.'

Indonesia is home to as many as 7 million transgender men and women, an astonishing number given the fact that the Southeast Asian country is home to more orthodox Muslims than any other country in the world.

Although some few transgender men and women have achieved national prominence, like celebrity talk show host Dorce Gamalama, most are viewed at best the brunt of a cruel joke, and at worst an unacceptable perversion of nature.

The community has adopted a much lower profile in recent years, following a series of attacks by orthodox Muslims, and local clerics are outspoken in their condemnation of women like Evie.

They must learn to accept their nature, Ichwan Syam, a prominent Muslim cleric at the influential Indonesian Ulema Council, told the AP. If they are not willing to cure themselves medically and religiously... [they have to] accept their fate to be ridiculed and harassed.

Many transgender women turn to prostitution in order to have a job and live according to what they believe is their true gender. Such jobs put them at risk of contracting debilitating sexually transmitted diseases like syphilis and AIDS.

But some, like Evie, decide that it's better to hide their true selves. And the danger they face if they don't is a potent one.

Indonesia's National Commission for Human Rights receives about 1,000 reports of abuses per year, ranging from murder and rape to the disruption to group activities.

Nor is Indonesia the only country whose trangender population is under threat: worldwide, at least one person is killed every other day, according to the Trans Murder Monitoring Project.

Evie, again going by the name Turdi, now lives in a closet-sized hovel in a slum in Jakarta. She makes a living collecting and scrubbing dirty laundry for food. She goes regularly to the mosque, and prays five times a day.

When AP reporter Niniek Karmini first met her, she said she was just waiting to die.

I don't have a future anymore, she said.

'I couldn't believe my eyes.'

In the last few years, however, some within the transgender and transvestite community have started pushing back.

In February, a 50-year-old Indonesian transvestite named Yuli Retoblaut applied to be the next leader of the national human rights commission. Her candidacy has generated a lot of press.

I'm too ugly to be a prostitute, Yuli Retoblaut said, chuckling. But I can be their bodyguard.

Evie, meanwhile, never knew that the little boy she helped raise had grown up to be a U.S. president until she saw a picture of the family in local newspapers and on TV.

I couldn't believe my eyes, she told the AP, breaking into a huge grin.

Many neighbors would remember Turdi ... she was popular here at that time, said Rudy Yara, who still lives across the street from Obama's former house. She was a nice person and was always patient and caring in keeping young Barry.

Evie hopes her former charge will use his power as America's commander-in-chief to fight for people like her, and was heartened by Obama's appointment of Amanda Simpson, the first openly transgender appointee, as a senior technical adviser in the Commerce Department in 2010.

For Evie, struggling to survive in Jakarta, Indonesia, Obama's victory in 2008 has given her a reason to live, and to be proud of the life she has lived so far.

Now when people call me scum, she said, I can just say: 'But I was the nanny for the President of the United States!'