LGBTI Health

Health issues for LGBTI in Turkey

Non-Binary

Source: Non-binary (Serkan Kasapoğlu, Gökkuşağı Forumu) Kaos GL, 28 January 2019 http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=27461

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Non-binary is used for gender identities that are not limited within the borders of masculine or feminine identities. It rejects the idea of binary gender. On the other hand, since the definition changes from person to person, it is useful to ask people who say they are non-binary, what the definition of non-binary is for them. Some may define their gender as both male and female, as well as calling themselves non-binary, and others can identify themselves as non-binary by saying they are neither male nor female. In addition, it can also be used as an umbrella term that covers all the genders outside of the binary gender framework.

Can a person be trans and non-binary at the same time?

Yes. There can be cases that a person does not define oneself with the gender assigned by birth and states as being out of the binary gender framework.

Non-binary pronouns and language

In almost everywhere in today’s world, people are defined according to their appearances. Discourses, which maintain and support the binary gender system by addressing to masses as “Ladies and Gentlemen”, are some of the unfavourable parts of daily life. How to address non-binary people is important for them and the correct manner of address is a way for these people to feel comfortable with their gender.

-Are you a girl or a boy?

-I AM NEITHER!

Makeup

I am going to Rome with one of my friends tomorrow. I am so excited; however, there is something bothering me for a while. I want to talk about it with my friend.

The last night before going to Rome

“I do not know, I thought a lot during the last few weeks when I was alone. I guess I am planning to resume taking hormones.”

“Why? You looked like you were sure that this was not the thing you wanted.”

“The change that I had during the time I took hormones was actually the one I wanted. Day by day, I started to look like the way I wished to be.

“Your appearance didn’t change much after you quit taking them.”

“I don’t think so. I feel like I am going back the long way I came. I feel less and less happy with my image in the mirror. No matter how confused I felt when I was taking hormones, I was happy for the things that I did to my appearance. I felt more free with a more feminine look.”

“The hormones won’t make you more feminine. Look at me, my oestrogen level is much higher than my testosterone level, but I define myself as masculine and express myself to the world in this way. Now, no one calls me a feminine woman. Everybody knows me as masculine. Because I see and define myself that way. If you want to be and look feminine, you don’t need any supplement. You can become feminine once you believe you are being one and then define yourself that way.

“I guess you are right.”

First day in Rome

“Humph, this suitcase is really heavy.”

“Come on, you are a guy, you can carry it.”

Third day in Rome

“You are a sweet boy.”

Fifth day in Rome

“Look, this old man is your future self. But you will be wearing makeup and be whinier.”

Recently, I have been trying some ways to be the one I wanted to be. This was hormone, makeup, or clothes; but none of them made me feel, like enough. I wonder if I know who I want to be. I have always felt something missing on the road that I started to walk without knowing where I wanted to go. Whenever I felt like doing right, some barriers were created before me, and I stumbled. Why don’t they just allow me to look like and behave how I wish? Even my closest friends give me the things which I fear most. Why do they act like my appearance has to determine my gender? I want to be feminine most of the time, but I don’t want to be a woman. I want to be masculine sometimes, but I don’t want to be a man.

The fact that people call me a man when I look masculine prevents me from being masculine and the fact that they call me as a woman when I look feminine prevents me from being feminine. Even my friend, who said to me the previous day that your appearance does not define your gender, can easily tell me that they see me as a man when I step outside without wearing any makeup the next day. Then, they can say to me in the same moment “You don’t need to wear makeup or take hormones in order to be seen feminine.” Due to this contradiction, all the things they said earlier lose their significance. Now, I don’t know what I will do. I want to use makeup, not because other people can understand that I am not a man, but because I want to look like that way on that day.

Then, they ask me why I care how other people think. Because how they think does not allow me to be the way I want to be. They don’t allow me to be feminine or masculine. They do their best to shape me into how they perceive me. And I stumble whenever I try to step outside of their perceptions.  

*The articles at KaosGL.org Gökkuşağı Forumu (Rainbow Forum) are under the responsibility of their authors. The fact that the articles are published at KaosGL.org does not mean that the opinions at the articles reflect the opinions of KaosGL.org. As a translation of the KaosGL.org article, LGBTI News Turkey should also emphasise that the views seen here are those of the author and that the views expressed here don’t necessarily represent those of LGBTI News Turkey.

In Solitary Confinement For The Past Five Years And In Prison For Twenty-Four Years Buse Is Deprived Of Her Right To Surgery

Buse Aydın has been in prison for twenty-four years, has been kept in solitary confinement for the past five years and is not allowed to undergo gender affirmation surgery.

Source: “In solitary confinement for the past five years and in prison for twenty-four years Buse is deprived of her right to surgery!”, (Son 5 yılı tecritte 24 yıldır cezaevinde olan trans mahkum Buse’nin ameliyat hakkı elinden alındı!), gorulmustur.org, February 7, 2019, http://gorulmustur.org/icerik/son-5-yili-tecritte-24-yildir-cezaevinde-olan-trans-mahkum-busenin-ameliyat-hakki-elinden

Buse Aydın is a trans prisoner sentenced to life imprisonment. She has been in prison for twenty-four years. Even though she is trans, she is kept prisoner in Tekirdağ Men’s Prison. She has been in solitary confinement for the past five years because she is trans and on the grounds that the prison cannot “ensure her safety.”

Buse has been in solitary confinement for the past five years at Tekirdağ prison deprived of all her social rights and has been in prison for twenty-four years. Buse’s friend, Diren Çoşkun, spoke with us about Buse’s condition and said that she is deprived of all social rights and is not allowed to see the other prisoners for “security” reasons.

The right to surgery not granted

Buse Aydın wrote a petition for her gender affirmation surgery 2,5 years ago to the Ministry of Justice. She received reports from the Training and Research Hospital and from the Forensic Medicine Institute stating, “gender affirmation is necessary for her mental health.” However, even though there are two reports from two different government agencies, the prosecution wrote to the Ministry of Justice questioning whether the surgery is a gender affirmation surgery, ignoring the previous decisions and sending the file back to the Forensic Medicine Institute.

Buse Aydın is not provided with the essential needs that correspond with her gender identity on the grounds that she has a blue [ie male] national identity card.

A second decision from FMI

Upon the Ministry of Justice sending the file back to FMI (Forensic Medicine Institute) and asking whether this surgery was “vital”, even though before FMI had stated that “gender affirmation surgery is necessary for Buse Aydın’s mental health”, they said, “it is not vital.”

“There are no photos of Buse”

Buse’s friend and trans woman Diren Çoşkun, who shared the same cell with Buse Aydın for some time, said that after she ended her own hunger strike, Buse too started a hunger strike for her right to surgery, but that then she had to stop. Buse Aydın has been in prison for twenty-four years and right now she is forced to stay in a single cell in a men’s prison.

Çoşkun said Buse’s only wish is to have her gender affirmation surgery and to be transferred to a women’s prison. She has been in solitary confinement for the past five years and she might be in prison for at least another fifteen years. Attorney Hatice Demir of SPOD, the LGBTI organization said: “You haven’t seen Buse. There are no photos of her in social media. You do not know her. We don’t know her voice or her laughter…We haven’t come face to face with her. This is why it is even harder to have her voice be heard, this is why her voice is not amplified…Buse only wants the court’s decision to be implemented. She wants justice! Please be her voice, please hear her…”

Buse Aydın’s friends have been using the hashtags #BuseninSesiOlalım, #BuseyeSesVer for her voice be heard.

Trans woman prisoner Buse is on hunger strike again

Lawyer Eren Keskin has announced via her social media account that trans woman prisoner Buse resumed her  hunger strike on January 31st.

Source: Trans Woman Prisoner Buse is on hunger strike again (Trans mahpus Buse tekrar ölüm orucunda) February 13, 2019 http://www.pembehayat.org/haberler/detay/2065/trans-mahpus-buse-tekrar-olum-orucunda

Prisoner and trans woman Buse, who was given a life sentence and is currently kept in Tekirdağ Prison, began a hunger strike in June last year because her access to  healthcare had been denied. When Buse’s lawyer Eren Keskin announced via her social media accounts that Buse began a hunger strike, she added “Trans woman Buse who is in Tekirdağ Prison has been on hunger strike for 21 days since her gender affirmation surgery is not being performed. She is asking for awareness.”

Buse, who started a hunger strike due to the fact that her gender reassignment surgery is not being performed, paused her resistance on the 38th day of her hunger strike, with support from outside the prison.

On hunger strike again
According to the social media post of Lawyer Eren Keskin via her Twitter account, trans woman prisoner Buse resumed the hunger strike on January 31st, because the Ministry of Health has prevented her access to adequate healthcare .

“I want to be set free from the prison in my body.”
Lawyer Eren Keskin, who had previously made a statement to a Pink Life Association reporter about the case process of trans woman prisoner Diren Coşkun, who undertook a hunger strike in past months in order to have her demands met, also made a statement about the process of Buse’s case. Diren Coşkun and Buse were previously in the same prison wing.

Keskin told Buse that she can file for a retrial since there were no lawyers present throughout her trial. As a response to this Buse said “I want to be set free from the prison of my body”.

23 years in prison
Derya Özata of Kadınlarla Dayanışma Vakfı (Women’s Solidarity Foundation), whom KaosGL.org contacted in relation to the infringements Buse has faced, stated that Buse has been kept in the prison for 23 years. She was given a life sentence, and has the report for the gender affirmation surgery, but the operation has yet to be performed . Özata also indicated that Buse said to the lawyer who visited  her that “I want to see my body as a woman’s body. I do not want to live in this body anymore. It is not even certain how long I will live, or whether I will ever come out of the prison.”

 

Parliamentary Question by HDP about Buse, a Trans Woman Prisoner

HDP Ankara Representative Filiz Kerestecioğlu proposed a parliamentary question about Buse, a trans woman and prisoner, who is not being referred to a hospital for her sex reassignment surgery.

Source: “Parliamentary Question by HDP about Buse, a Trans Woman Prisoner” (HDP’den trans kadın mahpus Buse için soru önergesi) February 6, 2019 http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=27537 

Filiz Kerestecioğlu, Ankara representative of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), proposed a parliamentary question concerning the obstruction of a sex reassignment surgery for Buse, who is a trans woman and prisoner, by the Ministry of Justice despite a court verdict deeming reassignment operations to be mandatory with regards to the mental health of the individual. HDP requested that Abdülhamit Gül, the Minister of Justice, respond.

“Do you think that the verdict by the Ministry which does not allow the surgery to be performed violates the prisoner’s right to healthcare?”

Kerestecioğlu posed the following questions to Minister of Justice Abdülhamit Gül:

Prisoner and trans woman Buse, who is currently serving time at Tekirdağ No. 2 F-type Men’s Prison, filed a suit approximately two and a half years ago in order to be able to undergo sex reassignment surgery. The court delivered a favorable verdict with “permission for surgery,” establishing that the operation was mandatory with regards to the mental health of the individual.

This verdict notwithstanding, the Ministry of Justice has not yet carried out her referral to a hospital and has been standing in the way of her surgery on the grounds that ‘the operation is mandatory but not urgent.’

As a trans woman, Buse is incarcerated at a men’s prison, as she has yet to have her sex reassignment surgery. For the past five  years, she has been held in solitary confinement.

She cannot benefit from access to such things as yard time and other social activities on account of the insufficient number of personnel. She is not permitted to socialize with the other prisoners on the grounds that “her safety cannot be guaranteed.”

The fact that Buse’s demand has been rejected with the explanation that “she can have the surgery once she is released” has no legal basis whatsoever, since it is clear that she will not be released from prison for at least another 15 years. This rejection also goes to show that the Ministry approves of continuing to hold her in solitary confinement as well as allowing her exposure to discriminatory practices. Buse’s only demand is to have surgeries, and to be transferred to a women’s prison afterwards.

In this regard,

  1. Do you think that the verdict reached by the Ministry not allowing the surgery to be performed violates the prisoner’s right to healthcare?
  2. What is the motive behind the Ministry’s re-request for opinion from the Institute of Forensic Sciences, despite the fact that the court has already delivered a verdict?
  3. When it comes to a surgery other than a sex reassignment surgery, is it a routine practice to re-request an opinion despite the court verdict?
  4. Do you consider it an act of discrimination when a prisoner cannot benefit from such things as yard time and other social activities on account of the insufficient number of personnel or when a prisoner is not permitted to socialize with the other prisoners on the grounds that “her safety cannot be guaranteed?”
  5. What kind of measures are being taken by the Ministry so as to prevent LGBTI+ prisoners from being exposed to discrimination?

Istanbul Medical Chamber’s “Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity” Panel

LGBTI+ rights and health were the topics of discussion in the panel, “Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity” organized by the Istanbul Medical Chamber Women’s Commission.

Source: “Istanbul Medical Chamber’s “Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity” Panel ” (İstanbul Tabip Odası’ndan “Cinsel Yönelim ve Cinsiyet Kimlikleri” paneli), kaosgl.org, January 25, 2019, http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=27446

The Panel “Sexual Orientation and Gender Identities”, the fourth in the panel series “Different Faces of Sexuality” organized by the Istanbul Medical Chamber (IMC) Women’s Commission, was held on January 17.

IMC president, Dr. Pınar Saip, moderated the panel held at IMC’s Cağaloğlu building. The panelists included psychiatrist Seven Kaptan, psychiatrist Şahika Yüksel, and Can Candan, Bosphorus University faculty member and director of the documentary ‘My Child.’

In her opening speech, Dr. Pınar Saip said that sex education is not adequately covered in medical training, and for this reason, organizing a panel like this is very important.

Myths, Facts

Dr. Seven Kaptan talked about common misconceptions held by society in her talk titled, “Myths/Facts About Sexual Orientation.” Kaptan stated that until the recent past, homosexuality was considered an illness and with the expansion in freedoms in the 20th century, perspectives have changed. Homophobia could be present in anyone and therapy involves working with internalized homophobia. She said there are doctors who have the inclination to require hormone testing from their patients, but that this has no scientific grounding. Kaptan ended her talk quoting from Yıldırım Türker: “A man can love a man, a woman can love a woman. The second sentence that you formulate will be a political one.”

Changes in Medicine

Another speaker in the panel, Dr. Şahika Yüksel talked about how the medical profession has treated trans individuals in her talk titled “Examining and Guiding Teens and Adults with Gender Dysphoria.” Yüksel shared information on transgender transition processes and the legal procedures in Turkey.

“My Child”

Can Candan, Bosphorus University faculty member and the director of the documentary “My Child” was the last speaker in the panel. Candan said that he was excited to see LISTAG (Families and Friends of LGBTI individuals) at the “Queer, Turkey, and Identity Conference” organized at Bosphorus University in 2010. He said this motivated him to make a documentary.

Candan ended his talk by mentioning LGBTI+ themed films and documentaries.

The panel ended with attendee questions and comments.

4th Mediterranean Symposium Against Homophobia, Biphobia & Transphobia

 

Source: “4th Mediterranean Symposium Against Homophobia, Biphobia & Transphobia”, (4. Homofobi, Bifobi, Transfobi Karşıtı Akdeniz Sempozyumu Nasıl Geçti), kaosgl.org, January 25, 2019, http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=27450

 

Yağmur Arıcan of Mersin’s 7 Colors Association spoke with kaosgl.org about the 4th Mediterranean Symposium Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia.

The 4th Mediterranean Symposium Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia was held on January 18-20 at the Mersin Kültürhane and the Atlıhan Hotel.

In the three-day event, mental health professionals, counselors, attorneys, labor unions and professional organizations discussed LGBTI+ rights. Yağmur Arıcan of the Mersin based 7 Colors Association spoke with kaosgl.org about the symposium events.

Arıcan said that this year they centered the symposium on mental healthcare, legal and labor rights, and organized it in collaboration with the Mersin Bar Association: “We prepared the program in collaboration with the Mersin Bar Association and throughout the planning process, we took local dynamics into consideration. On the first day of the symposium, we hosted psychologists and social workers, on the second day, attorneys and on the last day, labor unions and trade associations.”

Arıcan said that on the first day of the symposium, after Dr. Seven Kaptan’s presentation on the myths and facts about sexuality, psychologist Fahriye Cengiz of Mersin’s 7 Colors Association spoke about what needs be taken into consideration in LGBTI+ mental healthcare: “Apart from mental health professionals, families of LGBTI+ individuals also participated in this session. What emerged from these sessions was the decision to create a web for mental healthcare consultancy services. The session also helped raise the awareness of families of LGBTI+ individuals.”

“Attorney Bilgin Yeşilboğaz of the Mersin Bar Association gave the opening speech on the second day of the symposium. Yeşilboğaz talked about LGBTI+ rights. Afterwards, attorney Neşe Öztürk of the Hatay Bar Association talked about the legal procedures for transgender transition processes. Attorney Ahmet Çevik of the Antalya Bar Association talked about the legislation regarding sex work; Attorney Ezgi Özkan of the Mersin Bar Association talked about LGBTI+ client and attorney relations, and the last speaker, Attorney Hatice Karaca of the Ankara Bar Association talked about refugee LGBTI+ individuals’ access to law. After this session, attendees in Ahmet Toksöz’s workshop, split into groups of three and transformed a given case into a strategic case. This workshop was limited to only 45 attorney participants, but due to a high level of interest, we ended up having 60 participants. I think the most important outcome of this session was the decision for the bar association to create a web for legal consultancy services which has mostly been dependent on personal relations.”

Arıcan explained that the theme for the third day of the symposium was “labor”, focusing on LGBTI+ individuals’ relations with labor unions and trade associations. “The first speaker, Remzi Altunpolat of Kaos GL Association, talked about how the fight for rights could be made into a common pursuit. Özge Göncü, branch chair of Mersin Health and Social Services Labor Union (SES) talked about LGBTI+ visibility. The last speaker, Ayşe Jini Güneş of Mersin Chamber of Physicians talked about the healthcare breaches LGBTI+ individuals experience. The symposium ended with the screening of the film “Pride”.”

 

December 1 World AIDS Day Events in Turkey

gazete-ilanlari1-aralik

 

The LGBTI+ Community in Turkey marks World AIDS Day 2018 with engaging activities . Despite the restraining political environment in Turkey, LGBTI+ activism has been growing stronger and one field where it has consolidated its efforts is in raising awareness on testing for HIV and focus on the lives of HIV+ individuals. In this article, we introduce organizations working for HIV awareness and events that will mark the day this year.

 

Pozitifiz (We are Positive) is a non-governmental organization that approaches the HIV issue from a human rights perspective, seeking to increase access to better healthcare for HIV+ individuals and abolish prejudices against them and their families to provide better living conditions. Most of the founders are HIV+ individuals who have been active in the field for many years.

 

Red Ribbon Istanbul is another civil society organization which strives to expand the channels of information for HIV awareness. They aim to “communicate scientifically-grounded HIV-related information to all parts of society, using clear and easy-to-understand language.”  Red Ribbon Istanbul also works to foster collaboration of private sector, civil society and state actors in order to increase opportunities for safe and anonymous testing, diagnosis and treatment.

 

Red Ribbon Istanbul and Pozitifiz joined forces for their #hivcokdegisti campaign, which says “HIV has changed, have we?”. The campaign circulates statements aiming to rid the public sphere from prejudices about HIV+ individuals and HIV+ living, reminding all of us that “HIV is not only a matter for those who live with HIV, but also for everybody else”. You can read their joint statement for World AIDS Day 2018 on this link.

 

This year, Pozitifiz also participated in the meeting for GSK (GlaxoSmithKline)’s World AIDS Day 2018 Campaign , titled “Kendin İçin 1 Aralık” (December 1 For Yourself) which introduces the stories of HIV+ individuals through their own narratives, inviting everyone to share their own support messages with the #dokun (#touch) hashtag, in an effort to overcome the barriers of fear and prejudice. The campaign also urges everyone to get an HIV test and to learn more about AIDS.

 

Hevi LGBTI Association and Boysan’ın Evi (Boysan’s House) marks the day with a panel titled “HIV/AIDS and Isolation on the basis of gender: Women Tell Their Stories”. The panel is to take place on December 2, 17:00-19:00 at Boysan’s House with the participation of panelists Çiğdem Şimşek and Müzeyyen Araç. Hevi LGBTI has also published multilingual pamhplets and is organizing two more panels on December 1, titled “HIV through Letters” and “AIDS in Turkey- Recent Medical Methods and Studies”.

 

Dramaqueer Art Collective which has recently opened its art base in Tarlabaşı will host a talk titled “M.Paniği” (“M. Panic”) on the first known and sensationalized AIDS case in Turkey. Murteza Elgin, a successful vocalist and manager, became the target of a media circus, finding out about his own HIV+ condition through the very news that stigmatized him. Serdar Soydan will introduce M’s story and the struggle against fear and prejudice in this talk.

 

On World AIDS Day 2018 there will also be an exhibition opening at Operation Room at American Hospital, titled “Positive Space”. The exhibition invitation states that it “opens discussions about themes, directly related to HIV/AIDS, such as visibility and stigma, victimhood and guilt, pleasure and disease as well as subjective bodies recording, separating, accepting and rejecting, infecting and spreading in opposition to ideological and medical bodies. Even though the exhibition affirms ‘positivity,’ it reserves the right to see AIDS as a metaphor. The unrepressed HIV does not destroy the cell, it attacks and emaciates it, just like masculine domination or bio-power practices do. “Positive Space” looks for new contamination technologies against these practices.” Read more about it in this link.

 

To make the World AIDS Day more visible, Kaos GL and Pozitifiz Association has published ads on two dailies (Evrensel and Birgün) with Aslı Alpar’s illustrations with the title “End Stigmatization and Discrimination”.

 

Kaos GL’s Social Services Studies Group has published a statement on World AIDS Day 2018 drawing attention to the discrimination HIV+ individuals face. Here is the statement:

 

“We are disappointed to see that discourses on December 1 World AIDS Day solely focus on the increase in the number of individuals living with HIV. We believe that it is not possible to ignore the discrimination that people living with HIV experience in many realms of life. This discrimination not only affects the psychosocial wellbeing of people living with HIV negatively, but also prevents people living with HIV from accessing social services efficiently. People living with HIV have equal rights with everyone else, from the right to healthcare to the right to work, from the right to education to the right to accomodation.

 

As the Kaos GL Social Services Studies Group we fight for the people with HIV’s access to their rights and we will continue our fight. We are conscious of the responsibility and duty that social services experts and other professionals working in the field of psychological healthcare bear.

 

HIV can be controlled. What matters is that hatred, discrimination and pressure against people living with HIV is controlled.

 

Happy December 1 World AIDS Day!”

 

Illustration: Aslı Alpar