LGBTI Activism

LGBTI rights movement in Turkey

Keep defending LGBTI+ students against discrimination in education!

Kaos GL Association Union & Education Working Group gathered together with Eğitim-sen (Education and Science Worker’s Union) LGBTI+ Commissions in İzmir.

Source: [We’ll] keep defending LGBTI+ students against discrimination in education! (Eğitimde ayrımcılığa karşı LGBTİ+ öğrencileri savunmaya devam!) Kaos GL, April 16, 2019, http://www.kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=28075

 

Kaos GL Association Union & Education Working Group gathered together with Eğitim-sen (Education and Science Worker’s Union) LGBTI+ Commissions in Izmir.

Kaos GL Association’s Union & Education Working Group had the first meeting of the new term in Izmir. On April 13th – 14th, a series of anti-discrimination and awareness-raising events were organized and the host of the union meeting in Izmir was Eğitim-sen Izmir 2nd Branch LGBTI+ Commission and Genç LGBTI+ Derneği (Young LGBTI+ Association).

In addition to the participants from Izmir, union workers and educators from Ankara, Istanbul, and Nicosia, Northern Cyprus attended the meeting and plans for the new term were discussed.

Seçin Tuncel of Kaos GL stated that they got the chance to meet with various teachers, LGBTI+ activists, and union workers from Izmir and other locations, and added that union meetings are empowering:

“These meetings show us how well we can heal each other in this tough political environment. For instance, teachers who became distant with the union activities can narrate their activist acts and the work in their region through these meetings; the experiences are mutually shared.”

During the workshops hosted by Genç LGBTI+ Derneği on Sunday, April 14th, Seçin Tuncel shared the “LGBTI+” definitions and Remzi Altunpolat talked on “Discrimination and Heterosexism in Education”.

Barış Azar of Genç LGBTI+ Derneği shared their work titled “LGBTI+s’ experiences in dormitories”.   

Following from the studies conducted with school counsellors at Genç LGBTI+ Derneği, the topics of what causes the sexist and heterosexist content in education to develop and how it is reproduced were discussed with the guidance of physiological counselling and guidance experts. It was recorded that the elements causing this content to develop are curriculums, course materials, teachers, students, school administrations, and regulations.

While the teachers were sharing their own experiences, the problems children who don’t follow gender roles experience and how these affect their development were talked about. What can be done in pre-schools, primary schools, secondary schools, and high schools was discussed.

The actions for the new term were discussed and planned under the coordination of Kaos GL Union and Education Work Group. The event program planned by Istanbul Eğitim-sen 3rd Branch LGBTI+ Commission for the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia on May 17th was discussed. Also, the studies and work on the students who are exposed to discriminatory implementations in education were conferred and children’s literature & books were examined.

Lastly, the Union and Education Working Group discussed the fact that the topics of gender and LGBTI+ should be included in sexual education, multi-cultural education, inclusive education, and peace education discussions and programs.

Against discrimination in education

School counsellors and psychological counselling & guidance department students from different parts of Izmir attended the forum hosted by Eğitim-sen Izmir 2nd Branch LGBTI+ Commission on Saturday, April 13th. The needs and the problems of the LGBTI+ students and the anti-discrimination education policies were conferred during the forum.  

 

Court lifts the state of emergency ban against LGBTI+ activities in Ankara

Upon Kaos GL Association’s appeal application, Ankara Regional Administrative Court 12th Administrative Case Court has examined the indefinite ban against LGBTI+ activities, declared by the Governorship of Ankara on November 2017.

Source: Court lifts the state of emergency ban against LGBTI+ activities in Ankara, (“Mahkeme, OHAL’de ilan edilen Ankara LGBTİ+ etkinlik yasağını kaldırdı”), kaosgl.org, April 19, 2019, https://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=28102&fbclid=IwAR03zlUFhP1Bmh-AQRuTEjYuWNrcIKz_gt4x30786XqCNWBAQMPm_r_GYQg. This is a summary translation of the article.

Regional Administrative Court has stated that the ban was declared for an indefinite duration and bears no limitation or clarity as to the quality of the actions that are banned. The court indicated that if there is a threat against the planned activities, law enforcers should take precautions instead of banning the events; and that the ban is not lawful. The court ruled to lift the ban.

Here is an excerpt from the court ruling:

“The ban declared on November 18, 2017 for an indefinite duration, regarding the activities such as film screenings, cinevision, theater plays, panels, talks, exhibitions etc. taking place in different locations in Ankara, which include certain social sensibilities and sensitivities by various civil society organizations on LGBTT-LGBTI etc. matters; bear no limitation or clarity on either the time duration or the quality of the actions which are banned.”

“Although it is suggested by the administration that the planned activities might upset certain sections of society and lead to provocation, assault or reactions, such gatherings and activities can be protected by necessary security measures instead of an indefinite ban based on the premises that certain sections of society might react or be provoked”

The ruling also suggests that such indefinite ban with regards to duration and scope leads to the restriction on the exercise of fundamental rights and liberties, and therefore is not compatible with the law.

Despite the lifting of the state of emergency, a ban was sent by the Governorship of Ankara’s Legal Affairs Branch Directorate’s to Provincial Directorate of Security on October 3, 2018 on the same grounds. The lawsuit against this decision continues.

 

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.

Ishi has a name!

Trans individuals share what their names mean to them.

Source: Ishi has a name! (İshi’nin adı var!) Deniz P. Darno, Kaos GL, April 5, 2019,

http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=27993&fbclid=IwAR37UQxfqMxm4LaZcCAqqh4s2jDKCGxIsxFUkqsTye45NQAEOiXJSXYk4JE

I want to tell the beginning of the story, the moment when I learnt that my grand-grandmother was a Lebanese Armenian. First, I felt shocked and sad because I hadn’t known it. Then, I asked so many questions. Trying to learn the details of the story was like climbing a hill. Though, I couldn’t find an answer to one of the basic questions. “What was her name?” I asked the eldest of the family already, but none knew the name. Here, another one of the problems which look seemingly easy: she has to have a name, what was it? I guess it was the time when I first understood that names have a story within. There are valuable studies about names which we forget, ignore, or neglect. The topic/purpose of this article is to present the story of the names of the transgender individuals who chose their own names and have to face an intense resistance against this choice of theirs, through their own words.

“I really love my name, because I came back to the real me!”

Aras: I have been Aras ever since I could remember. I even forgot when and how I chose this name. I learned the meaning of it much later and I told myself that I guess I chose the right name; it means finding something later and embracing it as if it was always yours.

Aslı: My friends reacted [badly] when I first told them that I had chosen the name Aslı. They told me I could choose a more modern and beautiful name. But I easily overcame their prejudice; I chose the name Aslı because I came back to the real me. I chose it because I was re-born. I really love my name, because I came back to the real me! (Aslı: Original, Real)

Aylin: There are a couple of important women who came into my life and their names were Aylin. I chose this name because I was really inspired by them and I want to further their energy. It also means moonlight. The moon has no light itself, it reflects the light it receives from the sun. That means, it reflects light which already exists. The moon brightens up with the light it receives; so maybe I’ll brighten up with this name and the process. I always exist but I brighten up with the light, my name. Also, I bring light to the darkness in some way.

Defne Gülce: Gülce is related to my family; my mother’s name is Gülden and my elder sister’s name is Gülşah. So, I chose it. Defne has a mythological story. Defne is a tree and it has a fairy girl inside. I see the tree as the body I was born with and the female hidden inside the tree means a lot to me. There is a god called Apollo in the story and he, manhood that is a thorn in her flesh, searches for Defne. I chose the name Defne because I think it reflects me a lot. (Defne: Bay/laurel (Eng. Daphne); Gülce: Like a Rose)

Deniz: The feeling of “unable to fit in” was one of the feelings that I felt most intensely at the beginning of my process. I felt the same about my name on my identity card and wanted to change it. Then I found my name from one of Arkadaş Zekai’s poems that I love: “If you reach to caress the curly brunette hair at the point where love makes love with love, if you see the golden sparkles inside the curly brunette hair, that means you are inside of the sea, even if the sea is a far away from you.” (Deniz: Sea)

Dila: One day, I stepped in front of a mirror, looked at it, and told myself: what goes together with this face? What, what… Many names came into my mind. Then, I had a friend, we were talking, and they told me  “Tell me how you really feel when you look at your face and let’s find a name according to it.” I said that “I see a really heartfelt, warm sincerity.’’ It looks like I am speaking highly of myself now, but anyway! Then I learned that Dila means a heartfelt sincerity and chose the name Dila for myself.

Eda: When I was around 8-9 years old, there was a grocery store on the ground floor of the apartment where we used to live and its owners were our neighbours. They had a daughter and her name was Eda. I used to play games with her. I had only the name on my identity card then, but it was like I would identify myself with her. I would run to respond when someone called her. My name comes from those times. (Eda: Coquetry, Coyness)

“I wanted my name to be Hayat (Life) because I chose to hold on to life.”

Efruz: The meaning of Efruz, which is a Persian name, is glamorous light; it also means igniting, emblazing. I define myself as a Middle Eastern woman and I have never felt ashamed of having been born in this part of the world. On the contrary, it is an honour for me to having been born here and therefore, I wanted my name to belong to this region. I started to look at Kurdish, Persian, Arabic, Syriac, Armenian, and Romaic name dictionaries. I was looking at them with one of my friends. Then I came across Efruz. I fell in love with its phonetics; its meaning was splashy! Then I said yes, I am Efruz! I also quite like the fact that the name originates from Persian which has existed since ancient times and so, I chose the name Efruz.

Eva: My friends suggested this name to me during my 18th birthday. Eva is the Latin version of Havva. Havva is the first woman ever created; they told me  “you created yourself” and suggested it with this motivation. We can say that Eva was found during funny chit chat. However, my name is associated with a vampy image and I face prejudices most of the time because it is generally considered as outside of the norm. In such a society which loves standardized types and excludes minorities, these names can, unfortunately, make life a little harder for us.

Hayat: While I was deciding my name, I especially didn’t want to choose one of the widely known names, because names such as Ayşe or Fatma are so traditional and have a meaning corresponding to a certain female image. In other words, there is an image coming right to your mind when you say that name; so, I didn’t want something like that. I wished for a name which does not correspond to anything and which I will fulfil. In addition, considering the difficulties that I had at the beginning of my process of coming out, I can say that it is a fight to hold on to life. I was in the middle of the point where I could continue to my transition or end my life. It was a period in which I had intentions, attempts to commit suicide. But I chose to hold on to life despite all the difficulties, so I wanted my name to be Hayat. (Hayat: Life)

Janset: I guess it has been three and a half years since the time I chose my name. At first, it was hard to choose a name, start to use it, and make people around me get used to it. Janset is a name that is really valuable for and belongs to the Circassian language, culture, and history. It means sunrise. Before telling you about how I chose my name, I want to mention a couple of things. When I came out as being a trans person, which part of my body I needed surgery for was one of the first things that I had faced. The name problem was a crisis following right after it. I was not known in the activist community and the sooner I chose a name and started using it, the easier it would be for people to get used it. But I waited even so. It was really hard to change the name which is a reminder of my deceased mother who gave that name to me. Also, I had spent the first 27 years of my life with that name. There were a couple of people who want to be a mother to me and therefore to choose a name for me, which is a tradition for trans people. It is a tradition in the history and culture of trans women from Turkey. I was distant, but also so close to that system. At first, I couldn’t capitalize on it. Both my character and my sociocultural background were not suitable for it. All these are different sides of it though, but they are the factors that affected me while choosing my name. My father is Zaza, my mother’s father is Turkmen and mother is an Iranian. So, I don’t have any relation to being a Circassian. When I was born, my mother named me with a name that she created by combining a part of her name with a part of my father’s name. When I decided to choose my own name, I wanted it to be a name which can tell all of  my story and character through its meaning and keep the part from my mother alive. Then, the actress Janset whom I really like came to my mind. I searched for the name and when I read the meaning: I said my name is Janset.

“I chose the name Kuzey (North) because I found my direction.”

Kardelen: My mother had given the name to me, even before I was born. In other words, my mother had wanted and expected to give birth to a girl, they had even chosen a name: Kardelen. But they were baffled and named me with the name on my identity card after I was born.  A while after I came out as a trans individual, my mother suggested this name which they had thought of giving to me before. Kardelen is really special to me because of its meaning. Because it really suits the trans spirit. Kardelen is a flower kept under snow, a fighter flower. Therefore, I really love its meaning as well. (Kardelen: Snowdrop)

Kuzey: When people want to find their direction, they look at the North. For example, sailors look at the North through their compasses and find their direction. When a tree is covered with moss, the moss shows the North. So, I chose the name Kuzey, because I found my direction. (Kuzey: North)

Lukka:  I hiked across the Lycian Way by myself a couple of times in 2015. It is located in the Southern part of Anatolia, between Fethiye and Antalya. I have been there many times and always hiked by myself. In the meantime, I researched its history, mythology etc. so as to commune with that place; I even painted it many times. Climbing the mountains and hiking by myself there were really meaningful to me. I enjoy climbing mountains and I see this activity as some kind of an expression of freedom. Also, the scenery is amazing and the archaeological remains, various plants, trees and people you see along the road have made the hiking precious. So, my name came to mind when I researched Lycia more. I learned that the masculine version of Lycia is Lukka, which also means light.

Mert Toprak: I have two names; it was hard to officialise it at the court, but both of them are really meaningful to me. The first one was given to me by a woman whom I had a relationship with for 4 years. Unfortunately, she got married by force and now has a child whose name is Mert, too. She was a really special woman for me. And the story of the second name is that my family was really transphobic at the beginning of my process of coming out and I would even receive death threats. So, I told myself that I would finish this process even if I would depart from this world and become a part of the earth. So, I chose the name Toprak by myself. (Mert: Brave and Trustworthy; Toprak: Earth)

Nora: My name means God’s light and good spirit. The reason why I chose it is because it is a different name that is out of the ordinary; besides, I think this name really suits me. I didn’t want to use such Turkish names as Ayşe, Fatma, Hatice, etc. I have been a trans individual for 5 years, but I have used the name Nora for 15-16 years. In other words, it isn’t a name chosen after becoming a trans individual.

Tolga: My mother picked my name because it is close to my name on my identity card. We chose and accepted it “so that people would not have a hard time to get used to it.” In addition, the whole process is like my rebirth, so I wanted my mother to name me, and she suggested this name to me. (Tolga: Helmet)

P.S.: The article only contains the stories of the transgender individuals who chose to change their names. However, we know that this change is not an obligation. The experiences of each and every one of us with our processes are unique; ultimately, the bottom line is to be reborn, name ourselves, and live our lives as we wish.

*I would like to thank all the friends who shared their stories, and dear Metin Akdemir & Gülşah Tekin.

**The illustrations at this article were used with the permission of the artist Rory Midhani.

***Title: Ulus Baker, Yüzeybilim- Fragmanlar, ed. Ege Berensel, Birikim Yayınları, 2014 [2009], p. 242-243.

 

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

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.“

“No one believes that there could be a Muslim, socialist, and homosexual woman.”

From bianet’s article series THE CHANGING JOURNEY OF THE STRUGGLES OF HIJAB​

“I attended the Pride marches or the marches on May 1st and the people who see me say ‘Look, she has come to support.’ They look at me not as an individual who takes part in this struggle but as a person who was recruited from among the conservatives and converted.”

Source: “No one believes that there could be a Muslim, socialist, and homosexual woman.” (“Müslüman, Sosyalist ve Eşcinsel Bir Kadının Varlığına Kimse İnanmıyor”) Büşra Cebeci, Bianet, February 10, 2018 http://bianet.org/bianet/toplumsal-cinsiyet/194033-musluman-sosyalist-ve-escinsel-bir-kadinin-varligina-kimse-inanmiyor

“When they realize that I can be a homosexual, they get puzzled. They look at me like saying ‘What do you mean?’ and get baffled. Then, they laugh after saying ‘You gotta be kidding me’. They don’t believe it; the fact that I am a ‘dyke’ or that I am a Muslim.”

We have witnessed throughout this Bianet interview series that there are difficulties for women to wear a hijab or take off the hijab. In this interview, we witness the things that a woman wearing hijab will suffer when she outgrows the norms of a “woman who wears hijab”.

A socialist and homosexual woman with hijab shares her story with us; telling us about the rage conservative society feels towards her because they see her as a deviant coming from within their society and about the fact that the dissident society see her as someone converted from the other side, not as truly one of them, she narrates her struggle to be a free individual despite all this.

When and how did you decide to wear hijab?

I can say that my wish to wear hijab consciously came when I was at around my 20s. In the past, I did not go outside the house without covering my head, because of the society and family that I live in and the habits that I’d had since childhood. I covered my head outside of the school hours. At that time, wearing hijab at school was not allowed and this was a good thing for me because I didn’t want to wear it as a matter of fact. I was wearing it due to the fear of hearing “the daughter of what’s-his-name wanders around without covering her head.”

I grew up in a society that thinks “girls don’t go to school;” so, I was already alienated because I was constantly reading and studying. To be honest, I did not even dare to take off the hijab. Wearing it for a while becomes like a habit, I think. Unless you choose to wear it consciously, wearing hijab is nothing more than a habit. Otherwise, despite the fact that you disobey all the other rules of the religion: tell lies, slander someone, gossip, break hearts, and fail to share your meal with hungry people, you think you will go to heaven because you are a true Muslim for wearing the hijab. Is that possible?

You don’t hide you are an LGBTI activist wearing hijab on social media. What are the reactions that you receive from that?

Actually, not only on social media, but I don’t like hiding it in real life as well. Even at my place of work, some of the people know my sexual orientation. The majority of them show “toleration” or think they are showing “toleration.” The thing we call “toleration” is in fact just an attitude of people thinking to himself or herself that they are superior. I don’t think I did something like committing a crime, which needs to be tolerated. There are so many people who claim they are LGBTI supporters but they are actually homophobic.

“Toleration” means tolerating something and I don’t do anything that wanders at the borders of a person’s toleration. Needless to say, I don’t need to be tolerated, I need to be equal with other people. On the other hand, there are some people who straightforwardly spill out hatred against me. There are some saying “even the breath you take is a sin.” Some even threaten me by saying “this slut is just confused, come and let me help you.”  Some try to lynch me. Basically, every LGBTI individual faces these kinds of sentiments. However, the situation gets carried into another dimension because I wear hijab. They see me as a deviant who was once a part of them and this is the point that they get angry about. They already attack LGBTI individuals. The fact that there is a religious person with hijab, someone who looks like them, among the LGBTI people whom they call “deviant” makes them much angrier. But there is not just one colour in this life. Unfortunately, those who don’t have rainbows inside of them don’t realize this.

What kinds of answers do you get from the people to whom you come out to about your sexual orientation?

They laugh at first. Then, when they realize this is real and they get puzzled. They look at me saying “What do you mean?” and get baffled.  Then they laugh, saying “You gotta be kidding me.” They don’t believe it; the fact that I am a “dyke” or that I am a “Muslim.” People look at me like I am telling them a joke. So, I let things slide. Instead of coming out to them, I wait for them to realize by themselves. When they do, they become distant anyway and almost all of them leave me. Except for a few, even my closest friends stay away from me and think they are protecting themselves from me.

A female friend of mine, whom I had hugged and kissed and who had never hesitated to have a close touch with me in the previous years, pushed my arms away when I was about to hug her a day after I came out to her; she has never come close to me since then. I was friends with this person for years, we were so close, and I always considered her like a sister to me.

Another characteristic of yours that many see as contrarian is your political orientation. How do people react when you define yourself as a socialist?

I don’t worry about the reactions now, but no one accepts me. In the past, I was a member of a revolutionary — left wing organization. I used to go to the establishments of this organization and they used to see me as a person who is interested in the subject a little, but confused and in a paradoxical situation. When I went to LGBTI establishments, they shut the door in my face after saying “it seems like you came to the wrong address”. They have started to get used to it recently, or at least I think they have. For example, I go to the Pride marches and the people who see me say “look, she has come to support us,” they don’t accept that I am one of them or they don’t even regard it as possible. I go to the marches on May 1st and I hear them saying “Look, sisters with hijab are with us, they seem like they don’t believe in the government in power.” They look at me not as an individual who takes part in the struggle but as a person who was recruited from among the conservatives and converted.

At the exits of subways or at the stations of ferries where socialist leaflets are distributed, when I reach to take one, they draw back. This is completely because of their prejudices. I am perceived as if I am supporting or as if I have to support the conservative government. No, the religion that is exploited for political gain is my religion and I don’t have to defend this exploitation. In short, no one believes or can believe that there could be a woman who is an LGBTI individual, a socialist, and a Muslim.

Why? Seeing all this in one person is considered a paradox. They say that I understand nothing, that I lie in order to get attention, or that I suffer from contradictions in terms. No, the first one is my sexual orientation, the other one is my political opinion, and the last one is my religion.

To me, the Quran is a book that each person interprets individually and they shape themselves according to that interpretation after reading it. In real life, everybody practices what s/he understands from the Quran. I think it is wrong to use it as a vehicle to impose something religious after interpreting it with personal opinions and I cannot accept this attitude. Believe me, I have heard so many things about myself. So, I just gave up listening to them and expressing myself to them. After all, everyone believes in the things that they have in their minds. My family ignores my political standing. Yes, they just ignore it, as if it doesn’t exist or as if I am a joke. All my family and relatives are extremely conservative and they often tell me “you have been brainwashed.”

Is there any women who suffer from the same problems and contact you? What would you like to tell them?

There are few, not many. Most of us are afraid and hide ourselves. We can even face death after all. A person whom you have never meet can stab you as you walk around the corner, kidnap you, rape you so that “you can come to your senses,” kill you or beat you. They do all these things just because you are different from them and prefer walking a different path.

No one steps up and do something about it, because this is Turkey and we, women, are creatures who are seen as a second- or third-class citizen or we don’t even belong to a class.

We are raised and governed by people who do not accept our existence. So, we need to never give up on ourselves and who we are. It is not just about resisting against them. It is also about resisting against ourselves.

We need to resist even against ourselves in order to never give up despite all of our fears, sufferings, scars, and alienation.