Intersex

Intersex issues in Turkey

Intersex Anatolia meets families in Istanbul

Intersex Anatolia met with families in Boysan’s house to share the problems intersex children face.

Source: Kaos GL, “İnterseks Anatolya, İstanbul’da ailelerle buluştu,” kaosGL.org, 24 February 2017, http://www.kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=23145

interseks-anatolia-boysanin-evi

The newly founded LADEG+ (LGBTI+ Families and Relatives Support Group) hosted its first event with intersex activities. Intersex Anatolia met witt LADEG+ at Boysan’s House on Feb. 18 to share the problems intersex children face.

Intersex Anatolia activists Şerife, Belgin, Zeynep, Caner ve Evrim joined the event, which was streamed live on Intersex Turkey’s Facebook page.

Activists first shared general information about intersex and continued by explaining paths families can follow for their intersex children with their needs in mind.

The discussion pointed to surgeries on intersex children without consent or without medical necessity. The activists explained that parents should not follow antiquated medical practices and incorrect guidances. They emphasized the psychological and physical trauma intersex individuals face after being exposed to surgical procedures without their consent at an early age.

Şerife also explained the problems intersex children face in rural areas.

Hosts Sema Yakar and Pınar Özer, the founders of LADEG+, said they will continue their work with intersex activists and give priority to the correct guidance for parents of intersex children.

Following the discussion and Q & A session, participants watched videos of Boysan Yakar in the struggle for urban renewal and LGBTI+ rights. LGBTI+ activist Boysan passed away more than a year ago in a traffic accident.

 

The Suffering of Bülent the Hermaphrodite

Source: Gülden Aydın, “Hermafrodit Bülent’in Çilesi” (“The Suffering of Bülent the Hermaphrodite”), Hürriyet, 23 May 2014, http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/gundem/26470090.asp

*Translator’s Note: While our project aims to offer verbatim translations of our original sources, certain linguistic differences between Turkish and English present challenges. Because Turkish does not have gender-specific pronouns and if the subject does not identify within the male-female binary, we translate the pronouns as “they.” Please note that words such as “hermaphrodite” and “dual-sexed” are direct translations of the original source, which are used for the term “intersex.”

Bülent Coşkun is a hermaphrodite (dual-sexed), who lives in Cumayeri, Düzce. They cannot go out in public. They are constantly pointed at, made fun of and constantly harassed. As if that is not enough, people want to stone and burn Bülent’s house. Bülent is a victim of hate crimes.

Bülent Coşkun (34) was almost screaming on the phone. They were saying that society was punishing them for being a dual-sexed individual and was asking assistance. When we met in Düzce town center, all eyes were immediately set on Bülent who has elements of both man and woman in their body and clothes. Cars in traffic were stopping; people were pointing, laughing and looking at the “freak.” Where Bülent was verging on tears, we were almost choking. It was impossible to sit in a café and conduct the interview there; we had to go to their cottage.

A MAN AFTER SIX SURGERIES

Bülent comes from a family of farmers. Their parents are cousins. They were born dual-sexed following the birth of their two elder sisters. Their father was determined to make Bülent into a man, so they made Bülent go through six separate and painful surgeries in which Bülent’s vagina was sealed and their urinary tract connected to the penis. However, the surgeries were not successful. They ran away after the same doctor told them that 8 more surgeries had to be performed. Bülent’s life was a living hell due to the botched surgeries performed on them until 2012. Although, they could not urinate for 15 hours, Bülent was supposedly a man.

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To Be an Intersex Child in a Village

Source: Şerife, “Köyde interseks bir çocuk olmak,” (“To Be an Intersex Child in a Village,”) İnterseksüel ŞaLaLa, 1 October 2013, http://intersexualshalala.wordpress.com/2013/10/01/koyde-interseks-bir-cocuk-olmak/

Do you know what it is like to be an intersex person in Anatolia, in a village in Turkey? I know that pain, I know what it is like to be the kid who got called names or heard a mother’s sigh when she was asked about it.. Listen to it from someone like me who once could not speak Turkish at all.

I guess I was 5 or 6 years old, I remember some women from our village and my mother forcing me to lie down and touching me between my legs while I was crying and screaming, making comments like they were doctors. They were consoling my mother by saying: ‘’Look, it is right there. It will open with the grace of God’’ and my mother would agree with them with gratitude and say, ‘’Amen, please God.’’

For the first time I sensed that a part of me was bad. A connection between my mind and that area had started. I stayed away from the adults and was scared of them for days. It was the spring of 1978.

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Not a girl that looks like a boy or a boy that looks like a girl: INTERSEX!

Source: Lambdaistanbul, “Kız görünümlü erkek, erkek görünümlü kız değil: İNTERSEKS!,” (“Not a girl that looks like a boy or a boy that looks like a girl: INTERSEX!”) 1 October 2013, http://www.lambdaistanbul.org/s/etkinlik/kiz-gorunumlu-erkek-erkek-gorunumlu-kiz-degil-interseks/

During the Gezi Resistance in June, a significant part of society clearly saw how the media can be prejudiced, manipulative, and can choose to ignore certain things. However, this has always been the case for groups who have been made “the other” or silenced. Mainstream media has always ignored what  women, unrecognized ethnic groups, LGBT people have said, done and experienced or turned them into circus freaks who can be abused. In general, these groups have tried to overcome this problem by creating their own alternative media outlets. On the other hand, one group has remained more silent, more invisible than the others. They could not even create a safe ghetto, a sub culture to exist in. We will tell you more about intersex people.

Intersex people are born with biological gender differences. They are called hermaphrodites by science,  and the public use vulgar colloquial terms that denote an androgenous or monoclinous nature to describe them. Intersex people are living with the loneliness and pain caused by being invisible and the fear of being labeled if they become visible. Last week, mainstream media surprised us by showing us an example of how one can be ignored and labeled at the same time. In a widely publicized story, “He became a boy at age 10,” from Anadolu Agency sources, the experience of an intersex child called R.Y. was reported, without once using the word ‘intersex’ and instead using phrases like “originally a fertile girl,” “a girl that looks like a boy or a boy that looks like a girl”  as if R.Y. was a product in a store. R.Y. was operated on without permission or receiving counselling. Not only was the uninformed child  subjected to a harsh medical procedure without their opinion or consent, they also became the plaything of the media that used an incorrect and harsh language.

Intersex people are among us and they number more than we know, so much so that they can uproot accepted gender models but they are being ignored precisely because they pose a danger to solidified and outdated social norms. One in every 2000 births is an intersex baby. There are thousands of people like R.Y. in our country. Everyday, intersex people are being forced to fit into dualistic gender models by means of medical procedures such as surgeries and chemical interventions without any psychological support,  information or consent. They are ignored, left alone and, usually,  they cannot grow into independent adults.

What does Lambdaistanbul LGBTI Association want for intersex people?

The existence of intersex people must be recognized. The media should cover the intersex issue without offending or labeling them and without turning them into circus freaks or reality show objects. Instead, they should use a serious language to talk about the existence of intersex people and their problems in order to work towards their social acceptance.

Intersex people might choose to live as women or men or not make such a choice and between the genders. Either way, intersex people must make the choice on their own. Any surgical and chemical intervention should not be employed against intersex individuals – UNLESS THERE IS A MEDICAL EMERGENCY THAT CAN HARM THEIR HEALTH-  until they are adults. Even when there is a medical need to intervene, the child must not be humiliated but must be given psychological support, taken seriously and given information at every step. In circumstances where parents do not possess the necessary awareness, they should be correctly informed and guided by medical personnel. They should be taught to take their child seriously, respect the child’s decisions and not treat the child badly because of the child’s biological characteristics. Medicine saves lives; we are not enemies. Our demands are that intersex people be informed about the necessary medical interventions and that cosmetic medical- chemical procedures which aim to blend intersex people into social norms not to be carried out unless an individual requests it.

As we see in examples from around the world, encouragement should be made towards society’s acceptance and equal treatment of intersex people without the need of hiding their  identity. Informative workshops must be created for schools, the media, and various platforms. We can win back the natural acknowledgement of intersex bodies that existed when medicine and body formalism were not as developed as they are today. Intersex people’s rights must be under constitutional protection just as homosexual, bisexual and transsexual people’s rights should be.

What will Lambdaistanbul do for intersex people?

In a meeting at Lambdaistanbul on 27 April 2013, the existence of intersex people was talked about for probably the first time in Turkey’s LGBT movement, and a decision was made to rebuild the movement in order to include intersex people. It pleases us to see that new LGBT associations are formed frequently and that they are adopting the intersex issue from the outset by using the expression LGBTI.

We believe that an LGBT movement that does not include the intersex issue will be deficient in finding solutions to LGBT people’s problems in the heterosexist and dualistic gender system and will not be able to comprehend the  essence of the matter. In the same way, we are aware that an intersex movement disconnected from the LGBT movement would make intersex a purely medical issue without benefiting intersex people. These groups are attached to each other by serious mutual issues.

Therefore we announce that it is  time we talk about the intersex issue, which became publicized in a grave report by the Anadolu Agency. From now on, the Lambdaistanbul LGBTI Association will adopt intersex people’s issues and jointly strive in the context of LGBTI rights. We have to admit that we are late in our consideration of the issue; on behalf of all [our members], we apologize to all intersex people for lacking in involvment with ‘’I’’ntersex.

We, as the Lambdaistanbul LGBTI Association, will speed up in holding meetings and activities about intersex people’s issues. Our first task will be to prepare and distribute informational brochures in the coming days. While doing this, we will keep talking about intersex everywhere, work to make the intersex organization stronger and strive to gain constitutional recognition for LGBT and intersex people.

We release this information to the public.