LGBTI Health

Health issues for LGBTI in Turkey

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

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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

 

GNATs Committee on the Inquiry of Human Rights Hears the General Director of  Prisons and Detention Houses on the Status of LGBTI Individuals in Prison

According to a news report by Deniz Ayhan from Sözcü daily, at the briefing on the current status of prisons at the Grand National Assembly of Turkey’s Committee on the Inquiry of Human Rights, the general director of  prisons and detention houses Şaban Yılmaz announced that “there are around 200 LGBTI [individuals] in prisons and one trans individuals reassignment surgery was completed”

Source:  Şaban Yılmaz, the general director of  prisons and detention houses has informed Grand National Assembly of Turkey Committee on the Inquiry of Human Rights: “There are around 200 LGBTI [individuals] in prisons,we have carried out one person’s surgery upon request.” (“Ceza ve Tevkif Evleri Genel Müdürü Şaban Yılmaz, TBMM İnsan Hakları İnceleme Komisyonu’na bilgilendirmede bulundu: ‘Ceza evlerinde 200 civarında LGBTİ var, talep üzerine bir kişinin ameliyatını yaptırdık.’”), Pembe Hayat, http://www.pembehayat.org/haberler/detay/1973/tbmm-insan-haklari-komisyonursquonda-mahpus-lgbtirsquoler-brifingi

“We even got one surgery done”

Yılmaz stated “LGBTI [individuals] have different preferences, so they have different demands as well. We even got one surgery done, a gender reassignment surgery. The person’s surgery took place in Istanbul Marmara University.”

According to the information given to Pink Life by Hilal Başak Demirbaş from Civil Society in Penal System (CISST), “The first gender confirmation surgery  that we know of in Turkey [for an inmate], took place in 2014 with the support of Kaos GL and CISST associations as well as the associations’ lawyers. As a result of the application an inmate ward has been opened in Bülent Ecevit and Marmara Universities.”

“Since 2014 we have received applications from many trans women and men who are in the process of gender confirmation and who are willing to get their confirmation surgery done. Although many applications were done on the basis of the exemplary surgery in 2014, we see that the process and the surgeries have not been carried out in due time. We are applying for inmate wards to be opened in hospitals where gender confirmation surgeries could take place. We know that recently a trans inmate who is doing time for political reasons has applied for a gender confirmation surgery yet the request was rejected on the grounds that ‘it’s not of crucial importance’. We also know that the trans inmate started a death strike as she was kept waiting.”

Recently, a trans inmate’s breast operation was accepted on the grounds that it was “required for the person’s psychological and physical health” by a report prepared by Kocaeli University Medical Science Forensic Medicine Department. The costs for the operation were covered by the Ministry of Health.

“It is an accomplishment of CSOs and activists working in the field that the breast operation was carried out with state support and that the state realises it is not just an “aesthetic” issue. It is also a health requirement. All trans inmates should benefit from such advancements  and the process should be carried out by the General Directorate of Prisons and Detention Houses, with the assistance of CSOs working in the field of LGBTI and human rights.”

 

Toprak: “As a trans woman and a medical student, I want to be able to easily do my job”

Toprak, a 22-year-old medical faculty student, says, “I want a world where trans people are not burned to death, but a world where they are successful.”

Source: “As a trans woman and a medical student, I want to be able to easily do my job”, (Tıp Okuyan Bir Trans Kadın Olarak Mesleğimi Rahatça Yapabilmek İstiyorum), bianet.org, July 21, 2018, http://bianet.org/biamag/toplumsal-cinsiyet/199361-tip-okuyan-bir-trans-kadin-olarak-meslegimi-rahatca-yapabilmek-istiyorum

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Toprak is a 22-year-old medical faculty student. She has two more years before she graduates. She is trying to obtain a new identity card as a woman before she graduates because she wants her diploma to belong to her and not to state a gender identity assigned to her at birth.

Toprak was born in Antep. She attained a high score in the university entrance exam and came to Istanbul five years ago to study at the Istanbul Faculty of Medicine.

Toprak needs financial support in order to have gender reassignment surgery. She started a crowdsourcing campaign to accomplish this.

When she becomes a doctor she wants to be able to proudly hang her diploma on her office wall. She is worried that she will not get appointed and be discriminated against as a civil servant because of the male gender identity marker on her ID card.

Toprak says: “I want to break down prejudices and show people what transwomen can achieve. Transgender people are studying in many different fields. As a transwoman, I want to easily be able to do my job. I need people’s support to be able to have this gender reassignment surgery. I want a world where trans people are not burned to death, but a world where they are successful.”

As a transwoman and medical student, Toprak spoke with Bianet about her university life, future plans and her gender transition process.

Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?

My name is Toprak and I am 22 years old. I am a fifth year medical student at Istanbul Faculty of Medicine. I am a transwoman.

Have you always lived in Istanbul?

No, I was born in Gaziantep. I passed the exam and got into a science-focused high school and studied there for four years before coming to Istanbul for university. I have been living in Istanbul for the past five years.

How is university life?

The first two years were quiet because I hadn’t started my transition process yet and I wasn’t out. I was identifying myself as gay back then. A year later, being openly gay, I started experiencing difficulties, mostly with my family. These did not have much of an impact on my university life. Because of their educational and cultural backgrounds, I did not actually receive any negative reactions from professors or fellow students.

I had only one traumatic transition process experience.

We read about this on social media. A professor at Istanbul University made transphobic statements. Where you in that class? Could you tell us what happened?

Yes. A professor was teaching hypogonadism and talking about pituitary glands, endocrine hormones, testosterone, and estrogen. The topic had nothing to do with transsexuality, but I got the feeling that it was going there.

The professor brought up the topic of transsexuality and said “Men without ovaries come and say, ‘I’m going to be a woman.’ These people are psychopaths. Upon receiving them, we refer them to psychiatry.”

He took out his ID card from his wallet and said, “Here’s a blue ID card. They work so hard to get a pink ID card. There were 250 students in the lecture hall. I was sitting at the back and the professor did not know I was trans. About 70-80 students busted into laughter together with the professor.

I stood up and said, “who are you calling a psychopath? I’m a transwoman.” He was surprised because he did not expect that there would be a transwoman in the lecture hall. He turned around and continued reading from his slides.

I said he needed to explain his statement in front of everybody since he had said this in front of everybody. He said “come and see me after class and I will explain this to you.”

This person is an endocrinologist, meaning he is working in an area that concerns trans people. It really baffles me why nobody ever complained about him because he is an extremely transphobic guy.

Did anybody in the lecture hall say anything?

No. So I shared what happened. I did not expect this to get around so quickly. I assumed people in the LGBT community would hear about it and that people would know about this person.

Things took a different turn when the Turkish Medical Association (TMA) began to support me.

How did the TMA support you?

I shared the incident on Twitter. Doctors from the TMA saw my tweet. They invited me to their board meeting and were very attentive. Their support came a few days after the incident. During those four days, I experienced some negativity at school.

What happened? I’m curious to know how the administration and students responded?

Medical students have a kind of a political stance…Actually, they don’t have a political stance, and they are apolitical. They put their careers first and ignore everything else. They treat people neither positively nor negatively. They are neutral. The university has a similar stance. They choose to remove themselves from the current affairs of the country.

That is why they tried to maintain neutrality, but the feminist club at the university showed great support. They wrote a piece, collected signatures from 11 other clubs and published the statement. I did not experience bullying or any kind of verbal violence. Apart from Twitter, I received a great amount of support.

How did the university administration deal with this?

Initially, they started an investigation against me.

Why did they start an investigation?

Because I had disclosed what the professor said.

Did they warn the professor?

No, they gave him no warning until the TMA stepped in. They treated the incident as if we were in elementary school. They called me in and asked, “Why did you do this? This should have stayed between us. Why did you have to tell everyone?” I felt terrible and I cried that day.

Later, my phone rang and the TMA invited me to their board meeting. Once the news reached the TMA, people in the medical community heard the professor’s transphobic statement. Then celebrities heard about it and they shared their reactions on social media. I never imagined so many people would hear about it.

How did these events impact the investigation started against you?

I found out that the investigation was dropped and that an investigation against the professor had opened instead.

I was a witness in the professor’s investigation and he also gave a statement. Honestly, it felt good to see that he was waiting at the door to explain himself.

Then they said he was penalized.

What was his penalty?

I’m not exactly sure, but they said that the professor was no longer authorized to give oral assessments for internal medicine. Internal medicine is a very important field and to give the oral assessment is considered a huge honor.

During this process, solidarity felt great. When I saw the power of solidarity, I decided to get funding for my surgery. A friend, studying architecture, said she started a campaign for herself and advised me to do the same. I decided to start a campaign because I urgently need to have my surgery.

Why is this so urgent for you?

Unfortunately, currently my ID card has the male gender marker. Surgery is a requirement to change your gender marker on your ID in Turkey.

Without having a female gender identity marker, I worry that I won’t be appointed. Over the past two years, there have been state security investigations against doctors. I worry that having a male gender identity marker on my ID card will impact my appointment. I am a fifth year medical student who will be graduating soon. That’s why I want to have my surgery before graduation.

The main problem for trans people regarding their diploma is the name written on it. It is necessary to change your name before graduating. If you change your name after you graduate, then there is no indication that the diploma belongs to you, making it almost null. I changed my name on my ID card recently. I started my transition a year ago and everything progressed quickly.

Which area do you want to specialize in?

Internal medicine or gynaecology. Fields such as psychiatry and surgery are important for LGBT people, but you need to have really good grades to be in these fields. We’ll see.

You spent this year working. What was your hospital experience like?

We spend many years studying, but after our third year we get to work and I like that we get to be in direct contact with patients and not spend much time at school.

Many of my professors and other students support me.

There is a certain perception of trans woman in society and when you do not fit that perception, they do not call you a trans woman. So far, I have not experienced any negative reactions from patients because they do not know that I am trans.

I used to shy away from patients having seen how patients’ relatives attack health workers.

The other day, one relative of a patient hit a doctor on the head with a brick. Imagine what a person might do to a trans woman…

This is why I do not disclose my trans identity to patients.

Could you tell us about what the transition process is like as both a medical student and as someone experiencing this?

You apply to psychiatry at a public hospital. In Istanbul you can apply to Çapa or Cerrahpaşa. They observe you for at least six months and first refer you to psychiatry and then to endocrinology. At endocrinology you get a hormone test and then you start taking hormones. This process takes about a year.

Social Security Insurance (SSI = public medical insurance) covers everything except hormone medications. Hormone medications cost about 150-200 TL a month. Doctors have now started to write medical reports for hormone medications. As a result, SSI covers hormone medications too.

What is the hormone therapy process like?

(For trans women) You take out testosterone from the body and take in estrogen. The hormones impact you. Your emotions change. The hormone perceived by the receptors change, in other words, the codes change.

For instance, when the lecture hall incident happened, I was feeling very vulnerable because it had been a few months that I had been taking hormones.

This continues for the first six months before your body starts adapting. I don’t feel like that anymore.

Does the surgery process start after that?

The most important thing is the surgery. At this point, transmen are luckier because mastectomy (removal of breasts) and hysterectomy (removal of the uterus) are operations covered by SSI. Because these operations include removing of a part, the procedure is the same for any doctor. But surgeries such as vaginoplasty are highly risky since they involve creating something out of nothing.

SSI does cover this operation but there are no doctors who perform the procedure under this insurance. Even if there is a doctor out there who performs the operation under this insurance, it is really difficult to trust that doctor.

Why?

 

In medical school they do not teach you anything about transgender transition processes. If the person wishes, they self educate themselves after they graduate. If that person has no training, s/he cannot do the operation.

Doctors who specialize in these surgeries must be well known in the trans community then.

Yes. Because this operation is very important, I want to go to a good doctor to have my operation. One trans woman died at an operation two years ago. She was an activist and was living in Izmir. They said she died due to a complication that had derived from her. If the doctor had made a mistake, he would have been penalized anyway.

What kinds of complications arise during an operation like this?

There are complications that are repairable and complications that are more severe. Infections and clitoris dryness are the most common complications that are repairable. One friend didn’t go to a good doctor and got infected; had the surgery again and was hospitalized for three weeks. Another friend had clitoris dryness because the nerve cells were not stitched together well; she had a second operation and was hospitalized for a month.

I do not want to go through any complications. Also, I do not want to disrupt my studies. Attendance is compulsory.

How much does gender reassignment surgery cost?

About 20-30 thousand Turkish lira(3,600-5,400 Euro).