T1-D6, 93 Days in the “Transvestite Ward”

Source: T1-D6, “Travesti Koğuşu”nda 93 Gün (T1-D6, 93 Days in the “Transvestite Ward”). 2014. Kaos GL. 19 April 2014. http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=16372

I have only been in jail once in my life and I stayed in one of those wards for three months. Mine was in Metris; Ward T1-D6. In other words: The Transvestite Ward. And I spent exactly 93 days with other transvestites and a few homosexual men. There were eight of us  in total.

Yiğit Karaahmet, a columnist for the daily newspaper Taraf, featured Trans convict Avşa’s letter in his column. Karaahmet, who states that the most basic problem that LGBTIs face in prisons is isolation, shared his experiences in the prison he stayed.

Here is Karaahmet’s article in full:

Trans convict Avşa’s letter to Kaos GL concludes as follows “…I went to prison before I could blossom.” Avşa is currently on hunger strike due to countless rights violations, harassment and excommunication because of her sexual orientation. After Avşa’s rebellion, Turkey has started to talk about the conditions of LGBTs in prison, which they hadn’t seen and did not want to see, in a quiet voice.

The Transvestite Wards of my beautiful homeland.

I have only been in jail once in my life and I stayed in one of those wards for three months.. Mine was in Metris; Ward T1-D6. In other words: The Transvestite Ward. And I spent exactly 93 days with other transvestites and a few homosexual men. There were eight of us in total.

The most basic problem all LGBTs come across in prison is isolation. During the time that I stayed there, neither seeing people other than these eight, nor sharing the same environment with others was possible.

Lists of weekly use of the gym were hung up.… While all the other wards were holding matches and arranging tournaments, we were doing sports by ourselves as well. 8-people volleyball matches, 8 people work-outs… After a while, we would get bored of holding a match and walk around the field arm-in-arm gossiping about the coach.

Prisons hold courses for the prisoners. Our ward was not allowed to participate in them either. I organized the whole ward to participate in a chess tournament. Of course, just for us. Our girls’ interest for chess did not last long. After the second week when we were reduced by wastage, it blew up in our faces too. The ones who stay in that ward could also not participate in work such as cleaning, cooking and library duty.

People who stay in the transvestite ward stay in a separate prison within a prison. Staying in a transvestite ward is like living in a micro-Turkey. Since they cannot provide your security, taking away your basic rights and freedoms is the easiest way.

This situation also has an economic dimension. Most of LGBT convicts do not speak to their families, nor do they have someone to get financial aid; some had to support themselves as sex workers. There are some convicts who cannot pay their share of the electricity bill of 50 kuruş (about 20 US cents) and those same people have to be in for yet another five years.

What is that? What kind of life routine and justice mentality is that?

It is said that separate prisons will be built for homosexual convicts. There are some reasonable points here. However, where will this prison be? For instance if a convict who was caught in Istanbul [and has all their friends and the people who can support them there] is put in a special prison in Mardin just for being LGBT, who will assist them and how will they be visited?

I think the right thing is that those prisoners should be provided with the environment they are entitled to in the location that they are imprisoned. These people are already imprisoned in a dark well outside of  prison; they should be provided with proper social and economic rights in prison. What is the state for? What is it good for? Its incompetence in providing them with proper security is no reason to ask them to give up their rights.

What will happen to Avşa? Do you think it is easy to be a transvestite on hunger strike in prison all by yourself? Is it considered normal that she was harassed and insulted all the way as she was exiled from Giresun to Bafra, from Tokat to Niğde? Is it considered normal that she went from 82 kilos (180 pounds)to 62 kilos (136 pounds) during her struggle?

Avşa; my beautiful, bold, courageous, intelligent friend… You are so gorgeous. You think you were put into prison before you could blossom, but I promise that you will also blossom one day. Just like the plums blossoming these spring days, one day you will flourish too; you will wander around the streets of the city as you flick your hair. Never lose your hope. It is this state and this conception of morality, this darkness, that did not let you flourish. Just to spite them, please never give up, wait for the spring.

Let your resistance be our guide and your rebellion our hope.

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