LGBTI Employment

Employment issues for LGBTI in Turkey

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.”

Rampant Transphobia in Turkey: Trans Dentist Ece Loses Her Job But Is Defiant

Ece is a 41-year old dentist and a trans woman. A week ago, she lost her job, because her colleagues refused to work with her. Ece wants everybody to know that there is a trans dentist in Turkey.

Source: Yıldız Tar, “Bir Trans Kadın Mükemmel Olmak Zorunda” (“A Trans Woman Has to be Flawless”), kaosgl.org, 23 August 2015, http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=20063

In Turkey, being a trans woman is associated with one single thing: hate crimes. We associate trans women with bodies ruled by violence and life that resists violence. However, transphobia is not just hate crimes. Discrimination is ordinary and rampant. Making a living, finding accommodation, having access to medical treatment like everybody else are treated like excessive demands when they come from trans people.

Recently I received a phone call about this sort of discrimination. Istanbul LGBTI Solidarity Association told me about a 41-year-old trans woman who recently lost her job. Ece was fired from the clinic where she worked a week ago.

ecehanim1

I called Ece and introduced myself. Speaking hurriedly, she told me about herself and what she’d been going through. We scheduled an interview right away.

I first saw her in front of the French Cultural Center. She was sitting next to street musicians and listening to their music while waiting for me. We talked all the way down to Cihangir. She spoke with the palpable excitement of having finally found an audience.

“I thought I couldn’t find a job because I didn’t have experience”

Ece graduated from Marmara University in 2000. Two years later, she started working at the clinic where she was recently fired from:

“No one gave me a job back then except for them. At the time I didn’t understand what was wrong. I thought I couldn’t find a job because I didn’t have experience. The truth turned out to be different.”

Ece continued her work all the while knowing that something was wrong. Then she left for New Zealand, Thailand, the US, and the Netherlands. Back in Turkey, she returned to her former employer.

“The saddest part is not being accepted by my colleagues”

“I went back to my former employer because I had to: they were the only ones who treated me fine. I started immediately and went on for two years. At first, I felt accepted. Then I started putting on makeup. The other girl did too; why wouldn’t I? What mattered was my work. I wanted them to respect me the way I was and approach me knowing who I was. The truth is, no matter what I did, I wasn’t appreciated. Patients picked others over me.

“My colleagues called me ‘Bey’ [‘Mister’]. I asked them not to: I wanted them to simply call me ‘Doctor.’ The patients were confused by this.

“Finally my boss told me that he couldn’t tolerate the complaints about me anymore. He said we couldn’t work together anymore but it didn’t have anything to do with my work as a doctor. I offered to finish the scheduled work with my patients. He said no. I think the other doctors at work didn’t want me either. And that is the saddest part: that my colleagues would not want to work at the same place as me. I had to leave immediately.”

Ece reminds persistently that she was good at her job and that her boss acknowledged her skills too: “I love my job. I believe that I do it well. I’m certain that I’m not inferior to my colleagues and that I often approach my job more humanely than them. Money has never been the goal for me.”

ecehanim2

“Should I become a prostitute at this age?”

Having lost her job due to transphobic pressures, Ece asks if she is supposed to start prostitution for the first time to support herself. She doesn’t know what to do. On the other hand, she says she will start hormonal treatment in a couple of months. Hormonal treatment and the surgery to follow require money, a lot of money…

“I’ve always felt like a woman. I’ve always been trans but I’ve been lied to. Not one person told me that I was trans. And I didn’t consider myself trans either. Being gay and being trans are mixed up often. I think it has to do with the fact that most trans women are forced into prostitution. Even I believed that you weren’t trans if you didn’t do prostitution. Because I wasn’t a prostitute, I felt conflicted.

“I’ve been teased for acting like a girl, I’ve been lonely, I haven’t made friends. When you’re pushed into loneliness, you try turning into a man. I couldn’t see the truth that everybody else could. I’m really angry with myself.

“Being strong keeps you from seeing certain things clearly. I was not aware of my intelligence. I was not aware that I could perform pretty well. I tried to perform that I was a man. They thought I was a good performer, I thought I was terrible.”

“A trans woman has to be flawless”

I broach the topic of family. Without any reservation, she says she does not talk to them and goes back to discussing her employment:

“I haven’t talked to my family in 4 years. I was tired of hearing that I should get married every time I saw them. They were literally teasing me. My father passed away recently and I kept working even then. Nobody else would do that. I had to do it not to lose my job. Even though I didn’t talk to him, he was my father after all. You could say he was cold and heartless, but it’s more complex than that. A trans woman has to be flawless. Being average is not enough. So I am trying to be flawless. I try to conform to every situation. I even try to conform with my clothes, but I’m at my limit.”

Ece thinks she will face discrimination in any job:

“It won’t be different if I work as a sales clerk. They will tease me, stare at me, giggle, and complain to the boss. Now I understand why people go on to prostitution. I was mad at the people who chose prostitution but I think I understand them now. If you don’t have money, I don’t think there’s anything else for you to do.”

Ece explains that many trans women retreat into themselves because of their life experiences: “We shut ourselves in our homes. We shut ourselves off from the world.” And she asks:

“Is it okay when rock stars do it and not so when I do it?”

“Why am I harmful if I don’t bother anyone? What did I do to you? How have I done harm? Why do you care what I wear? Do I tell you what to wear? Is makeup for women only? Don’t men put makeup on too? Is it okay when rock stars do it and not so when I do it? Do you really have to be a rock star? The thing I want most is to be pretty. Nothing else. Why are they against beauty so much? What’s so wrong if we’re dolled up freely? I’m more comfortable with women’s clothes, that’s all.”

Ece says she stays strong despite everything and she will keep up the fight. I realize at that moment that I’m talking to an Amazon warrior like many other trans women. Her poise and words prove me right:

“They don’t like seeing a trans woman who has self-confidence. They don’t like seeing that we are strong despite everything. I want everybody to know that there is a trans dentist in Turkey. Knowing that would help the next trans doctor or dentist. We will free ourselves when we come together.”

Ece will continue fighting for her right to work. She will meet with the Chamber of Dentists and look for jobs with her open identity. Time will tell if her colleagues will show solidarity with a woman who has nothing left to lose except for her wish to tell the world that there is a trans dentist in Turkey.

Summary Results of the Social and Economic Problems of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transsexual (LGBT) Individuals in Turkey Research

Source: Yılmaz, V. and Göçmen, İ. (June, 2015), “Summary Results of the Social and Economic Problems of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transsexual (LGBT) Individuals in Turkey Research”, Vol. IV, Issue 6, pp.97-105, Centre for Policy and Research on Turkey (ResearchTurkey), London, Research Turkey. (http://researchturkey.org/?p=9142)

Abstract

Social and Economic Problems of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans (LGBT) Individuals in Turkey Research offers insight to social and economic problems that LGBT individuals face due to the discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. Results of the research report diverse forms of discrimination that LGBT individuals encounter in various domains of social policies including employment, health, education, income poverty, housing, participation in the social life, family and ageing. While reporting different forms of discrimination from the perspective of LGBT individuals, the research also demonstrates that the legal system falls short of tackling these forms of discrimination again in the eyes of LGBT individuals.

Please see the full article here: http://researchturkey.org/summary-results-of-the-social-and-economic-problems-of-lesbian-gay-bisexual-and-transsexual-lgbt-individuals-in-turkey-research/

Correspondent Michelle Demishevich beaten by police

Michelle Demishevich: “One of the police officers punched me in my abdominal cavity while I was following Sümeyye Erdoğan’s press statement.”

Source: “Muhabirimiz Michelle Demishevich’e polis dayağı!” (“Police beating to our correspondent Michelle Demishevich”), T24, 1 June 2015, http://t24.com.tr/haber/muhabirimiz-michelle-demisheviche-polis-dayagi,298422

T24 correspondent Michelle Demishevich was subjected to police violence by a plainclothes police officer while she was reporting at the press release by President Tayyip Erdoğan’s daughter, Sümeyye Erdoğan, in front of the Belgian Consulate [in Istanbul]. Our correspondent, who was removed from the area by being dragged by her hair, will be filing a formal complaint.

The AKP’s women’s branch issued a press statement in front of the Belgian Embassy in Istanbul in support of Mahinur Özdemir, an MP in the Belgian Parliament [who was expelled from her party, Humanist Democratic Centre, for acting against the party’s by-laws, which recognizes the 1915 killings of Armenians as genocide -Trans.]. After the statement, Sümeyye Erdoğan met with the Belgian Consul-General. Michelle Demishevich reported that she was prevented by plainclothes police officers during Erdoğan’s press statement following the meeting. Demishevich said: “I was about to record Ms. Sümeyye’s statement when I was shut out by a total of five plainclothes police officers, two of whom were women. Officers ignored my objections that I was a journalist. I told Ms. Sümeyye and my colleagues that I was subjected to police violence. Ms. Sümeyye said ‘please do not block the journalist from performing her duty,’ yet the police officers dragged me away from the area by my hair.”

Demishevich reported the following regarding the assault against her by the officers:

“One of the officers punched me in my abdominal cavity. I informed my lawyers Yelvi Doğan, Harika Günay Karataş, and Levent Pişkin of the incident. We will be filing a criminal complaint against the officers.”

Turkey’s Council of State rules firing of gay teacher to be against the law

Source: “Danıştay, eşcinsel öğretmenin atılmasını hukuka aykırı buldu”, (“Council of State rules firing of gay teacher to be against the law”), memurlar.net, 17 March 2015, http://www.memurlar.net/haber/505697/

The Council of State has ruled that the dismissal of a teacher who has homosexual relations in their private life to be against the law. The Council of State has pointed to the lack of evidence, indication or witnesses to show that the plaintiff reflected homosexual tendencies in the school or engaged in such relations with students outside of the school. It also pointed to the testimonies of teachers and directors taken during the disciplinary investigation who work in the same school as the plaintiff in which they state that they have not seen any negative acts and that they have not heard anything about the issue.

Therefore, the Council of State has ruled that the act consists of consensual homosexual relations within the plaintiff’s private life and that it has no relevancy to Law No: 657 Article 124/2 on Disciplinary Law of Civil Servants and that it is not a disciplinary crime. The Council of State has annulled the decision of the administrative court which had not withdrawn the decision of dismissal from the profession.

The Council of State, 12th Circuit, No: 2011/750, Decision No: 2014/7169. Full decision in Turkish can be found here.

Editor’s Note:

The decision refers to the Turkish Constitution’s Article on Equality, Right to Respect for Private and Family Life and Article 90 that holds “international agreements duly put into effect bears the force of law”. The decision cites the European Convention on Human Rights’ Article 8 “Right to respect for private and family life” and Article 14 “Prohibition of discrimination”. The decision refers to European Court of Human Rights rulings Dudgeon v. United Kingdom (Application No: 7525/76 – Decision Date: 22.10.1981), Smith and Grady v. United Kingdom (Application No:33985/96- Decision Date: 27.9.1999), Lustig/Prean and Beckett v. United Kingdom (Application No: 31417/96 – Decision Date: 27.9.1999), Perkins and R. United Kingdom (Application No: 43208/98 – Decision Date: 22.10.2002), Beck, Copp and Bazeley v. United Kingdom (Application No:48535/99 – Decision Date: 22.10.2002), which put forth that dismissing person from the military based solely on their sexual orientation is a violation of ECHR’s Article 8 and ruling Özpınar v. Turkey (Application No: 20999/04 – Decision Date: 19.10.2010), which states that a judge’s dismissal from the profession on allegations of the judge’s relationships in their private life, way of dressing and makeup constituted a violation of the right to privacy.