“We hope to have an LGBTI mayor”

Source: Yıldız Tar, “İnşallah LGBTİ belediye başkanımız olacak,” (“We hope to have an LGBTI mayor,”) Etkin Haber Ajansı, 12 October 2013, http://www.etha.com.tr/Haber/2013/10/12/guncel/insallah-lgbti-belediye-baskanimiz-olacak/

The Democratic Party of the People (HDP) Beyoğlu Co-President and LGBTI activist Levent Pişkin states that they will educate all of their candidates about LGBTI politics for the local elections.

Pişkin emphasizes that they will develop an understanding of LGBTI friendly municipalities. He says, “We hope we will have an LGBT mayor” in response to remarks by Ankara mayor Melih Gökçek who said, “I hope we will not have a homosexual mayor.”

With the forthcoming local elections the Democratic Congress of the People (HDK) and the Democratic Party of the People (HDP) started to work on an LGBTI commission.The HDK/HDP called out to LGBTIs to organize in a joint meeting with LGBTI organizations and activists.

Levent Pişkin, the Co-President of HDP Beyoğlu and LGBTI activist, talked to ETHA about the issue and stated that they activated the commission in order to effectively create LGBTI policies.

Emphasizing their target to provide candidates with the perspective of LGBTI friendly municipalities, Pişkin talked about workshops in various neighborhoods and districts. He explained, “For instance as the HDP Beyoğlu, we do not have a program that is exclusive to Taksim. We will hold LGBTI workshops in all neighborhoods.”

About an LGBTI candidate for the elections, Pişkin says “we hope to have so” as a response to Ankara mayor Melih Gökçek’s “I hope we will not…” He added, “LGBTI individuals with the HDP mentality and who participate in correct politics will certainly be nominated as candidates.”

Pişkin also stated that candidates will be determined in local assemblies by a decentralized democratic method.

LGBTI Friendly Local Administrations

What is the HDK/HDP LGBTI Commission? How does it work? What does it aim?

The LGBT Commission of the HDK has existed since the foundation of the congress. However, it stopped functioning after a while. We thought that it should be reactivated. We made an effort to start a commission together with LGBTI organizations that we already work with and independent LGBTI activists. The first aim of this commission is to effectively create LGBTI politics during the reconstruction of the HDK and to put forth correct LGBTI policies. Another aim is to enable LGBTI people’s participation and visibility in the assembly and the organs of the HDK.

Aside from this, we also plan to educate candidates and members of the assembly on LGBTI politics and local administrations. “What are the problems of LGBTI people in local administrations? How can we enable representation? How can we create LGBTI friendly local administrations?”

As the HDP Beyoğlu, we plan to hold 4 workshops every month. Out of these four workshops, one will be about LGBTI issues every month. It will not be centered in Taksim but will also spread to other neighborhoods of Beyoğlu.

“The HDK is a strong instrument to reach local administrations”

We see that the LGBTI movement is dense around city centers. Can the HDK/HDP make a move to reach the LGBT people in working-class neighborhoods?

I think this type of institution has always had the capacity to become a strong instrument. But only if we are in it properly. The organizational nature of the HDK and HDP is certainly beyond that of the LGBTI. The HDK’s organizational practices, neighborhood assemblies, and district assemblies can easily overcome the problem you mentioned. It only requires that LGBTIs and activists work voluntarily in this.

I think, right now, the HDK has a significant place for the LGBTI movement. The HDK is very eager to enable LGBTIs to participate in the movement and in administrative positions, and to create LGBTI policies and other policies together.

A Gay District Chairman…

You are the first and only person to become a district chairman who is out. What is it like to become a gay chairman in the HDP?

It does not mean much for me to be in a party administration with my gay identity. I speak my mind as I do in other places as well. But I can speak more freely in the HDP. People refrain from speaking. They develop a mechanism. They know that there is a gay person standing there. I think this practice is important. When people spread this mechanism of restraint that is developed against the language of homophobia and transphobia, things will be better.

We are running various projects. We go to meetings in neighborhoods. I do not feel the need to hide myself in those places either. Maybe it is the first time they encounter a gay person. Again, I think it has political utility.

“We have seen freedom with the Gezi Resistance”

In the Gezi Resistance LGBTIs were one of the most important groups. We can call it a milestone. After Gezi, many political parties had to see the LGBTI reality. What is the situation in the HDK/HDP?

Gezi was a breaking point for the LGBTI struggle. The Gezi Resistance worked the best for the LGBTI movement. The LGBTI reality is now accepted as one that cannot be ignored. The Pride March was one of the biggest examples of this. There, we saw how people can embrace this reality. Gezi was also a step in the practice of the struggle for solidarity. We saw the beauty of freedom and shared struggle. With the increasing LGBTI visibility after Gezi, different LGBTI formations came to fruition in social media or as an entity.

People started to see that the issue of identity is one of political construction. It is obvious that being LGBTI does not make you oppositional or political by default. You construct your own politics. You can construct your identity from being oppositional or from other positions.

The LGBTI movement from its onset embodied anti-capitalist, anti-racist, anti-sexist and ecologist elements. So it was an oppositional social movement. In this regard, we have to continue our discourse from an oppositional stance. Participating in the HDK, which stands against the nationalist movement and the conservative neoliberal policies of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), will strengthen our oppositional vein, will enable us to widen our reach and our discourse production.

The HDK has an organizational structure of forums and people’s assemblies that works to create options to the “representative democracy crisis.” And after Gezi, we saw that the issue of local administrations’ democratization is not just about the Kurdish issue. In fact, it is about the democratization of Turkey.

“We hope to have an LGBTI mayor”

Finally, you remember Melih Gökçek’s remark: “I hope we will not have a homosexual mayor.” Will we see an LGBTI candidate from the HDP in the elections?

We hope so, I would say. The HDP is a party that gives importance to the visibility of LGBTIs in every place and every arena. However, it is not possible to nominate someone in the HDP just because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. It is certainly possible to nominate LGBTI individuals who are in line with the HDP mentality and who make correct politics through it.

Also the process of determining candidates in the HDP works like this: The candidates are determined through assemblies. There is not a top-to-bottom selection process. The local assemblies gather and candidates are determined through discussion.

The remarks of Sırrı Süreyya Önder in the HDK General Assembly put forward our perspective very clearly: “Let us do a revolutionary job and nominate an LGBTI candidate for the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality.”


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