LGBTI Employment

Employment issues for LGBTI in Turkey

Fear of losing job prevents reporting discrimination

According to the report titled “LGBTI+ Individuals Employed in the Private Sector”; LGBTI+ employees can’t access their rights against discrimination because they fear they may lose their jobs and face new problems if they reveal their gender identity.

Source: “Fear of losing job prevents reporting discrimination(“İşini kaybetme korkusu ayrımcılığı bildirmeyi engelliyor”), Yıldız Tar, kaosgl.org, April 20, 2018, http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=25639

A recently published report by Kaos GL focuses on “the situation of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Individuals employed in the private sector in 2017”.

This report reveals that only 17% of the LGBTI+ employees are completely ‘out’ and 65% of them had to either deal with discrimination in the workplace or had to hide their identity. In addition to statistical figures, the LGBTI+ employees’ stories and testimonies are also included in the report. These explanations unveil what they have experienced in the private sector.

The participants were asked questions like: “Did you inform the union or the judicial authorities about the discriminatory incidents you’ve been exposed to? How did the process go/develop? If you didn’t, why?”

According to the survey, the authorities were not notified of any incident involving direct or indirect discrimination, a potential discriminatory environment or the need for supportive intervention.

“Fear of losing jobs and the possibility of having to pay a higher cost prevent reporting discrimination.”

In the survey, the situation is explained like this:

“Generally speaking, the attitude represented by our participants against discrimination at the workplace is consistent with the results of our last year’s survey. LGBTI+ employees can’t seek their rights against discrimination because they may lose their jobs, there is the possibility of having to pay a higher cost, fear of revealing their gender identity, the difficulties they may face out of work and other similar reasons. A significant finding is the lack of belief in protecting institutions regarding the protection of their rights against discrimination for LGBTI+ employees. The reason behind this can be the inadequacy in either institutional or legal approaches. For many LGBTI+ employees struggling with discrimination in the workplace may result in severe discrimination or in some situations for them to experience anxiety outside of the workplace and means that many remain silent.

The stories: I didn’t apply, because…

The testimonies in this research reveal the difficulties LGBTI+ employees experience when reporting a discriminative act:

“I made a report to the company’s management. I continued being exposed to transphobia; but unfortunately, I chose to keep quiet because I was afraid I’d lose my job.” (a heterosexual trans man working as an expert in the construction/architecture sector)

“I think it’s pointless to report such incident because we are working for the bosses in the union that I’m affiliated with.” (a gay man working as a worker in the food industry)

“No, in such situation my family would find out too.” (a gay man working as service staff in the entertainment industry)

“I didn’t apply because I don’t believe I can get a result out of it and the law of this country is not equal for everybody.” (a bisexual man working as service staff in the retail sector)

Having to hide oneself is discrimination too

Here are some examples of the responses of the participants who declared that in order not be exposed to discrimination they had to hide their gender identity:

“Should we report or continue hiding? Even if the authorities were informed, it is not hard to guess how painful the procedure would be and how one would be dragged into disappointment.” (a bisexual woman working as a specialist in the health sector)

“I didn’t inform the judicial authorities because I thought I didn’t have enough information and that the result wouldn’t be positive.” (a gay man working as a middle-level manager in an NGO)

“Even if I face it, I don’t think I can find a solution.” (a lesbian woman working as an assistant specialist in banking/finance sector)

The research for 2018 has started.

Work on the questionnaire for 2018’s report has started. This year the study is being conducted together with the Centre for Gender and Women’s Research at Kadir Has University.

This questionnaire consists of 24 questions and promises confidentiality for LGBTI+ employees. This questionnaire does not ask for a name or the company’s name and provides a better understanding of the specific priorities and needs of LGBTI+ employees and companies which take up the cause for gender mainstreaming.

After this information is analysed, an evaluation report will be prepared by comparing it with similar examples in the USA and Germany.

The comparative report will create information on awareness raising and capacity building activities for the private sector and civil society. The report will also provide encourage the development of employment gender equality policies for LGBTI+ employees.

Constitutional Court Deputy Chair’s final remarks on the verdict of a gay soldier: “It is neither the state’s business nor anyone else’s.”

The Constitutional Court’s verdict found the Martial Penal Code’s ruling of expulsion from the Armed Forces for soldiers having homosexual relations to be in compliance with the Constitution. Constitutional Court Deputy Chair Yıldırım in his disagreement to the ruling attached a comment suggesting that this does not concern anyone: “Are these people less valuable or less dignified than others due to their sexual orientations?”

Source: “Constitutional Court Deputy Chair’s final remarks on the verdict of a gay soldier: ‘It is neither the state’s business nor anyone else’s.’ “ (“AYM Başkanvekili’nden eşcinsel asker kararına şerh: Ne devleti ne de başkalarını ilgilendirir”) , Sputnik, February 20, 2018, http://tr.sputniknews.com/amp/turkiye/201802201032328510-aym-escinsel-asker-serh-/

The detailed ruling of the Constitutional Court (AYM) on the issue was published in the Official Court Gazette. According to the ruling, a public action was filed against a soldier due to his homosexual orientation, with the allegation of ‘engaging in unnatural intimacy’. The Chamber of the 1. Military Supreme Court ruled in favour of the Martial Penal Code’s rule which states: “Soldiers engaging in unnatural intimacy with someone are subject to the sentence of expulsion from Turkish Armed Forces and soldiers are to be stripped of their rank” is against the Constitution and applied to Constitutional Court for the cancellation of the law.

‘ EXPULSION FROM TURKISH ARMED FORCES DOES NOT ACCORD WITH THE SENSE OF JUSTICE’
Deputy Chair Yıldırım’s objection to the verdict, stated that it does not accord with a sense of justice to sentence soldiers who engage in ‘unnatural sexual behaviour’ with expulsion from Turkish Armed Forces, without concrete justifications of these behaviours leading to disruption of the discipline or dishonoring the dignity of the armed forces.

‘DISPROPORTIONATE INTERVENTION IN THE DEMAND FOR RESPECT FOR PRIVACY’

Yıldırım further stressed that the expulsion of someone from their profession based on their sexual activities constitutes a disproportionate intervention in their right to demand respect of privacy. The text also states that it was against the principle of equality to sentence soldiers to expulsion for engaging in actions considered ‘unnatural intimacy’. It was pointed out that people employed in security directorates, the justice system or religious services are not subject to such heavy sentences.

The constitutional Court has carried out the principal examination of the application, rejecting the demand for cancellation of the regulation in question.

‘THE CONSTITUTION CAN LIMIT THE PRIVATE LIFE ON CERTAIN CIRCUMSTANCES’

The justification of the constitutional court ruling stated that although everyone has right to demand respect for personal and family life according to the Constitution, however there can be limitations to the protection of private life in certain circumstances and that this right is not considered to be absolute.

The text also suggested that fundamental rights and liberties can only be limited by law and based on the circumstances envisioned only by the constitution without infringing on their essences, and that these limitations can not be in discordance with the principle of proportionality and prerequisites for a democratic social order.

‘ IT IS NOT ACCEPTABLE IN ALL SOCIETIES’

The ruling explained that the regulation in question prohibited ‘engagement in unnatural intimacies’. The clause ‘engaging in unnatural intimacies’ being defined as ‘demonstrating unnatural sexual behaviour’ and suggested: “Such sexual behaviours can emerge in a myriad of ways and can be different from person to person or from society to society. As indicated on the Constitutional Court’s verdict dated April 1, 2015, said behaviours are sexual behaviours which have negative impacts on the moral standards of the society and can not be considered natural in all social orders”.

‘TO PROTECT THE DIGNITY AND HONOUR OF THE PROFESSION’
Yet it was also suggested that the principal objective of the penal sanction stipulated on the Martial Penal Code is to protect and to maintain the military discipline, that the sanctions on the soldiers aims to sustain the public order and productive and active work, to establish discipline and to protect the dignity and honour of the profession.

ANNOTATION BY DEPUTY CHAIR: REFERENCE TO ECHR

Constitutional Court Deputy Chair Engin Yıldırım, did not agree with the majority’s view. The Deputy Chair referred to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) verdicts and recommendations as well as international conventions regarding the struggle against gender based discrimination in his opposing vote note.

‘VERDICT CONTRADICTS WITH CONTEMPORARY DEVELOPMENTS’

Yıldırım emphasized that up until recently societies considered sexual relations among same sex individuals to be unnatural sexual behaviours, defined these acts as ‘disease’ or ‘perversion’, subjecting them to penal sanctions and wrote “As the understanding of human rights and social approaches improved, this [view] started to change. The evaluation of homosexual relationships as ‘unnatural intimacies’ contradicts with the contemporary developments in human rights”.

CONCRETE EXAMPLES SHOULD BE GIVEN

Yıldırım stressed that the ECHR came to the conclusion that expulsion from the army solely based on homosexuality or homosexual relations is against the European Convention of Human Rights. Yıldırım also stated that if it is alleged that the employment of homosexuals in armed forces is a risk to military discipline and operational activity then the premises for such suggestion should be put forward with concrete examples.

‘STEREOTYPES and PREJUDICES…’

Yıldırım based his rejection on the below reflections:
“The subjection of the soldier to expulsion from the Turkish Armed Forces due to the regulation in question, is not based on professional inadequacy or a related cause but is based on the person’s behaviours or preferences related to the person’s private life. This, excluding extremely exceptional circumstances, is neither the state’s nor anyone else’s concern. In a democratic system the majority should not ignore the fundamental rights and liberties of LGBTI individuals who are deemed a sexual minority. The regulation in question ignores the dignity of the soldiers with different sexual orientation, in the name of protecting the dignity of the military profession. The regulation in question reflects the stereotypes and deep prejudices regarding the LGBTI individuals which have been calcified in social life systematically throughout the history, resulting in the reproduction of said prejudices. People are valuable solely because they are humans and human dignity is a birthright, it makes the people worthy of respect, of value and of irrevocable rights based on their humanity. Are these people less valuable, less dignified because of their sexual orientations? “

Bianet: Fifth hearing of “Mobbing in GAP” case: “I have homosexual friends too”

Attorney for GAP, on trial for its practice of mobbing against a homosexual employee, claimed that Istanbul LGBTI was trying to build its reputation through the case. The association stated “We will not let our spaces of work be destroyed, they are already limited to begin with”.

Source: Çiçek Tahaoğlu, “GAP’te Mobbing Davasında 5. Celse: ‘Benim de Eşcinsel Arkadaşlarım Var”, bianet, November 9, 2017, http://bianet.org/bianet/lgbti/191391-gap-te-mobbing-davasinda-5-celse-benim-de-escinsel-arkadaslarim-var

U.S.-based textile company GAP’s Turkey branch is on trial for practising mobbing against a homosexual employee. The fifth hearing took place today at Istanbul Ninth Labour Court today (Nov. 9).

A homosexual man, store manager who had been working in the Kanyon Mall branch of GAP for nearly ten years, resigned in early 2015 when he had started to experience mobbing after the regional manager M.A’s arrival.

The gay employee says that someone had filed a complaint with the ethics department of the company based on his sexual orientation and that he was warned during meetings with phrases such as “Are you a man?”, “Be a man”. The employee later sued the firm for mobbing with the help of Istanbul LGBTI Association.

At the hearing GAP’s attorney claimed that Istanbul LGBTI filed a lawsuit against the global company in order to make a name for itself. On the minutes of the hearing, Istanbul LGBTI was stated as a “sexual LGBT association.”

Istanbul LGBTI’s Chair Kıvılcım Arat told bianet “We regard this case not as a mobbing lawsuit filed by an individual, but an exemplary case in which we defend everyone who has been discriminated against based on their sexual orientation and identity. We will not let our spaces of work be destroyed, they are already limited to begin with.”

Complaint against homosexuality with the company’s ethics department

At the second hearing today, a witness for the plaintiff and another for GAP were heard. The witness for the plaintiff stated that he is homosexual as well and that he witnessed the gossip about the plaintiff, suggesting that both himself and the plaintiff were subject to mobbing due to their homosexuality. The witness also stated that there was a rumor about himself and the plaintiff staying in a hotel in Bartın together and that one employee sent an e-mail to the company’s ethics department [based] on this rumor.

The witness for GAP, the regional manager M.A, said that there was no discrimination at the company “based on religion, language or race”, that he had not witnessed any cases of mobbing against the plaintiff and that this person left his job of his own will.

GAP’s attorney also claimed that the report written by the Council of Forensic Medicine which states that the plaintiff was psychologically affected by the mobbing is not scientific.

The next hearing where other witnesses will be heard will be on February 28, at 11:50.

Istanbul LGBTI: We will not be “men”, we will be humans!

In its statement on the case, Istanbul LGBTI underlined the fact that the GAP company is known for its global social responsibility campaigns against homophobia and gender discrimination, stating “Every barrier you build against our right to work strengthens our determination for struggle and our spaces of solidarity! We will not be “men”, we will be humans! And we will take you out of the darkness created by manhood into the light of being human!”.

The association’s chair, Arat, emphasized the lack of awareness about mobbing in the Turkish judiciary and said:

“This case has been continuing for the last three years and in each hearing GAP finds an excuse and pushes for postponement. GAP’s headquarters in the USA does not make any explanation about the mobbing against the employees in Turkey and about the fact that the forensic report proved the practice.

“What we have seen is that GAP’s policies for the USA and Europe are highly different than that of the Middle East. We had a brief talk with GAP’s attorney after the hearing. They said that they have homosexual friends too. So I said I have heterosexual friends too.

“When I think of the current state of the justice system in Turkey, I can’t really predict the outcome of the trial. We sued Alperen Hearths and Muslim Anatolia Youth under the state of emergency circumstances and it was the first ever case of ‘inciting the public to hatred and rage’ against the fascists -an article which is generally used against the oppositional voices. We will also be following this trial.”

KaosGL: The rumour that he was “spreading homosexuality” and the expulsion that followed

Assist. Prof. Çağlar Deniz told KaosGL.org the process that prepared the ground for his expulsion via delegated legislation: “Two academicians who built sentences like ‘I heard you went to a gay bar’, ‘He is spreading homosexuality’, or ‘He is propagating against national and sentimental values with his qualification as a theologian’ about me”

khk.jpg

Source: Yıldız Tar, “‘Eşcinselliği yayıyor’ dedikodusu ve ardından gelen ihraç” KaosGL, July 19, 2017 http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=24233

Assist. Prof. Caglar Deniz from the Department of Sociology, Usak University, who is among the academicians who have been expelled via the latest delegated legislation, has told KaosGL.org the process that led to expulsion.

“Even my gender class has been made an issue of investigation”

Graduated from Imam Hatip High School ( religious vocational high school) and Theology, Deniz, who is a member of the Education and Science Workers’ Union, has a PhD in Sociology. Lecturing also on gender, Deniz stated that he had been a victim of mobbing in 2017 at the university:

“I find it unnecessary to say that I have earned a full hundred points at the academic initiative application despite all of the mobbings by the university administration in the year 2017. Even the concept of ‘phallic structure’ that I discussed in the gender class has been made an issue of investigation.”

“After my post on being expelled via the delegated legislation, I received calls and messages of consolation from very different social groups ranging from supporters of People’s Democratic Party, of Justice and Development Party, to Romanis and Kurds, to the religious and the agnostic.”

“My only difference from all the other tens of thousands of delegated legislation victims is my finding out about the content of the FETO (Fethullah Gulen Terrorist Organization) investigation, gotten prepared by the president of Usak University who is under arrest since December 2016 with the charge of being a member of FETO, my making an allegation about the incident, suing for damages, and demanding an investigation from the Council of Higher Education (YOK) via the Prime Ministry Communication Centre.

“People I asked to be heard in may favour have not been heard”

Deniz explained the content of the file he ‘submitted to justice’ as follows:

“According to the file I submitted to justice as well, I pointed out that I could not belong to any religious cult or community. People I asked to be heard in may favour have not been heard. According to the file that the president of the university who is under arrest has caused to be disclosed, they asked about me to 4 faculty members at the university where I worked for 6 years. One professor said they could not testify because they did not know me enough, while another said that as far as they knew me, they did not know anything about my relationship with organizations such FETO or KCK (Kurdistan Communities Union.”

“He went to a gay bar”, “He is trying to spread homosexuality”…

Deniz shared the testimonies of two people who worked with him only for a year, and who have been lately hired by the president of the university who is under arrest. Deniz narrated the testimony of an assistant professor about him as follows:

“They are saying that I haven’t invited them to a cult or community meeting, that they don’t know me, that we’ve only had tea twice, that they heard that I’ve been to a gay bar. They don’t specify from whom they’ve heard it. They are arguing that the opinion I have formed in them is that I could be a member of KCK, or that I may have formed a relationship with FETO based on self-interest.”

Deniz stated that another associate professor has testified as follows about him: “He says things that are not in line with the official discourse about the Armenian deportation, he propagates against national and sentimental values with his qualification as a theologian, he is trying to spread homosexuality, and he discriminated in favour of two female students as the Erasmus coordinator.” Deniz also added:

“It has not been specified where and when these have been said and what happened. They have not explained how I propagated against national and sentimental values with my qualification as a theologian. I am guessing that with ‘he is trying to spread homosexuality’, they are referring to something in relation to my gender class. In the allegation that I discriminated as the Erasmus coordinator, there is no mention of who these students are, or how I discriminated in favour of them.”

“Investigation with allegations that do not go beyond rumour”

Deniz continued his answers to these allegations as follows:

“It is considered a shame for a sociology sophomore to state these allegations, let alone an associate professor in sociology. Because sociology is neither the parrot of the hegemon, nor is it the missionary of any belief, and it also knows that a sexual orientation cannot be spread. Sociology is farthest from hetero-mascist discourse the most. They are clearly defaming not only me, but also my students who go to intership mobility abroad by passing the necessary exams, and by completing relevant procedures. Unfortunately these two people, whose rumours against me have been accepted as testimonies by the university’s investigation commission, will be lecturing the students at the Department of Sociology at Usak University.

“With these two ridiculous testimonies that do not go beyond rumours and that do not include even a tiny bit of information as to whether or not I am terrorist (!), I had been made a mid-level suspect from a low-level suspect by the FETO investigation commission at the university.”

“The president of the university who would later be arrested with the charge of being a member of FETO had hurriedly sent this file to the file of another investigation about me. I had been aware of the process when I went to YOK to get the files.”

“They are getting involved in the investigation by using their posts”

“Students who would testify in my favour are being intimidated by the Head of the Department of Sociology at Usak University in person, by giving the name of the deputy president of the university. Students who are being threatened with their courses, grades, and futures are trying to be scared to even voice this situation. It is against the natural course of life for the deputy president of the university to not know about this incident. These people are getting involved in ongoing investigation processes by using their posts. What needs to be done is obvious in a normal system. They should be relieved of duty for the safety of the investigation.”

“Some people are terribly deceiving others”

Deniz stated that he will press charges against the people who ‘gossiped’ about him and also said that,

“In a process where I feel like Dreyfus, which is explained by Arendt with the theory of ‘banality of evil’, I thank all my family, students, and friends who have supported me in overcoming the injustices, who have stood by the truth despite being threatened, and who have lent me a hand for truth and justice to get back on its feet.

I believe that some people are terribly deceiving others right now, please no one get angry, I know it from the decision given about me.”

SPoD LGBTI publishes Trans Women’s “Alternative” Work Experiences in Turkey

Trans Women’s “Alternative” Work Experiences in Turkey is a research project was conducted between October 2015-September 2016 by Social Policies Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation Studies Association, and funded by ILGA Europe. Qualitative methods were adapted for this research and 15 in-depth interviews were made with trans women who have different job experiences.

Source: SPoD LGBTI, “Trans Women’s “Alternative” Work Experiences in Turkey”, http://www.transkadinlarinistihdami.org/en/

In this project, informants’ education background, employment processes, problems at the workplace, transitioning and military service status were focused to explain their ways to exist in the working life, individual strategies, socio-economic factors and relations with LGBTI movement.

Explore the project at http://www.transkadinlarinistihdami.org/en/

INTERVIEWS/ NARRATIVES

#1“My last dismissal case was as my boss stated, ‘I have nothing to say about your practice but I couldn’t resist to the pressure coming from around. You always have complaints. Unfortunately they are about your existence.’” (Ece, 41, Dentist)

BEING FIRED, DISCRIMINATION

#2“My education, I am a high school graduate. Well, in fact my trans identity precluded me from many things that I wanted to do at the condition of Turkey.” (Neriman, 34, Barmaid/Manager)

EDUCATION, PROFESSION

#3“I came here after I finished my studies. Because it was too hard to find a job in Balıkesir. While even the ordinary people or the ordinary women have difficulties to find job, it was even harder for a trans woman who did not start life with a silver spoon in their mouth.” (Peyker, 22, Sex Worker)

DISCRIMINATION, JOB APPLICATION

#4“If you don’t want to do sex work, the family is a huge factor. This is the only thing that I want to add… I mean, for example I realized that I didn’t do sex work just to be accepted by my family and my neighbors. My moralistic attitude, even that I declare myself as a socialist feminist I come from a feudal family. I don’t think some things will be possible until we destroy this feudality and the force inside of us. If it will be possible, there should be the support of the family.” (Peyker, 22, Sex Worker)

ACCEPTANCE, FAMILY, HONOUR, SEX WORK

(more…)

Auntie İhsan: A Trans Solidarity Story from France to Kayışlar Village

Ali İhsan Çolak is a  48-year-old transwoman who has been living in Akhisar’s Kayışlar Village for the last 13 years. She has established her trans identity amongst villagers, and long struggled to live openly.

Source: Sultan Eylem Keleş, “İhsan Hala: Fransa’dan Kayışlar Köyüne Bir Trans Dayanışma Hikayesi,” (“Auntie İhsan: A Story of Trans Solidarity from France to Kayışlar Village,”) Bianet, 6 February 2016, http://bianet.org/biamag/lgbti/171847-ihsan-hala-fransa-dan-kayislar-koyune-bir-trans-dayanisma-hikayesi

We are in Kayışlar Village in Manisa [a city in the Aegean Region, Turkey — Trans.], Akhisar district. We enter a green single family house through a massive yard. On our left is a sheep dog, who startles us a little at first. Then, we learn from Auntie İhsan that the dog is “Kontes” [Countess — Trans.], “she is a girl just like I am, that is why she is called Kontes,” İhsan adds, giggling. Behind this house is a 25-chicken flock: Auntie İhsan makes her living selling eggs.

Ali İhsan Çolak is a  48-year-old trans woman who has been living in Akhisar’s Kayışlar Village for the last 13 years.She has established her trans identity amongst villagers, and long struggled to live openly. At first, the villagers called her “Sister İhsan,” then “Auntie İhsan,” how they refer to her still.

Auntie İhsan welcomes us with all her warmth and a smile. We embrace tightly as though our lives touched before at some point. We enter a hall filled from end to end with hundreds of pictures of Bülent Ersoy [a famous transgender singer in Turkey, known as “Diva” — Trans.], A teapot heats on a stove. Auntie İhsan has been a huge Bülent Ersoy fan for as long as she can remember. She unsuccessfully tried contacting her many times. “Are you heartbroken?” we ask, to which she halfheartedly responds, “No, I love her anyways,” and keeps quiet.

Auntie İhsan’s bathroom, a detached mud-brick unit outside, as with other houses in the village, has been in bad shape for the last year.  Unable to endure rainstorms, the bathroom collapsed, leaving Auntie İhsan helpless, unsure what to do.

Recently, Auntie İhsan has been trying to make ends meet by selling her chickens’ eggs, yet realizes she cannot herself afford to reconstruct the bathroom, so solicited support over social media. Dilara Gürcü, from France, knowing Auntie İhsan from the documentary  “Hala” [paternal aunt — Trans.], responded to this call and launched an indiegogo campaign.

Though not very hopeful in the beginning, Dilara and Auntie İhsan cannot believe how much support they had received after a month. The campaign helped collect 6,500 of the 10,000 TL needed for the reconstruction. They drew together the rest from other external support.

Dilara explains the process: “I could not have imagined receiving this much support, however, when the sum reached somewhere around 5,000 I was convinced. I vouched for her and told the constructor we would pay in cash. And he rushed to finish the job before we arrived. For the past year, İhsan had been taking her showers in the backyard during the summer, and at her neighbors’ in the winter. For a woman, it is very depressing not to have a private area to bathe. This place was İhsan’s private area; it became her cocoon.  She owes her existence to this house.  We took a step towards making it habitable. I met amazing people during this campaign. I am very grateful to them all for trusting and knowing that the money would reach Auntie İhsan.”

As we chat, Auntie İhsan says, “Where’s France, where’s Kayışlar Village? It’s the other end of the world. I was not at all expecting such thing would happen. I was very hopeless.”

Auntie İhsan was born in Kayışlar Village, lived in İzmir starting from age 11 until her family fell sick. While in İzmir, she worked at a record store, loved her job, and got along well with the tradesmen in the neighborhood. Indeed, the small business owners called her “the butterfly” as she stopped by at every single store, and was acquainted with everyone.

While trying to establish her life there, and enjoying her occupation, her family fell sick and she felt obligated to return to her village after 30 years. She prefered not to return to İzmir after losing her family. She says it feels good to live in a home filled with her family’s memory and visit their grave.

Following her settling in the village, exploitative circumstances emerged for her. She started working at part-time and under-paid  jobs with no benefits, no insurance. She works for 12 hours but is paid less than half of her wage. She has made a living by cleaning houses for a while; she says such jobs do not come up anymore. She wants to retire by paying for her own pension fund; “At least I would have a pension” she says, but she cannot pay for that either. She lives in a rental house, and her only means of living is the local eggs she sells. Her house is covered in mold all around. We ask what she does when it rains, she says she waits with a  bucket and cloth in her hand.

Auntie İhsan cannot receive her father’s pension either, as her gender identity is stated as “male” on her ID card. She wants to have gender reassignment surgery, and submitted an application. However, she had to give up on that as well due to tedious procedures and expenses associated with the surgery. Women who hear about Auntie İhsan’s story send her packs full of cosmetics. She puts on her make up exultingly with aspiration in front of the mirror.

Press is very much interested in Auntie İhsan; however, the Auntie is not pleased with her statements being twisted in the news and tabloid news stories made about her. She mentions a number of people saying “I came for my class, I’ll do an assignment,” filming her documentary, writing news stories about her, earning money off of this work, and adds “you see, the rich man’s wealth tires the poor man’s mouth [a Turkish proverb used to make a point that poor talks too much about what the wealthy has. — Trans.],” and cracks up.

Auntie İhsan, indeed, wants to work and sustain her life with her earnings, yet she cannot find a job. When we look at her kitchen, we see holes in the ceiling, and an empty fridge. We learn that, she usually eats at her friends’; however, she told us about the buns she baked just for us with the herbs she picked. We enjoy her homemade pastries with tea brewed on a log burner, after which we have to take off.

We leave behind an aunt imprinted on our minds with her warmth, vivacity, and sincerity despite all the difficulties, all the pain she has been through.

Sultan Eylem Keleş is a student in Department of Journalism at Ege University, İzmir. She resides in İzmir, reports for Jiyan and Kaos GL, is a member of erktolia press commission, and an activist at Woman for Peace Initiative.

 

GAP Turkey branch forced a gay staff member to resign

Apparel brand GAP’s Istanbul branch forced a gay staff member to resign, LGBTI organizations in the country made a joint statement to give support to the gay man’s legal struggle.

Source: Kaos GL, “GAP Turkey branch forced a gay staff member to resign”, kaosGL.org, March 17, 2016, http://kaosgl.org/page.php?id=21318

A gay staff member in one of GAP’s Istanbul branches faced homophobic pressure and was forced to resign. The apparel brand, which supports equality based on sexual orientation in its International Diversity Policy, was put to trial today.

While the attorneys of GAP did not show up in the first hearing, Attorney Eren Keskin representing the young gay man requested that the witnesses be heard and the case has been adjourned until June 7. Many LGBTI activists followed the case.

LGBTI organizations and activists made a joint statement explaining that the staff member had a high performance for 10 years and got many promotions in the international apparel brand.

The statement emphasized that once the sexual orientation of the staff became known, he faced mobbing and sexist remarks such as “be a man”.

“We will keep claiming our rights even in a legal system in which current laws do not recognize us. We will continue with our legitimate struggle nationally and internationally, making our voices even louder.”