LGBTI Activism

LGBTI rights movement in Turkey

How does the state of emergency affect Turkey’s LGBTIs?

Kaos GL’s Seçin Tuncel speaks with activists involved in LGBTI policy-making to ask how Turkey’s state of emergency, declared after the July 15 failed coup attempt, affects the lives of LGBTI individuals.

Source: Seçin Tuncel, “LGBTİ’ler OHAL sürecinden nasıl etkileniyor?” KaosGL.org, 22 March 2017, http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=23366

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Ayşe Panuş- Eğitim-Sen (Education and Science Workers’ Union) Istanbul No: 3 Branch LGBTI Commission: Rainbow against the One!

“The rainbow is liberation. With the rainbow against the [rule of] One”

The coup attempt of July 15, 2016 resurrected existing homophobia and transphobia against LGBTI public servants. Just as it was before the coup attempt, unionized LGBTI workers found themselves in an environment of nationalist, religious, conservative and militarist violence.

Even though the LGBTI movement continues its organized resistance through this period, the present climate resulted in the closure of the cracks that were opened in the workplaces and unions. The threats against and the targeting of LGBTI public servants via the press, were ignored by the unions and the answer of the union administrators to questions asked was “We have no LGBTI.” The union, heavily influenced by the conservative aspect of nationalist, conservative and militarist violence has abandoned LGBTI public servants both politically and with regards to social rights. Such institutional abandonment led the LGBTI public workers to a greater anxiety, as they were already forced to work hiding their identity.

After the declaration of the state of emergency, nationalist, conservative, militarist and male violence has escalated. Since government practices were eager for this drift, the expulsions and suspensions through government decrees resulted in the silencing of LGBTI public workers who have already been ignored politically within the union.

Yet, despite all attempts of homophobia and transphobia to close the cracks, LGBTI public workers do not refrain from making their voices heard. The unions should come together against nationalist, conservative, militarist, male and heterosexist impositions and build an LGBTI policy on this basis: rainbow is liberation, with the rainbow against the [rule of] One.

Yalçın Koçak- Lawyer for Pink Life Association: “We are under state of emergency, it shall be as we want”

Without a doubt, the “state of emergency” practice which has been going on since July 20, 2016 has had a negative impact on LGBTIs, as it did on many other sectors of the society. It should be stated that in such periods when security-based “unlawfulness” substitutes “the law,” the victimization of the disadvantaged, socially marginalized and othered groups increases.

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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

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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.

 

“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”.

 

Film: Hatewalk

Director Serkan Çiftçi focuses on LGBTI individuals’ struggle through the story of trans woman Deniz who lives in Mersin. The director says, “maybe hate does not end in these lands but neither does humanity and it won’t die.”

Screen Shot 2017-02-19 at 10.00.34.pngSource: Murat Emir Eren, XOXO The Mag, Gacı Gibi* (“Hatewalk”), http://www.xoxothemag.net/post/10385/serkan-ciftci-gaci-gibi

Hatewalk, a documentary on trans woman Deniz who experienced a horrible hate crime and LGBTI individuals’ struggle for rights in the southern city of Mersin, will be screened at the 16th !f Istanbul Independent Film Festival. We spoke to the film’s director Serkan Çiftçi about the film and the filming process.

How did you meet Deniz and the other trans individuals in the film? How did you shape Hatewalk?

Deniz is a sex worker who was subjected to a hate crime and barely made it out alive. The incident was widely known at that time in Mersin. Ece and Berfin (Esmeray) share a flat with Deniz, they are trans sex workers and activists, members of the Mersin 7 Colors Association. We set up an appointment with Ece and Berfin at the hairdresser you see in the film. We had a chat there. They were very casual. They were willing to be the subjects of the film. I guess we grew on each other that day.

But I should say, we went through many tests at the association until we got that appointment. There are many films on LGBTI [people] that are yet to be completed. It didn’t seem likely to them that a non-LGBTI person can represent them and make a decent enough film. First we convinced the young folks at the association. Then Yağmur Arıcan, the chair and Figen. We had quite the trial. But eventually we got along. Maybe that was the reason why they acted so casually at the hairdresser’s that day.

Anyway we made it into the house. At first Deniz didn’t take to the idea. After a few visits she got used to us. They were three people. We were also three people. We built a mutual trust. And I guess we also managed to become friends too. It was very interesting to be with trans sex workers during Deniz’s treatment. This is an LGBTI association that is a pioneer in the region and their struggle that overflows to the streets is remarkable. The conditions allowed us to follow two stories at once. We initiated the shoot with this idea. Imagining that Deniz would be walking without her crutches in 2014 Istanbul Pride Walk, we planned a shoot for a period of there and a half to four months and started working.

Hatewalk is full of ‘talking heads’ and interviews; it’s not an informative documentary neither does it prompt us into a certain perspective, it is a documentary that rather follows certain ‘testimonies’. Did you go for such a style when you started the project? Or did it follow a path of its own? How much of your vision could you realize?

When I started shooting the film, I didn’t know what we’d encounter or what kind of story would emerge but I was certain of its style. It was a matter I didn’t take lightly. One thing I didn’t want to see in the film was a talking head. I wasn’t [planning] to film an interview. I wanted something like a fiction film, one scene after another… Working within the conventions of classical narrative, with a time that flows chronologically, aiming for a continuity… I will use this phrase, because I think it brings a smile: the wish to be ‘a fly on the wall’ and capture the audience – the feeling was there before the film.

Hatewalk really challenged me. Even when you have a script and a mise-en-scene, the film never turns out to be what you imagined. When you consider the field we were in, it was like we were in an away game. But the sincere friendships we built formed this style. Berfin’s help made our progress easier. We planned two strong finales, it would be self-explanatory if I say we couldn’t shoot either. We’re talking about an amateur, low budget production, without funding. Although I couldn’t shoot it the way I wanted, I’m happy with the outcome.

There is an increase in the number of films in the LGBTI Films category as well as LGBTI film festivals and this is great. But some of these films put LGBTI individuals and negative, painful events side by side. While this creates emotion, it also constantly creates a negative perception and runs the danger of agitation. Hatewalk, however, does not give much credit to this side and instead chooses to explain these negativities in a rather positive way. Was this a decision when you were starting out the film? Are there projects you were inspired by?

The fact that Deniz experienced an event with major injuries that could have ended her life gives her great grief. I was deeply affected by her continued joy despite it all. All the other characters are joyous, funny, sincere people. I laughed a lot with them and can say I had a good time. I think people shouldn’t lose their joy. Let it not be misunderstood when I say we laughed and had fun. There were times when I lost my breath, could not speak a word, and when I was torn to pieces. When we consider the harshness of their life, positivity is part of their nature.

This is precious to me because I wanted to show what the characters live through, their emotions and pain without exaggeration. Agitation is a very easy path when telling such stories but it’s not a path I want to take. What opened my path was their joy. The energy at the association was high. They are young people who have hopes, who dream, who plan and have fun. Their positivity was my guide when trying to understand their sensitivities and create balance in the stories.

The positive ways you mention were founded on this. The decision to focus on the total struggle for their bodies, desires, and freedoms rather than darkness was a principled one. These decisions determined the storytelling language of the film.

What was the most difficult subject for you and the trans women in the film during the shoots?

I’m not sure what was difficult for them but many subjects were difficult for me. The house was a house where guests kept coming. It was like a public space for LGBTIs. We would be 15 people in that small living room sometimes and many did not want to appear in the film. Laços [1] would come and go. There was also a fourth person in the house who did not want to be in the film. We had major challenges when setting up the cameras. Filming outside was even more difficult. You can’t imagine how much we were cursed at. We had to combat many difficulties. We managed to overcome the technical problems during the edit.

The scene where Deniz visits her family is probably one of the most moving events in the film. What did you experience there? Were you affected by her family’s treatment of Deniz?

In that scene, Deniz talks about her mother’s death and says, “I started primary school and two days later, my mother died.” I was deeply affected by the way she spoke about such a tragic event, in a simple tone. I thought there must be so much pain accumulated in there that she forgot to rebel against such an unfortunate event. She lost her family when she was very young.

In that village, that house, she was raised by her older sister. She’s like an angel and maybe the remedy of such a calamity. She’s such a woman that she raised two generations by herself, a mother whose hands are to be kissed. The children there are the second generation. Deniz and the rest are the first. She probably fed 30 people that day. May God give her a long life, I’m sure she’ll raise the next generation as well. I’m also sure that she’d teach humanity to us all. Deniz is from that house, the uncle of the kids. How can we not be moved by how she treats Ece and Berfin? Especially when we are after trying to understand and explain the violence and hate people produce without knowing each other…

Maybe hate does not end in these lands but neither does humanity and it won’t die. When we look at the solidarity in the film, the doctors and nurses, we understand how holy love is. The phrase “hate is overcome by love” belongs to one of the characters in the film. It’s no coincidence that we focus on the positive.

What else would you like to add about the project, anything you think could have been better?

I would have liked to include Laços [1], gacıs [2] who have been their neighbors and friends, men who have been lubunya [3] friendly. We filmed them, but could not include because we could not acquire permission to do so. I could have included lubun vocabulary more perhaps. Also, in certain scenes, we could not overcome problems about sound. I wish it could have been better. Actually, there were two characters I wanted to include in the movie. Ömrüm ve Figen. Both of them rejected being main characters in the movie. After we finished filming, first Figen, then shortly after Ömrüm departed from this world. We could not have prevented Ömrüm’s departure perhaps but things could have been different for Figen. This remains as a blow to my heart. I doubt it will heal. I dedicate Gacı Gibi to them. I hope the movie will reach the audience and be appreciated. More importantly, I hope the movie, at the least, manages to beat out the transphobia that is responsible for the cruelty they are exposed to every second in their merciless life.

[1] Laço- Adult top, gay or straight, between the ages of 20 and 30
[2] Gacı- Woman.
*The literal translation of the title “Gacı Gibi” is  “Like Women.”
[3] Lubunya- Effeminate bottom

 

A neighborhood organization: Mahallede LGBTI (LGBTI in the hood)

Mahallede LGBTI, is a neighborhood* organization that works with apartment residents, neighborhood muhtars and shopkeepers for the LGBTIs to exist in their living spaces as they are. We talked about organizing in the neighborhood and Mahallede LGBTI’s activities with its representative Ada Ayşe İmamoğlu.

Source: “Bir mahalle örgütlenmesi: Mahallede LGBTİ” (“A neighborhood organization: Mahallede LGBTI (LGBTI in the hood),” Sivil Sayfalar, 31 Ocak 2017, http://www.sivilsayfalar.org/bir-mahalle-orgutlenmesi-mahallede-lgbti/

– What is the motivation behind Mahallede LGBTI?
Mahallede LGBTI started with the dream of building an LGBTI life in the neighborhood, of being a part of the local governance, of communicating with the LGBTI individuals who lead a life in their own corner of the neighborhoods. In fact, Mahallede LGBTI is a movement for visibility which is based on neighborhood organization. We face many difficulties in our living spaces on a daily basis. I have been a part of many stories of violence in my personal life. I have personally experienced this violence, based on the excuse of my outfit, based on my profile as a woman. But at some point you tell yourself, I will resist with my own way of being. Then your existence becomes political and you directly get involved in a struggle against the social norms.  You start daring to say “none of your business” when it comes to your weight, your clothes, your gestures and your lovers. A feminist friend of mine once wrote about this, for instance Zeliş was a symbol of courage for our lives. She wouldn’t wear a bra in her white shirt and walk around proudly in Taksim like that. Boysan would wear such beautiful costumes in pride walks that he would teach people how to be happy and brave as they are. As Ada I miss them, yes, but they also help me keep going. We are a big family, sometimes some of us get tired and others come to the fore, those who rest catch up later. This is how we came to bear our rainbow flags with endless confidence in Gezi. Our battle grows for all the friends we lost. Struggling against the social pressure against LGBTIs is one of our basic tasks. We particularly struggle against the social pressure in the neighborhoods that intrudes into our houses, our private spaces.

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Ada Ayşe İmamoğlu – Mahallede LGBTİ

– What are the activities that this visibility movement carry out?
Our gay friends have been going through cases of violence, like the youngsters of the neighborhood cornering them and harassing them, or house raids. In our times when the hate speech has become an instrument of the system, we have friends who committed suicide because of the social pressure or family violence, or hate murders. We had friends whose landlords came knocking at their door in the middle of the night, saying “this house should be empty in the morning”.  Precisely because of this, we are working on a legal aid pamphlet. This pamphlet will be a reference for the LGBTIs’ right to accommodation. We have also prepared “LGBTI Friendly Building”, “LGBTI Friendly Place” labels with the support from Sivil Düşün. We put these labels on places and buildings around Beşiktaş, Kadıköy and Taksim. We will continue our work to exist as who we are in our living spaces without any compromising our appearance or our preferences. We want to choose pilot neighborhoods and make apartment visits. We aim to create a foundation for communication, by bringing the apartment managers and LGBTIs together in these visits.

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– Mahallede LGBTI introduces a local organization model. With whom does this organization get in touch with?

We need to understand each other and talk; talk with each other, our neighbors, local shopkeepers and ourselves. The neighborhood organization includes a collaboration with many groups such as apartment residents, apartment managers**, muhtars***, shopkeepers and local governances.

–   What kind of a relationship exist currently between the LGBTI individuals and local governance? At what does the local governance structure you are modelling with local administrators and muhtars aim?
Thanks to the great efforts of SpoD, there have been mayors who signed LGBTI-friendly municipality protocol on last election round [in March 2014]. Şişli is incredibly active in this aspect. The biggest trouble for lesbians is ob-gyn examinations. Our dear Aligül, who we lost in the last few years, went through such processes that still affects us. For instance, we still have friends who are yet to take the smear test, there are many lesbian friends who went through traumatic experiences. Şişli Municipality has set up a special, free of charge ob-gyn expert for lesbian and bisexual women. Think about it, local governments are constantly improving themselves thanks to the homosexuals that participate in their administration.

My personal dream is to apply that to the muhtar offices. Many friends including me are getting ready for muhtar elections. The first stop for the Mahallede LGBTI project is becoming muhtars who are responsible for the street, the ‘hood, the neighbor, the park and even the dogs and cats that live in the neighborhood. There will be LGBTI muhtars and they will destroy the othering language that the system devised. I start off with the principle “let’s keep our yards clean first”, I believe that one day the whole country will be a flower garden. When we build a union upon not the fear of the different but upon understanding, authoritarianism would be smashed and on it a forest will grow.

– Among the latest outcomes of Mahallede LGBTI is a short film. What’s the story of this film?
We shot the film “Being an LGBTI in the hood” in one of my friends’, who I’ve known for a long time, houses. My friend and I decided to make a film, just when I was struggling with coming up with words to express myself. “Being an LGBTI in the hood” tells our tiny resistance which says “I have the guts to step out onto my balcony”.

– Where has the film been screened? What will come of it next?
Our four-minute film, which we shot with Sivil Düşün EU Programme’s support, was shown at the Pink Life Queer Fest on 12-19 January in Ankara and we received an incredible reaction. The film will greet the audience at Queer Fest Istanbul as well. After that, I aim to talk to more friends and shoot a feature film together, a film that will allow us to tell more of our problems.

–  You followed a diverse method by not showing the faces in the film. There are those that define this as queering the cinematic language. How do you explain your attitude?
We generally look at people’s physical appearance before knowing that person while we are talking with each other. I’d like to take a stand against that and want to produce ideas in contrast. Because you ought to wonder about, ask questions to and feel that person before being interested in his/her appearance. I wanted to tell the story with little details that things like the magnets on the fridge, instead of how that person looks like. We looked for what the alternative opposing the dominant narrative can be and we wanted you to be a part of the narrator’s story while he hosts you in his house.

–  Mahallede LGBTI is a visibility movement in its own, what does it say about the visibility of LGBTI in the media?
The stories of violence that LGBTI communities endure are not stressed as much as other news of violence. Yet when you highlight and distinguish women as “university student”, “working woman”, you feed the violence and approve it. We, as the Mahallede LGBTI crew, want to have the same impact in each news about women. It was very enlightening for me to participate in News Workshop with Women Focused Institutions together with women focused institutions and media platforms and to think about civil society media. It opened new paths of learning and gathering information, more importantly of asking questions. I started asking the right questions at the right time and receiving the right answers. One of the most important issues in our crew was the news of violence and archival searches. A group of people which are exposed to violence and discrimination the most, does not have a news archive! This workshop has given me the opportunity to tidy up this mess within ourselves and to present the news in a way that creates the most impact.

This interview was prepared and published within the scope of Civil Society Media Media Workshop with Women Focused Institutions, a collaboration between Sivil Sayfalar, Reçel Blog, Kadın Adayları Destekleme ve Eğitme Derneği (Support and Education for Female Candidates Association), Swedish Consulate General.

Translator’s Notes:
*Mahalle (neighborhood) is the smallest administrative unit in Turkish local governance, but it is also a semi-public social setting. Historically, mahalles have been defined by ethnic, religious and class homogeneity, and sometimes in cases of chain migration, mahalles have been made up of people from the same hometown. This homogeneity meant that primary relationships and fictive kinships dominate the mahalle space, people looking out for each other but also guarding the boundaries of said homogeneity. Although such homogeneity can not always be found anymore in the context of metropolitan cities, mahalles are still settings where being different can be a problem.
** Apartment managers are residents who are elected by the rest of the residents to manage the paperwork and maintenance related efforts. The manager is an unpaid post, but it is mandatory to have one, therefore it is an official title in local bureaucracy.
*** Muhtar is the elected administrator that is responsible for the neighborhood, also for the villages. They are often elder people who have been a long time resident, who is educated and knows most of the residents.

 

Volunteering to Secure LGBTQI+ Rights in Turkey and Beyond

In a social environment defined by the absence of equal rights, downright discrimination and repressive cultural norms, representation is all the more crucial for LGBTQI+ individuals. The LGBTQI+ movement is growing stronger in Turkey. From the academic production of knowledge to representation in political arena, from demanding an end to ethnic discrimination to calling for new laws regarding sex workers, the LGBTQI+ movement is indeed active in all aspects of daily life. Its strength lies in its power to revert stereotypical imagery back to its beholder, most particularly through methods of creative resistance. This is exactly why we, LGBTI News Turkey, come together as an active group of volunteers to translate news on LGBTQI+ life in Turkey into English.

eringobro-via-flickr-cc-by-nc-2-0-768x512While working for political representation in municipalities, at the National Assembly and all levels of governance, the LGBTQI+ movement mobilises its efforts to produce its own cultural representations and images against the discursive and symbolic violence, two aspects of heteronormativity and sexism ever so sinister and so deeply engraved in our lives.

eringobro-via-flickr-cc-by-nc-2-0-768x512As LGBTI News Turkey, we try our best to spread the word and put these images of self-construction into circulation, to help  the ceaseless work done by LGBTQI+ civil society organisations (CSOs) of Turkey. For LGBTQI+ CSOs, it takes a relentless effort to maintain continuity in the face of an increasingly authoritarian government, and legal controversies regarding the freedom of speech and right to assembly.  We believe that “increasing the visibility of LGBTQI+ individuals” is more than a catch phrase for CSO work: it is a matter of life and death for many of our fellow LGBTQI+ community members. It is about reclaiming the right to live as we are, without any compromise. It is about rejecting to remain in the margins of a life not worth living. As one of the popular protest chants says, “Get used to it, we’re not going anywhere!”

We support these efforts by translating and archiving sources on LGBTQI+ life and rights violations in Turkey. By doing so, we create the necessary resources for international CSOs and international human rights bodies to report on Turkey. Files on rights violations help us document and report these cases at the United Nations, Council of Europe, and elsewhere with LGBTQI+ CSOs.

We believe that such efforts must be heard in other parts of the world. Because the LGBTQI+ community stretches beyond national boundaries. Because our experience might teach others and inspire them to act. Because we can only grow if we share. Because we cannot expect others to write about our lives. Because, for most of us, each day is a struggle and by sharing in each others’ struggles we can be empowered.

LGBTQI+ movements in different countries have similar experiences and go through similar processes to what we are facing in Turkey. Therefore it is very important for us – and other activists across the globe – to follow each others’ experiences in order to weave a network of support and solidarity. We believe that our translation work contributes to building a stronger bond, and ensuring an open dialogue with activists abroad. There is indeed interest towards what is going on in Turkey with regards to the LGBTQI+ movement and our blog renders the news accessible, by focusing solely on LGBTQI+ related news and by producing accurate and updated content. In 2016, we had 15 thousand readers from USA visiting our blog, and this traffic was due to The Advocate referring to our translations. The fact that we have become a steady and reliable source of information keeps us motivated. We believe that being knowledgeable about the history of LGBTQI+ resistance in other countries as well as in Turkey, and following the current developments, are essential for building a strong and true LGBTQI+ media.

Aside from publishing news articles on our blog, we give translation support for the annual Istanbul Pride Walk and related workshops, events and any written material. International visibility is vital in these organisations, especially at times of protest bans, police violence, and prosecution. As the mainstream media turns a blind eye to LGBTQI+ related events, if not openly showing them as targets, LGBTQI+ media outlets have an enormous workload on their shoulders and it is our responsibility to help in any way we can. As members of the rainbow nation, the task to strengthen global solidarity falls on our shoulders, and opening new channels of communication through translation is the least we can do.

Zeynep Serinkaya is an academic and volunteer at LGBTI News Turkey. This post was written for Disrupt & Innovate, a project by the International Civil Society Centre.

LGBTI activists meet for equality in municipalities

LGBTI activists from six cities met within the scope of SPoD’s Municipal Equality Index project, and discussed LGBTI politics in local administration.

Source: Umut Güven, “LGBTİ aktivistleri belediyelerde eşitlik için buluştu,” kaosGL.org, 23 January 2017, http://www.kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=22885

The activist stakeholders’ meeting within the scope of SPoD’s Municipal Equality Index project took place on Jan. 21 in Istanbul.

LGBTI organizations from six different cities met to discuss current municipal policies and goals.

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Aim: Create visibility for municipal work

The project aims to make visible the work of LGBTI-friendly municipalities through the index, and encourage municipalities to be LGBTI-friendly in the long term. The advisory committee for the project met in December 2016.

The meeting began with a presentation by SPoD’s Academic Coordinator Neyir Zerey on the NGO’s activities in political representation and LGBTIs’ demands in Turkey.

The meeting continued with activists sharing experiences on relations with local administrations and the project they’d like establish.

Open Society Foundation’s Program Coordinator Didem Tekeli said the foundation is open to applications on realizing such local projects and may offer grants.

“Education within municipalities is a must”

The meeting ended with a discussion on index criteria for the project.

Besiktas Municipality Assembly Member Sedef Çakmak emphasized the importance of education within the municipal institution and said:

“Some municipalities may be hesitant to work on the LGBTI field. It would be incorrect to label this hesitancy as homophobia or transphobia. In order to combat this attitude that is rooted in a lack of information, education within the municipal institution is crucial.”

SPoD activists met with municipality employees the following day.