LGBTI individuals in German and Turkish tabloid press: Queer Invisibilities

The book Queer Invisibilities investigates LGBTI representation in the Turkish Hurriyet and German Bild newspapers. Yener Bayramoglu’s study brings a fresh perspective to queer historiography/history writing and archiving.

Source: “Almanya ve Türkiye bulvar basınında LGBTİ’ler: Kuir Görünmezlikler,” Kaos GL, 9 May 2018, http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=25774

The book titled Queere (Un-)Sichtbarkeiten (Queer Invisibilities), analyzes LGBTI representation in Hurriyet and Bild newspapers has been published with the help of the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung. The study by Yener Bayramoglu, a researcher living in Berlin, investigated LGBTI and queer representation in German and Turkish media. The book has been published in German. A Turkish translation is unavailable as of yet.

“As is the case in many areas, queer historiography also takes its foundation in the experiences of white males. The historic processes that closely affect Western white gay males are granted universality. In this framework, in almost all corners of the world, all queer subcultures are assumed to pass through similar historic milestones.”

Introduction to the Book

Tabloids under scrutiny

Queer Invisibilities proposes an alternative historiography. It takes at its center events that are rendered invisible in typical history writing. It uses tabloids as a basis, which are generally left out of queer theory.

Rather than ignoring the misrepresentations, invisibilities, and hate speech in tabloids, Queer Invisibilities proposes accepting these as a part of queer history. The book argues that history writing cannot be solely based on stories of heroism, success, progress, and advancement. Especially on the subject of queer history, it shows that the archives are largely full of sad, shameful, and wrong representations.

What does tabloid journalism do?

Another thesis put forward by Queer Invisibilities is that the tabloid press, in trying to scandalize queer individuals, in fact paves the way for the queerification of mainstream culture. Actually, it is thanks to tabloid journalism that queer representations, which did not exist in mainstream culture before, become a part of it. [The tabloids’] queer representations, which were wrought to scandalize, marginalize, and hide, were granted more visibility in the process.

Comparing Turkey and Germany

Another novel idea presented to queer theory by the book is the comparison between Turkish  and German print news. Due to the comparative analysis between the Hurriyet and Bild newspapers’ representations, different milestones, different stories, and different temporalities are made visible. This shows that a single, universal LGBT history cannot exist. In this respect, Queer Invisibilities puts forward the idea that the typical West – East opposition loses its meaning.

According to this study, while the Hurriyet archive is full of various rich queer representations, the German Bild newspaper is generally full of misrepresentations, deformed voices, and significant historic gaps arising from queer invisibility.

On the Third Day of Mersin Pride Week: We are Getting Wet!

Mersin Pride will continue through the week. Today, July 11, marks the third day of events and the 4th Mersin Pride is once more about resistance!

Source: “On the Third Day of Mersin Pride Week: We are Getting Wet!”, (Mersin Onur Haftası’nın Üçüncü Gününde:Islanıyoruz!”, pembehayat, July 11, 2018,  http://www.pembehayat.org/haberler.php?id=1837       

The 4th Mersin Pride events will continue throughout the week, starting with pride swimming on July 9, 2018. There will be panels and exhibitions which curate topics which range from the forced migration of LGBTI+ people, to a forum and discussion about the rejection of masculinity, to the opening of an art show titled Night” which focuses on the life of Elif–who could not endure her family’s pressure and committed suicide. On day three of Mersin Pride Week, there will be an event titled “A Rejection Story: The Ugly Duckling and Finding our Own Swans.”

Another event taking place on the third day of the pride week is “We are Getting Wet: A Gullüm Knowledge Contest.” Mersin Pride Week will continue to open spaces for struggle through resistance, just as it began this year with the adoption of the same slogan.

Don’t Forget to Stop by Night!

Night” is an exhibition that focuses on the life of a trans woman who spoke with Pembe Hayat about her experience at the factory she worked in, including the harassment she was subjected to which resulted in her leaving her job, and who later committed suicide.

Works by Raziye Köksal Kartal and Ateş Alpar focus on Elif’s point of view and her life in Mersin. Kartal, who spoke at the opening of the exhibition, said they titled the exhibition after Elif’s dog as a way to remember her.

You can find out more about Mersin Pride Week by checking out their Facebook page here.

 

Özgür Gür from METU LGBTI+ is Released

Özgür Gür from METU LGBTI+ Solidarity Released Today after his statement at the Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office.

Source: “Özgür Gür from METU LGBTI+ is Released”, (“ODTÜ LGBTİ+’dan Özgür Gür Serbest”), pembehayat, July 9, 2018, http://www.pembehayat.org/haberler.php?id=1833

Özgür Gür from Middle East Technical University (METU),  LGBTI+ Solidarity, as well as the head of the Council of Student Representatives (CSR) was taken from his home and detained on Sunday, July 8. He was released today, July 9, after his statement at the Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office.

Gür’s lawyer, Erkan Çiftçi, said that during Gür’s detainment at the police station he was questioned about banners put up at METU graduation ceremony which read: “We are not a group of students, but the school’s LGBTI+ people. We are here! It is our right to live safely on the streets and on campus.” Another banner read: “Verşan Kök cannot be the rector of METU.”

Çiftçi stated that Mehmet Gür also asked: “did you shout out ‘Rector Resign’ slogans?”

What had happened?

METU security guards attacked students who put up a rainbow flag and banners during the graduation ceremony.

At first the private security guards said “we’ll take the flag down”, then they threatened the students from METU LGBT+ Solidarity who put up a rainbow flag at the bleachers. The security guards attacked students when they put up banners during the rector’s speech that said, “We are not a group of students, but the school’s LGBTI+ people. We are here! It is our right to live safely on the streets and on campus” and “Verşan Kök cannot be the rector of METU.”

Three students were detained after the protests at the graduation ceremony on July 6, 2018. Özgür Gür from METU LGBTI+ Solidarity, the head of the CSR, was taken from his home today and detained.

 

After “Perversion” flyers in Ankara, “Revolting” flyers in Izmir were distributed

After flyers that said, “Homosexuality is perversion” were distributed in residential mailboxes in Esat, Ankara today (July 20), flyers that said “Homosexuality is revolting and could be reversed by means of persuasion” were distributed to people living in Kordon, Izmir.

Source: “After “Perversion” flyers in Ankara, “Revolting” flyers in Izmir were distributed”, (Ankara’da “Sapkınlıktır” Bildirisinden Sonra İzmir’de “İğrençliktir” Bildirileri Dağıtıldı), pembehayat.org, July 20, 2018, http://www.pembehayat.org/haberler.php?id=1844

Flyers that said, “No to homosexuality and homosexual organizations” were distributed today in Esat, Ankara. These flyers proliferate hate speech, refer to homosexuals as “sexual perverts” and claim that they are supported by the “British deep state.”

Flyers that said, “Homosexuality could be reversed by means of persuasion; it is immoral and revolting” were distributed to people sitting on grass at a park in Alsancak, Izmir. The flyers state that youths should not fall into this trap, [and] protect their moral values and live an “honorable” life. They claim this under the guise of “human rights” and continue with “We want Kemalist young men who protect their country and people, not young men who put on make-up and have a soft spoken voice.”

“These people are detached from love.”

One person who saw these flyers being distributed spoke with Pembe Hayat:

“I do not understand how people can think that homosexuality can be reversed by ‘persuasion’ in 2018 when the DSM* removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders many years ago. It is obvious to me that these people are detached from scientific knowledge and love. When there is such good progress being made regarding LGBTI+ people; when marriage is becoming legalized around the world, homosexuals in Turkey are still being targeted with homophobic attitudes through these kinds of leaflets. How long will LGBTI+ people have to hide their love? How long are they going to be subjected to hate speech and to stares of disgust when they walk hand in hand? Nobody can decide for anybody who they should love. The rainbow will always exist.”

*DSM: the abbreviation for American Psychological Association’s “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders.” The American Psychological Association removed homosexuality from the list of mental disorders in 1973.

“Let’s fight against Homophobia by having our stories told”

Lesbian, bisexual, and transsexual women tell stories about the violation of their rights and how they were exposed to discrimination. First story by Zeynep S.

Source: Aslı Alpar, “Hikâyelerimiz anlatılsın diye homofobiye karşı mücadele edelim”, Kaos GL, March 19, 2018, http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=25360

About 2 months remain before the 17th of May, the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. Throughout these 2 months lesbian, transsexual and bisexual women, through KaosGL.org, are going to tell their stories of the violation of their rights and how they were exposed to discrimination. We will listen to lesbian, bisexual and transsexual women’s experiences in every aspect of life from education, health and family to work life.

The first story belongs to Zeynep S:

Not being able to tell our story

I have experienced discrimination in regards to sexual orientation several times. Being verbally abused by your peers in school and by your family and the inability to walk the streets holding hands; aren’t these already discrimination? Still, I want to talk about my most tragi-comical discriminative experiences. I call it tragi-comical because it was in an event organised by an NGO that claims to be working for women’s rights where I came across by the event organiser turned into discriminative behaviour.

Eight years ago, there was a meeting in Ankara. Women’s conditions and experiences were supposed to be discussed. In this activity, women of different ages were gathered together and the mediated conversation was directed to recounting experiences. The topic was sexism.

Immediately starting to talk in a meeting has never been a thing I would do. I waited, I listened to everyone else. Listening to severe sexual harassment stories encouraged my audacity. Yet, I continued listening. About 10 women quoted their stories. Rape in marriage, sexual abuse, safe sex methods and abortion were discussed. All the sexism-related experiences discussed were between men and women. Possibly. I wanted to tell my story, too, but since no other homosexual women shared their experience and even the existence of homosexual women wasn’t discussed I was pushed to my corner.

There were some missing points, but there was a sincere atmosphere. I decided to tell my story as the meeting was getting to the end. I felt brave since I had recently come out to my mother. I started talking, before telling my story I decided to make an introduction.

I said: “We spoke about sexism but all the stories where experiences between woman and man,” I was about to continue when one of the participants said: “what else could it possibly be.” It was one of those times when I would escape from speaking in a meeting; when I heard that I blushed and my heart was jumping out of my mouth. The moderator didn’t say anything so as I was trying to calm myself down I said, “sexism can be experienced between women too.”

The moderator asked, “Are you a homosexual?”

I answered, “Your topic has nothing to do with me being a homosexual or not. This is the topic; sexism is not only being experienced between men and women.” This broke my courage including the story I was about to tell.

The moderator asked again: “Are you a homosexual? Please tell if you’re lesbian, as long as you’re telling your story.”

This insistence, encouraged the guests as they were staring at me with their curious eyes, someone asked, “Some doctors believe your homosexuality is an illness, have you ever received treatment?”

I told them homosexuality was not a disease, that their claim was not scientific and that I identify myself as bisexual. As I was not yet done with my sentence, the moderator panicked and said things like: “our meeting is about to end. We have said quite a lot in the past 1.5 hours.” However, s/he didn’t say anything to the participant who said “homosexuality is illness” and s/he ended the meeting. My story stayed with me.

In the end, a title was asked for this series of articles. I would say: “Let’s fight against Homophobia by having our stories told”, this is my title.

Photo Credit: Kelly Beeman

Toprak: “As a trans woman and a medical student, I want to be able to easily do my job”

Toprak, a 22-year-old medical faculty student, says, “I want a world where trans people are not burned to death, but a world where they are successful.”

Source: “As a trans woman and a medical student, I want to be able to easily do my job”, (Tıp Okuyan Bir Trans Kadın Olarak Mesleğimi Rahatça Yapabilmek İstiyorum), bianet.org, July 21, 2018, http://bianet.org/biamag/toplumsal-cinsiyet/199361-tip-okuyan-bir-trans-kadin-olarak-meslegimi-rahatca-yapabilmek-istiyorum

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Toprak is a 22-year-old medical faculty student. She has two more years before she graduates. She is trying to obtain a new identity card as a woman before she graduates because she wants her diploma to belong to her and not to state a gender identity assigned to her at birth.

Toprak was born in Antep. She attained a high score in the university entrance exam and came to Istanbul five years ago to study at the Istanbul Faculty of Medicine.

Toprak needs financial support in order to have gender reassignment surgery. She started a crowdsourcing campaign to accomplish this.

When she becomes a doctor she wants to be able to proudly hang her diploma on her office wall. She is worried that she will not get appointed and be discriminated against as a civil servant because of the male gender identity marker on her ID card.

Toprak says: “I want to break down prejudices and show people what transwomen can achieve. Transgender people are studying in many different fields. As a transwoman, I want to easily be able to do my job. I need people’s support to be able to have this gender reassignment surgery. I want a world where trans people are not burned to death, but a world where they are successful.”

As a transwoman and medical student, Toprak spoke with Bianet about her university life, future plans and her gender transition process.

Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?

My name is Toprak and I am 22 years old. I am a fifth year medical student at Istanbul Faculty of Medicine. I am a transwoman.

Have you always lived in Istanbul?

No, I was born in Gaziantep. I passed the exam and got into a science-focused high school and studied there for four years before coming to Istanbul for university. I have been living in Istanbul for the past five years.

How is university life?

The first two years were quiet because I hadn’t started my transition process yet and I wasn’t out. I was identifying myself as gay back then. A year later, being openly gay, I started experiencing difficulties, mostly with my family. These did not have much of an impact on my university life. Because of their educational and cultural backgrounds, I did not actually receive any negative reactions from professors or fellow students.

I had only one traumatic transition process experience.

We read about this on social media. A professor at Istanbul University made transphobic statements. Where you in that class? Could you tell us what happened?

Yes. A professor was teaching hypogonadism and talking about pituitary glands, endocrine hormones, testosterone, and estrogen. The topic had nothing to do with transsexuality, but I got the feeling that it was going there.

The professor brought up the topic of transsexuality and said “Men without ovaries come and say, ‘I’m going to be a woman.’ These people are psychopaths. Upon receiving them, we refer them to psychiatry.”

He took out his ID card from his wallet and said, “Here’s a blue ID card. They work so hard to get a pink ID card. There were 250 students in the lecture hall. I was sitting at the back and the professor did not know I was trans. About 70-80 students busted into laughter together with the professor.

I stood up and said, “who are you calling a psychopath? I’m a transwoman.” He was surprised because he did not expect that there would be a transwoman in the lecture hall. He turned around and continued reading from his slides.

I said he needed to explain his statement in front of everybody since he had said this in front of everybody. He said “come and see me after class and I will explain this to you.”

This person is an endocrinologist, meaning he is working in an area that concerns trans people. It really baffles me why nobody ever complained about him because he is an extremely transphobic guy.

Did anybody in the lecture hall say anything?

No. So I shared what happened. I did not expect this to get around so quickly. I assumed people in the LGBT community would hear about it and that people would know about this person.

Things took a different turn when the Turkish Medical Association (TMA) began to support me.

How did the TMA support you?

I shared the incident on Twitter. Doctors from the TMA saw my tweet. They invited me to their board meeting and were very attentive. Their support came a few days after the incident. During those four days, I experienced some negativity at school.

What happened? I’m curious to know how the administration and students responded?

Medical students have a kind of a political stance…Actually, they don’t have a political stance, and they are apolitical. They put their careers first and ignore everything else. They treat people neither positively nor negatively. They are neutral. The university has a similar stance. They choose to remove themselves from the current affairs of the country.

That is why they tried to maintain neutrality, but the feminist club at the university showed great support. They wrote a piece, collected signatures from 11 other clubs and published the statement. I did not experience bullying or any kind of verbal violence. Apart from Twitter, I received a great amount of support.

How did the university administration deal with this?

Initially, they started an investigation against me.

Why did they start an investigation?

Because I had disclosed what the professor said.

Did they warn the professor?

No, they gave him no warning until the TMA stepped in. They treated the incident as if we were in elementary school. They called me in and asked, “Why did you do this? This should have stayed between us. Why did you have to tell everyone?” I felt terrible and I cried that day.

Later, my phone rang and the TMA invited me to their board meeting. Once the news reached the TMA, people in the medical community heard the professor’s transphobic statement. Then celebrities heard about it and they shared their reactions on social media. I never imagined so many people would hear about it.

How did these events impact the investigation started against you?

I found out that the investigation was dropped and that an investigation against the professor had opened instead.

I was a witness in the professor’s investigation and he also gave a statement. Honestly, it felt good to see that he was waiting at the door to explain himself.

Then they said he was penalized.

What was his penalty?

I’m not exactly sure, but they said that the professor was no longer authorized to give oral assessments for internal medicine. Internal medicine is a very important field and to give the oral assessment is considered a huge honor.

During this process, solidarity felt great. When I saw the power of solidarity, I decided to get funding for my surgery. A friend, studying architecture, said she started a campaign for herself and advised me to do the same. I decided to start a campaign because I urgently need to have my surgery.

Why is this so urgent for you?

Unfortunately, currently my ID card has the male gender marker. Surgery is a requirement to change your gender marker on your ID in Turkey.

Without having a female gender identity marker, I worry that I won’t be appointed. Over the past two years, there have been state security investigations against doctors. I worry that having a male gender identity marker on my ID card will impact my appointment. I am a fifth year medical student who will be graduating soon. That’s why I want to have my surgery before graduation.

The main problem for trans people regarding their diploma is the name written on it. It is necessary to change your name before graduating. If you change your name after you graduate, then there is no indication that the diploma belongs to you, making it almost null. I changed my name on my ID card recently. I started my transition a year ago and everything progressed quickly.

Which area do you want to specialize in?

Internal medicine or gynaecology. Fields such as psychiatry and surgery are important for LGBT people, but you need to have really good grades to be in these fields. We’ll see.

You spent this year working. What was your hospital experience like?

We spend many years studying, but after our third year we get to work and I like that we get to be in direct contact with patients and not spend much time at school.

Many of my professors and other students support me.

There is a certain perception of trans woman in society and when you do not fit that perception, they do not call you a trans woman. So far, I have not experienced any negative reactions from patients because they do not know that I am trans.

I used to shy away from patients having seen how patients’ relatives attack health workers.

The other day, one relative of a patient hit a doctor on the head with a brick. Imagine what a person might do to a trans woman…

This is why I do not disclose my trans identity to patients.

Could you tell us about what the transition process is like as both a medical student and as someone experiencing this?

You apply to psychiatry at a public hospital. In Istanbul you can apply to Çapa or Cerrahpaşa. They observe you for at least six months and first refer you to psychiatry and then to endocrinology. At endocrinology you get a hormone test and then you start taking hormones. This process takes about a year.

Social Security Insurance (SSI = public medical insurance) covers everything except hormone medications. Hormone medications cost about 150-200 TL a month. Doctors have now started to write medical reports for hormone medications. As a result, SSI covers hormone medications too.

What is the hormone therapy process like?

(For trans women) You take out testosterone from the body and take in estrogen. The hormones impact you. Your emotions change. The hormone perceived by the receptors change, in other words, the codes change.

For instance, when the lecture hall incident happened, I was feeling very vulnerable because it had been a few months that I had been taking hormones.

This continues for the first six months before your body starts adapting. I don’t feel like that anymore.

Does the surgery process start after that?

The most important thing is the surgery. At this point, transmen are luckier because mastectomy (removal of breasts) and hysterectomy (removal of the uterus) are operations covered by SSI. Because these operations include removing of a part, the procedure is the same for any doctor. But surgeries such as vaginoplasty are highly risky since they involve creating something out of nothing.

SSI does cover this operation but there are no doctors who perform the procedure under this insurance. Even if there is a doctor out there who performs the operation under this insurance, it is really difficult to trust that doctor.

Why?

 

In medical school they do not teach you anything about transgender transition processes. If the person wishes, they self educate themselves after they graduate. If that person has no training, s/he cannot do the operation.

Doctors who specialize in these surgeries must be well known in the trans community then.

Yes. Because this operation is very important, I want to go to a good doctor to have my operation. One trans woman died at an operation two years ago. She was an activist and was living in Izmir. They said she died due to a complication that had derived from her. If the doctor had made a mistake, he would have been penalized anyway.

What kinds of complications arise during an operation like this?

There are complications that are repairable and complications that are more severe. Infections and clitoris dryness are the most common complications that are repairable. One friend didn’t go to a good doctor and got infected; had the surgery again and was hospitalized for three weeks. Another friend had clitoris dryness because the nerve cells were not stitched together well; she had a second operation and was hospitalized for a month.

I do not want to go through any complications. Also, I do not want to disrupt my studies. Attendance is compulsory.

How much does gender reassignment surgery cost?

About 20-30 thousand Turkish lira(3,600-5,400 Euro).

Homophobic lecture notes in the medical faculty of Istanbul University

The lecture notes for 4th year pediatric class in the medical faculty of Istanbul University refers to homosexuality as a disorder that must be treated.

Source: Aslı Alpar, “İstanbul Üniversitesi Tıp Fakültesi’nde homofobik ders notu,” kaosGL.org, 26 March 2018, http://www.kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=25407

According to the lecture notes which were posted on social media by the 4th year students in medical faculty of Istanbul University, homosexuality is introduced as a “Temporarily growing tendency towards same sex interest to be carefully monitored and corrected.”

The student who spoke to KaosGL.org, stated s/he had shared these lecture notes on their social media account right away after seeing it, and that they don’t know which lecturer wrote it.

The student indicated that during their medical education they have come across similar homophobic and transphobic statements before and said: “the professor teaching endocrinology to the 4th year students also used insulting expressions to refer to transsexuals and females.”

Homosexuality is not a disease!

Psychologists, psychiatrists and other specialists for mental health have concluded that homosexuality is not a disease, a mental disorder or an emotional problem. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) took homosexuality off their list of mental and emotional disorders in 1973. In 1975, the American Psychological Association also moved to support this perspective. Both these associations warned mental health specialists to stop associating homosexuality with illness. This stance was reaffirmed by both institutions with new research. Additionally, in 1992 the World Health Organization removed the classification of homosexuality as a mental disorder from the list of International Classification of Diseases. Turkish psychiatry also uses the version with homosexuality removed as a disease.

Here, you can find the Frequently Asked Questions brochure prepared by the Kaos GL NGO for frequently asked questions about homosexuality answered by specialists and life examples.