Queer Friendship and Migration

Queer friendship opens the doors to a world that transcends all kinds of identity categories and is a place where closeness can be experienced anywhere at any time regardless of one’s identity, title, or past.

Source: Queer friendship and Migration (Kuir dostluk ve göç), Kaos GL, https://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=28543&fbclid=IwAR3cO0t6rQ3xebaH2QbxuI8WLxG2gvATeONFON4UIVAZtVEFLqqkYe2emE8 July 21, 2019

In the 165th issue of Kaos GL, Yener Bayramoğlu wrote on the subject of “Friendship”:

About nine years ago I emigrated from Istanbul to Berlin. During this process, Istanbul, the place where I was born and grew up, turned into a foreign city where I could not remember the street names, I could not find the bars and cafes I used to go to, and I did not know which route to take to go from one neighborhood to another. Although I couldn’t follow the transformation of Istanbul personally, it was possible to feel the vibrations of these changes taking place in Berlin. Istanbul has undergone tremendous change in the past nine years and as a result, it has transformed Berlin as well.

In the past two years, Berlin has become a city where a lot of people who didn’t feel at home in Turkey anymore have immigrated. Among these newly arrived immigrants are my old friends whom I fought together with in Istanbul in the past. Thanks to them, Berlin reminds me of old Istanbul more and more. Istanbul, on the other hand, has turned into a completely different city that I don’t even recognize anymore because so many have left.

Although it is not talked about, there is unrest in Berlin for new immigrants. Especially between the new and old generation of immigrants, there is a subtle tension. Most of the new immigrants, unlike the older generation, are highly educated people who found a job or scholarship despite not being able to speak German and are building an international career. They have the opportunities that the workers who immigrated to Germany previously, who were either victims of a coup or those who escaped from the ethnic conflicts, could never imagine. In other words, there is a sense of unrest rather than solidarity between different generations of immigrants due to class differences. The newcomers look down on the old generation of immigrants and the old ones look at the newcomers with envy.

The only group that doesn’t fit into this situation and follows a different logic from the one that all the other immigrant groups have are LGBTI immigrants. Although it is a vast generalization, I think LGBTI immigrants are the only group that does not harbor tension between generations [and] where there has been more solidarity than tension. So, what’s the reason for it? I think this is because ‘migration’ and ‘friendship’ are actually two rather queer experiences. Both migration and friendship are the two lifesavers that almost every single queer individual has to hold on to at some point in order to survive.

Although migration and diaspora studies proceed from an extremely heterosexual vein, what we call migration, even forced migration, is actually one of the most fundamental experiences of many LGBTI people for centuries. ‘Home’ or ‘family’ is a problematic area evoking of bitter, painful or even traumatic memories for many LGBTI people. Sooner or later, almost every LGBTI experiences roughness in their relationships within the house or family where they were raised, even if they do not suffer trauma due to their own identity. When this roughness is felt, the house ceases to be home. For many LGBTI people, the home longed for is not the house left behind. A long awaited desired home that is dreamed about is a home waiting to be established elsewhere, in another city or in another country. That’s why history is full of stories of queers who escaped from their family and found their home in Istanbul and had to build it again and again. Therefore, not the feeling of homesickness, but the desire to immigrate is queer. Although similar feelings are spreading throughout the society today, the feeling of not being able to fit into the city or country where the person was born and raised is a feeling that many LGBTI people have known for a long time.

Just like migration, friendship allows holding on to life for queers. They feel the dazzling taste of closeness, solidarity, unquestioning support and self-realization, not with their family or relatives, but with their friends. For many queers, freedom does not occur in relationships with the family, but in friendships. And freedom is like bread. Therefore, history is full of stories of queers who left their biological family completely behind and found alternative families with friends in another city. These families, established with friends, do not follow the rules of biology and blood. It is deaf to hierarchies that may result from age and class differences.

Friendship has an important place in queer theory. For Michel Foucault, queer friendship is an important tool for us to build another world. Queer friendship opens the doors of a world that exceeds all kinds of identity categories, where closeness can be lived anywhere at any time, regardless of one’s identity, title, or past. A partnership based on blood, class or ethnic identity is not required for being close. In addition, friendship is a non-institutionalized close relationship, unlike all other close relationships such as those established with siblings, parents, spouses, lovers, or relatives. It is a true form of closeness literally because it has no institutional binding and control. As a matter of fact, when you lose its sincerity, no one can hold you, you can just go away.  However, one of the points that the studies on queer friendship miss is that a friendship’s real potential emerges with migration. Starting from scratch, away from family, old friends, old ties, old rules, is not only difficult but also liberating. With new friends in a new city or a new country, it is easier to sail to new experiences and break taboos.

Another situation that I have observed in Berlin and have experienced in my own life is that migration makes queer friendship indispensable. Relationships with friends not only shields against homophobia or transphobia, but it also strengthens you against racism. It is precisely because of these multiple discriminations LGBTI people experience, unlike all other groups of immigrants, it is essential for LGBTI immigrants to establish friendships that transcend class, age and ethnic differences. When something happens to you, those who will rush to help you first is usually not the family or relatives, but queer friends.

From this perspective, queer friendship sets an example for all other immigrant groups. I think other groups of immigrants need to understand queer friendship and closeness, in order to understand why there is more solidarity between different generations of LGBTI immigrants than tension. Once again, LGBTI has a formula that can serve as an example for other social  groups and even for the whole society.

 

How can you get Kaos GL magazine?

This article was first published in the 165th issue of Kaos GL magazine. Online subscribers can reach the magazine through the website of the magazine. Those who want to get the printed version can buy the new issue from the bookstores starting next week. To purchase the magazine online, you can contact Notabene publications.

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.