In memory of Hande Şeker: The gender of transgender killings

Hande Şeker was killed in her house on 9th of January, 2019 by a cop who was there as her client.* Her housemate who is a trans woman as well was wounded by the same person. Despite some improvements in the language of the media since the 90s thanks to the struggles of the LGBTI+ movement, this murder which is clearly a hate killing was presented in the news with transphobic and misogynistic language.

Source: In memory of Hande Şeker: The gender of transgender killings (Hande Şeker’in ardından: Trans cinayetlerinin cinsiyeti) February 5, 2019 http://www.5harfliler.com/hande-sekerin-ardindan/

After Hande Şeker was killed, many newspapers and news websites shared her name presented in her ID card. This was done even though there is no public benefit in sharing it and her approval cannot be given because she was murdered. In addition papers when mentioning Hande Şeker, referred to her as a “transvestite” and “trans person”. “Transvestite who uses the nickname Hande Şeker” (Milliyet), “Hande Şeker codenamed transvestite” (Habertürk), “Trans person who uses the nickname Hande Şeker” (Sabah). All these news articles show how trans women are considered in the newsrooms. The journalists’ refusal to recognize trans women as women leads them to use a misogynistic and violent language.

The first message which was delivered via these news articles is that Hande is not Hande, often using the phrase “in reality”.  In other words, Hande Şeker, a woman who was murdered by a security officer of the government, is actually “fooling” us. Despite the fact that a trans woman lives, socialises, and works with a name she picked herself; this identity is just a “code name” for the media. Because mentioning Hande Şeker as Hande Şeker means recognizing the murdered person as a woman, normalising this fact, and not making it the centre of the news. However, this doesn’t suit the mainstream media which has traditionally made use of victims “being trans” to cause a stir.

First, they get a photograph of the victim from her social media account, which shows her beautiful face, probably taken by herself, and in which she looks in the way she wanted to look; and they put this photograph into the news article. And they write her name as Hande Şeker at the headlines. But then, they attach her name at the Identity card to the spotlight or under the photograph; the name which is coded with “maleness” and clearly not used by her. In this way, the message of “don’t believe in Hande” is delivered to the reader who was reading an article about femicide. So, it causes the readers to feel sympathy towards the transphobic killings’ culprits who testify before the court and to empathise with murderers who say “I thought she was a woman, but she is a man”. If the victim is a trans woman, questioning her “femaleness” in the news article is an additional strategy of the presentation. So, the focus of the news article is taken from the killing and the victim and transferred into the femaleness of the murdered woman, her background, the names and genders which are assigned to her without her will. The purpose is to confuse the mind of the reader who didn’t question the femaleness of the victim, to make them say “So, A is actually Y”, and to present “being a trans woman” as something horrible. Making them question the femaleness of Hande; ensuring the readers to watch their step by unearthing “this secret fact”. Otherwise, the readers may see the case in the shoes of the murdered woman instead of the man who entered her house and killed her; God forbid! They may see Hande as a woman, as she is; God forbid! They may forget questioning the femaleness of trans women for a moment; God forbid!

Cumhuriyet

Horror in İzmir… Cop shot trans people: 1 was killed

9th of January, 2019 Turkey

At the quarrel at an apartment in Konak District of İzmir, trans person Hande Şeker died and 2 people were wounded by the bullets of the gun of police officer A.D.

The incident occurred on the second floor of a 4 floored apartment in the Alsancak Neighbourhood today around at 06:30. Hande Şeker and second-hand phone seller A.T.K. who is reported to have gone to her house in order to have sex with her for money had a quarrel. According to the claims, police officer A.D. (23), who was allegedly outside of the building and on his off day, entered into the house as thinking that the trans people were attacking to his friend A.T.K., then he pulled out his gun and shot up one after another. 2 bullets hit Hande Şeker; her friend Y.A. who is a trans woman too and A.T.K. were wounded.

Taking this news article into consideration, the press working outside of the mainstream media still haven’t internalised the practice of writing trans-friendly news and haven’t thought about it enough. Nil who was wounded in the same incident, was only presented as Nil in the news article of Kaos GL; however, at several different sources, her name in her Identity card was stated fully or partially; or initials were used by some other sources. The point which led us to think about the lack of the practice is that even a newspaper such as Evrensel which is usually attentive to this point and usually cites news from Kaos already used the initials of Nil’s name from the identity card after presenting her as Nil first. The reason for it is probably because some of the journalists are attentive about it while the others are extremely careless when benefiting from different sources. For instance, Gazete Duvar and Gazete Karınca mentioned Nil with the initials of her name from her identity card, while Birgün did a good job and chose to mention about her as N with the first letter of her name, not her name from the identity card.

Hürriyet

News from Konak: Police officer killed a trans person and wounded 2 people in İzmir

Police officer killed a trans person and wounded 2 people in İzmir

Halil İbrahim KARABIYIK-Davut CAN/İZMİR, (DHA)- The quarrel occurred at an apartment in Konak District of İZMİR, trans person died and 2 people were wounded by the bullets from the gun of police officer A.D.

The incident occurred on the second floor of a 4 floored apartment in Alsancak Neighbourhood, 1468 Street today around at 06:30. The trans person who uses the code name of “Hande Şeker” and second-hand phone seller A.T.K. who claimed to have gone to her house in order to have sex with her for money had a quarrel. Meanwhile, police officer A.D. (23) who is reported to have been outside of the building and on his off day.

Milliyet

09.01.2019

Horror in İzmir during the early hours of the day!

Shot by the gun, Hande is dead and 2 people are wounded

After the quarrel at an apartment in the Alsancak Neighbourhood of the Konak District in İzmir, Hande Şeker died and 2 people were wounded, after being shot with a gun by police officer A.D. who was not on duty, according to claims.

The incident occurred on the second floor of a 4 floored building in Alsancak today around 06.30. The transvestite who uses the code name of “Hande Şeker” had a quarrel with A.T.K. who allegedly went to her house in order to have sex with her.

Using the word transvestite, which was an indispensable part of presenting this news until quite recently and has only slightly diminished (I say “slightly” because it appears that news articles are often written as if we are still the 90s, depending on the channel and journalist), is heavily connected with the tradition of writing “transvestite terror” in the history of Turkish media. By typing “transvestite horror” in your search engine, you can view the language of the current news articles; the same language in these articles continues appearing with the word “horror” which is a replacement for the word “terror”. The media’s intention to omit the womanhood of the trans women from the news articles is highly rooted in this sense. On the other hand, using “trans person” as a tool to “sterilise” Hande Şeker and all trans women from their womanhood is the new method of the trans-misogynistic news language.

Since we are threatened with death and forced to accept having malaria, some people expect us to see that choosing the words “trans person” instead of “transvestite” is an improvement. However, these people are women. Moreover, they are women who are subjected to the violence of men and were murdered by men. These news articles are not about different identities which are outside of the binary gender system, nor about trans men. They are specifically about the trans women killings. But the journalists or editors are clearly not willing to write the word “woman” and they grab the word “person” which is apparently perceived as more hygienic and neutral by them. For those who are more or less aware of the wrong in the subtle meaning of the word “transvestite” but are not willing to present trans women as women, “trans person” is a new lifesaver. Have you ever read something like “cis person” in a news article? If you read this, is it possible to understand the gender of that person? However, just like all other femicides, Hande Şeker’s killing is connected with her gender which news articles deliberately tried to separated from the case.

Mitch Kellaway, a trans male editor researched the trans killings presented in the news mostly in USA and Brazil in 2015 and realized that the ratio of trans female victims to the number of trans male victims is approximately 200 to 1. Despite the fact that there isn’t any similar research for Turkey, it is possible to see from the news and in real life that trans women, especially those who work as a sex worker, are so vulnerable to violence.

Trans killings are a serious gender-based topic; moreover, eliminating their gender in the news articles about trans women killings is not only causing a will-breaking intervention to their existence but also objectifying them and pushing them to a distance where readers are unable to sympathise, by vanishing their identity. Additionally, eliminating femaleness from the readers’ eyes by using the name at the identity card many times is the news’ tactic to make the readers see the case in the shoes of the culprits of violence and therefore to cause an empathy towards these culprits. So, when writing these news articles, it is important to emphasise that victims and killings should not be eliminated from their gender, trans-misogynistic acts should not be separated from the picture, and many power dynamics among genders, which enable each of them to live, are important.

*Translator’s note: Hande Şeker was working as a sex worker. Read more about her in this Pembe Hayat article.

Illustration by Yayoi Kusama

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