We are all two-faced, two-legged, lonely creatures

Source: Ayşe Arman, “Bizler ikiyüzlü, iki bacaklı, yalnız yaratıklarız” (We are all two-faced, two-legged, lonely creatures”), Hürriyet, 20 November 2016, http://sosyal.hurriyet.com.tr/yazar/ayse-arman_12/bizler-ikiyuzlu-iki-bacakli-yalniz-yaratiklariz_40282829

And this happened…

Following Patrick Harris and Michael C. Hall, I also became Hedwig together with Yılmaz Sütçü.

You are wondering who Hedwig is.

According to the Rolling Stones magazine, “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” is one of the greatest rock musicals in history! Hedwig is the main character. And an icon for LGBT people.

This is because the musical explores questions like “What is gender? Does it exist? Do we need it?” It talks about ‘our other half’ who we seek all our lives; it delves into the issue of its doubtful existence.

It says “No, we are not different after all, gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans. We are all human!”

And isn’t that the truth?

Yılmaz Sütçü watched this musical in the U.S., became very impressed, and decided to bring it to Turkey. It proved difficult to get the copyright for the play, but Yılmaz wrote a letter explaining the conditions of trans people in Turkey and the significance of staging such a play in times like these. Aaaand convinced them. “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” premiered a few days ago. Yılmaz Sütçü and I both transformed ourselves into Hedwig for this interview. It was not easy to turn into Hedwig. The make-up session done by the experienced MAC professionals lasted two hours. It’s hard to be Hedwig, but not hard at all to wear her clothes. You get the idea, we had a lot of fun during the photo shoot.

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Can you introduce yourself?

-My name is Yılmaz Sütçü. I’m a theater actor and a musical maniac. And right now, I am acting in the musical of my life.

Well, ok Yılmaz, but who are you, what are you, and where did you come from?

-I’m an Izmir guy, who arrived in Istanbul from Ankara. I was born in Izmir in 1978. I have always wanted to be in theater. I wanted to be on stage. Musicals fascinated me. I would close my eyes and dream of being on the stage. I realized that I could sing during high school, while I was hosting a radio show at a local station. I decided that I should focus on music if I were to take part in musicals in the future.

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And you ran away from home?

-[laughing] No, but yeah, something like that! I left everything and began to sing at any venue I could find.

What do you mean?

-Well, it’s like this: I don’t come from a musical family. My family would listen to only two singers: Zülfü Livaneli and Ahmet Kaya. My mother majored in art in college and my father in economics. A normal, ordinary, sweet family. I, on the other hand, was a bit rebellious. When I got smitten with music, I said: “Don’t get me wrong, but this is my life. I don’t want to go to college at all. I don’t want any money from you. I will just follow my dreams.” and I left home. After that I wandered through İzmir, Bodrum, Kuşadası, Didim, Antalya, Çanakkale and Ankara. I sang everywhere I could. I worked with very good musicians…

I can see that it worked well for you. You’re really good on stage.

-You learn a lot over the years. One learns how to sing by listening to themselves all the time. But one day, it dawned on me that I had never gotten any acting lessons. I had more or less covered the singing part, but I still had a long way to go before I could do musicals. I had no training in theater. I was telling myself that I needed to get an education since I wanted to become a star in musicals. But I was already 25 years old.

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Weren’t you a bit too old for acting school?

-I was of course! I could only apply to Müjdat Gezen’s acting school. I took the exams and they admitted me. I moved to Istanbul in three days. I was singing in Ankara during the weekends and going to classes in Istanbul during the week. I was working on soliloquies, memorizing my lines, doing homework on intercity busses. I don’t have faith in anything unless it involves passion. Musical theater was my passion. I did everything I needed to do in order to reach it. And I learned this: age doesn’t matter as long as you really want something!

But Müjdat Gezen said “You’re a lost cause!” to your face.

-Oh, yes. We did so bad on our final exams that he yelled at us. He was right though; we were terrible! There were issues with our attendance. That’s why he was mad at us. I wanted to get a scholarship for the next two years but I didn’t qualify for it. And he said those words: “You’re a lost cause!”

d.pngI THANKED HIM WHEN I RAN INTO HIM LATER

How did that affect you?

-Grrreeat! I felt really sh*tty. My pride was wounded and that’s why I began to give my all to it. I tried to become better and better. I fixated on those words. I said to myself: “I can do this. The teacher is wrong!” I began improv in order to prove him wrong. Four friends and I began an improv group called “Improvisation, Ltd.” We were doing gigs in comedy clubs. And we were doing really well. The experience I got there brought me to this point. Years later, I ran into Müjdat Gezen and I thanked him. I thanked him for not giving me a scholarship. For telling me that I was a lost cause. As I was trying to prove him wrong, I had come a long way.

What did all this experience teach you?

-The importance of wanting something and perseverance. And, also that it’s impossible to amount to something without working really hard. That I had no other choice than improving myself throughout my life.

I LOSE MYSELF WHEN I’M ACTING

Famous actors like Patrick Harris and Michael C. Hall have played this part before. Did you feel overwhelmed because you are not a famous actor? Or did you say “This is the production what will give me my big break”?

-Not at all. I really admire them as actors, I was not overwhelmed at all. I become ecstatic when I’m acting. I’m so happy when I’m on the stage. I hope the audience is also happy.

Those actors have been acknowledged as the best of their fields. Do you have such expectations for yourself?

-Neither Barış nor I are the kind of people who stage plays to get an award! We promised ourselves to never become like that. Works that are produced with that mentality don’t become successful anyway, they can’t. If we are seen worthy of an award, of course we would say thank you and accept it.

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CONFRONTS YOU LIKE A SLAP IN THE FACE

What does acting mean for you?

-Wow… acting… It means constantly recording everything, every emotion in human life and pulling it out of your bag of materials and offering it to the audience as possibilities. You are evaluated based on how many options you can offer and this forces an actor to be always open to developing. I have to say that my passion for theater was nearly pathological. I was constantly watching and reading plays. On the weekends, I would roam the second-hand book stores, looking for translations. I guess I was possessed by theater!

So, was it difficult or easy?

-Oh god! It was so painful! This job is done with humans. So you go through a lot that is hard but necessary to face. You see yourself in front of you, like a slap in your face. Acting makes you face everything you deny or reject. If it fails to do that, it pushes you out of the play anyways.

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 IS THERE SUCH A THING AS GENDER?

What is this play really about? About our bigoted morality?

-That too of course. But according to the playwright, it tells the origin of love. It explores the humans’ search for their other halves, who they lost when they were punished by the gods. This other half of ours, whether it really exists or not. It asks “Is there such a thing as gender? Do we really need gender?” Most importantly, it questions our bigotry, our hypocritical moral judgments. It shows how we live two-faced lives and eventually turn into two-legged and lonely creatures!

What affected you the most in the play?

-There are a lot of unfortunate events in the play. But this series of unfortunate events are narrated without a plea for pity. I was struck by how life is questioned in the play.

Sixth Pink Life QueerFest

January 12-19, 2017 Ankara
January 27-29, 2017 İstanbul

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The countdown has begun for the 6th edition of Pink Life QueerFest! 6th QueerFest will greet its audience with a surprise: All screenings and events will be free of charge in order to expand the queer culture and empower social solidarity. The festival will take place between January 12-29, 2017 in Ankara and Istanbul and venues for the festival are Contemporary Arts Center of Çankaya Municipality and German Cultural Center in Ankara, and Pera Museum in Istanbul. QueerFest promises an exciting festival experience with its program embracing various genres and events. Stay tuned for upcoming information!

press@pembehayat.org
http://festival.pembehayat.org/
www.twitter.com/kuirfest
www.facebook.com/PembeHayatKuirFest

SPoD LGBTI publishes Trans Women’s “Alternative” Work Experiences in Turkey

Trans Women’s “Alternative” Work Experiences in Turkey is a research project was conducted between October 2015-September 2016 by Social Policies Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation Studies Association, and funded by ILGA Europe. Qualitative methods were adapted for this research and 15 in-depth interviews were made with trans women who have different job experiences.

Source: SPoD LGBTI, “Trans Women’s “Alternative” Work Experiences in Turkey”, http://www.transkadinlarinistihdami.org/en/

In this project, informants’ education background, employment processes, problems at the workplace, transitioning and military service status were focused to explain their ways to exist in the working life, individual strategies, socio-economic factors and relations with LGBTI movement.

Explore the project at http://www.transkadinlarinistihdami.org/en/

INTERVIEWS/ NARRATIVES

#1“My last dismissal case was as my boss stated, ‘I have nothing to say about your practice but I couldn’t resist to the pressure coming from around. You always have complaints. Unfortunately they are about your existence.’” (Ece, 41, Dentist)

BEING FIRED, DISCRIMINATION

#2“My education, I am a high school graduate. Well, in fact my trans identity precluded me from many things that I wanted to do at the condition of Turkey.” (Neriman, 34, Barmaid/Manager)

EDUCATION, PROFESSION

#3“I came here after I finished my studies. Because it was too hard to find a job in Balıkesir. While even the ordinary people or the ordinary women have difficulties to find job, it was even harder for a trans woman who did not start life with a silver spoon in their mouth.” (Peyker, 22, Sex Worker)

DISCRIMINATION, JOB APPLICATION

#4“If you don’t want to do sex work, the family is a huge factor. This is the only thing that I want to add… I mean, for example I realized that I didn’t do sex work just to be accepted by my family and my neighbors. My moralistic attitude, even that I declare myself as a socialist feminist I come from a feudal family. I don’t think some things will be possible until we destroy this feudality and the force inside of us. If it will be possible, there should be the support of the family.” (Peyker, 22, Sex Worker)

ACCEPTANCE, FAMILY, HONOUR, SEX WORK

(more…)

LGBTI Activist Kemal Ordek’s Attacker Convicted

A landmark decision has been issued about the three aggressors who attacked Red Umbrella Sexual Health and Human Rights Association President Kemal Ördek. One of the attackers was sent to prison following the hearing after being charged with qualified sexual assault. 

Source: Çiçek Tahaoğlu, “LGBTİ Aktivistine Cinsel Saldırı Davasında Saldırgan Tutuklandı”, Bianet, 17 November 2016, http://bianet.org/bianet/lgbti/180825-lgbti-aktivistine-cinsel-saldiri-davasinda-saldirgan-tutuklandi

Two people who attacked Red Umbrella Sexual Health and Human Rights Association President and LGBTI activist Kemal Ördek have been sentenced to up to 5 years in prison and a judicial fine on charges of robbery, threat and insult. The third attacker has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for qualified sexual assault in addition to the aforementioned crimes and sent to prison.

Evaluating the decision to bianet, attorney Deniz Aksoy said “Because the victim’s identity as a sex worker was taken as a basis, this penalty imposed on the ground of sexual assault will be seen as a precedent.”

What had happened?

LGBTI activist Kemal Ördek was sexually assaulted in their house in Ankara on 5 July 2015. The police allegedly said  “Enough with this Tribe of Lot” and the suspects said “Officer, we’re manly men. You understand us, don’t you? Don’t listen to what this faggot has to say.”

Following the assault Nils Muiznieks, the European Council Human Rights Commissioner made a written statement regarding the incident and called on the authorities to explicitly declare that they would not tolerate hate speech and crimes against LGBTI persons.

Republican People’s Party (CHP) İstanbul MP Mahmut Tanal, CHP Malatya MP Veli Ağbaba and Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Istanbul MP Garo Paylan had brought the issue to the Parliament and asked the Minister for Interior Affairs Sebahattin Öztürk about the assault and what had happened afterwards.

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Rupert Colville made a statement regarding the assault of Ördek, reminding  Turkey the commitment it has made for LGBTI persons during the Universal Periodic Review and called on the authorities to take measures for the fight against homophobic, transphobic violence and discrimination.

Lawyers Levent Pişkin and Cahit Kırkazak released

Detained LGBTI activist and lawyer Levent Pişkin and lawyer Cahit Kırkazak have been released on conditions of judicial control and restrictions on travelling abroad.

Source: Kaos GL, “Lawyers Levent Pişkin and Cahit Kırkazak released”, Kaos GL, 17 November 2016, http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=22515

Detained after their meetings with arrested Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş, LGBTI activist and Lawyer Levent Pişkin and lawyer Cahit Kırkazak have been released on conditions of judicial review and restrictions on travelling abroad by the Criminal Court of Peace in Bursa Courthouse.

In the scope of the same trial, interrogation of 7 other detainees sent to the court for arrest is continuing.

According to Evrensel’s news, lawyer and HDP Istanbul Provincial Administrator Levent Pişkin was accused with the allegations of “organizing the act to lobby internationally against our country by publishing a note regarding the HDP co-chair Demirtas’ arrest in the German Der Spiegel magazine” during his interrogation by the police.

Levent Pişkin said the following in his statement:

On November 5, as the party (HDP) lawyers, we met with Demirtas and other imprisoned parliamentarians in Edirne, Silivri, and Kandira prisons. On November 6, we organized a news conference for national and international press in HDP’s Istanbul Provincial Headquarters to announce the results of the meetings. After this meeting, international journalists asked questions in English. As the only lawyer who spoke English, I answered their questions.

After the meeting, two people from the German Der Spiegel asked me if I can bring a handwritten note by Demirtas with a message about his condition. I told them that I would not be going to Edirne prison this week but that if there is another friend (who’d go), I could tell them to relay their request to Demirtas.

I told Mr. Cahit that a German magazine asked for a handwritten note from the president (Demirtas) and asked him if he could or could not relay this message to the president and if the president agreed on a handwritten note, whether he could or could not bring that message. That’s the content of the conversation. There is no lobbying activity with any German magazine. The event is purely that I spoke with Mr. Cahit because I was by chance the only person in the provincial building who spoke English.

What happened?

Representing arrested HDP Co-Chair Selahattin Demirtaş, attorney Levent Pişkin was taken into custody during a house raid in Istanbul at around 5 a.m. on November 14.

Before the detention, allegations took place in media outlets such as Takvim, Sabah, Ulusal Kanal (sourcing state-run Anadolu news agency) that Pişkin and Kırkazak would send Demirtaş’s messages to a magazine  in Germany to be used for propaganda.

A social media action with #LeventPişkinYalnızDeğildir hashtags, meaning #LeventPiskinIsNotAlone was started. Libertarian Lawyers’ Association (Özgürlükçü Hukukçular Derneği) where he’s a member, Center for Truth Justice Memory and Istanbul LGBTI+ Pride Week Committee made statements about his detention.

His alma mater Boğaziçi University and Solidarity Network with Arrested Students (Tutuklu Öğrencilerle Dayanışma Ağı) published messages of support for him.

His detention was also covered in the international media. The Paris Bar Association granted Pişkin honorary membership.

14 LGBTI Organizations’ Response to the State of Emergency

14 LGBTI organizations issued a joint press release regarding the recent pressures against the press and democratic politics.

Source: “14 LGBTİ Hareketi’nden ohale karşı bildiri” (“14 LGBTI Organizations’ response to the State of Emergency”), Siyasi Haber, 16 November 2016 http://siyasihaber3.org/14-lgbti-hareketinden-ohale-karsi-bildiri

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14 LGBTI organizations from Ankara, Bursa, Çanakkale, Diyarbakır, Giresun, İstanbul, İzmir and Mersin issued a joint press release regarding the pressures against press and democratic politics.

14 LGBTI organizations reacted to the increasing repression towards dissidence, stating “The ongoing interventions to the media outlets, to HDP, DBP and to the whole realm of politics since November 7 to the latest political coup attempt are unacceptable.”

You can see the full text prepared by 14 LGBTI organizations and the list of signatory organizations below:

Repression towards the social dissidence and arrests

With the declaration of state of emergency following  coup attempt on July 15, the government has increased its repression towards the social dissidence and recently arrested 9 writers and administrators from Cumhuriyet daily, co-presidents and deputies of Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) as well as the politicians from Democratic Regions Party (DBP).

Diyarbakır Metropolitan Municipality Co-Mayors Gültan Kışanak and Fırat Anlı were arrested. A trustee was appointed to the municipality.

Cumhuriyet daily’s executive editor Murat Sabuncu, publication supervisor Kadri Gürsel, cartoonist Musa Kart, Cumhuriyet Foundation Board members Önder Çelik, Bülent Utku, Mustafa Kemal Güngör, Güray Öz, Hakan Kara, executive editor for the daily’s literature magazine Turhan Günay are currently imprisoned.

HDP Co-Presidents Figen Yüksekdağ and Selahattin Demirtaş and deputies Gürsel Yıldırım, Ferhat Encü, İdris Baluken, Selma Irmak, Abdullah Zeydan, Leyla Birlik and Nursel Aydoğan were arrested.

Sebahat Tuncel who was waiting in front of Diyarbakır Courthouse with a group of party members, in order to protest the detention of HDP deputies on Friday in Diyarbakır, was battered and detained with 10 other people. DBP Co-President Sebahat Tuncel has been an advocate for LGBTI rights for years, was arrested after the protest.

The State of Emergency cannot be an excuse to suspend human rights

Extended duration of detentions and torture have become prevalent more than ever. In prisons and on streets, police force’s pressure is threatening our lives and our fundamental human rights.  

Freedom of press, that is targeted following the recent decrees through shutting down of newspapers, televisions, magazines and radios, Cumhuriyet newspaper in particular, and democratic politics that is targeted particularly through MPs of HDP and DBP [main opposition parties — trans.] are fundamental human rights. We, the LGBTI organizations whose names are listed below, would like to remind once again that the state of emergency cannot be an excuse to suspend human rights.

With over twenty years of organized struggle, we defended human rights unconditionally. We emphasize that the system, which is trying to assimilate us by destroying all of our ethnic, cultural, religious and sexual differences and hence kill us, should change. Following the recent events, we issue a call for fight once again.

We continue our struggle in spite of the ones trying to wither our colors!

Freedom of press and free politics are irrevocable pillars of democracy.  Antidemocratic and tyrannizing practices, arrests, torture, judicial factors, shutting down of newspapers are as a whole a threat to all of us. Social peace, equality, freedom and justice are our only option. Recently, the practices issued by the government are destroying this option, along with the vision and possibility to coexist, withering all colors of the rainbow and condemning us to a gloomy gray.

We will continue our struggle in spite of the ones trying to wither our colors. Together we will overcome the pressure of the State of Emergency and associated decrees. We, people of all sexual orientations, sexual identities, communities, beliefs, ethnicities and genders  are more populous!

The practices that took place between November 7 and the recent coup-attempt; the interferences to the press, to HDP and DBP and all political sphere, are unacceptable. We demand an immediate end to detentions and arrests!

Signatory organizations in alphabetic order:

Çanakkale LGBTİ İnisiyatifi, Flu Baykuş, Genç LGBTİ+ Derneği, Gökkuşağı Giresun, Hêvî LGBTİ Derneği, İstanbul LGBTİ Dayanışma Derneği, Kaos GL Derneği, Keskesor Amed LGBTİ, Lambdaistanbul LGBTİ Dayanışma Derneği, LGBTİ Aileleri ve Yakınları Grubu (LİSTAG), Mersin 7 Renk LGBTİ, Özgür Renkler LGBTİ Derneği, Pembe Hayat, SPoD.

Turkey’s state-run news agency story on Lawyer Levent Piskin

A magazine in Germany asked for a message to Europe and Germany from the HDP’s Co-President Demirtas through a lawyer who would visit him in prison for the purposes of propaganda.

Source: Uğur Ulu, “Alman dergisi propaganda için Demirtaş’tan mesaj istemiş”, (“German magazine asked for a message from Demirtas for propaganda”), Anadolu Agency, 12 November 2016, http://aa.com.tr/tr/turkiye/alman-dergisi-propaganda-icin-demirtastan-mesaj-istemis/683979

It has been found that a magazine in Germany asked for a note from the HDP’s (Peoples’ Democratic Party) Co-President Selahattin Demirtas for propaganda in Europe and Germany.

According to information gathered by Anadolu Agency reporter, the Bursa Public Prosecutor’s Office ordered the detention of lawyer C.K. who has been tracked for a while in relation to the investigation on terror organization PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party).

C.K., a lawyer in Bursa, was detained by the Provincial Police Headquarters Anti-Terror Unit in the morning on Monday, 7 November.

It has been learned that C.K. was planning to visit the HDP’s Co-president Demirtas in Edirne F Type Prison where he has been imprisoned and that C.K. announced this to some administrators.

It has been recorded that lawyer L.P., who is an administrator in the HDP’s Istanbul district presidency, contacted C.K. upıon finding out that C.K. would visit Demirtas and informed him of the German magazine’s request.

It has been determined that the German magazine requested “a handwritten note by Demirtas, with a message addressing Europe and Germany.” for propaganda purposes.