Source: Elvan Yarma. “Hormonlu domates ödülleri’nin sahipleri bu yıl da ödülü almaya gelmedi,” (“The winners of the genetically modified tomato awards did not claim their awards this year either”), Hürriyet Kelebek, 28 June 2014, http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/kelebek/hayat/26690059.asp
The tenth annual award ceremony of The Genetically ModifiedTomato Awards, given to homophobes, took place last night. The Awards Ceremony was initiated by LGBTI solidarity foundation Lambdaistanbul and is organized with the support of other LGBTI associations. For the first time this year, the Genetically Modified Tomato Awards took place in a municipal building. The Municipality of Şişli made available the Şişli Urban Cultural Center for the ceremony.
For those who are curious, the name “Genetically Modified Tomato” dates back to 2005 when [former football referee and current football commentator] Erman Toroğlu declared, “don’t eat genetically modified tomatoes, they will make you gay.” This statement had earned him the first ever Genetically Modified Tomato Award. The Awards Ceremony is one where the handing of awards is accompanied not with applause but with booing. The ceremony started with Mademoiselle Coco (nickname for Seyhan Arman) mentioning this Sunday’s Pride Parade with her idiosyncratic style: “Oh honey but I heard they were not going to let us walk this year!”
Organizations from various provinces participated in the ceremony including Purple Fish from Trabzon, Zeugmadi from Gaziantep, Istanbul Bears from Istanbul and many more. The organization network has become so large that as Mademoiselle Coco read the list of associations she kept saying, “Oh you’re one of us too?” When the awards were being handed out, the presenters expressed their dismay at not being able to award all the candidates and wishfully said, “Perhaps one day they may accept that they are wrong and come to receive this award.”
Victims of hate murders and those subjected to hate crimes were commemorated during the ceremony. As the organizers put forth, “If 99% of a social sector are sex workers, there’s a problem.”
When I attended the “hormone party” that took place at the Neo Club after the Awards, this time it was I, as a heterosexual person, who felt like the “other.” Lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans individuals danced together at the club. But lining up against the sidewalk at the exit, I noticed that they all stood a foot apart from me. Who knows? Perhaps that gap will be filled when Turkey is changed so that hate murders and words of “homosexuality is a disease” are not everyday occurrences and when homosexual individuals may be considered as presidential candidates.
WINNERS OF THE GENETICALLY MODIFIED TOMATO AWARDS
Politics: PM Erdoğan, for initiating a defamation case about the tweet, “It is not as if we will learn from you how to be a fag.”
Media: Yeni Akit Daily, for the following court defense, “Homosexuality and its derivatives are psychological disorders.”
Entertainment: Okan Bayülgen, for saying that there is an increase in homosexuality because young boys end up having to have intercourse with each other due to a scarcity of brothels.
Education: Yeditepe University, for banning one trans woman from entering campus and for turning down the application of a student LGBTI research group, with the explanation that the club would “degrade the university’s reputation.”
Sports: Former Fenerbahçe footballer Mateja Kezman, for saying that homosexuality is a disease and that it should not be encouraged, and for other homophobic declarations when footballers in Amsterdam decided to offer support for Pride.
Social spaces: Kızılay Shopping Center, for banning entry to three trans women with the words of “We don’t allow your kind in here.”
Censorship: The Grand National Assembly of Turkey (TBMM), for banning access to LGBTI organizations’ websites.
International: Russia, for legally banning homosexual propaganda.
Institution: The Ministry of Internal Affairs, for allegedly putting pressure on the police officer, who had lost his job due to sexual discrimination, into providing the names of other gay members of the police force.
We had the opportunity to speak with Gizem from Lambdaistanbul before the ceremony.
What is the purpose of these awards?
The main purpose is to identify homophobic and transphobic persons and institutions.
What would you say bothers LGBTI individuals most in Turkish society and politics?
We are not accepted, not in terms of our rights and not in terms of visibility. The discourse of “homosexuality is a disease” is still widespread among many politicians. On the other hand, we are glad to see changes in the approaches of BDP [Peace and Democracy Party], HDP [Peoples’ Democratic Party] and CHP [Republican Peoples’ Party] towards homosexuality in the last few years. As per AK Party [Justice and Development Party], we don’t anticipate any such change from them any time soon.
The presidential elections are coming up. Will there be candidates who represent you?
My personal opinion is that none of them represent me. We recently heard Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu [joint candidate for the Republican Peoples’ Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) -trans.] declare, “Homophobia is not a universal matter.” The candidates are quite explicit about where they stand.
Do you think that Turkey may have a homosexual president in the future?
Of course. Why would we keep fighting if we did not believe this! Unfortunately though, I don’t think this will happen in the near future.
Do you think that there have been changes in how public or private corporate firms regard LGBTI individuals?
There have always been LGBTI individuals working in corporate firms. What we want is for them to be visible in those workplaces. During a recent investigation in relation to a gay police officer losing his job, the Ministry of Internal Affairs released a written statement saying, “Homosexuality is disparaging for civil service. The society needs to see honorable and reputable individuals in office in order to trust in such institutions.”