Discrimination & Hate Crimes

Discrimination and Hate Crimes committed against LGBTI in Turkey

“Families in Turkey see their kids as their possession”

We talked with the parents whose kids are homosexual, about the concept of family, alternative family experiences in Turkey and their adventures that started with their kids coming out to them.

Source: Yıldız Tar, “Türkiye’de aileler çocuklarını malları gibi görüyor” (“Families in Turkey see their kids as their possession”), 19 February, 2015 KaosGL,  http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=18792

omersule2Ömer and Şule

On one hand it is a warm nest, on the other it’s everyone’s trouble without exception: Family. We talked about family, a world of secrets nested in secrets, with two mothers and two fathers who have torn these secrets apart.

On the one hand Şule and Ömer who embarked upon the adventure of their life years ago, after finding out that their son is gay; on the other hand is Buzul and Kaya who has only recently faced this fact.

The transformation of the family known as a safe haven, friendships that go beyond kinship, a mother who drew the curtains when she first found out her son was gay, a father who says “I don’t know who I thought about the most”, new kinships and friendships built through LGBT Friends and Families of LGBTIs in Turkey (LISTAG)

The stories of those who say “A different family is possible”, stories of  taking a step towards emancipation, of reconstructing the family, of questioning themselves…

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What does family mean? What comes to your mind when we say family?

Buzul: My nuclear family comes to my mind. It’s made up of the people I can’t live without; with whom I  would like to realize my wishes. A more autonomous, freer environment comes to mind. I’m talking about creating a more cheerful and enjoyable space.

Kaya:  I can define the family as before and after my son told us he is gay. Before, it was a safe haven, a castle for me. I saw family as something solely made up of blood ties. Afterwards I realized that it wasn’t only blood ties. The definition in my head keeps changing. I realize that it doesn’t necessarily have to be about blood ties.

What did you feel when your son first came out? What happened to the family you call a safe haven and a castle?

Kaya:  Frankly, I don’t know what I felt the first time I heard it. It was as if there was a great explosion and I was in shock, didn’t know what to do. I don’t know whether I thought about him or my wife more. Our son is abroad and wrote about his sexual orientation in a letter. When I first read the letter, I told my wife Buzul “Nothing is going to be the same. Our life passed onto a new phase.” After that we talked about what we should do. Our son gave us some information about LİSTAG and Lambdaistanbul in his letter. My wife called immediately. My first feeling was despair.

“My first reflex was to draw the curtains”

Buzul, you were to first call LISTAG. You called and someone answered the phone. What did you feel during that first conversation?

Buzul: I’m lucky that a calm person answered the phone. I had someone who was similar to me emotionally.They were talking with a calm voice, explaining the situation to me in a casual manner. It gave me confidence. I wanted to talk face to face immediately that day. I had to see, we had to be face to face. When my son first told me, I thought that he assumed being that way. I interpreted it as a confusion.

It was a hard day for me that day. I opened the letter first. I talked on the phone first. We actually talked about a detail about that day recently. The letter came in a decorated blue envelope. I thought it was a card from my son for my birthday. He had been holding off on our relationship for a while so I thought he sent it for my birthday. I was all alone when I first read it. My first reaction was to draw the curtains. I got into a terrible crying fit. Then I couldn’t really predict how my husband would react. I started thinking about that.

I called my husband. When he insisted to know what’s going on, I was forced to tell him. Later when he came home crying I was more composed. When I saw his reaction, I pulled myself together. I was scared for my husband. He has high blood pressure and heart problems. It was a weird state of mind. I first thought about the boy. Then myself. And when I saw my husband, I came to my senses thinking, “Pull yourself together, the boy and the man need you.”

“I found out how we have been fooled until today”

Ömer and Şule, you told about your experiences on different occasions. Therefore I’d like to ask what changed in your life. Şule, what changed in your life after your son told you he is homosexual? Has Şule remained the same?

Şule: I’m in a very different place right now. Most importantly, my relationship with my son is in another dimension. We’ve always been very good but there were secrets between us. He couldn’t open up to me. I knew things about him but I acted like I didn’t know. I couldn’t face myself. Afterwards I was liberated. After LISTAG, in each talk I had with a new person I noticed that burdens were lifted off my shoulders.

Aside from me and my son’s process, my life has changed a lot too. I started looking around more carefully. I have realized how many people were pushed away, othered, discriminated against. There hadn’t been any place for them in my protected life up to that point. I even doubted their existence. Some people lived some place but I didn’t know how they lived. I learned about different opinions of different people. I saw how we have been fooled until today. Especially with Gezi resistance, I saw how much of a liar the media was. I witnessed how my experience at the part was twisted on the media. After that day I decided not to watch TV anymore. I was naive before, I believed. I thought the great media would not lie.

What do you think about this Ömer?

Ömer:  After coming out Öner wanted to talk to me but I always ran away. So he started to leave Kaos GL magazine and some articles around. After reading those, I started talking with my son. When we first went to CETAD, I was saying “I’ve accepted this” but we were giving interviews with nicknames, avoiding to have our photos taken. When I gave an interview with my photo on November 2010 I realized that I hadn’t accepted but only learnt. After that day, my process of acceptance started.

An individual’s life is only his/her business. Ever since I was a kid, I have always stood against my father, the school, my bosses. I was a rebel. This is how I evaluated my son’s coming out and his sexual orientation. As I learned, I started touching people, relating to them. Touching gave me great joy. Helping even one person is an immense pleasure.

Throughout your experiences at LİSTAG and your years long activism, did the concept of “family” change in your mind? What comes to Ömer and Şule’s minds when they hear the word “family”? Who do you visualize?

Ömer: Not much has changed for me but my ideas. As I look at other families, as I question the concept of family, I came to think that the institution of family in Turkey is a great problem.  My perspective was enhanced. Families in Turkey see their kids as their possession. It’s not something I experienced personally but families intervene, saying “It’s for their good, otherwise they would make mistakes.” And who is to know that you won’t make mistakes? Everyone needs to be free individuals and give their own decisions.  If my child ask my opinion, I would tell them but s/he doesn’t have to do what I say. A different family is possible, but today’s family structure is not healthy. It’s detrimental to both the children and the parents. Families should not be built on relations of interest. Parents should do nothing more that building an environment where children can create their personalities freely. I don’t think family has anything to do with blood ties. I for once, see LİSTAG more than I see Öner.

I used to think only children should be free but I add women to this list as I see the violence and oppression against women. Men should be reliberated. Men are burdened in the institution of family too. They say “men don’t cry” for instance…Men are supposed to be strong. What’s that got to do with anything? Men are emotional too, they cry. All individuals must be liberated, collectively.

Şule: I’d like to emphasize the importance of the family as we know it, as formed of mother,father and child. We spoke to many kids and I saw that coming out to family is very important. Many LGBTI children seek acceptance from their parents and family. On the one hand they say “a different family is possible” but on the other they want to come out to their families and be respected by them.

“I’d like to come out to my family just like my child did”

Buzul, what do you think? Is a different family possible? What is this different family like?

Buzul: These ideas are flying around in my head. I can’t say anything clearly yet. But basically a happy and a peaceful life. I envied the LGBTI parents who came to the family meetings with their siblings or their mothers. A part of me expects acceptance like the children who come out and are not accepted. I’m wondering how my own parents will react to my child’s sexual orientation.

Your child came out to you and now you want to come out to your own family as the mother of a homosexual child…

Buzul: I ask myself why I want such a thing. If being homosexual is something sexual; and people don’t talk about their sexuality why should you be forced to explain it when you are homosexual? In the same manner, why must I explain my child’s sexuality? But if anything happens to me, I want to teach my relatives a thing or two, so that they won’t harass my child. I became a liar in this process. I’m an educator and I tell my ideas about the film “My child” coming to our school. It’s like slowly we are coming out. On the other hand, why am I doing this like I’m giving an account for it? I guess my experience is very similar to what homosexual children go through.

As I got in touch with youth thanks to LİSTAG, I met various types of families. Through the young people coming to the association I notice different types of families. You can become a family with your dog. My parents disappeared in my head. My mother and father are still precious to me but I called all LISTAG mothers last Mother’s Day. I look at my son and his friends, their worldview carried me forward.

Let’s ask the father as well, if people heard your son is gay what would they say?

Kaya: I’m a person of rationality, emotions come much later for me. Lately,  I’m thinking of settling accounts with family in my mind. I’m wondering what kind of reflex my own mother, father and relatives will develop. I want this encounter for myself. This way I can clean my environment. I will be free of people who don’t accept my child. One day I want to talk to my son and “get things off my chest”. I find many people to be hypocritical.

*This interview was first published on Kaos GL’s issue no. 139 on “Family”.

 

LGBTI activist Bulut Öncü lost his life in a traffic accident

LGBTI activist Bulut Öncü, who worked in the field of sexual health, lost his life in a traffic accident. Condolences to all of us.

Source: “Bulut Öncü trafik kazasında yaşamını kaybetti”, kaosgl.org, 20 February 2017, http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=23098

LGBTI activist Bulut Öncü lost his life in a traffic accident this morning. Öncü was in a taxi in Istanbul when the accident happened.

His funeral will take place on Tuesday, Feb. 21 in his hometown of Konya.

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He worked in the Community Volunteers Foundation, Y-Peer Turkey and UNFPA

Öncü was a volunteer reporter at KaosGL.org between 2010-2013. He also worked at the Community Volunteers Foundation, Y-Peer Turkey and the UN Population Fund. Öncü was working as an International Consultancy Expert (ICE) from Belgium as part of Sivil Düşün EU Program.

Öncü worked and volunteered in different fields of civil society but was known for his work in the field of sexual health.

Öncü was also a 3H Movement member.

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He was going to run in Runatolia

If the traffic accident hadn’t torn Bulut Öncü from his loved ones, he would have run in Antalya Runatolia Marathon on March 5 for Y-Peer Turkey:

I need your help to solve an important problem!

We are facing a problem that concerns us all: there is no sexual health education for different age groups in Turkey’s education system and Turkey has the youngest population in Europe! Only one in 10 youths have the right information regarding HIV and AIDS in Turkey and nine out of 10 youths do not know when they are fertile with the risk of pregnancy…

But there are youths who work day and night to solve this problem! I will run 10 kilometers on March 5, 2017 in Antalya Runatolia Marathon for Y-Peer Turkey, an association that opens the path for youth to gain life skills by increasing their knowledge on sexual and reproductive health.

My goal is to collect 7,200 TL through donations in order to fund sexual and reproductive health education for 36 youths. If I succeed, 36 youths will get the right information about sexual and reproductive health. Moreover, this will take place through peer education models and informal education techniques. These youths who will be educated in various topics including rights, growing up as a teen and development, birth control, sexually transmitted diseases including HIV/AIDS, risky behaviors and condom use, will share what they learn with their peers and the benefit of correct information will be multiplied.

It is our responsibility to support the visibility of youth’s messages, to be in solidarity with them and to realize the dream of a world where all youth can reach sexual health education. I wish for you to join this dream and wait for your support.

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Condolences!

As Kaos GL, we are experiencing the pain of losing our volunteer reporter, friend and comrade Bulut Öncü. We give our condolences to all his friends and loved ones. Rest in peace.

 

 

They injured a trans woman with a pump rifle and forced her home!

In Ankara two men and one woman attacked a trans sex worker with a pump rifle, then forced the wounded trans woman to a house. They then dropped her off at a hospital following a taxi driver’s insistence.

Source: Kaos GL, “Trans kadını tüfekle yaralayıp zorla eve götürdüler!” (“They injured a trans woman with a pump rifle and forced her home!”), 16 January 2017, http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=22833transfobiksaldirilaradur

A trans woman sex worker suffered an armed attack on Ankara’s Libya Street on the night between January 15 and January 16. The attacker disappeared after injuring the trans woman in the leg with a pump rifle. The trans woman’s treatment at Ankara Numune Hospital is ongoing.

The statement of the trans woman, who was shot in her right leg, was taken towards morning by policemen from the Ankara Çankaya District Police Department, in the room she was staying in, with the participation of Pembe Hayat Association’s lawyer Rıza Yalçın Koçak.

They injured her with a rifle and forced her home!

In a news report from Pembe Hayat, the trans woman who suffered the attack explained what she went through as follows:

“I earn my living by doing sex work. At around 2:30 AM a taxi I didn’t recognize stopped in front of me. They said that they wanted to meet with me. In the vehicle, aside from the taxi driver, there were two men and one woman. The person speaking to me was very drunk. I didn’t accept [the offer to] stay in the car. After this [the individual] got out of the car and shot at my leg with a pump rifle. Then they forced me into the car and brought me to a house. Here, upon seeing that my wound was large and that I had lost an excessive amount of blood, they took me to Numune Hospital at the insistence of the taxi driver. I am filing a complaint and opening a lawsuit against the transphobic attacker, whose name I learned is Uğur, the other man whose name I know to be Aliş, and the woman by their side who was helping them.”

Attackers wanted

Doctors remarked that the trans woman who suffered the attack would undergo treatment for at least 15 days following surgery.

The eyewitness taxi driver was reached thanks to other trans sex workers, and his statement was taken at the Çankaya Police Department. Efforts to catch the attackers are ongoing.

 

Fashion Designer Barbaros Şansal Arrested for Social Media Video

Fashion designer Barbaros Şansal, who was taken into custody following his deportation back to Turkey due to his posts on social media, was arrested by the court he was taken after the prosecutor’s interrogation.

Source: BBC Türkçe, “Modacı Barbaros Şansal tutuklandı” (“Fashion Designer Barbaros Şansal is Arrested”), 3 January 2017, http://www.bbc.com/turkce/haberler-dunya-38496401

Şansal’s attorney Efkan Bolaç announced the arrest warrant on his Twitter account.

Barbaros Şansal’s arrest was demanded under the accusation of “Public incitement for hatred and hostility or insult.”

In his statement to the prosecutor regarding his tweet subjected to the accusations, Şansal said “My purpose here was to draw attention to unjust treatment to which people of three different beliefs are subjected. No discriminatory, hateful and spiteful language is used.”

Doğan Haber Ajansı (DHA) [Doğan News Agency –Trans.] reported that fashion designer Şansal gave the following testimony regarding the aforementioned video:

“I had given an interview to a website called Reportare on 19 October 2015. The headline of this interview was “Drown in your s…, Turkey.” I shared these words in the video as a satire against discrimination. This was followed by insults on the phone by hackers. I have shut down all my accounts and communication because of this. I have no means of communication since January 1, 2017. I do not accept the accusations.”

Attack on Barbaros Şansal on the Airstairs

‘We could not contain our nationalistic feelings’

On the other hand, it has been reported that at least eight more people’s statement were taken regarding the attack Barbaros Şansal was subjected to on Monday evening at Istanbul Atatürk airport.

Among the people whose involvement in the attack were confirmed by their employers are three personnels of the ground crew company TGS [Turkish Ground Services — Trans.] who are now subject to an administrative investigation. It has been reported that total of 12 TGS ground crew were interrogated.

According to reports on Doğan News Agency, one of the suspects delivered the following statement “We could not contain our nationalistic feelings. We shouted. We could not do anything due to the police shield.”

Devlet Hava Meydanları İşletmesi (DHMİ) [State Airports Administration –Trans.] announced that an investigation has been started regarding the attack on the apron. DHMİ’s statement included the following expression: “There is no question of negligence and weakness on our General Administration’s part.”

Akıncı: Lynch attempt should make us all think

Meanwhile, the leader of Northern Cyprus Mustafa Akıncı made a statement on the deportation of fashion designer Barbaros Şansal following the video he shared on social media and the consequent attack at the airport.

Akıncı stated that the deportation decision is based on an earlier decision made by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and added that “Even though, it is impossible to approve of Barbaros Şansal’s sensational discourses, the deportation decision turning into a lynching attempt should make us all think deeply.”

Akıncı continued in his written statement as follows:

“This event may not have taken place in our country. However, I watch the attempts to plant the seeds of hatred, spite and lynch culture in our own country and society with a grave worry. We should not give hate, spite and lych culture a chance.

Law is the foundation of protecting, defining, and expanding the borders of freedom of expression. Lynch culture replacing the law is the biggest enemy of polyphonic democratic pluralist community life. What we need is for pluralist democratic constitutional state and community life to become enshrined, advance and improve; not for lynch culture to replace it.”

Editor’s note: Barbaros Şansal is an openly gay fashion designer and a public figure based in İstanbul.

 

Kaos GL: Lynch Attempt Against Barbaros Şansal is a Hate Crime!

Kaos GL’s statement on Barbaros Şansal’s having become a target and taken into custody, and lynching attempt: Freedom of expression is a legal right, but lynching is a hate crime!

Source: Kaos GL, “Kaos GL: Barbaros Şansal’a linç girişimi nefret suçudur!” (“Kaos GL: Lynch Attempt Against Barbaros Şansal is a Hate Crime!”), 3 January 2017, http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=22737

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Famous fashion designer Barbaros Şansal was deported from Northern Cyprus because of a post on social media. Şansal, having been sent back to Turkey, was subjected to a lynch attempt at the İstanbul Atatürk Airport.

Şansal was exposed to verbal harassment by a group of men while being taken off the plane by cops. The attackers, who sweared at Şanal in a sexist tone, later surrounded Şansal and beaten him.

The police took Şansal into custody. Attorney Efkan Bolaç announced via social media that Şansal had given testimony in the Police Station and that he will be taken to the prosecutor’s office later today.

[A video recording of the lynch attempt is available on the source website –Trans.]

In the video Şansal shared on social media, he had said “Are you still celebrating the New Year while so many journalists are under arrest, so many children are being harassed or raped, corruption and bribery are over the top, and bigots share crap on the streets together with religious annunciators. Drown in your crap, Turkey.”

In 2012, Şansal was threatened with the words “You will pay for what you wrote and what you did”, and was attacked at Taksim Ayaspaşa.

Kaos GL: We are following the situation worriedly

After the lynch attempt against Şansal, Kaos GL Association shared a press release:

“We follow the updates on fashion designer Barbaros Şansal’s deportation from Northern Cyprus, then being subjected to a lynch attempt at Atatürk Airport and taken into custody with worry. We know the formula of the media’s firsthand targeting of an individual after sharing their opinion on social media  and then being subjected to a lynch attempt under the watch of law-enforcement officers.”

“Our LGBTİ activist friend from Balıkesir, Uğur Bülbül, was arrested in the last days of December because of his posts on social media. As Büber stated in his defense, “Duties of human right activists are  to express when somethings are going wrong and need to be fixed or changed; working for the sake of it and reminding lawmakers of its importance.”

Şansal’s right to life was attacked!

“Barbaros Şansal’s numerous legal rights and freedoms were violated including freedom of expression which is protected under the current Constitution of the Republic of Turkey, and his life was at risk. There are many questions about this step-by-step organized lynch attempt, yet six of these questions should be urgently answered by authorities:

*What are the elements of crime in the video that Barbaros Şansal shared on social media? Which statements are violating which laws, and why?

*Şansal was deported from Northern Cyprus on what grounds?

*Are there any legal actions against mainstream media, including Sabah newspaper, which targeted Şansal using expressions such as “The scum who poured out insults on Turkey ”?

*It is obvious that Şansal has received homophobic insults and was threatened due to his sexual orientation. Are there any legal actions on these insults and threats which form the basis of  hate crimes?

*How did the attackers break into the apron where it is forbidden for everyone except the ground crew due to airport security? What were they doing there?

*It is claimed that most of the attackers are ground crew. If so, is there any legal action against those members of personnel?

Freedom of Expression is a Legal Right, but Lynching is a Hate Crime!

“The response to expressing one’s opinions cannot to be targeted in newspapers, deported, having taken under custody or be the subject of a lynch attempt! The lynch attempt against Barbaros Şansal is a hate crime based on its organized formation and attackers’ expressions. We stand against  every action against the freedom of expression. We condemn the arrest of Uğur Büber due expressing opinions on social media, and Barbaros Şansal being the subject of a lynch attempt and being taken into custody.

We demand that Uğur Büber and Barbaros Şansal are released; and an urgent investigation against the people who targeted Şansal, the attackers and who condoned the attackers be launched.”

 

Şaban and Recep’s love was acquitted

The trial against the activists carrying a banner that reads “Ramazan can’t interfere with Şaban and Recep’s love*” was concluded. The anti-homophobia and anti-transphobia activists were acquitted.

Source: “Şaban’la Recep’in aşkı beraat etti” (Şaban and Recep’s love was acquitted), kaosgl.org, December 27, 2016, http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=22706

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The lawsuit was filed with the charges of “deliberately denigrating the religious values adopted by a certain part of the public” (TCK Article 216) against three people carrying a banner that read “Ramazan can’t interfere with Şaban and Recep’s love”, and the second hearing was on December 27. The banner was carried during 2015 Istanbul Pride March, amidst the police assault.

Defendant G.H who was missing at the last hearing and who could not give their testimony, presented their defense at the Istanbul 33rd Criminal Court of First Instance.

In their defense, G.H. indicated that they joined the walk to draw attention to the pressures LGBTIs have to endure and stated “Our intention and our aim was completely peaceful. Police attacked us. After the attack, we continued our walk without any furor. At that moment I saw the banner. I did not know about it. I accompanied as I did not think it included any insult.”

G.H. stressed that the banner did not insult religious values and continued their defense as below:

“The banner is about the love between two months. Therefore there is no insult. In my opinion the complainant is the one who commits the crime of leading the public to rage and hatred because the plaintiff’s attorneys have deliberately stated their discomfort with LGBTI individuals and that the annual and peaceful Pride March leads them to “rage and aggravation”. Such a statement denigrates a certain part of the public.”

The court ruled that the act charged against the defendants was not a crime according to the law and acquitted the defendants.

* Translator’s Note: Ramazan, Şaban and Recep are Turkish names for the three sacred months of Islam, Ramadan, Sha’ban and Rajab. These names are also given as male names in Turkey, hence the pun.

“Conservatism” eviction for Istanbul LGBTI office

The property owner of Istanbul LGBTI Solidarity Association’s office on Beyoğlu’s Öğüt Street has asked the organization to vacate on the grounds that they do not condone their activities.

The activists said: “What you call ‘these kind of activities’ is the struggle for equality and freedom. Even if we are the only people left, we will not abandon this dream!”

Source: “Istanbul LGBTI’nin ofisine ‘muhafazakârlık’ tahliyesi!” (“‘Conservatism’ eviction for Istanbul LGBTI office”), September 29, 2016, T24, http://t24.com.tr/haber/Istanbul-LGBTInin-ofisine-muhafazakarlik-tahliyesi,362406

Speaking to Çiçek Tahaoğlu from Bianet, Kıvılcım Arat, association board member, said that they would not leave their flat, which they had newly renovated. Arat said the following:

“I link this situation [relates] to recent events. We have been using the same office since the day we were founded. Since the state of emergency [declared after the July 15 failed coup attempt] institutions doing alternative projects have been experiencing pressure. There is an attempt to remove us from the place [where] we have not experienced any problems in for seven years, with conservatism being used as an excuse.”

Kırancı: They were a good person

Association President Ebru Kırancı explained the situation as follows:

“The flat has two owners. One is a lawyer. The lawyer requested a meeting with us today. They were the one who gave us the flat, they are a good person.

“Today they said to us, ‘I am a lawyer, a democratic person. But my partner is conservative and definitely does not want you to stay here, wants you to leave.’

“In other words, the other property owner is uncomfortable because of our gender identity and sexual orientation, and the association’s employees. The lawyer on the other hand congratulated me for returning to my education and making it to the second class as a trans woman.”

“We are familiar with the justification: Conservatism”

In an announcement over Istanbul LGBTI’s social media accounts, these statements were made:

“As of today, we are being asked to leave our association office, from which we have carried out our activities for seven years. The justification is Conservatism, which we have become familiar with over the past 10 years or so. The property owner has stated that they will not give permission for these kind of activities in their own building.

“We are declaring this one more time! What you call ‘these kind of activities’ is the struggle for equality and freedom. And even if we are the only people left, we will not abandon this dream! We will continue the struggle until we eliminate fascism, racism and sexism!”

About Istanbul LGBTI

Founded in 2007 by trans activists, Istanbul LGBTI became an association in 2011.

The association, which concentrates on trans issues, provides psychological support and advice to trans people.

The association organized Turkey’s first Trans Pride March in 2010. The Trans Pride March has been repeated every year since then. 

Since 2013, the association has also carried out its Trans Home project, which opens its door to trans people without current housing and LGBTI refugees and migrants who are under the threat of violence in Northern Africa and the Middle East.