LGBTI Kids Are Under Siege

Source: Yıldız Tar, “LGBTİ Çocuklar Kuşatma Altında,” (“LGBTI Kids Are Under Siege,”) kaosGL.org, 03 February 2014, http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=15743

In the panel hosted by the Education and Science Workers’ Union’s (Eğitim-Sen) Sixth Universities Branch in Istanbul last weekend, Ali Erol talked about the historical aspects of the discourse on sin, crime, and sickness; Remzi Altunpolat said, “Looking like the majority is presented as a virtue. LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersex) students in the education system are made out to be bad, seductive, exogenous, and harmful;” and psychologist Yasemin Şafak said, “LGBTI kids grow up under siege.” This event was co-hosted by the Pink Life and Kaos GL associations within the Rainbow Coalition Against Discrimination Project.

Kaos GL and the Education and Science Workers’ Union (Eğitim-Sen) co-hosted a discussion “Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in Education” at Eğitim-Sen’s  Sixth Universities Branch in Istanbul.

“Discourses of sin, crime, and sickness are intertwined”

In the first session of the two-part panel, Kaos GL’s Ali Erol talked about the importance of becoming freer together. Erol reminded listeners that same-sex relations existed throughout history in all cultures and societies and talked about the historical aspects of the current discourse on “sickness,” “sin,” and “crime.”

Erol continued by saying, “These attitudes of sin, crime, and sickness do not follow a linear trajectory. Though it may differ from society to society and one path can take precedence due to power mechanisms, the other attitudes continue in social and cultural levels.”

Erol reminded listeners of former Minister of State for Women and Family Affairs Aliye Kavaf’s consideration of homosexuality as a sickness and said, “We would have expected the ruling Justice and Development Party to have a political stance using the discourse of ‘sin’ but Kavaf must have sensed that the sin discourse does not match the times and therefore used the sickness discourse.” Erol talked about the start of Kaos GL and Lambdaistanbul and said, “The Gezi process has been the crowning moment of 20 years of horizontal and grassroots organization. If this struggle had not happened, we would not be able to talk about Gezi like this.”

“Looking like the majority is presented as a virtue”

Remzi Altunpolat began his words by saying, “The LGBT movement did not start with Gezi. We need to remember and remind the 20 years of struggle. We can perhaps talk about a quantitative leap after Gezi.”

Altunpolat stressed that the education system is a reflection of ruling power mechanisms and said, “As a whole, education is one reflection of power mechanisms and is a specific field that produces these.”

Altunpolat reminded the listeners of the Pedagogy of the Oppressed and said, “The author defines the oppressed as figures who diverge from society’s general appearance and organization. They are made to be pathologies of a healthy society. They must be rewon as if they were exiled on their own volition. In this way, looking like the majority is presented as a virtue. Therefore, it is defined as an external and singular event.”

“Heteronormativity is a pressure mechanism that shapes the entire society”

Altunpolat emphasized that culture and society are built upon norms and said, “Heteronormativity creates heterosexual orientation and the two acting genders as norms. And this is a pressure mechanism that shapes all fields from education to health. Homophobia and transphobia are the visible aspects of this. These phobias are not like the fear of being stranded in an elevator. Homophobia and transphobia are not a reason but the result of heteronormativity.”

Altunpolat continued his talk by criticizing the books in the curriculum through heteronormativity and patriarchy. He emphasized that the heteronormative curriculum prevents LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and intersex) children from becoming subjects. Altunpolat said, “LGBTI students within the education system are kicked out of the founding discourse. LGBTI students in the education system are made out to be bad, seductive, exogenous, and harmful.”

“LGBTI kids grow up under siege”

Psychologist Yasemin Şafak said, “LGBTI kids grow up under siege. They are bullied intensively by their peers during puberty and face serious pressure during university. Today we see similar reactions in academia and in universities as in high school.”

Esin Aksoy talked about her experience as a trans teacher and the transphobic attacks she has faced as well as what it is like to be a trans member of the Education and Science Workers’ Union. Aksoy reminded listeners that she faced threats and pressure in an Arnavutköy (where) school and resigned. She said, “I did not see the necessary solidarity from Eğitim-Sen when I was going through this process. I was left without a job. I did not have any saving to continue my sex transition. I was harassed and raped. I was tortured at police stations.”

There was an open discussion after the panel.

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