LGBTI Health

Health issues for LGBTI in Turkey

Bitopya: Another universe is possible for the bi+ people!

Bitopya is a new platform founded by Umut Erdem. Umut has been writing about monosexism, normativity and bisexuality in contributions to the bi+, vegan and feminist struggles. In this interview, we walk together on the path to Bitopya (bitopia): The invisibility of bi+ existence, the pressing necessity for accesible and correct information on bisexuality in order to get rid of the stereotypes that reign over both the LGBTI+ movement and the heteronormative society , different layers of rescuing sexuality from the hegemony of norms…these are all the stations we will stop by. As LGBTI News Turkey we are excited to follow Bitopya in its journey and would like to thank Umut for taking their time for this interview!

First of all, we would like to get to know you and the crew.

My name is umut erdem (they/them). I’m the founder of Bitopya ☺. I have been actively pursuing bi+politics for a long while. I have been producing content on this subject and in 2019 I became one of the organizers of Bi+ Pride İstanbul which was the first of its kind to take place in Istanbul. We realized the Bi+ Pride together with dear Zeynab Peyghamberzadeh, another bi+ activist. I also organized a Bi+ Visibility Workshop during Pride Week in İzmir last year. In 2018, I prepared a Bi+ pamphlet together with Gözde Demirbilek, under Kaos GL’s roof.

 I live in Istanbul, I earn my living working in a private institution. I am a feminist and a vegan, I also do activism in these fields. Bitopya itself is a field of activism for me. The website was realized thanks to transfeminist activist Ecemen who helped me build the site. Ecemen had also created the website lgbtisagligi.org. This gave us the opportunity to work together. For now, I’m translating the texts about bi+ politics and bi+ healthcare, the ones which I read before and thought “these must definitely be translated to Turkish”. Yet I also need other pairs of eyes to check the translations and to contribute. I can’t really call it a crew but there are definitely collaborations. My friends with whom I exchange ideas and talk about bisexuality and bi+ politics have an important role in the creation of Bitopya.

Umut, your name will definitely ring a bell for our readers from Turkey, how did you come up with the idea to build the website? 

The idea of the website was mine. I personally really needed a true bi+ digital platform. This was my main motivation to realize it. Bisexuality is already an easily erased, invisible position, furthermore, both the lgbti+ and the feminist politics regard it as an intersection rather than an entity of its own. On social media, bisexuality is often targeted and there are many negative, judgemental and biased content, even hate speech about bisexuality. Therefore, I imagined a universe where we can respond to all of this. 

The need to increase the visibility of bi+ politics in Turkey was also a great motivation. I applied to sivildüşün and their support helped me realize the project. Since I know English, I aim to put bi+ people in the agenda of lgbti+ and feminist politics by translating articles about the bi+ politics and bisexual health published abroad. I thought that it would be a big step forward to create a source of information to battle against both the invisibility and the bias, stereotypes, hate speech and dire lack of information about the bi+. I can say Bitopya was born out of the passion to create a universe where we can try to oust monosexism and biphobia out of our lives, ways of thinking and acting; just like we have been struggling against discrimination, patriarchy, and heteronormativity. 

As its name aptly expresses, bitopya carries the aim to expand the horizons through new imaginings for bi+. What do you think is the work and role of digital activism?

It is surely not just tweeting ☺. It doesn’t matter how much that tweet is faved or retweeted. I find the power of social media significant, but I doubt that one tweet or one long flood of political discourse are digital activism. My questioning of the scope of digital activism pushed me to create the website. In my opinion, digital activism should carry the aim to counter the disinformation on social media and promote a healthy platform for debate, dialogue and contact. I’m also motivated to do digital activism for bi+ politics resisting hate speech against the bi+ people. I see so many biphobia ridden tweets written by users who would not accept their biphobia. I am trying to make the digital media a safer place for bi+ people, against monosexism and biphobia. This is what digital activism means for me as well. It is to carry out work of awareness-building without creating opposite poles, without siding with violence; caring for information exchange, healthy communication, equality and inclusion instead.  

How is the “B” and the “+” faring in the LGBTI+ movement of Turkey? How would you describe the hardships of being bi+ in Turkey? Is it any different around the world? 

It is as if bisexuality amounts to nothing. It might sound too tough but this is how it seems. We have just begun to walk on the paths opened by the subjects themselves. If it weren’t for them, no one would think about it. Of course there is a history to it all and it has only become possible to speak about bisexuality through the struggle of the bisexual feminists under the feminist movement, not just the LGBTI+ movement. 

People have been trying to build paths to bi+ politics and bisexuality specifically since 2015. We can say that 2019 has been more promising. But only thanks to the resilience and rebellion of the subjects themselves….The erasure of bisexuals continues, because there are only a handful of people struggling against the lack of information and prejudice. Due to this lack of knowledge, people overlook the fact that bisexuality is a range, an umbrella identity and existence. We try to put it in the literature as “bi+”. We try to put monosexism in literature. 

This is a new struggle of course. Our awareness as subjects is also quite new. Because it is ignored to such an extent that we got used to existing and practicing politics within an intersection of different ways of being.And then there is phobia and hatred. Such atmosphere prevents you from noticing the internalized biphobia. It is quite tragic. I for one can not separate the “+” from bisexuality. The politics of Bitopya is never independent or detached from “+” and trans politics. Because it carries the aim to expose the relationship and intersection of the systems built on binaries and on social consensus. This is why it is a difficult but not an impossible struggle. The steps we take to rid our thinking and judgements of those binaries, to think outside the binaries, to develop arguments and to refrain from generalizations will prioritize “B” and “+” in LGBTI+ movement. 

There is this supposed aim to not fall in the trap of gender binaries in general but I don’t think it’s practiced in reality. Language and politics are still built on the binary of homosexual vs. heterosexual. Bi+ politics criticizes this very binary and relates it to the other constructed binaries. If in fact the critique of binaries was carried out, no one would take the bait of homosexual/heterosexual binary.

There are hardships that begin with the moment of coming out as a bisexual: being invalidated, others’ expectations of proof, not being taken seriously and being showered with disapprovals. The negative experiences in relationships and the traumas have a great impact on your existence and your desire. You take your share from the hierarchy which sides with experience over desire. You can not come out. It all goes back to before you come out anyway. All the hate speech, prejudice, stereotypes, judgements and vilification conditions you and prevents you from finding a representation. In any case there can not be a representation which says “yes, this is bi+”. At least it can not be monolithic. 

Under  such circumstances you experience the absence of characters which identify as bisexual on media or encounter stereotypical representations unfortunately. You are eliminated by being sweeped under one roof. “Gay marriage”, “gay couple”, “lesbian films”, “gay representations”. Bisexuality is never imagined. Why would something laden with so many prejudices and disavowal be imagined anyway? Let’s say you did come out, then you are labeled as supporting binary gender. I’ve encountered this interpretation so many times. You are never queer enough, you are always so binary. Who has the right to come up with these judgements? The idea of bisexuals as being one homogenous group dominates the perspectives. I thought we were advocating for diversity? Let’s face it, we hit a wall when it comes to the matter of bi+ people☺. 

You suffer from not being able to reflect on monosexism or to make it an item in the agenda; you are assigned an orientation based on the person you are with, and depending on that you are either let in or cast out of the lgbti+ community. You are either perceived as a privileged person living their life stepping on others or as someone who suffers too if you are with a person of same gender at that particular moment. I don’t think you can disrobe your privilege depending on who you are with. It’s not like “bam” now I’m not privileged, because my partner is not of the same gender or is not regarded as normative, or “voila” I’m privileged now because my partner is of another gender identity. How can that be? Is this a game of musical chairs? We need to question this fixed, generalizing, clearly delineated way of thinking.

The situation is no different elsewhere in the world. Although I feel like there would be local differences, as far as I can follow, it is all quite universal: The invisibility, ostracization, exposure to negative bias, the binary thinking mechanism in society and the movement. The translations in Bitopya are not in vain  

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Bitopya website design and illustrations are made by Ecemen.

Since we are already in outer space, looking back at the world, let us also ask: An important mission of Bitopya is translation. You and LGBTI News Turkey have a common issue: To build a bridge between the bi+ folks in Turkey and around the world. What do you think is the significance and function of translation? What is the potential of the exchange that the internet provides for the LGBTI+ movement?

If we consider the fact that many LGBTI+ people use the internet and express themselves online more, we can see that our work is quite important. We have the potential to reach a lot more people. We can reach out to those who don’t breathe the same air with us or live in the same neighborhood. On its own the internet is a means that brings so many people together on a common ground. Yet we see that it also becomes a disadvantage when the social media is misused. 

That coming together also musters strength through polarization. Bitopya aims to disseminate its politics and its discourse without falling in that trap. A great lack of knowledge about bi+ politics reigns in Turkey. This is why it is crucial for me to follow what’s going on around the world. There are lots of sources in English but Turkey is unaware of that content, which makes Bitopya itself a responsibility. Not everyone knows English, therefore I wanted to translate the sources in English to Turkish. It was very vital that we have a particularly bi+ source and platform, otherwise bi+ existence is easily overlooked and not reflected upon. I thought that it was necessary to fight against the misinformation and hate speech disseminated on the internet, by creating such a platform. This is a choice after all. I hope it will reach a wider audience. 

Creating such a platform leads to international solidarity and communication as well, because the translation is not just a service for the readers in Turkey or a means of action, it leads to a contact with the owner/author of the translated content. Then that person also shares Bitopya. Next thing you know, Bitopya does not only reach Turkey anymore☺.  

Providing the transformation of language is another vital issue. It takes extra work to think about how to translate the English terms to Turkish and how to localize them while breaking the binaries reproduced in language.  My wish is to be able to introduce a link from the website against any misinformation or hate speech circulated on the internet, and to render Bitopya’s content widespread. I believe that this way people will no longer have a chance to ignore it anymore. We see the first steps in this path and I believe it will grow stronger. 

Let us briefly talk about the sections on the website too: Bi+ politics, bisexual health and bisexual history. How did these titles come about? Are you thinking of adding new titles? Will we see original content too? We are very excited!

It’s quite exciting for me too ☺, I’m happy that it resonates with you. The section “bi+ politics” introduces bi+politics pursued abroad to Turkey and to Turkish. “Bisexual health” provides articles about the impact of monosexism and biphobia on bisexual healthcare, to the health conditions that may be overlooked under the banner of LGBTI+ health and to the bi+ people’s access to healthcare. 

Bitopya also introduces videos published by the #StillBisexual video campaign with Turkish subtitles. This section will continue to be updated as well. #StillBisexual is a video content campaign developed by activist and writer Nicole Kristal in 2015. Bisexuals share various stories about their orientations at #StillBisexual and the hashtag aims to fight the negative bias and myths about bisexual, in order to develop an awareness about bisexuality as a range of existences.   

One of the reasons why bisexuality is lesser known is because its history is lesser known. Moving forwards with that idea, Bitopya aims to create awareness through the translation of the bihistory page. There will of course be additions. There are some ideas waiting to be realized in video format. I also want to dig deeper in bi+ history of Turkey. I’m not sure what you mean by original content but there will be new stuff for sure. Stay tuned!☺. 

Some of our readers may share the dreams of Bitopya and may wish to contribute to the site, especially our English speaking readers.  How can they contribute?

We will develop Bitopya together in fact. Maybe they can come up with an idea about how they can contribute when they look into the website. There can be help with translation. They can send articles either in Turkish or English. When we receive a text in a language other than English or Turkish, we need help with translation, so if you are fluent in other languages you are welcome to help. We had translated an article Zeynap wrote in ILGA before, about bisexual asylum seekers. It is very valuable to hear more about this issue. We are open to contributions in design and illustration. Our horizons are wide open as to how to grow together. I do not want to approach Bitopya as an editor, I see it as a platform shaped by togetherness, contact and sharing. 

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Bitopya’s logo is also designed by Ecemen.

It’s hard not to notice how beautiful your logo and web design is. Who is the designer? We definitely have to credit their contribution. 

Ecemen designed the website as well as building it. It is surely a work of the harmony between our imagination and ideas. I always say, if it weren’t for Ecemen, there wouldn’t be Bitopya.☺ 

We would like to thank Umut for taking their time for the interview. If you would like to get in touch with Bitopya, send an e-mail to bitopya.org@gmail.com

Don’t forget to follow bitopya.org ! Sharing is caring!

Social media accounts:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/bitopya/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/BitopyaOrg

Instagram: https://instagram.com/bitopya

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCHhuPAUXMwf34utc4YlCATA

 

A life ruined by faulty surgeries: Call for solidarity with trans woman Zehra Hayel

Zehra Hayel Kendirci’s life was turned upside down following a faulty gender affirmation operation in May 2014 at Avcılar Medicana Hospital. Hayel had to go through seven additional surgeries, her attorney Zehra Şahin who continues her legal struggle against the doctor calls for solidarity: “We want to make Zehra Hayel’s voice heard”. 

Warning: This article includes distressing details which some readers may find traumatising. 

Source: “A life ruined by faulty surgeries: Call for solidarity with trans woman Zehra Hayel” (“Hatalı ameliyatlarla hayatı altüst oldu: Trans kadın Zehra Hayel için dayanışma çağrısı”), sendika.org, September 19, 2019, http://sendika63.org/2019/09/hatali-ameliyatlarla-hayati-altust-oldu-trans-kadin-zehra-hayel-icin-dayanisma-cagrisi-561921/

During an examination a month after the first surgery in the private office of her doctor, Hayel was told by her doctor that a fistula occurred while cleaning the vagina and that it should be stitched. This led to seven more surgeries in 2014, 2015, and 2017.

These operations deteriorated Zehra Hayel’s health, and she sought additional medical help, getting an appointment in Cerrahpaşa Medical Faculty in July 2017. In her examination, it was revealed that no live tissue was left on her vaginal region and therefore she can not be treated anymore. 

Regarding the first examination after the surgery, Hayel’s attorney Zehra Şahin stated:

“That day the doctor examined Zehra Hayel under anesthesia. During the exam, Hayel was accompanied by her friends who say she screamed after the doctor’s intervention. They say that the doctor did not answer when they asked what happened, and sent Zehra Hayel home after she regained consciousness, without giving any explanation.”

According to Attorney Şahin Zehra Hayel’s fever went up and started to feel ill after she returned home: “My client thought that her fever and discomfort were after effects of the anesthesia. Yet her discomfort kept worsening. When she noticed that faeces started to come out of her vagina she called and informed the doctor. The doctor asked her to come the next day and that she will be informed. My client spent the day with her friends caring for her.” Hayel’s attorney states that her client went through an hour long operation the next day after which her doctor told her that a fistule formed while cleaning her vagine during the exam. When she came back she noticed that her stitching came undone and again faeces came out of her vagina.

Şahin says that Hayel tried to protect her health with pads and patient diapers: “My client tried to deal with the situation on her own means, but when it deteriorated she had another surgery done by the same doctor on July 2, 2014 at Avcılar Medicana Hospital. She stayed for a week at the hospital and paid 1000 TL for the operation”.  

Hayel’s condition did not improve after the surgery and she went through two more surgeries on 2015 by the same doctor at Bahçelievler Yaşar Hospital. Şahin suggests that Hayel became exasperated as she confronted more physical and psychological difficulties: 

“Each time my client was hopeful and sought help from her doctor, and she had 3 surgeries with 3 months intervals in 2017. The doctor told her that s/he closed up her vagina to prevent the faeces discharge.” Şahin states that the doctor decided to have the vagina closure operation on his/her own and did not inform Hayel of consequences. 

On her examination at Cerrahpaşa Training Hospital on July 12, 2017, Hayel was told that she can not be treated as there is no live tissue left on her vaginal region. She was also told that her vagina needs to be reopened by her doctor. Her doctor, in turn, asked for 25 thousand liras for the operation, which she could not pay for. 

Attorney Şahin underlines the fact that her client has a report dated December 2017, suggesting that she is 58% disabled. Hayel currently continues to have examinations at Cerrahpaşa Training Hospital every 15 days, and in June Hayel was told that her condition is not improving.

Şahin states that the doctor accepted their mistake and returned 15 thousand liras of the first surgery to stop Hayel from carrying the matter to social media, promising that they will solve the problem and do another surgery: 

“When we met the doctor, they returned the 15 thousand liras cost of the original operation in 2014, based on a protocol we have drawn out. Why would the doctor give back the money if they did not think it was their fault? My client has serious health problems. Her vagina is closed and her intestines are outside of her body.” 

Şahin also suggests that the doctor have written conflicting remarks on two epicrisis reports, accepting that they carried out the gender change operation on first and suggesting the opposite in the second: “The reports are not dated, they obscure the facts. Many of the operations were not reflected on the reports, my client was not given any documents regarding the procedures she underwent.” Hayel became diabetic after the surgeries yet “her doctor tried to make it look like she always had diabetes and that her current situation is a complication related to diabetes.” 

Attorney Şahin is currently struggling to make Zehra Hayel’s voice heard: “After all these surgeries, my client is facing serious health issues. She has to use certain medical materials every month. Her insurance only covers a part of these costs. My client found out that her condition would not improve in June 2019. We have filed a criminal complaint to the Office of the Prosecutor. My client is having a hard time trying to continue her life. We want her voice to be heard. We need solidarity. She should not feel alone.”

“We want Buse to live!”

The campaign to publicise the rights violations to which trans woman prisoner Buse is subjected has begun today with a press release at the Human Rights Association.

Source: “We want Buse to live!” (“Buse yaşasın istiyoruz!”), Kaos GL, https://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=28653&fbclid=IwAR05N640a22qEdstEfQlg_J8trmD4H7MSo6N01Uj3-6wIb0budISSzE5HN4, August 21, 2019

The campaign to publicise the rights violations to which trans woman prisoner Buse, who is currently kept in Tekirdağ F-type Men’s Prison no.2, is subjected has begun today (August 21) with a press release at the Human Rights Association.

Prior to the press release, Buse’s lawyer Eren Keskin stated that Buse harmed herself as a result of the violations of her rights in prison and she is currently in the Rehabilitation Center of Metris Prison.

After reminding [us] during the press release that Buse had been on hunger strike several times, struggling to initiate her gender affirmation process, it was stated: “The extent of this systematic torture became so unbearable for her that, on 27 July 2019, Buse performed an action by cutting off her genitals as a reaction to the Ministry of Justice’s arbitrary usurping of her right; her action was to escape from the prison that is her body and to prevent the surgical process from being interrupted and herself from being dragged to death. She was taken to the hospital.”

At the release, it was reminded that Buse needs to be saved from the prison of her body and she needs solidarity and power to do so: “We call on all LGBTI+s and those who are against LGBTI+ phobia to support the solidarity network we will establish.”

“We see that Buse’s body nor her psychology has now no power to withstand this torture.”

The full text of the press release is as follows:

“We, as Buse’s friends, know that this discriminatory process that Buse has been subjected to and has been fighting against for over 6 years is not the first example of the violence that trans women are exposed to both in prisons and in social life. It is necessary to see that this process, which has been extended by the Ministry of Justice for months, is the result of the whole policy of violence against trans women who are kept in isolation claiming security reasons, while [it is] their security [that] needs to be ensured. It is necessary to raise a voice against this cycle of violence. Transphobia and isolating conditions in prisons threaten and harm the psychological and physical integrity of trans people.”

“Last year Diren Coşkun and this year Esra Arıkan had to take various actions to make their voices heard because of the discrimination, violence and torture they were subjected to in prisons. Buse has been subjected to multiple discrimination, too, every moment she has spent in prison, and she has had to start hunger strikes during the 6 years she has fought for her right to start the gender affirmation process. Unfortunately, it is not difficult to guess that many trans people, neither whose names nor living conditions are known, have been subjected to various discrimination.”

“Buse has been in prison for 24 years. We want Buse to live. We see that neither Buse’s body nor her psychology now has power to withstand this torture that Buse has been fighting against for many years. The extent of this systematic torture became so unbearable for her that, on 27 July 2019, Buse performed an action by cutting off her genitals as a reaction to the Ministry of Justice’s arbitrary decision usurp her right; her action was to escape from the prison that is her body and to prevent the surgical process from being interrupted and herself from being dragged to death. She was taken to the hospital. She is better now and has been referred to Metris Prison.”

“Buse needs to be saved from the prison of her body so that she can live and she needs solidarity and power to do so. We call on all LGBTI+s and those who are against LGBTI+ phobia to support the solidarity network we will establish.”

“Buse is not the first to face these hardships; we will continue our fight to prevent trans women from being subjected to discrimination and ill-treatment in prisons. We ask you to spread this call to make the public aware of Buse and other trans prisoners.”

“You can follow the recent news via Twitter account @buseyasasin and the hashtag #BuseYaşasın (#LetBuseLive).

Article Translated from Yeni Akit: Scandalous Support to Perverts from Council of State.

Translator’s note: The following article contains offensive and violent language.

Source: “Scandalous Support to Perverts from Council of State”, (Danıştay’dan sapkınlara skandal destek), yeniakit.com.tr, July 19, 2019, https://m.yeniakit.com.tr/haber/danistaydan-sapkinlara-skandal-destek-849279.html

The Council of State’s 10th Chamber showed scandalous support to perverted homosexuals. The decision of a lawsuit Emirhan Deniz Celebi, a homosexual, filed against Cerrahpaşa for failing to perform ‘gender reassignment surgery’ in 2017, pleased perverts.

Imposing their illegitimate forms of relationships on the public by using the slogan, ‘Get used to it, we are everywhere,’ immoral homosexuals received unexpected support. The Council of State found the lawsuit valid, filed by Emirhan Deniz Çelebi, a perverted homosexual with an immoral lifestyle, against Cerrahpaşa Faculty of Medicine Hospital for failing to perform ‘gender reassignment surgery.’ The 10th Chamber of the Council of State found the ‘valid’ reasons given by Cerrahpaşa Faculty of Medicine Hospital for not performing gender reassignment surgeries of perverts ‘invalid.’ Upon the Council of State’s decision, the operations will now be performed. The hospital was not performing the operations due to ‘priority given to emergency patients’ and ‘regard for the privacy of female patients.’

Perverts will be crowding public hospitals

Using dirty money from the European Union, German associations and Soros, perverted LGBTI homosexuals are using every possible way to tear down our country’s basic moral principles. Putting up banners that say ‘Ramadan cannot interfere with Şaban and Recep’s love’ and using the slogan ‘Get used to it, we are everywhere’ during the holy month of Ramadan, homosexuals are imposing their perversion on the public, and they shamelessly want to have their gender reassignment surgeries in public hospitals that are paid for with people’s taxes. The case has been continuing between the homosexual Emirhan Deniz Çelebi and Cerrahpaşa Faculty of Medicine Hospital since 2017. The decision puts forth the severity of the situation.

In an academic council meeting, Cerrahpaşa Faculty of Medicine had made the decision to not perform gender reassignment surgeries in order to ‘protect the privacy of female patients’ and ‘give priority to emergency patients,’ but the implementation has been stopped by the Council of State’s incomprehensible decision. Cerrahpaşa Hospital had appealed Istanbul 10th Administrative Court’s ‘gender reassignment surgery is mandatory’ decision with valid reasons. The Council of State’s 10th Chamber turned down the appeal saying ‘there is no need for an appeal.’ With the scandalous case setting a precedent, homosexual perverts have now gained the right to have gender reassignment surgeries at any hospital.

A homosexual teacher was also acquitted

The Council of State’s 12th Chamber had found the dismissal of a homosexual teacher unlawful. The 2015 decision pointed to the fact that a teacher could not be dismissed from their profession based on their personal life.

Akit continues its attempts at defaming LGBTI+ achievements

LGBTI+ rights advocates continue their battles at court for the recognition of their right to gender transition procedures. As Emirhan Çelebi wrote in his recent article on his battle against Cerrahpaşa Training Hospital’s unlawful practices. In court Çelebi challenged the arbitrary denial of hysterectomy and oophorectomy surgeries to trans men. Çelebi and his attorneys won the case against the hospital, after the hospital administration’s appeal to Council of State.

This pursuit of justice seems to have upset the extreme rightwing daily Akit, who have repeatedly targeted LGBTI+ activists, with troubling examples of hate speech. Trans individuals in Turkey have the right to gender affirmation surgeries and are indeed forced to do so in order to have their gender recognized in their ID cards. Such mandatory surgery is in itself a violation of the rights of trans individuals, another realm of struggle for trans activists. The legal battle in this case was to ensure that the hospital follows the law.  Yet, Akit’s slur-ridden news article attempts to turn this struggle on its head, suggesting that this achievement is a travesty of justice, that the hospital’s “righteous” appeal was “tripped up” by the Council of State.

While the article lumps all LGBTI+ individuals under the all too familiar label “pervert”, it is completely in denial of any reality, as it announces that the trans individuals now have the right to get their surgeries done in any hospital of their choosing. The reality is that the trans individuals already have the right (and indeed, the obligation) to have a gender affirmation surgery in certain training hospitals. This is by no means an example of the lack of information, it is a further attempt to alarm the “public” and to mobilize transphobia (and homophobia, due to confusion of terms in the article) against the LGBTI+ rights advocates exercising their rights as citizens. 

Akit and other transphobic media outlets might be in denial, but the truth is trans citizens exist, out or not they are everywhere, they are not going anywhere and will continue the battle for their fundamental rights. We once more wholeheartedly celebrate Çelebi and all the achievements of trans individuals which remain unknown to us, in their battle for survival and for a decent life. 

 

Note: We choose to spare our readers the triggering affects of the hate speech, and we paraphrase its main points instead of translating the article in its original language. However, you can follow this link if you wish to read our translation of the article. Please be aware that it involves violent and offensive language.

A Success Story: advocacy against a hospital denying hysterectomy surgery for trans men 

Source: “Rejection of hysterectomy in Cerrahpaşa, prosecution process and success of advocacy”, (Cerrahpaşa’da histerektomi ameliyatı reddi, dava süreci ve savunuculuğun başarısı), Emirhan Deniz Çelebi, KaosgL.org, 10 July, 2019

https://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=28513

I guess it was early February in 2017 when a friend texted me: “Emirhan, did you hear that Cerrahpaşa no longer do our surgeries?”. When I first read the message I was taken aback and then called my friend to learn more about what’s going on with Cerrahpaşa. 

This is how the story begins: My friend was barely able to get a date for their surgery next week. A member of the staff at Cerrahpaşa OB-GYN department says: ‘ Due to a decision taken by the academic committee, we no longer do the laparoscopic hysterectomy of trans men, we have to cancel your surgery date’. My friend could barely hold it together at that point. In Turkey one of the most excruciating parts of the legal process in changing your assigned gender and your name on the ID is to make the post-surgery reports in time for the day of the hearing. If there is a lag, the court may adjourn your case to two or three months later.

After receiving this news, I wondered ‘Hang on, what will they say about surgery day if I call them?’ and I picked up the receiver. I got the same answer and so I asked ‘When did you start making transphobic decisions that concern public health in your academic council meetings?’. There was no answer. When I asked them to send me a written copy of their reply, I was already sure that I would not receive that either. Nevertheless, I gave them a shot and waited 10 days. No news. Was I surprised? No. I called them again and asked for a written reply. They hung up after saying ‘We can’t send you any reply sir’. That’s what drove me wild. Yeah, as if you can’t, you will  have to respond. 

I sat down and wrote a complaint to BİMER* (now it’s called CİMER):

To whom it may concern,

When trans men in our country submit their request to change their name and gender to a court, they are referred to OB GYN departments of hospitals as Article 40 of Civil Code requires them to be permanently deprived of reproduction [reproductive capacity]. Cerrahpaşa Medical Faculty OB GYN Department was one of the institutions which undertake these surgeries [hysterectomy]. That was the case until I was told that these surgeries are no longer done based on an academic council decision…This decision results in transsexuals not being able to undergo the legally required surgeries. Many people had their court date adjourned and were victimized. If you require us to do so, we can submit a joint petition. Last week, in a meeting with around 30 trans men, many of those who have their surgery dates approaching brought the issue up. 

I would like to ask you three things: Is it only the trans men your hospital is not doing the laparoscopic hysterectomy and salpingo oophorectomy operations on? If that is the case, on what grounds? Are you currently allowing your cis-gender female clients to undergo these operations?  

In sum, I kindly request you to send a written reply, including the reason for the decision and the minutes of the academic council meeting.

I wrote this on March 13, 2017. On April 13, 2017 I received an untitled e-mail, it read ‘[Our] respond to your application is attached’. Here we go. Check this out:

The request and complaint submitted to Prime Ministry Communication Center (BİMER)  by XXX Çelebi was examined. The Academic Council meeting on February 15, 2017 ruled against these procedures as the examination of these cases of voluntary castration (hysterectomy and ooferectomy) surgery done on genitally healthy individuals who are phenotypically and genotypically female and organically have the reproductive capacity lead to irreversible organ failure and loss of function which can lead to medical, ethical and legal problems; due to the problems the admission of male-looking patients causing problems in OB-GYN wards,  and because emergency and pregnant patients are prioritized during the relocation of our department. According to Social Insurance Institution regulations, people have no right to apply to another hospital. Attached is the relevant Academic Council decision.”

I read these words in a breeze and I began to feel numb starting with the bit about ‘these cases’, climaxing at ‘male-looking patients’. The pregnant patients are to be prioritized…as if it is only cis-women who give birth! The whole reply is oozing transphobia. 

I calmed down a little and decided to take this opportunity. In that period, there was another hospital which did hysterectomy operations of trans men, they would refuse to do the operations every now and then. It was time to get the rights advocacy going. I printed out the documents and ran to the attorney Rozerin Seda Kip.

Together with my attorney Rozerin, we applied to Istanbul Administrative Court. In the petition, Rozerin indicated that these attitudes were transphobic and discriminatory. Rozerin also reminded the court of Article 40 of Civil Code and the European Convention on Human Rights. The petition demanded the halting of the execution of the ruling, stating that the administration’s refusal to carry out the ‘sterilisation’ surgery of the trans individuals is arbitrary and unlawful.   

Following this application on 2017, what did the Istanbul University Rectorate** do? Of course, it asked the case to be dismissed. The first court in charge was Istanbul 10. Administrative Court, and this court stated that the hospital can not refuse to carry out the surgery, reminding them that the hospital itself penned a report that suggests the person needs to undergo gender affirmation surgery.

The University made no surprises and filed an appeal to Council of State. Finally this year the Council of State 10th Chamber ruled against the appeal. Thus, the legal struggle beginning in 2017 certified that the hospital’s refusal to carry out the surgeries of trans men was unlawful. 

The struggle starting with BİMER and ending at Council of State is an example of the importance of advocacy. In this way, the judiciary too, confirmed that hospitals have no luxury to deny the surgery. During our advocacy action, cancelled the requirement to ‘be permanently deprived of procreation’ from Article 40, even if this is not the practice in reality…We have a long way to go! May this decision be a beacon to us all! 

*Translator’s note: BİMER is Prime Ministry Communication Center. Currently, CİMER (Presidency Communication Center) is used by citizens to file complaints about any state department.

** Cerrahpaşa is a training hospital under the administration of Istanbul University Faculty of Medicine. It is the sole authority in many state sanctioned surgeries, like the gender affirmation surgeries.

Intersex Session at the 3rd Reproductive Health Task Force Congress

Source: “Intersex Session at 3rd Reproductive Health Task Force Congress,” (3. Üreme Sağlığı Çalışma Kolu Kongresi’nden “interseks” oturumu), kaosgl.org, April 22, 2019, http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=28115

Şerife Yurtseven from Intersex Anatolia and Caner Yavuz from Intersex Turkey spoke at the 3rd Reproductive Health Task Force Congress organized by the Turkish Medical Students Association.

Şerife Yurtseven from Intersex Anatolia and Caner Yavuz from Intersex Turkey were speakers at the 3rd Reproductive Health Task Force Congress organized by the Turkish Medical Students Association on April 20-21.

The congress was organized for the first time in 2011. To raise medical students’ awareness on reproductive health, it focuses on issues related to HIV/AIDS as well as sexuality/gender.

Şerife Yurtseven from Intersex Anatolia and Caner Yavuz from Intersex Turkey shared what it means to be intersex with doctor candidates in the session named, “Gender Limits in Medicine”. By sharing experiences, the speakers talked about ethical concerns regarding the treatment of intersex people.

Yurtseven and Yavuz pointed out the importance of providing psychosocial support to parents of intersex children; and mentioned that doctors should not objectify intersex bodies by disregarding intersex rights and categorizing them using a binary gender system.