Source: Ömer Akpınar, “Voltrans: Trans Men and Feminism Together,” kaosGL.org, 31 January 2014, http://kaosgl.org/page.php?id=15733
Turkey’s very first trans men initiative, Voltrans, has a documentary now with the same name. The first screening of Voltrans took place in the 3rd KuirFest in Ankara between 16-23 January 2014. Özge Özgüner and P. Ulaş Dutlu, who made the movie, told their Voltrans journey to kaosGL.org.
I watched the movie as a story of “turning to one’s self.” How did Voltrans transform you during the process? What kind of an impact did it have on you?
Ulaş: I had heard of Voltrans when I was in Eskişehir but I did not really know what kind of an initiative it was. After I moved to Istanbul, I got more involved. Ali and İlksen had a big part in that. While preparing the documentary I was so amazed during the first interviews. It was so much fun. I really learned a lot. After some time we knew everything by heart. It was so interesting to ask the same story to different people and listen to their own perspectives. I was mostly inspired by trans-feminism. Ali had a big part in that, too.
Özge: I attended a photo-interview workshop entitled “identity” in 2007. I wanted to work on trans identities. Back then I did not know any trans people, I could only think about trans women. The desire to know trans people more closely changed my life. A friend of mine from the Human Rights Association introduced me to trans-feminist performer Esmeray. Thanks to her, I got to know the feminist magazine Amargi. While I began to identify myself as a feminist, Ali came out as a trans man in Amargi. Then there was Voltrans. I can shortly tell you that Voltrans had a big role in questioning my gender and sexual orientation as well as my coming out.
I think it was in February 2012 when Ulaş asked me “shall we make a movie?” and I said yes ecstatically with no hesitation. It was so exciting to learn about Voltrans, be closer to trans men and trans people in general, do things together, talk about problems, see and show that breathing freely out of the transphobia box is possible with solidarity. I felt like a part of Voltrans. It makes us happy to know that we are in that colorful fan and I think that transformation has no end.
Voltrans has a narrative which does not dictate the rules of being trans, which respects and tries to understand the stories and bodies. How do you think that the increased visibility of trans men contributes to the LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersex) movement in general?
Ulaş: The increased visibility of trans men has an important role in the LGBTI movement, particularly in the trans movement. “Trans” does not make us think only of trans women anymore. Trans politics will be developed and be stronger when trans men, trans women and trans people in general are together and different stories are respected.
Özge: I think we are seeing the shattering of stereotypes like “a lesbian is like this,” “a trans man looks like that,” within the trans movement and the LGBTI movement. I hope this documentary will contribute to that, too. What’s more, some people who watched the movie in KuirFest started questioning the fixed ideas of femininity and masculinity, which made me very hopeful. I guess Voltrans having a feminist standpoint has a big share.
The movie has a big part for our dear departed Aligül, one of the founders of Voltrans, who passed away due to breast cancer in September 2013. What does it mean for Voltrans that he was part of the initiative and that he had come from the feminist movement?
Ulaş: Ali’s presence was very important both for the LGBTI movement and for the feminist movement. He was very progressive with his questioning of masculinity, body perception, trans-feminist perspective and many other things. He did a lot for the visibility of the intersex movement. He gave so much support to them. Saying that genders and sexual orientations are fluid, that there can be many different trans stories and defending the legitimacy of these stories included many people who did not identify with any labels as well as people who had very clear ideas about who they are. He was always open to new ideas and this made it easy to get into politics with him.
Özge: Ali expressed his own experiences transparently, even his confusions, and I see it as a special approach which strengthens the relationships politically. Ali’s openness was always thought-provoking in sexual orientation and gender identity discussions. Therefore, we really wanted to have the discussions Ali started in the movie. Moreover, Ali did not break with the feminist movement after coming out. He always talked about what it felt like to have the experience of femininity that he was obligated to go through. He performed how gender identities can be deconstructed and then reconstructed both in public and private spheres. His struggle until the last minute in the hospital and the editing of the movie happened simultaneously. This struggle and solidarity affected the process both emotionally and politically. Whatever we say is not enough.
How will the Voltrans documentary continue its journey? Do you have any plans for screenings at universities or in movie theatres?
Ulaş: So far the screenings are set for !f Istanbul film festival and Baki Koşar Week in Izmir.
Özge: It was so meaningful for us that the first screening took place in KuirFest. After Istanbul and Izmir, there will be university screenings in London and Istanbul. We will send it to queer and LGBTI film festivals abroad. Let’s see what comes next.
Watch the trailer: