LGBTI Health

Health issues for LGBTI in Turkey

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.

Non-Binary

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

101

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.