Discrimination & Hate Crimes

Discrimination and Hate Crimes committed against LGBTI in Turkey

How marginal can you get? On discrimination and how METU students stood their ground

Middle East Technical University in Ankara is famous for two things: academic success and a tradition of resistance to political power. Whether it is in reaction to the overnight decisions to bulldoze the forest in the campus or the attempts at changing the stadium’s name  (“Revolution”, as anointed by the legendary revolutionary student leader Deniz Gezmiş and his friends), students have always stood their ground and claimed their space collectively. The tradition remains untarnished, as students’ protests forced the rector to revert his decision to first cancel and then to move the annual spring festival from Revolution Stadium. Despite the rector’s attempts to marginalize LGBTI+ and leftist constituents of the student collectives, the students successfully stood their ground through their solidarity.

As some of our readers might remember, Ankara is still under a blanket ban against all LGBTI related activities, including film screenings and panels – despite the lifting of the state of emergency last year. Although the ban has struck a blow to the public meetings and collective spaces of LGBTI+ people of Ankara, the LGBTI+ student clubs and movement is committed to continuing their social and cultural activities. Such was the case in METU’s Spring Festival, until the rector suddenly decided to cancel the festival, claiming that the students’ demand were financially burdensome, that the students even requested a “tractor” – confusing the DJing software Traktor with the farmer’s favourite, tractors. The rector said the following words, when his decision caused huge uproar:

“First of all, we haven’t cancelled the festival. On the contrary, we have agreed with students from UGT (International Youth Collective) on all matters including the concerts at Revolution Stadium. Yet this group later changed its mind, after having a meeting with LGBT, Marxist, Extreme Leftist, HDP groups [sic]. Their requests cost over a million in total. They even asked for a tractor. We have never had a prohibitory approach as an administration. We are more METU than you. For example I’ve been in METU for 35 years. I know just as well what is what.”

Of course, the rector’s attempts to wag a finger at “good” students being tempted by the evil marginals like “LGBT, Marxist and Extreme Leftist and HDP groups” fell on deaf ears. But once again the official discourse blatantly discriminated against and others the politically active students with the usual tactics: Lumping together all “others” as a united front of villainy, using identity markers and political positions as if they were adjectives to stigmatize the students, reframing the legitimate requests of students to continue their traditional festival as irrational and greedy and as a cherry on the top, claiming to be more METU than “you”. Regardless of the rector’s claims to authenticity, a university is nothing without its students, who have chosen to use the weapon of humour against the misrepresentation of their intentions. The students gathered in front of the Rectorate, carrying a handmade tractor model painted in the colours of the trans flag, garbed in a rainbow flag, a license plate that says “extreme left” and with a hammer and sickle. Indeed this act of creative resistance reverts the power-holders’ attempt at the caricaturized representation of the diversity of the students, by turning the rector’s words into a concrete object shown below.

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Various artists have offered to play for free and supported the students. On April 16th, around a thousand students gathered in protest. On April 17th student collective UGT, in charge of the organization of the festival, had a meeting with the Rector for two hours: The festival is to be celebrated for the 33rd time, at Revolution Stadium on April 24-26. We hope to see the solidarity of students, with all their diversity of ethnicity, political opinion, gender identity and sexual orientation, continue and grow in all campuses around Turkey. Love will win!

*Photos are taken from İnadına Haber.

**This article is based on news from Gazete Duvar and sendika.org.

Homophobic attitude of the Radio and Television Supreme Council of Turkey: Punishment for FOX Life “due to presenting homosexual relations as if normal”

Source: Homophobic attitude of the Radio and Television Supreme Council of Turkey: Punishmet for FOX Life “due to presenting homosexual relations as if normal” (RTÜK’ten LGBTİ+ düşmanlığı: FOX Life’a “eşcinsel ilişkileri normal gösterme” cezası) Sendika.org, April 11, 2019

 http://sendika63.org/2019/04/rtukten-lgbti-dusmanligi-fox-lifea-escinsel-iliskileri-normal-gosterme-cezasi-542433/

The Radio and Television Supreme Council of Turkey have three times issued broadcasting bans to FOX Life for to the series called “9-1-1”. The reason for the ban of the series which also tells the stories of LGBTI+ people is because of “the inappropriate footage of a male couple”.

The series “9-1-1”, which is broadcast on the channel FOX Life, features lead actress is Golden Globe winner Angela Basset who has also been nominated for Academy and Emmy award. The series tells the lives of emergency first responders such as police officers, healthcare workers, and firefighters, and the series also shares the lives of LGBTI+ people.

According to a news article by AA [Anadolu Agency], the Radio and Television Supreme Council of Turkey reached the conclusion that “the inappropriate footage of an old gay couple in the series is contrary to the national and sentimental values of society, the general ethics, and the principles of protecting the notion of family”. Due to this reason, the Radio and Television Supreme Council of Turkey issued 3 broadcasting bans. Moreover, AA presented this news’s relevant part with the heading “No permission for unethical relationships in series and movies.” 

 

Interview | Trans student, Şafak Koç, was expelled from the dormitory: “The number of those who undergo gender affirmation surgery and get murdered is the same as the number of those who don’t undergo the surgery and commit suicide.”

Source: Trans student, Şafak Koç, who was expelled from the dormitory: “The number of those who undergo gender affirmation surgery and get murdered is the same as the number of those who don’t undergo surgery and commit suicide.” (Yurttan atılan trans erkek öğrenci Şafak Koç: “Türkiye’de cinsiyet geçişi yapanlarla, yapmayıp intihar edenlerin ve öldürülenlerin oranı eşit”) F. Çiçek Yaman & Rojhat Tunç, Gazete Hayır, April 3, 2019, http://gazetehayir.com/roportaj-yurttan-atilan-trans-erkek-ogrenci-safak-koc-turkiyede-cinsiyet-gecisi-yapanlarla-yapmayip-intihar-edenlerin-ve-oldurulenlerin-orani-esit/

On Wednesday, March 27, we made an interview with Şafak Koç who is a student at the Department of Media and Communication at Üsküdar University. Şafak was expelled from Ataşehir KYK* Dormitory for Girls where he had been staying before coming out as a trans man. We met with Şafak after this event to reveal the problems that LGBTI+ individuals have in their social life.  Şafak began his story by describing his life starting in Van and then moving to İstanbul. The interview is below.

First of all, can you tell us about realizing your gender identity?

A child discovers his/her gender identity around at the age of 3. I thought I was a boy, but I realized my body was female when I saw the penis of my male cousin at the age of 5. I didn’t talk at all until the age of 9 because of the discourses that “girls don’t do that” and  “girls don’t play with boys.” I was not able to talk with people and express myself. I didn’t even know how to walk actually. People used to tell me that “you don’t even know how to walk.” I researched about gender identity for 3 years, because everyone around me was either female or male profile and I didn’t fit among them.

 

I couldn’t act like a woman or reveal the man inside me because I was ashamed. When a person told me that “you walk like a man” I got so sad. I wondered: “is there something wrong with me?” Moreover, I had nobody to help me and I was always confused. I hadn’t shared this confusion with anybody until the age of 18. I searched for things like “the mind is male and the body is female; what does this mean?” I thought a person who is not like this would not search for this kind of information. Then, when I was 18 years old, I learned that I was a transsexual person. I became so happy because I realized I was not alone and there were people just like me. On the other hand, I was scared of what my family would say. Because the number of those who undergo gender affirmation surgery and get murdered is the same as the number of those who don’t undergo the surgery and commit suicide.

Did you have problems during your high school? High school years can be problematic.

Yes, of course I did. Girls had to wear skirts at our school. Wearing trousers was forbidden. I would wear it compulsorily and I couldn’t go outside of class by any means. My hair was always in an updo and I couldn’t get my hair cut. Also, girls who  had their hair cut were considered awkward in Van. Then, people started to ask me “why don’t you go out with boys?” They even thought that I was a lesbian. So, many friends of mine ended their friendship with me without even talking to me just because of this thought. Everyone around me thought I was a lesbian, because I wouldn’t go out with boys and would act like a man. But, believe me, acting like a man was not something I could avoid–I felt that way deep inside. What could I do? I started to wear trousers in 11th grade and I was given reprimand. I had reactions from my family because of it too.

How did it go after you realized your gender identity?

When I went to a psychologist for the first time in 2016, I asked: “I really wonder how many people are there like me coming here?”. The psychologist answered me that [there are] “two other people.” They were children of teachers and they came here from other cities. That means I was the only person who was born and raised in Van who had the encourage to be their self. This frightened me a lot. I left Van by changing my choices.  I wanted to come to İstanbul and study media and communication because I though I would be somewhat free if I came to İstanbul and studied here. But then, I thought and told myself “what about other people?” It makes no sense. However, my family didn’t want me to study media and communication so I enrolled in the school by myself. Besides that, I was arrived just one day before the end of the enrolment period and it was difficult. I thought I became free when I came here. Everyone had come down hard on me and were both physically and psychologically abusive. I was already so confused because I was 18 and their reactions made everything more difficult.

So, you were the first person who saw a psychologist in Van about it?

Yes. But that doesn’t mean that there are no transsexual people there. We are not visible. For example, the suicide rates in Van is really high and people don’t know the suicide reasons for the majority of deaths.

How did your gender transition process start?

When I began studying at university, I planned to start the process after I graduate and become economically independent. But I broke down psychologically this year; it is really difficult to bear. So I went to a psychologist and learned that I had to start my gender transition for my mental health and medical treatment was started.

Have you ever had a chance to talk to your family about it, do they know?

I have. They know. But they reacted really bad. I don’t blame them completely, because this is something that they have never seen before and they are shocked about it. Just think about it: the person who you think is a girl for 18 years is actually a boy. They didn’t accept it. They insulted and beat me, just because I am a transsexual individual. Why do these things happen? It is really strange. Moreover, some people think that this is something arbitrary. Who wants to live a life like that? I think people should really understand. My family cut their financial support for me when I came to İstanbul. When they did so, I moved to a KYK dormitory because I had no place to stay. I have many relatives here, but I didn’t want to go to them. I have a sister one year older than me. She lives in İstanbul. But I couldn’t call her either when I was expelled from the dormitory. She already said to me that she wouldn’t help me if something happened. She told me to be still and live my life as a woman even if I am a transsexual person. I thought everything ended when I came to İstanbul, but I felt uneasy about going outside during the first couple of months, thinking they might be around. I couldn’t talk to anyone again. If a person is scared of his/her family, yes, there will be a little fear. The fear is less than the previous year, though. Now I think that everything that will happen can happen because I’ve given up on myself.  For some reason, my fighter side came to exist. I came from there, but I still fret about what those people are doing. Some of them send me text messages. It hurts a lot. They are forced to get married and I think about being forced to get married to some guy, I would probably commit suicide. Every 6 in a thousand people are born transsexual. This is not a low rate.

Can you tell us about the period after you moved to the KYK dormitory?

When I first entered the room, I told my roommates that “I am a transsexual person”. “Keep it in mind when you dress up or undress if you feel uncomfortable about it.” There was no problem. We were 8 people in the room and one of them wouldn’t come to the room. 6 of them were supporting me. This year was the same. We slept together and were really close. I am currently staying at the house of my friend who I met at the dormitory last year. I had no problem with the students at the dormitory. Just one time, the female president of the dormitory told me “your hair is so short, you look like a man. Grow it long!” I got so angry at her and that’s why I had my hairs cut shorter the next day. And then, she laughed at it. I and the president would joke with each other. But she would often interfere with the students staying at the dormitory and ask questions like “why do you wear such revealing clothes?”.  For example, a female student was expelled from the dormitory just because she hugged her boyfriend in front of the dormitory door. When the meals were terrible and students protested demanding better quality food, all the protesters were punished. Actually, almost all KYK dormitories are the same.

What was the process which led to your expulsion from the dormitory?

This year, I have been fairly visible on Twitter. A news article about me was published and I started to become known. Almost everyone at the dormitory learned that I am a trans person. The majority supported me while only a couple of people reacted badly. I was a little scared because if a complaint about it was made to the dormitory I would directly be sent to the disciplinary board, it would be written in my records, and my scholarship would be cut. So I decided to share the situation with the dormitory administration. I had consulted with the psychologist of the dormitory a couple of months before. I had told I was a transsexual man. I had shared my concerns and worries. The psychologist had told me “don’t share it with anyone at the administration, they will immediately send you away.” But I shared it with the administration last week. I told them “If a complaint is made, you can get trouble and a woman can get uncomfortable. If she makes a complaint to somewhere else, it gets worse for me; therefore, I am sharing it with you now.” At first, they seemed to be reacting well, but I was expelled from the dormitory the next day.

Let me tell you about these two days. On the first day, the day when I came out being a trans man to the president of the dormitory, they told me that they understood me and wouldn’t see me as a deviant. They even said that saying to someone, “you are not a deviant” is a transphobic statement. Because you cannot say it to any person when it is not true. Therefore, you cannot say it to me, as well. Then, the psychologist of the dormitory said that “We will ask you to leave tomorrow, you should stay at the house of a friend of yours temporarily”. After news started to spread, a lawyer contacted me and told me that they were trying to intimidate me and they were treating this way so that I wouldn’t cause a problem. The lawyer explained to me that the administration may had heard about it through Twitter or a newspaper article; they would try to shut the event down and thought that I may do something or that they may get affected by it. The lawyer told me to contact them if a problem occurs tomorrow, and that they could come to the dormitory right away.

The next day, I told the president that I didn’t have a place to stay and I was not dependent on anyone because the state granted me the right to stay at this dormitory. I asked for a month of time. She tried to look like she was treating me well again and told me “We need to think for ourselves. You leave the dormitory tomorrow and stay at a friend’s house, won’t you?”. Then, she gave me a paper and asked me to sign it. Afterwards, I acted as if I believed her; I told her that I wanted to go outside to call a friend in order to learn if the house was available. I called my lawyer.

After the lawyer came, the president heard about it and went mad. She locked me inside a room and didn’t allow the lawyer to come inside. She started to shout, pressed the alarm button, called someone, and asked them to come to the room immediately. 6 women came to the room; one of them was the psychologist of the dormitory and another one was an officer working at the district directorate. We started to quarrel. All of them started to shout at me. When I told them that I had the right to defend myself, they told me that they would initiate legal actions. When I answered that “Okay, you are talking about legal actions, but I am an ordinary citizen. So, I want you to negotiate it with my lawyer.”, they didn’t accept it once again and told me that they would have nothing to do with a lawyer. They asked me to direct this to a higher board. The president of the dormitory had always been like this. She didn’t even get a signature from a women she previously expelled from the dormitory. She had made up something and expelled them, but she tried to make me sign a paper because there was no reason to expel me. In the meantime, they kept telling me that they would take disciplinary action but I didn’t believe them at that time. “This is ridiculous,” I laughed at them.

During the quarrel, they often talked about my gender identity. I felt really offended. You get really offended when a person insults you just because you are a woman; it is the same, or double time worse. They acted like I was a guest of theirs and a burden to them. One of them said that “if even your family doesn’t care about you, why should we do?”. It hurt a lot. Then, I reminded them about my right to stay at the dormitory. I told them that I couldn’t stay at the dormitory for boys because my identity card is pink. Because my identity card hasn’t changed; even if I take hormones and become a man and my beards start growing, I am seen as a woman in this country as long as my identity card doesn’t change. So, they cannot expel me from the dormitory just because I underwent breast surgery. One of them told me that “you say your identity card is pink and claim you are a man. You contradict yourself. If you are a man, just leave!” When I repeated that I didn’t have a place to stay, they told me that “did you consult with us about it?”, as if it is something arbitrary. I asked them directly, “So, I am being expelled right now, just because I am a transsexual person, am I right?”. Nobody could say anything for a while. Then, one of them told me that I was being expelled not because I was a transsexual person, but because I was disrupting the moral order.  When I told them that what I was doing was not immorality, they said to me that “It is not immorality, but you are disrupting the order. Why did you reveal yourself? Why are you sharing it on Twitter? Okay, you are a transsexual person, but you should have kept it to yourself, why do you share it with people?” When I told them that the situation which I am in now is the result of the society pushing us to be invisible, they said to me that I am facing all these because I made myself visible. I understand it, they don’t know that transsexuality has a place in society; however, gender transition is one of our rights stated in law. Nethertheless, their attitude was like this.

When I told them that I didn’t think they had helped me, they got angrier and said to me that I had 3 hours to leave the dormitory. They threatened me by saying that I would be punished more and something bad would happen to me if I tried to resist.

You said that the psychologist of the dormitory was there during all the quarrel. How did she react?

When I told the president that the psychologist already knew that I was a trans man, the psychologist denied it. However, she had asked me not to tell the president about it, otherwise, she would get into trouble too. All these people in that room were afraid of each other. Think about it, even the psychologist couldn’t remain unbiased.

There are 788 students at the dormitory. Are there other LGBTI+ individuals you know there?

Yes, there are. I am sure about it. There are 4 LGBTI+ individuals that I met at the dormitory, but none of them are visible, because people are really cautious. I have a pansexual friend at the dormitory. They always protested the situation saying “Why can’t I walk by holding hand with the person I love? Why can’t I talk about it to someone? Why are people always biased about me?”

So, did the students react against the administration?

They started to a petition to show they were standing by me. They thought they could use it as proof when a lawsuit was opened. Something like “Şafak was expelled for no reason because nobody was disturbed by Şafak.” There were so many signatures at the petition, however, they stopped because they were afraid of someone notifying the president. Then, we consulted the lawyer and they said that it would not cause a problem. They continued to collect signatures for the petition afterwards. In addition, I received so many text messages from the dormitory. The people I don’t know sent me messages saying “We were not disturbed by you, how come they expelled you, you were an honest and composed person”.

How did the students at the university react before and after the event?

I have had no problem at the university. There are already visible LGBTI+ people there, like me. The rector, the dean, and my friends know that I am a transsexual man. Some of the students have negative attitudes; despite that, I have never experienced something like that before. I am introverted because my voice is high pitched, and I sometimes don’t want to go to school.

After the event, how did the school administration react? Did they support you?

I don’t know if they know about it or met with anyone. I have no idea.

You are seeking a job in the meantime. What difficulties do you face in business life?

Generally, “It is okay for us, but the customers may feel uncomfortable,” they say. Trans women are in a more difficult situation than I am because people don’t notice trans men after the gender transition. Even before that, it is hard to notice if his voice is not high pitched. After starting to take hormones, you become like a biological male when your beards start growing. But trans women are more easily noticed. They cannot find a job under any circumstance and are forced to work as a sex worker. At first the system constrains them and forces them to do so; then people criticise them by saying “why do they work as a sex worker?”. But it is the system that forces them to do so, and I cannot understand this.

You are staying at a house of one of your friends and have recently been looking for a job. Are there any LGBTI+ individual who you know went through the same process?

I have two transsexual friends. Both of them were expelled from the dormitory. Let me share the story of the expulsion of one of them. This boy goes to his home town and meets his lover there. The lover’s brothers and father beat the boy for an hour and a half, harassing him. They threaten to rape him. The event takes places in the newspapers and the boy gets expelled from the dormitory. He was forced to leave the school; then he was expelled from the school too. I reached out to him and asked that “Why did you give up?”, but he said to me that “What else could I do?” Just think about it, I will stay quiet, not go to school, and leave the school, etc. I would never do something like that. This year, another friend of mine was expelled, too, moved to a private dormitory, and they told me the same thing. They make us ashamed of ourselves. I got so sad about all this and I had already known that it would happen to me too. I was expecting it. For a month, I told my friends that I would never stay still if I were expelled. Because, if I were the only one living all these problems, I would just go away and not care about them at all; however, -believe me- some people are not accepted to dormitories in the middle of Anatolia, just because of having a short hair. Just because they have short hair. So, I want to set off a reaction at least. In the end, I am not doing all these so I can go back to the dormitory. We need to set off a reaction to prevent anything like this. They don’t accept us to the dormitories for boys, we cannot stay there. We are expelled from the dormitories for girls. Then, they should build a dormitory for trans individuals or stop discriminating against us. If I felt guilt, did something to a woman, or stole something, they could expel me right away. But there is nothing wrong with me. Just think, you get expelled from the dormitory, because you are a woman, Çiçek. Or you, Rojhat, get expelled from dormitory because you are a man. I think this is ridiculous.

Is there something you want or plan to do for LGBTI+ individuals?

For example, I will be on the videos of the program called “Soramazsın” (You cannot dare to ask) as a transsexual man. It will be broadcasted in the third week of April. But it is not something that I do to become a celebrity. When we look at the media, trans women are known and visible, whether or not they want to be; because people cannot help but notice them from their voices. But trans men are like “I became a biological man and will continue my life like this from now on.” As it is for Rüzgar Erkoçlar. He said that “I don’t want to be mentioned as an LGBTI+ individual”. Because society really tries to make us ashamed. So, people are not trying to be visible, they try to save themselves. But I have realized that I am not the only one I need to save, after the things I saw in the east of Turkey and the people in the east who reached out to me. So, I attended the video program called Soramazsın, despite the fact that my family can see it. Other than that, there is a documentary which is planned to be broadcasted internationally. It includes my gender transition process and the event of getting expelled from the dormitory; it will be filmed for 2 years. Actually, I attend to do various projects in several places. There is also a book project and a journal at Sabancı University.

Şafak’s life, starting in Van and moving to İstanbul looks like it has two different stories from city to city but it shows us a scene where, between the cities, only the methods of pressure are changed . Şafak has highlighted many times that transphobia, homophobia, and biphobia are reproduced in social life through many ways (series, movies, education, workplaces, etc.) and one of the ways to prevent it is to be visible. He has stated that the main reason for his will to prevent it is because this problem is not only his personal problem; it is a mutual problem shared by many people recently. Lastly, despite all the physical and psychological violence, Şafak clearly declares that he will not give up fighting; he invites people sharing these problems to be “visible together” and to fight together.

Translator’s note, KYK: Higher Education Student Loans and Dormitories Institution of Turkey

Experiences of LGBTI individuals in the workplace: “Get out right now”

LGBTI individuals in Turkey have to hide their identity for fear of losing their jobs, having a difficult time finding a job, or facing discrimination. Practises during the recent state of emergency (OHAL) have worsened the problems for “disregarded” LGBTI individuals.

Source: LGBTIs in business life: “Get out right now” (İş hayatında LGBTİ’ler: “Derhal terk edin burayı”) Burcu Karakaş, Deutsche Welle, December 14, 2018, https://www.dw.com/tr/i%C5%9F-hayat%C4%B1nda-lgbtiler-derhal-terk-edin-buray%C4%B1/a-46733048

“I couldn’t reach the status of a white collar worker. I have never been able to find a job. I came to a point where I was going to commit suicide because I couldn’t find a job.”

Trans woman Pınar started sharing her story to us by telling how she had faced discrimination during university education before beginning to work. While she was studying at the Department of Communication at Marmara University, the head of the department asked her “to dress properly”. “I was 20 years old then. I was suspended from school because I didn’t fit the model they asked for.” Pınar who shared her experiences with DW Türkçe has always returned empty-handed from the dozens of job applications she has made till today. Pınar is only one of the LGBTI people in Turkey who face discrimination in their work life  because of their gender identity.

The results of the questionnaire “LGBTI+ in employment” which was issued by Prof. Mary Lou O’Neil, Dr Reyda Ergün, Selma Değirmenci, Doğancan Erkengel in cooperation with Kaos GL Association and Kadir Has University and edited by Murat Köylü reveal discrimination LGBTI individuals are exposed to in their work life in Turkey.

The questionnaire that was filled out by 198 private sector and 89 public sector employees, involve senior executives, mid-level managers, specialists, labourers, and researchers. The questionnaire’s results show that LGBTI employees take some precautions, hide their gender identities and sexual orientations, as well as changing their style of speaking and body language. This starts when job seeking and continues during employment because they think they will definitely be subjected to discrimination. In the evaluation of the questionnaire’s results evaluated, it is stated that “the experience of having to walk on thin ice all the time becomes an ongoing discrimination and can cause severe psychological effects on LGBTI employees.”

“There is discrimination; but what can you do about it, I have to earn my living.”

58% of the private sector employees who attended the study were subjected to discrimination in the place of work or had to hid their identities to prevent it. Only 32 of the 198 people were plain-dealing with their gender identities during the job application, while 89 hid their identity entirely. A gay person working as personnel in the field of the law says that “I cannot be open about it; because they would not definitely employ me. This is a small town; the employers are somewhat conservative.” A gay person working as a service personnel at the entertainment business states that “I am always exposed to discrimination by the customers; but what can you do about it, I have to earn my living”, while a trans woman working as a mid-level manager at an advertisement business says that “being a trans person has isolated me.”

8 of the private sector participants express that they are directly exposed to discrimination during interviews and tests during the hiring process. A gay individual working as a specialist in the information sector shares discrimination he faced and says “During the interview, I was asked why I am exempted from serving in the military. I told them the truth. The woman who was interviewing me sent me away, saying ‘get out right now’.” When they were asked whether or not there is any institutional prevention mechanism against discrimination in the private sector, 94% of the participants answer that there is no such mechanism or they don’t know anything about it

Pınar: They changed their mind when they saw the blue identity card

Trans woman Pınar who shares her story with DW Turkish says that she is a private school graduate. Pınar can speak French and English. Despite the fact that her university education is left half-finished, she thought she could find a job because she was sure about herself due to her previous education; however, it didn’t work out. She states that the employers who had said “there is no problem, you can work here” changed their minds when they saw the blue identity card; “I didn’t have the operation. When I gave my identity card, they would get baffled. The people who told me that I could work with them would send me away when they saw the blue identity card.”

Pınar came to the brink of suicide when she couldn’t find a job after having to quit her education at the Faculty of Communication. One day, while she was walking back to her home with rat poison, she saw an advert saying “toilet cleaner wanted” on the window of a third-class pub. She entered inside right away: “The man felt sorry for me and I started working there as a toilet cleaner. Six months later, my boss said to me that “Pınar, you need to work as at the bar” and my life became totally different.

The effect of the state of emergency on business life

The experiences of the public officers who participated in the study are not so different from those of the private sector employees. To the question “Do you think you can be open about your gender identity at the place of work?”, 36% of the public sector employees answered that “I completely hide it”, 39% say they are partially open, and 7% tell that they are “completely open”. Moreover, to the question of whether or not they face direct or subtle discrimination, 43% of the participants stated that “I don’t face discrimination because I hid my identity”. According to the public sector participants, practises during the recent state of emergency (OHAL) have made the problems in the workplace worse for LGBTI individuals. To the question “Do you think if you experience any change regarding your working conditions at the institution during the state of emergency?”, 36% of the participants indicate that the conditions have gotten worse. The public employees point out that the pressure has increased during the state of emergency and therefore, the conditions for LGBTI employees in the public sector have become more difficult.”

“LGBTIs are neglected”

To the question “How do the problems they face because of their gender identities affect their productivity at the place of work”, a gay police officer answered that “I see everyone as a potential threat. I am disgusted by my job and the environment that I am in”, while a gay gardener states that “I  am cautious in case someone finds out and blacklists me. When a person implies something, I start to think he or she learned it and to get cold feet about it; because I could lose my job.”

A bisexual woman working as a sociologist in the public sector states that she hasn’t faced discrimination at the institution but not because of the positive attitude towards LGBTI people but because LGBTI individuals are ignored.

When both private and public sector employees were asked what they would recommend for the fight against discrimination the answers which stand out are: social awareness campaigns, prohibition of discrimination in national regulations, inter-corporate training as well as organized solidarity and discrimination resistance networks. Additionally, the report highlights that the state should fulfill its duty for protection and support.

Photo credit: Peter Hershey

 

An expelled police officer: If I can’t have a private life, what am I living for?

A police officer in Van was expelled from his job as a result of his homosexual relationship. Telling his story to DW, the police officer, who had been working for 12 years, states that he faces discrimination and cannot find a job because of his private life.

Source: An expelled police officer: “If I can’t have a private life, what am I living for?” (İhraç edilen polis: “Özel hayatım olamayacaksa niye yaşıyorum?”) Burcu Karakaş, Deutsche Welle, March 13, 2019, https://www.dw.com/tr/ihra%C3%A7-edilen-polis-%C3%B6zel-hayat%C4%B1m-olamayacaksa-niye-ya%C5%9F%C4%B1yorum/a-47883571

The report “The Situation of LGBTI Public Sector Employees in Turkey — the Research from 2018,” which was issued by the Kaos GL Association in cooperation with Kadir Has University points out that the working conditions of LGBTI individuals (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Intersex) working in the public sector has become tougher and that these people are afraid of being in the line of fire, because of the increased pressure during the period of the recent state of emergency (OHAL) in Turkey. On the other hand, LGBTI individuals who works in law enforcement live on pins and needles all the time, independent of the political environment. Due to an article in the legal code, it only takes a matter of time for them to be expelled from their jobs. Metin is one such individuals who was fired from his job because of his homosexual relationship.

“When it happened my gut told me that ‘I had lost my job.’”

Metin, whose name we changed for security reasons, was a police officer working in Van. He spent some time with a man, whom he liked, at a hotel room two years ago and had a sexual relationship with him. At the time, Metin’s sexual orientation was not known to those around him. One day he went to drink tea with his friend at the police guesthouse, when the police commissioner called Metin had to leave the location for half an hour. When he returned, he saw that his friend was about to be taken to the police station because he had panicked and claimed to be a police officer and when asked for identification his lie had been exposed.

Although Metin described him as “a friend,” when brought to the police station the man filed a complaint against Metin claiming, “Metin had forced himself on me without my consent.” In spite of the fact that the friend said later that he had given this statement because he was afraid, Metin was arrested for the crime of “a major sexual assault.” Metin remembers that day as follows:

“When it happened my gut told me that ‘I had lost my job.’ You get so sad at that moment, but more than being sad, you think ‘What am I going to do now?’ I was thinking about what to say to my superiors, more than being afraid of losing my job, I was afraid of being humiliated.”

Reason: “Unnatural intercourse with a person”

Metin’s friend didn’t know yet that Metin had been arrested because he had left Van and returned to the city where he lived. He withdrew his complaint after hearing about Metin’s arrest. Metin was released after being held for 8 days. He was suspended from his duty; however, he eventually returned to his job after a decision stating there was no need to prosecute him. Though at this time he was appointed to Zonguldak. None of his friends would talk to him while he was leaving Van.

He continued working as a police officer in Zonguldak for a year and a half. However, he was expelled for the second time on November 2017 by a decision of the High Disciplinary Board of the Security General Directorate, due to “having unnatural intercourse with a person” which is listed among the acts that cause expulsion from one’s job in the Law on the Disciplinary Provisions for General Law Enforcement Forces.

In his written defence, Metin stated that he didn’t want to be expelled from his job and he had no criminal history. He had researched and read all the decisions for the cases opened in relation to sexual orientation, especially those given by the Council of State.

The police officer who was expelled is now unemployed. He has a house in Istanbul and he is planning to sell it. He has applied to many job announcements; however, he has not received any answer from them. He is upset about the reason for the expulsion:

“I said to my superior’s face: this is my private life, there was no problem about my job. If I can’t have a private life, what am I living for? If someone else will decide what happens in my private life, what am I living for?”

“Sexual orientation is an important part of private life”

Metin filed a lawsuit at Zonguldak Administrative Court through his lawyer Fırat Söyle in order to stop the prosecution and end the expulsion. Lawyer Fırat Söyle stated that the reason used to fire his client is contrary to the rule of law. Calling attention to the decision of the  Turkish Constitutional Court, Söyle said that “according to the Constitutional Court, the notion of private life protects facts such as ‘person’s sexual orientation and sexual life’ and ensures people can live their lives without being exposed to any external intervention. Whether or not a person is heterosexual or homosexual, sexual orientation is an important part of private life.”

For Söyle, the legal article “having unnatural intercourse with a person,” which was employed in this case, is contrary to Constitutional Law Article 10 that regulates equality. Drawing attention to the fact that public police officers who are homosexual are exposed to discriminatory legal action due to the stated article, Söyle stated that “This legal arrangement means that the police officers who have different sexual orientations will be extracted from the state apparatus.”

For the lawyer, who emphasises the fact that the perception of “approving” sexual relations between opposite sexes and defines homosexual relations as “unnatural,” the state is discriminating against people through this definition.

“The criminal record of Turkey is getting worse”

Mustafa Sarıyılmaz who is the general coordinator of the Social Policies, Gender Identity, and Sexual Orientation Studies Association (SPoD), which is located in Istanbul, emphasizes that discrimination based on people’s gender identities and sexual orientations is forbidden in democratic states.

“In the majority of the documents of the Council of Europe and the United Nations that Turkey is a party to, this prohibition is clearly stated,” says Sarıyılmaz, and he adds that protecting people from discrimination based on their gender identities and sexual orientations in public institutions and the private sector is one of the responsibilities of the state.

“However, we, unfortunately, see that Turkey’s criminal record, which is already not very clean, is getting worse when we look at the current implementation and the statements of the politicians.”

 

Police just sat back and watched the transphobic assault by night club’s security personnel

A night club in Eskişehir didn’t allow two trans women and a trans man to enter into the club. Police officers just sat back and watched the assault by the night club’s security personnel.

Source: Police just sat back and watched the transphobic assault by the night club’s security personnel (Polis, gece kulübü güvenliğinin transfobik saldırısına seyirci kaldı) Kaos GL, March 6, 2019

http://www.kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=27765

The night club 222 Park in Eskişehir didn’t allow two trans women and one trans man to step inside. During the late hours of March 5 and the early hours of March 6, around at 00:30, two trans women, one of whom is a member of the Pink Life LGBTT Solidarity Association Management Board, and one trans man who is a member of Kocaeli LGBTI+ were stopped from entering the nightclub.

According to the statements of the trans people who were exposed to discrimination, it happened as follows:

Discrimination at the club

The security personnel at the entrance wanted to move the three people away after saying “we are closing the club”. When the personnel were told “this is a club that we came to before. You are not allowing us just because you want to do so,” they answered “you can go in, but your friend cannot. We let in whom we want to and don’t let in those we don’t want to.”

Police officers joked around with the security personnel

After being stopped from entering the club, the trans people notified the police. The police officers who came to the scene joked around with the security personnel of the club and said “they let in whom they want to and not let in whom they don’t want to.”

Assault by the security personnel

Then, the security personnel assaulted the trans people. The police officers didn’t stop the assault, handcuffed the trans people’s hands behind their backs, made them get in the police car by force, and took them to Yunus Emre Public Hospital. The police officers ridiculed the sexual identities of the people who were assaulted. When the activists tried to videotape the things they faced, the officers hindered them, seized the camera, and deleted the recordings.

Handcuffing behind their back!

The trans people were examined at the hospital while handcuffed behind their backs. After the examination, they were taken to the police station in the same car and gave a statement there. At the police station, firstly the security personnel’s and then the police officers’ statements were taken. Lastly, the statements of the trans activists who were exposed to the discrimination and assault were taken. Pink Life and Kocaeli LGBTI+ declared that they will follow up the process.

Prohibition of discrimination in access to goods and services

One of the legal counsel of Kaos GL, Lawyer Kerem Dikmen gives examples of discrimination in access to goods and services, and explains why preventing a person from accessing goods and services just because s/he is an LGBTI+ person is discrimination and what the relevant laws says, as follows:

“Goods and services is the general name for all kinds of goods and services regarding  commercial and personal consumption in daily life. For example, a lawyer provides a legal counselling service for a fee. A pharmacist gives medications in return for a certain amount of money. Whether or not the provider of a good or service is a public institution is not a matter in terms of this right or prohibition.”

“The kinds of forms of buying and selling activities in daily life, such as the relationship between a landowner and a tenant, the transportation service to be received from a taxi driver, the entertainment service at a café, the service from a bathhouse, constitute the topic of the right to never be subjected to any discrimination in access to goods and services.

“What this topic means for LGBTI+ people is that people refuse to provide goods and services to LGBTI+ people due to a homophobic or transphobic motivation. In other words, LGBTI+ people cannot make a buying and selling transaction that every person can make, or LGBTI+ people are prevented from renting a house that can be rented by anyone, just because they are an LGBTI+ person; all these are examples of discrimination against LGBTI+ people.”

 

Discriminations against LGBT+ Students in Universities: METU, A Case Study

Middle East Technical University (METU) Gender and Women’s Studies graduate student and independent trans activist Murat Korkmaz’s study called “Discriminations against LGBT+ Students in Universities of Turkey on the basis of the sample case of METU” has been published.

Source: Discriminations against LGBT+ Students in Universities: METU, A Case Study (Üniversitelerde LGBT+ Öğrencilere Yönelik Gerçekleştirilen Ayrımcılıklar, Vaka Araştırması: ODTÜ) Eda Yılmaz, Pembe Hayat, March 7, 2019

http://www.pembehayat.org/haberler/detay/2078/universitelerde-lgbt-ogrencilere-yonelik-gerceklestirilen-ayrimciliklar-vaka-arastirmasi-odtu

The study “Discrimination against LGBT Students in Universities of Turkey” by independent LGBTI activist Murat Korkmaz was published in February. Korkmaz, who received an undergraduate degree from METU’s Department of Psychology, is currently continuing their graduate education in METU’s Gender and Women’s Studies Program.  The study, which has been published in cooperation with the European Union Sivil Düşün (Think Civil) Program and with the support of the European Union, aims to determine the discrimination experienced by LGBTI students in the sample case of METU in the academic year of 2016 – 2017.

The biggest problem: University management

The experience of several tense situations around the LGBTI community gaining official status on campus and their push for gender-neutral bathrooms in 2016-2017 motivated the study. According to Korkmaz: “Especially at these two topics, there was a distinct attitude of the university management towards us. We were not paid attention to, we had to work really hard and to protest in order to be paid attention to. And eventually, we were faced with voting and broken promises. Despite the fact that these demands were supported by hundreds of students (through a petition). In general, I think these processes seriously consumed the time of LGBTI students studying at METU and wore us out. During the second half of the year, we struggled for nearly four months for gender-neutral bathrooms. In addition to the problems we had with the university management, we suffered from several serious attacks on social media during that time. There were some students at METU among the perpetrators of these attacks. In other words, the steps that we tried to take in order to implement structural changes on campus faced a great number of policies of intimidation.”

Korkmaz, who tells us that they has suffered from a lot of discrimination since they started to live openly as trans / nonbinary on campus, says that this is another reason leading to the study:

“2015 and 2016 were the years when I became clear about my sexual identity and made ‘radical’ decisions about what I am not, at least. I started to exist with my Trans/Nonbinary identity openly in a performative sense on the campus. These struggles for existence brought along the most intense discriminations that I suffered during my education at METU. There was not a single day that I spent without being harassed or defined as male by the university personnel and the lecturers during my academic studies, or while in the library or on the quad, despite the fact that I explicitly expressed my trans identity, although it should not be a necessity for me to declare my identity.

To what extent are LGBTI+ people free at the [more] liberal METU?

Korkmaz, who started to report their experiences in addition to those of the people who took part in their research, also has a journal called Akışkan Sayfalar (Fluid Pages) with which they aims for LGBTI+ people to be able to develop and improve themselves.

“Was it true that  LGBTI+ individuals didn’t have to hide themselves in METU where they are told to be free? I wanted to see this and to explain this. I tried to show that what we go through are not just personal experiences but are parts of a systematic and structural problem.

I wanted the study so we could demand changes regarding these problems from the university management and all the students of the university, by contacting the lecturers and the administrative staff with whom we can communicate about this topic; because we would have a study in hand, showing and proving the problems LGBTI individuals are struggling with.”

138 Recognized Discrimination Cases

The 25% of the participants in the study stated that they were LGBTI+ individuals, 43% said they were not LGBTI+ individuals, 7% did not want to state their orientation, and the remaining 3% marked the other. 12 of the total 78 participants were interviewed in person and the other 66 filled out an online questionnaire. According to the findings received from the participants, there was a total of 138 recognizable cases of discriminations on the basis of sexual identity and sexual orientation at METU in the 2016-2017 school year. The classification of the cases are as follows: Hate speech, structural LGBTI-phobia, negative perceptions, cynical attitude & laughing, showing by pointing, taking pictures & shooting video, verbal harassment & insults, threats, and physical assault.

 

Cases

graph

“I don’t want my trans identity to be jammed into one of the female or male identities.”

Korkmaz does not forget to thank Sivil Düşün (Think Civil) that supported the publication of the study. Korkmaz highlights that this support is really meaningful taking into consideration that trans people are neglected in every field and Sivil Düşün’s support is really valuable in terms of regaining their motivation as a person struggling for their rights and studying these rights. Korkmaz adds:

“Firstly, as a citizen of this country, as a graduate of METU, and as a graduate student of METU, I don’t want my trans identity to be jammed and ground into one of the cisgender female and male identities. In addition to ending discrimination, I want real recognition. I need to state that I will continue to issue my demands and follow up on my current demands.

Lastly and most importantly, I hope we as LGBTI people can overcome this and other similar discrimination-based obstacles, which prevent us from receiving education and improving our condition, and that we can create safe environments to ourselves.“