Military Exemption: “Draw the chimney long- it represents the penis!”

Source: Ayşe Arman, “Bacayı uzun çiz, penisi temsil ediyor!” (“Draw the chimney long- it represents the penis!”) Hürriyet, 11 January 2014,

“I am a homosexual university graduate,” so started the e-mail. “I have been dealing with military affairs since September. I have been trying to get the report indicating I am not suitable to do my military service. I finally succeeded! However, it was really difficult. I have been exposed to all kinds of humiliation and insult. If you are interested, I would like to share my experience on the current military practices on the issue, just to inform other gay men who do not want to go to the military. I called him immediately. We met and talked.

What is your name?


Are you from Istanbul?

-No, I am from Izmir. I came to Istanbul for my undergraduate studies and stayed. To me, Istanbul is the only city in Turkey where a gay man can live freely. I had some peace of mind here, until I graduated from university, and the military draft came on to the agenda…

When did you graduate?

-Last June. I was aware that I could not go to the military.


-It is not obvious that I am gay but I have some feminine behaviors. During middle and high school, I have been exposed to psychological and physical abuse because of this. I would frequently go home crying. If I were somehow to be drafted, I would have experienced much worse there.

Then what did you do to get the military exemption report?

-I researched it on the web. I learned that they do not ask for explicit and pornographic photos as proof of sexual orientation any more. I was relieved. But I was not sure where to go, how to dress, what and who to ask. I did not know any of these things.

So, what did you do?

-I called the helpline of one of the LGBTI organizations and asked for help. They helped me so much. “Go to the recruitment office and explain your situation during the examination phase,” they explained to me.

What did they say about how you should dress?

-They said, “If you are not feminine in your normal life, you should not use make-up.” “Just shave your beard and your body hair.” They told me that I was going to be subjected to some psychological tests. The name of the test is the Minnesota Multiplicity Personality Inventory (MMPI) and they added, “They will tell you to draw a picture. Draw the chimney as long as you can- it represents the penis.” Nonsense or not I listened carefully. They also told me that they might ask for a witness statement from a family member. Upon hearing that, I was devastated.

Does your family not know that you are gay?

-I do not have a father. I came out to my mother three years ago, but she could not tolerate it. She blamed herself at first, then me! She was ashamed of me, she could not deal with how to explain it to the people around her. She took me to numerous psychiatrists. One of them had a sense of humor; he said, “There is nothing wrong with you, send me your mother!” Another one was truly a charlatan; he told me that he can fix me with therapy. This all has been a very painful, very traumatic process for me. At the end, my mother chose to bury her head in the sand. She stopped discussing the issue with me, then I came to Istanbul.


Did you call your mother about the military issue?

-Yes, I told her about the family meeting with the military and asked if she would come. I told her that they would just ask a couple of questions. She made a great fuss. I asked her, “Why do you think I came home crying every day in middle and high school? This is a homophobic country. I am always insulted, always harassed. Just think about what I would be facing in the military!” She would not listen. At long last I yelled at her: “What kind of a mother are you? Do you want me get raped?”

What did she do?

-“If you do not reveal it, there will not be a problem,” she said. “Mom, are you crazy, am I a professional actor?” I answered. My uncle is a soldier, as well. She hesitated, “What would I tell my brother, if he somehow learns this?” she kept saying. It was always the other people for my mother. We upset each other a lot. But in the end, she agreed to come, and I started the process for military service.

How did you feel when you first went to your recruitment office?

-I was so nervous that I started crying as I stepped in. They asked me why I was there. “To receive the military medical exam,” I answered. They asked, “Well, what do you want the result to be.” “I want an exemption,” I answered. “They gave me a closed envelope and told me to see my family doctor.

Did you prepare when you went to see the family doctor?

-Yes, I shaved my body hair as I cried. Because I had never used a razor before, I cut my body. I put on tight pants and went to the family doctor. I went in and gave them the envelope. The doctor was a woman, which relieved me. I asked, “Could you please give me a referral for psychiatry?” She asked, “What do you suffer from?” I told her that I am gay. She said “Ahh, okay, I thought you were a conscientious objector.” And she handed me the referral.


-I took that paper to the recruitment office. The recruitment office would sign the paper. I asked the officer about the hospital. He told me that the system automatically assigns the hospital. They gave me another closed envelope. “Kasımpaşa Military Hospital – The Department of Psychiatry” was written on it.

Did you go there the next day?

-Yes, again in tight jeans and a feminine open V-neck T-shirt. The privates were laughing at my face. But it was useless, because apparently I should have gotten an appointment prior to going. They gave me an appointment for 20 days later. I had to shave my body again 20 days later. The psychiatry department was crowded. I started to wait, bowing my head. They finally let me inside.

Did they ask “what is your complaint”?

– Yes, the doctor in there asked. I answered “I am gay,” even though I know that it is not an illness- just to not get into trouble and to get out of there immediately. The doctor replied, “Then you are saying I will not join the military, huh?” I said, “I am not saying I will not, I am saying I cannot!” They sent me out and wanted me to wait. After 10 minutes they called me in again, I think he was a high ranking soldier. The doctor who examined me first said, “Sir, he says he is gay.” The commander started yelling “Homosexuality is not an illness.” I answered, “I know but this is what bureaucracy is, they told me to come here.” The man told me that he will give me a referral to the Gülhane Military Medical Academy (GATA), and told me to appear in front of the council there. I thanked him and left.


How was it at the GATA?

-Bad. I was anxious again. I dressed up femininely. I was devastated psychologically and took a friend with me. They told me that I should have a test administered. They administered the Minnesota Test with 600 questions. It is a “Yes / No” test.

What kind of questions are there?

-What a disaster! “I believe in the miracles of our Lord!” “I pray regularly” “I wanted to be a florist when I was a kid.” These kinds of statements. Then they gave me a blank paper and crayons. They told me to draw a house, a tree and a human. I drew a house with a purple roof. Because I had learned that the chimney refers to the penis, I drew a flashy and big chimney. It is nonsense, but it is how it is! I draw a man with a purple t-shirt, and an apple tree. Then they asked questions on this picture like “Who is that man?” “Where is the breeze coming from in this picture?” “Whose house is this?” “What does the tree refer to?”

And then?

-“They told me that the results would not come out the same day and added, “We need a meeting with a family member.” I told them that my mother was out of town and that she would be able to come in two days upon taking a leave of absence from her workplace. The person in charge of the clinic said, “There is no need; your friend can also do that.” This meant all the fights I had with my mother were for nothing. My friend came to the meeting room and I waited outside alone. They asked about my mother, my life, the places I go, everything, even about whether I had leopard underwear at home. “Come with your friend tomorrow,” they said. We went again the next day. There were three doctors and they asked about my complaint. “I am a homosexual,” I said. “But we do not think it is an illness,” they said. I responded, “What on earth am I doing here then? I was sent here because of this issue!” They wanted me to talk about gay life in Istanbul. I talked about the bars and the cafes I go to, I told them that I attended gay pride. They asked me what I wore on gay pride. I answered that I had a normal outfit on. They asked if I have ever tried to commit suicide. I said I had not. Then they sent me out. I left. They told me that I would see the council in two months. I went there on the day they gave me. I shaved my body again. I went there in my tight jeans and with a flashy bag. I talked with the doctor one-on-one. They started asking, “When did you first have sex?” “Does your mother know?” “What was her reaction?” “Do you have a boyfriend?” “Are you a top?” They told me to wait in front of the council room. They then started to call the others in one by one. When I went in, they asked the same questions again. “Why do you not top?” “Do you feel anything towards women?” “Do you get erections?” “Have you ever tried to have sex with a woman?” “Have you ever thought about being with a woman?” They were laughing at my face while asking these questions. I met another gay guy waiting there. They told him, “it is paradise for you, son!” I was shocked when I first heard that. Then they told me that I would see the medical board of the hospital. I went there a couple of days later. They called us in one by one and at the end they told me that I was exempted from the military draft. I cannot tell you how I felt at that moment. The long torture had ended. I do not know if you will believe me but I was not happy about the result. I felt like I was crushed by a truck. I was exhausted. Mockery, levity, humiliation… I was all worn out by the experience. Yes, they do not want to take pictures during sexual intercourse, but the same rudeness, the same vulgarity goes on in full force.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

Gravatar Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.