LGBTI Activism

LGBTI rights movement in Turkey

Kemal Ordek on Bianet: “I’ve been trying to prove that I was raped for 2 years and 7 court hearings”

Kemal Ordek on rape, law and activism nearly two years after being assaulted in their home. The interview with Bianet was published a day before the court ruled on the case of sexual assault. Ordek claimed that one of the assailants in the attack on their home had also raped them. On May 24, the court ruled that there was no sexual assault. All three defendants were sentenced to 7 years and 6 months in prison for attempting to plunder.

Source: Çicek Tahaoglu, “Tam 2 Senedir, 7 Duruşmadır Tecavüze Uğradığımı Kanıtlamaya Çalışıyorum,” bianet, 23 May 2017, http://m.bianet.org/bianet/lgbti/186721-tam-2-senedir-7-durusmadir-tecavuze-ugradigimi-kanitlamaya-calisiyorum

The final verdict will be given on the president of Red Umbrella Association, Kemal Ordek’s case, on May 24.

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Kemal Ordek, a sex worker, a defender of sex workers’ rights for many years, was attacked at home by three people in 2015. One of the attackers seized Ordek’s mobile phone, also sexually abused them. Then they took Ordek to an ATM to take money from his account. Ordek saw a police patrol car at that moment, and managed to escape from the attackers.

Three days later, when we talked to Ordek, they were explaining in fear and anger how the attackers threatened him at the police station by saying, “We know where you live, we will be released anyway, think about it,” and what kind of dialogues were between police officers and attackers, “Don’t waste us for this poof, we understand each other right, my brother?”

That night, the attackers were released. They continued to disturb Ordek via phone for a while. And a nonsuit motion was granted for police officers who tried to argue Ordek out of their criminal complaint and were making Ordek wait and sit with the attackers in the same car and saying “the people of lut are still alive”.

Ordek, as an experienced human rights defender, pursued the violation that they were subject to at this time. Lawsuits were brought against three attackers, two of them were charged with robbery, threatening, and limiting a person’s freedom, the third was charged additionally with major sexual assault, and they were arrested.

Following the decision of the local court, prosecutor Turkay Turkler appealed the sexual assault verdict with the allegations of non-existence of “an evidence above suspicion, complete, certain and credible”.

On May 24 at 14.00, the trial will resume in Ankara for a summary judgment. Before the trial, we met Ordek and discussed the court’s approach to the sexual assaults, the consent issue and the vague borders of “activist Kemal and victim Kemal.”

“There wasn’t a discussion on consent, it was very important that the penalty was imposed according to the testimony”

Your lawyers described the fact that one of the attackers was punished for sexual assault as “leading case.” Could you explain the reason?

This was a leading case because it reflected the things we wanted to say as activists. In the legal struggle following the things I experienced, the concept of consent wasn’t questioned at court, and verdict was given according to the testimony. The court committee said “there is a sexual assault, it is a major sexual assault, there is a limitation on a person’s freedom, and there are crimes like threatening and insulting,” in consensus and approved a punishment that wasn’t requested, or predicted by the prosecutor.

From these points, it’s a leading case, but it ignored the robbery, which was lacking. Also, they didn’t issue an arrest warrant until the last hearing.

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Istanbul LGBTI+ Pride Week Committee sues leader of far-right group for targeting Pride 2016

 

THIS IS OUR CALL!

On the eve of LGBTI+ and Trans Pride Marches in Istanbul on 2016, Alperen Hearths Istanbul Chair Kürşat Mican organized a press meeting and declared us to be “immoral,” threatening the marches. Mican’s statement that “We will never, ever allow such Immorality, like this march that is called “honor” but really it is immoral, that touch the nation’s nerves, to be normalized or encouraged” is deliberate hate speech directed against LGBTI+s’ struggle for honorable life and it can not be accepted. As LGBTI+s we are taking him to court!

As a result of our criminal complaint against him, Kürşat Mican will be tried on the charge of “inciting the public to hatred and animosity.” The first hearing is on Thursday, May 18, 13:30 at Kartal Courthouse 44. Court of First Instance. We are expecting all our friends to support our case at Kartal Courthouse on May 18, 13:30.

We will initiate a social media campaign with the hashtag #alışındavacıyız (#getusedtoitwesue) on May 16, 21:00, to make our voices heard and to stand by our Pride Week and our case.

We will be plaintiffs for all the injustice, pressure, and hate speech against us!

Get used to it, we are here, #alışındavacıyız!

Cumhuriyet: “Turkey’s first trans actress Ayta Sözeri: Because I fell in love”

“Love people, time is very precious” said trans actress Ayta Sözeri, who first shared that she was trapped in the wrong body with her mother.

44412Source: Zehra Özdilek, “Türkiye’nin ilk trans oyuncusu Ayta Sözeri: Çünkü âşık olmuştum,” Cumhuriyet, 2 May 2017.

Ayta Sözeri (40), is Turkey’s first trans actress. She is a concerted human rights activist. She is a singer we’ve seen on stage for a long time. We talked about life, acting, and upcoming projects with Sözeri, an actress who impressed screen directors with her roles in TV dramas such as Ulan Istanbul, Lost City, and Shattered.

-Tell us about yourself.

I was born in Germany, and moved to Izmir with my family when I was 6. I am a graduate of Ege University’s Business Administration department. My educational life took place entirely in Izmir. There are four of us siblings. I always wanted to be a singer. I became both a singer and an actress.

-Do you have memories that stand out from your childhood?

When I was a child, I would be happy whenever spring came around. I don’t know if children today play, but we would play in the neighborhood until 12 at night. There were some games I did not know how to play. For example, when we first moved from Germany I did not know how to play hide and seek. I can also never forget the Sunday breakfasts we had as a family.

Sensing is always the same…

-When did you realize you were trapped in the wrong body?

However old you were when you noticed that you belonged in your body, that is when I realized I did not. I think that everyone can ask themselves this question. When was it that you realized that you were heterosexual, when you liked your body, when did you notice these things, that’s when I also realized them. I did so right around the age when everyone starts noticing these things…

-How did you tell your family?

This has a bit to do with courage, you say it however you choose to say it. Of course, there are people who have not been able to say these things. I also had moments when I thought “how can I say it,” but it comes to you and you say it. My breaking point was love. I was in love with someone and did not know what to do about it, so I felt the need to tell someone. So I told my mother.

Inside the art…

-Starting acting…

I actually was not interested in acting, but I realized in middle school that I was not going to be a singer, and because I still wanted to be in the art world, I decided to pursue acting. I told myself, at least I’ll act in city theater or school theater. Of course, when it became obvious that I had a good voice and could sing, acting went on the backburner. Until then, I’d been in a number of plays. I acted at the Levent Kırca Theater, for what seems like years of training to me. Mustafa Şevki Doğan said he wanted to have me act when he heard me singing, while I was singing he said “you’ll act.” I acted in
Life Bonds and they told me “definitely do not leave acting”…

-Which character is most difficult to for you to bring to life when acting?

In the film
Surrender, acting the part of a transexual sex worker was difficult for me. Because it’s an area that I really do not know.

 

The mental map has changed

-Have there been moments when you’ve fallen into despair?

Yes, there have been. I fought for 12, 13 years. I acted in small roles. At the point when I said nothing will happen for me,
Lost City happened. Much like the mental shifts that happened in the way people think about LGBTI people in Lost City, many things have changed in my life as well.

Our lives are in danger

-Each year attempts are made to hinder the Pride Parade. Why are they trying to block this?

They say you can not do this walk due to security concerns. They accept that we live in a country where our safety is not guaranteed. For us LGBTIQs, we are not in a safe country, our lives are in danger. Given that they know this, instead of obstructing the march, why don’t they help protect our rights and bring about laws that will give us positive discrimination. I want to say to them that even with the excuses that they hold onto, they know how much danger we are in yet they are doing nothing.

By loving, it will change

– Are there new projects on the horizon?

There are, we’ll be together again for this new season. I’ll be a guest star on Mustafa Şevki Doğan’s new drama. I am with the director who discovered me. I’ll be playing a woman whose heart is full of goodness.


– What is your message to those who read these words?

I have one message: love people, time is very precious. Be assured that everything changes with love.

The 25th Istanbul LGBTI+ Pride Week Wants Your Support

Istanbul LGBTI+ Pride Week, first organized under the name of “Sexual Freedom Week,” is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. You can support the week, which is organized by a group of volunteers each year, both financially and by sending your event suggestions.

Istanbul LGBTI+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Intersex, Plus) Pride Week will take place between 19-25 June 2017.

In 1993, “Sexual Freedom Week” was banned by the governor’s office, the week’s events and the Pride March were not allowed, activists were detained, and international guests were deported. In the following years, Pride Week faced other prohibitions but continued to host events. Despite the bans, the movement’s demands and the social support it received grew and the first Istanbul Pride March took place in 2003, exactly 10 years after the start of Pride Week. The first march had 20-30 people and this has multiplied every year. In 2013, an estimated 100,000 people joined the march on Istiklal Avenue. In 2015 and 2016, Pride Marches were, unexpectedly, prevented by police. But the LGBTI+ movement, prepared to keep up its struggle, “dispersed” across Istiklal Avenue and throughout Istanbul for the 14th Pride March.

This year, LGBTI+ people and opponents of homophobia/biphobia/transphobia will celebrate the 25th year of being together, visibility of LGBTI+ people, and the continued struggle for rights. They will tell the story of growing from 30 people to tens of thousands, they will listen, and they will rewrite.

If you would like to support Pride Week…

This year’s Pride Week volunteer organizers are calling for everyone to rally in support of Pride Week! As in the past, Pride Week expenses are largely covered by the fundraising efforts of our supporters. Those who can provide financial support to help make Pride Week a success, please donate by visiting the Istanbul Pride Week fundraising campaign on Indiegogo.

Open call for artists to exhibit during Pride Week…

The Pride Week exhibition “Nerdeen Nereye,” which holds the belief that the personal is political, and the political is personal, will take place during the 25th Annual Istanbul LGBTI+ Pride Week and is calling for artwork from all fields that fit within the theme of “Geography,” both in terms of bodies and lands. Artists who would like to have their work included in the exhibition, taking place at GalleriBu from June 17th – July 8th, should send all inquiries and applications to nerdeennereye@gmail.com by May 31st.

Pride Week organization meetings continue…

Responding to the call every year, Pride Week organizers are made up of an independent group of volunteers. This body takes decisions jointly, and operates within an anti-hierarchical and anti-violence solidarity model. Those who would like to support Pride Week programming, including panels, forums, workshops, plays, film screenings etc., are invited to send in their proposals to istanbulpride@gmail.com by May 14th. For those who wish to join Pride Week as a volunteer, Pride Week meetings are held every Wednesday in Taksim.

What will happen during the Istanbul LGBTI+ Pride Week?

Each year the week is organized around a central theme — previously including Attention Family!, Taboo, Memory, Resistance, Interaction, Normal and last year We are organizing! The events are free of charge and open to all. This year in forums, panels, plays, and movies, we will discuss topics in the LGBTI+ agenda like health, visibility, and constitutional rights, and we will also discuss alternative ways to weave political togetherness amid the state of emergency and increasing pressures.

If you believe “if you’re not here, we’re one too few!” make your donation to support the Istanbul Pride Week at the link below.

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/2017-istanbul-lgbti-pride-week-lgbt#/

For Interviews and Special News Requests: Emre Demir 0 (543) 595 36 70 / istanbulpride@gmail.com

http://tr.prideistanbul.org

Editor’s Note: The Istanbul LGBTI+ Pride Week Commission added the “+” last year stating that “we are aiming to socialize the consciousness that all combinations of the rainbow exist and that one cannot assign an identity to anyone by looking at them from the outside.”

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”.