On Gay Marriage: “If you had raped a five-year-old child, we would have been able to stomach it, but this we cannot!”

Ayşe Arman, “Beş yaşındaki bir çocuğa tecavüz etseydiniz sindirebilirdik ama bunu sindiremeyiz!” (“If you had raped a five-year-old child, we would have been able to stomach it, but this we cannot!”) Hürriyet, 20 October 2014, http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/kelebek/hayat/27408226.asp

As I was browsing Twitter, I noticed this message:
“Wait and see, Ayşe Arman, an interview with these marginal homosexuals will cause an explosion!”
According to them, I am trying to normalize the perversions in this society.
If I conduct an interview even with gays who marry, I will have legitimized gay marriage.
In other words, I am harmful!
If you ask them, they wish there were no homosexuals.
But they exist.
If you ask them, they wish gays would do whatever they do behind closed doors.
Well, that is not the way it goes.
No one has the right to demand such a thing. No one has the right to disregard part of humanity. Human beings are free to conduct themselves as they please.
And love too knows no sexuality.
They want to walk around hand in hand.
They want to touch each other.
You are a heterosexual, you want to touch someone of the opposite gender.
He, a gay, wants to touch a male body. To argue over these things in the 21st century strikes me as nonsensical.
Stop it! It is none of your business who wants to touch whom.
From now on stop condemning him as ‘sick’; you’re being ridiculous.
The man has not chosen this; there is no such thing as ‘sexual preference’; there is something called ‘sexual orientation’.
In other words, he is that way from birth; he does not come to be that way later on.
Later, what he has suppressed inside for years merely comes out, he goes back to his original nature, he returns to his own authentic self.

I did not make any special effort to publish a news story about the marriage of a gay couple.

So is destiny. And so is news, they came to me to express themselves. We met at the newspaper.
To date, I have done a lot of news stories about gays. Some of them were incredibly articulate people.
“What kind of young men are Ekin and Emrullah?” I wondered.
Suddenly I saw in front of me two very innocent people, one 19 years old, the other 26.
They are enamored by each other.
They show incredible concern.
They look eye to eye with each other. In other words, one must be an imbecile not to feel the love between them.
Obviously these children are passionately devoted to each other.
Apparently they are already living like a married couple and wanted to crown their relationship, to use their own expression.
You may agree, you may disagree…
You may approve, you may disapprove…
You may take it seriously, you may not take it seriously…
You may consider it a stunt to attract attention, you may not…
It is up to you.
But these people exist, and they are fighting against othering. Those who talk big when freedom is mentioned are obliged to recognize the same freedom for homosexuals.
We had better not forget that.
I leave you alone with Ekin and Emrullah…

Ekin and Emrullah… We have come to know you as the first gay couple to get married [same-sex weddings are not legally recognized by Turkey]. A lot of news stories have come out about you. A great pandemonium has broken out. What are you currently experiencing?

EMRULLAH: There is nothing left that has not happened to us! Our life has changed. We cannot even go back to our home. As a matter of fact we have no home…


EKİN: The landlord has forced us out.

EMRULLAH: He sent messages, saying “I have learned that you have been up to no good. I have collected signatures from our neighbors; I will have you thrown out!”

EKİN: And we asked in the most courteous manner, “Have we damaged your home that you want to remove us?” He hemmed and hawed. But because he could not even openly say, “You are homosexuals! I do not want to provide housing to people like you,” he kept on coming up with lies. He reportedly collected signatures from the neighbors. We do not know anybody there, so how can they say anything bad about us? Whom have we hurt? We are two people who mind our own business. We do not engage in extravagant behavior, there is nothing wrong with us. But he learned that we are homosexual, furthermore we got married, and he thinks he has the right to evict us.
EMRULLAH: He says, “I have learned what mischief you have been up to!” What kind of insolence this is! We love each other, we have gotten married; is there a problem? Are we to get permission from him? This is our private affair; it concerns no one. The only thing connecting the landlord and us is the rent.  Apart from that there is no other relationship.

EKİN: Speaking of what kind of homophobia this is, we cannot even find a new home. We made inquiries by telephone with several realtors; they said, “Okay, come, let’s have a look”; they recognized us when they met us; they said, “Look elsewhere. We have no home to give to you!” Out of desperation we are staying with our friends.

Is that the extent of the hardship you have experienced?

EKIN: No way! It gets even worse. We get a lot of threats. I am from Antakya. Messages are coming from there, saying “You have disgraced Antakya’s name; if you come here, we’ll put a bullet in your head…” But of course I am in no mood to be intimidated by these messages. Fortunately there are also those who say “Only someone as full of courage and love as you could have come from Antakya! We congratulate you.”


What about the family circle?

EKİN: My father and my father’s side of the family say “You are a disgrace! Change your surname immediately; sever your connection with our family!” For me, this has no significance. I have already been saying openly that I am homosexual since I was 12 years old. They would rather I am dead, or if I am to not die, then conceal my homosexuality. This hypocrisy sickens me. Either accept it or don’t. This is what I am! I was born this way. And I love myself. Now I also have a spouse whom I love as much as myself. For me it is impossible to be with a woman. They cannot grasp this. Just as for a heterosexual man it is impossible to be with a man, so for me it is impossible to be with a woman. But my brother, I just could not explain it to him. In their own mind, they reject me. Well then, they should ask me whether I want to be a member of that family. No! Actually, I reject them. Erase me from the family register. Telephone calls are constantly coming in, saying “God damn you!”, “Even your mother is scum; she has always supported you,” they say. My mother is, in a word, my heart. She is my supporter at all times and in every aspect. Emrullah, my mother, and I have had a picture taken. “How can you be in the same photograph with these two perverts? You are a disgraceful woman. How can you post that photograph on Facebook?” they said. Since we are homosexual; they do not want even our mothers to love us! Is it possible for a mother not to love her child? But see, I can not say much about fathers.

Does your mother live here?

EKİN: No, in Antakya. She is 40 years old. I have a very young, very sweet mother.

Alright. You, Emrullah? And you were working as a waiter in a cafe, were you not? Did something happen to you on account of this marriage?

EMRULLAH: Yes. I lost my job. I am a cautious and quiet person who does not mess with anybody.


They say, “Homosexuality is a sexual preference!” Nonsense! What is this, are we exhibiting a marginal stance[1]? Is it an occupation that we are choosing? What does it mean “to choose”? We were born this way. We did not choose it. This is our nature. In other words, this is not a preference.

What was your family’s reaction?

EMRULLAH: That is somewhat problematic. I have never been courageous like Ekin. He has rebelled since the age of 12. “This is what I am, deal with it!” he says, he is able to say so. I could not do that. I could not admit to anyone that I was gay. It is only for the last three years that I have acted as my true self. No one from my circle knew. Least of all my family, my relatives… Now everyone knows about it.

EMRULLAH: Yes. And of course they were shocked. But even if I had spoken up earlier, nothing would have changed. Among them, the perception is fixed, it doesn’t change. “If there is such a thing, it is a sickness! We will try to fix it,” so they think. Unfortunately, most of this country still perceives homosexuality as an illness. Are the politicians any different? No! They consider it a sin. Nevertheless they love Zeki Müren, they listen to Bülent Ersoy, but they think that homosexuality should be lived in secret. You will not be open about it. You are doing something bad. If two men walk hand in hand, it would be tempting to others, they think. Let them throw you out of their homes, let them do whatever they can. My family too thought they were going to fix me.


How would they do it [fix you]?

EKİN: They were probably going to marry Emrullah off! Because they cannot resist the pressures, a lot of homosexuals get married, even have children. It is a shame for those women! In the end everybody is miserable.

EMRULLAH: What our families want is for this incident to be completely forgotten. In their opinion we have done something shameful. But we have accomplished something that we very much wanted, which was our dream. And we are proud of ourselves. Until three years ago I was closeted for everyone. I was only biding my time. One day I will be able to shout that I am homosexual, I will find the one whom I love, and from then on we will live, we will share all of life together. Ekin has given me not only love, but also courage. We are no longer afraid of anyone!

In other words, in spite of the fact that so much has happened to you, you have no regrets or anything…

EKİN: Of course we haven’t. We have done the most just thing of our lives. Moreover, I am not miserable because I am homosexual. If I were to come into the world once more, in this body again, I would want to be born the same way. Yes, we live in a homophobic country, they kill trans people, they try to make us regret that we were born. Even so, I am content with my condition. I am 19 years old, I have faced myself. I no longer try to pass myself off as someone who I am not.

You are studying at Marmara University, is that correct?

EKİN: Yes, but on account of these events I am currently not going to school.


How did you meet?

EKİN: At a nightclub. I was dancing with a girlfriend of mine. Suddenly I saw Emrullah; I said, “Melis, look, what a sweet kid!” Then we met and danced. It was already morning; we came back to our home.

EMRULLAH: Since the moment we met we have never been apart. And in fact a short while later we began to live together.

EKİN: In the third month of our relationship, we were practically like married people. Our cats were our children. We are very honest and respectful to each other. We are keenly sensitive toward each other. Our pleasures are shared. Our hobbies are shared. We have dreams about the future. For us there is no obvious problem, apart from us being men. As far as we are concerned, that is not an issue either, but it has become a problem for the nation.

EMRULLAH: When we decided to live together, there was something that I said to Ekin: “Whatever happens during the day, even if we have had a fight, when night comes we will lie down in the same bed, we will lay our heads on the same pillow. There will be no such thing as sleeping in the living room.” And it would happen that we had fights, but we have never gone to bed angry. Never have we slept in separate rooms.


That red ribbon [2] was severely criticized… Why did you tie it to your waist while being wed?
EKİN: For one thing, we certainly do not assign each other an identity. There is no such thing as, “In this relationship, you are the man, I am the woman.” We are both gay. Let me explain that red ribbon this way: I am being trained as an artist; my wedding was in itself a message, but within my wedding I wanted to give a separate message as well. That red ribbon on my waist says that maidenhood has no importance. Otherwise, I am a man; what about me is a maiden? I engaged in some expressionism and tried in this way to explain myself. There were those who received the message quite well, and those too who misunderstood it…

EMRULLAH: This is our wedding; we will do as we please. We could not understand why people got so hung up on this.

Whom did you invite to your wedding?

EMRULLAH: Our loved ones, our close circle. Ninety people whom we wanted to be there.

Where did you find the money?

EKİN: We did it with the money that we have saved until now. There were also friends who helped us out. God bless them.

Did you take this matter seriously, or did you do it for the fun of it?

EKİN: Of course we did something that we took seriously. As a matter of fact, we were married for emotional reasons; on that score your signature changes nothing. We were living as married people anyway. We wanted to crown this with a wedding. In fact, we also wrote on our invitation, “We think that it is only accompanied by your wishes that we will be freed of our worries.”

How do you feel currently?

EKİN: We have done nothing to deserve so much insult and humiliation. We have loved each other, that’s all. We have not killed anybody, we have not raped anybody. I received a frightening message. Something very, very shameful. Look at the level of hatred: “If you had raped a five-year-old child, we would have been able to stomach it, but this we cannot stomach!” they said.


And your family story…

EMRULLAH: I am from Batman. I am Kurdish. But we have been in Istanbul for 26 years. I went around, strolled about, and acted like a heterosexual. Until I was 25 years old I lived only inside myself. Even with my closest friends I shared nothing. I always tell Ekin that I admire his courage. Thanks to him, I too have been able to be myself. If we have changed some things, how blessed we are…


Where did you get the idea of announcing your marriage to the world, to the universe? What was your reason to do so?

EKİN: We actually just wanted to appeal to the homosexual community, to encourage them. We wanted to say, “You are not alone! There are also other people like you. We are two of them. You are not so weak, so powerless. Do not be afraid!” Except for the Akit newspaper, all the newspapers merely provided the news. We thank them. Okay, there were several pitiful remarks on the internet sites. Akit wrote, “Perverts held a wedding; we expect the authorities to launch an investigation,” but generally it was reported that “two homosexuals got married.” We have risked becoming the target of homophobes. We have done this in the hope that gay marriages will get a start in our country. No matter what anyone says, I think we have a place in the fight for homosexual freedom.


When did you become aware that you were homosexual?

EKİN: Ever since I knew myself… There was a children’s magazine. I liked a particular boy in it. Never in my existence have I had a relationship with girls. When my mother noticed how I was, we went around from doctor to doctor; the poor woman was distressed; she asked everyone, “Is Ekin transgender, is he gay, what is he? Tell me!” One day I gathered the whole family. “From now on, stop going to the doctors,” I said. “I am homosexual.” I said it all at once. I cannot explain how relieved I was. We sobbed and sobbed, together with my mother. Afterwards, of course, my uncles and the rest got involved. They said, “We won’t be able to send Ekin to school; his school life is finished.”


EKİN: Because they are going to make me straight, that’s why! “Let him start working, let him get into construction!” It’s a macho job; they think that I will begin to feel like a man. For two years I lived as a prisoner at home. Afterwards they consented to my enrolling at the High School for Fine Arts. My father would drop me off, would pick me back up. There were those who pulled out knives, there were those who cursed, there were those who shouted “Transvestite!” behind my back. My only salvation was Istanbul. For three whole years I worked without sleeping a wink. My instructor, who was preparing with me, is a witness. First place at the Mersin Fine Arts Faculty, first place at the Hacettepe Department of Painting, first place at the Eskişehir Anadolu University Department of Painting… But I preferred Marmara University. I have a very sweet instructor. He says, “Ekin, I do not want to lose you. You are so talented!” I am in my third year, but at this time I cannot continue because of the threats.

[1] “Marginal stance” (“marjinal duruş” / “marjinal grup”) is a vague political term in Turkey used by people of both left and right-wing affiliations to refer to any political stance or activism deemed by the speaker to be radical and / or socially undesirable. It has been previously used notably by some Turkish nationalists to refer to Kurdish rights activists, by some Kurdish rights activists to refer to LGBTI activists, and so on.

[2]  The red ribbon, traditionally tied around the bride’s waist during most Turkish wedding ceremonies, symbolizes the bride’s virginity, and as such, her purity as well as her family’s honour prior to her entering the marriage.

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