Original Content

Created by and for LGBTI News Turkey

An interview with Morocco-based LBTQ+ womxn and feminist initiative Nassawiyat

LGBTI+ communities around the world are under pressure from conservative, heteronormative, neoliberal and patriarchist governments. The global rise of right wing politics makes it ever more important to strengthen the transnational LGBTI+ and women’s rights movements. As a part of these efforts, we interviewed Nassawiyat initiative from Morocco and asked them about the current situation of LGBTI+ communities in Morocco.

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Nassawiyat’s logo

-Thank you for taking time to answer our questions again. First of all, we would like to get to know the Nassawiyat team. When and how was your initiative formed? How does artivism play a role in your activism? 

Thank you for taking the time to do this interview, it is important for us to build an international solidarity network of the LGBTQAI+ community. Nassawiyat was created in 2018 in response to a strong desire to campaign for our visibility and our right to exist. We then thought of setting up an LBTQ+ collective where the word will be given to those who do not have it. We adopt an intersectional and feminist approach in our work and as a tool to fight against all forms of oppression. Through artivism we respond to a need for visibility of the Queer community in Morocco. As well as archiving and documenting committed Queer art.

-As some of our readers might know, homosexual relations are criminalized in Morocco, and so is publishing on homosexuality.  What does this mean in practice for the LGBTI+ community, how is the law enforced? Is law an instrument against the feminist struggle as well?

In Morocco the laws are not very clear in relation to publicity about the LGBTQ+ cause. What is criminalised is same sex sexual intercourse. This is part of a series of laws that constrain individual liberties such as sexual relations outside of marriage, abortion rights, the right to eat in public spaces during Ramadan, etc….The law is a tool to criminalize activists and human rights activists in particular. These laws are used but not very frequently as they remain more as a tool of blackmail and condemnation.

-Discrimination against women and LGBTI+ communities often feed each other under heteronormative and sexist governmentality. Currently in Turkey we are experiencing an intense impunity against sexual violence and hate crimes against the LGBTI+ communities. In fact, we still do not have a law defining hate speech or hate crime. The law against “incitement of public towards hate” is often used against the LGBTI+ communities, punishing the victims of the hate speech rather than the perpetrator. How is the situation in Morocco with regards to the protection of the citizens who are LGBTI and womxn?

In 2016, the current Islamist PJD government (which is modeled on the Turkish government), introduced a law against discrimination based on gender, class and validity. This law is certainly not made to protect the LGBTQ+ community but can be used totally in this sense. However, the problem is as you say in the system. A person from the LGBTQ+ community or even a womxn survivor of violence doesn’t feel safe to go to the police as they are not prepared to deal with such complaints. I think this is a universal problem and the result of a misogynistic and sexist patriarchal system that always proves the cis men right.

– Recently, a Moroccan person nicknamed Naoufal Moussa outed gay individuals from her social media accounts, putting their lives at risk. As far as we know, her Instagram account is currently down, but what has happened since then? Were your demands from Instagram answered by the company? How has the community been coping with the situation?

We have seen a great surge of solidarity among the people in the community. We have been strengthened by what has happened and we have found ourselves putting in place several initiatives to impose our presence and our existence. Several groups were opened, people who were far from traditional classical activism mobilized to stop the spread of Sophia’s videos. Instagram responded after a few days as well as Facebook and Grinder with whom we cooperated.

– Do similar cases of outing LGBTI individuals happen, has it happened before? 

Not on such a large scale, there are individual cases that have happened before but not on this scale and not in a situation of lockdown where people are with their parents and or family.

– Isolation is already a social experience for many womxn and LGBTI+ individuals, especially living in conservative, heteronormative and sexist contexts. The COVID19 outbreak means many LGBTI+ individiuals are isolated twice, having to spend time alone or in potentially risky family settings. The community ties which normally shelter and protect LGBTI+ individuals might be effected from the quarantine conditions. But we believe this ties are always strong and empowering. How is this playing out in Morocco? How is the community reaching out to the womxn and LGBTI+ communities? We saw that you provided some psychological counselling services, what are some of the activities of other grassroots organizations in Morocco?

At the moment we are working on two main projects:

– Nassawiy’ART: an open artistic platform for Queer people who use their arts as a medium to advocate for the human rights of LGBTQI+ people in Morocco. The goal of Nassawiy’ART is also to document and archive engaged queer art in order to contribute to the creation and reinforcement of queer discourses in Morocco. And at the same time, to work on the construction of an LGBTQI+ movement of Moroccan artists.

– The Trans Health Matter (THM) Project: The THM project aims to provide psychological and medical assistance to trans people undergoing hormone transition in Morocco, through counseling sessions with an expert in the field, as well as financial support to assist with medical health analyses for the beneficiaries, for a safe and secure hormone transition.

So we can conclude that civil society in Morocco is working on LGBTQI advocacy and women’s rights through direct services to respond to their needs and emergencies, and also through capacity building activities and movements in Morocco.

Civil society in Morocco remains a small movement with limited access to international resources and funding. Most organizations are currently working on their needs and organization in order to further expand work on the wider LGBTQI community and womxn.

– Last but not least, what are your opinions about the international feminist and LGBTI+ solidarity? What would be your expectations from the communities elsewhere and Turkey? How can our English-speaking and Turkish-speaking readers contribute local activism in Morocco?

We don’t have a concrete international solidarity actually on what is happening in Morocco. The only solidarity and collaboration we make are through the international gatherings and meetings to exchange on the situation in Morocco.

What we think will be useful as a first step to work on: -exchange about the situation of the community and womxn in Morocco as well as for as to know more about situations of the community in other countries- share and exchanges our challenges / needs -create linkages and collaboration with other organizations and civil society internationally.

The only connections we have/trying to create now are with other organizations regionally based in the Middle East and North Africa region, as well as organizations based in the African continent.

Make sure you follow Nassawiyat  on Instagram and Facebook  to be updated on their work!

Interview by: Zeynep Serinkaya

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

 

Bitopya:Bi+lar için başka bir evren, başka bir mecra mümkün!

Uzun zamandır bi+, vegan ve feminizm aktivizmi yapan; biseksüellik, monoseksizm, ve normativite üzerine yazıp, çizen, kafa yoran ve mücadeleye katkı sunan Umut’un açtığı yeni bir mecra Bitopya. Bu söyleşide Bitopya’ya giden yolu arşınlıyoruz:  Bi+ olmanın görünmezliği, biseksüellik hakkında gerek LGBTI+ hareketinde gerekse heteronormatif söylemdeki kalıp yargılardan kurtulmak için doğru bilginin erişilebilir hale gelmesinin gerekliliği ve cinselliği normların tahakkümden kurtarmanın farklı katmanları….hepsi uğrak noktalarımız oldu. LGBTI News Turkey olarak Bitopya’yı heyecanla takip ediyor ve Umut’a teşekkür ediyoruz!

Öncelikle sizi ve varsa bitopya ekibini tanıyalım. 

İsmim umut erdem (they/them). Bitopya’nın kurucusuyum . Uzun zamandır aslında bi+ politika yapıyorum. Yine çoğunlukla bu konuda içerik üretimi yapmış olsam da 2019 yılında İstanbul’da ilk kez gerçekleşen Bi+ Pride İstanbul’un yürütücülerinden biriyim. Sevgili feminist bi+ aktivist Zeynab Peyghamberzadeh ile birlikte gerçekleştirdik. İzmir’de de Onur Haftası kapsamında Bi+ Görünürlüğü Atölyesi gerçekleştirdim, yine geçen sene. 2018 yılında da Gözde Demirbilek ile Kaos GL çatısı altında Bi+ broşürü hazırladık. İstanbul’da yaşıyorum, geçimimi şimdilik özel bir kurumda çalışarak sağlıyorum. Feministim ve veganım, bu konularda aktivizm yapmaya çalışıyorum. Bitopya da bir aktivizm alanı tabii benim için. Sitenin hayata geçebilmesi siteyi inşa eden sevgili transfeminist aktivist Ecemen sayesinde oldu. Kendisi lgbtisagligi.org’u da yapmıştı. Birlikte çalışmış olduk. Şimdilik Bitopya’da, zamanında görüp okuyup “bu yazı kesinlikle Türkçe’ye çevrilmeli” dediğim bi+ politikaya, biseksüel sağlığına ilişkin yazıları Türkçe’ye çeviriyorum ama çevirilere bakacak, katkı sunacak başka gözlere de ihtiyaç duyuyorum. Bir ekip diyemem şimdilik galiba ama “birlikte çalışma” hali kesinlikle var. Genelde biseksüellik ve bi+ politika üzerine konuştuğum, fikir teatisinde bulunduğum, fikirlerine güvendiğim arkadaşlarımın da Bitopya’nın yaratımında büyük rolleri var.

Umut, Türkiyeli okuyucularımız arasında senin adına aşina olanlar elbet vardır, siteyi kurma fikri nasıl oluştu? 

Site fikri benden çıktı. Bi+ öz bir dijital mecraya çok ihtiyaç duyuyordum kendi adıma. Bu sebeple hayata geçirmek istedim. Biseksüelliğin hali hazırda görünmez, silinir pozisyonda olmasının yanı sıra hem lgbti+ hem feminist politikada bir bütünden çok kesişim kümesi olarak görülmesi, sosyal medyada biseksüelliğin hedef gösterilmesi, hakkında üretilen olumsuz ve nefrete varan yargılamalar sebebiyle bunlara bir cevap niteliği taşıyacak bir evren yaratma tahayyülüm oldu. Bi+ politikanın Türkiye’de daha görünür olması gerekliliği de büyük bir motivasyon oldu Bitopya’yı kurmamda. Sivildüşün’e başvurdum, onun desteğiyle gerçekleşti. İngilizce bildiğim için özellikle yurtdışında takip ettiğim bi+ politikasına ve biseksüel sağlığına ilişkin yazıları Türkçe’ye çevirerek Türkiye’deki lgbti+ ve feminist politikanın gündemine bi+’yı sokmayı amaçladım. Hem görünmezlik hem de [bi+] hakkında yaratılan önyargı, kalıp yargı, nefret ve had safhada var olan bilgisizliği yenmede bir bilgi bankası oluşturarak büyük bir adım atabileceğimi düşündüm. Patriyarka, heteronormativite gibi sistemler ve ayrımcılık biçimleriyle mücadele ettiğimiz gibi monoseksizm ve bifobiyi hayatlarımızdan, düşünce ve eyleme biçimlerimizden çıkarmaya çalışacağımız bir evren yaratma tutkusuyla Bitopya doğdu diyebilirim.  

Bitopya adından anlaşılacağı gibi bi+lar için yeni bir tahayyül, başka bir alan, bir ufuk genişletme amacı taşıyor. Sizce dijital aktivizmin işi nedir? 

Sadece bir tweet atmaktan ibaret değildir bence ☺. O tweet’in ne kadar fav ve rt aldığı da fark etmez. Sosyal medyanın gücünü önemsiyorum ama bir tweet’ten ya da flood’dan ibaret olan politik söylemler ne kadar dijital aktivizmdir, kuşkuluyum. Buna dair sorgulamalarım da beni site kurmaya itti doğrusu. Dijital aktivizm, sosyal medyada hızla yayılan bilgi kirliliğinin önüne geçme amacı taşıyarak teması, diyaloğu, tartışmayı önemseyen sağlıklı bir zemin yaratmanın peşindedir bence. Bir de bi+ politikaya ilişkin dijital aktivizm yapma motivasyonum, dijital alanda bi+’lara yönelen şiddet dilinden kaynaklı. O kadar çok bifobiyle örülü ama bunu asla kabul etmeyen kullanıcıların elinden çıkmış tweet’ler görüyordum ki. Dijital alanın, bi+’lar için, monoseksizme ve bifobiye karşı daha güvenli olmasına çalışıyorum, benim için dijital aktivizm bu demek aynı zamanda. Bilgi paylaşımını önemseyen, sağlıklı, iletişim odaklı, eşitlikçi, kapsayıcı, nefrete, şiddete taraf olmayan bir zemin yaratarak, taraftarlaştırmadan farkındalık çalışmaları gerçekleştirmektir dijital aktivizm kanımca.

Türkiye’deki LGBTI+ hareketinde B ve + ne alemde? Türkiye’de bi+ olmanın zor yanlarını nasıl tarif edersiniz? Dünyadaki durum farklı mı?

Biseksüellik özelinde konuşursam yok hükmünde gibi bir şey aslında. Belki ağır oldu ama öyle sanki. Yeni yeni özneler sayesinde kat edilmeye çalışılan yollardan geçiyoruz. Özneler olmasa pek kimsenin düşüneceği yok gibi. Bunun tabii bir geçmişi var ve daha çok sadece LGBTİ+ hareketi değil de feminist hareket çatısında, biseksüel feministlerin verdiği mücadeleyle konuşulur oldu diyebiliriz. 2015’ten beri, biseksüellik ve bi+ politika özelinde açılan patikalar örülmeye çalışıldı. 2019 bu açıdan daha parlaktı diyebiliriz. Ama öznelerin dirayeti ve isyanı olmasaydı… Bunun sebebi bir yandan bilgisizlik ve önyargı. Çok az insanın bilgisizlik ve önyargıyla mücadele etme çabasından kaynaklı, biseksüel silinmesi devam ediyor mücadeleye rağmen. İşte bu bilgisizlik ve önyargı sebebiyle insanlar biseksüelliğin, bir şemsiye kimlik ve varoluş olduğunu yadsıyorlar. “Bi+” olarak literatüre geçirmeye çalışıyoruz. Monoseksizmi literatüre geçirmeye çalışıyoruz. Bu mücadele yeni ama tabii. Biz özneler için de çok eskiye dayanmıyor farkındalık. Öyle yok sayılan bir şey ki çünkü, başka varoluşların kesişiminde politika yapmaya, varolmaya çalışmışız. Ee fobi, nefret de cabası. Bu atmosfer içselleştirilmiş bifobiyi fark etmemizi de engelliyor. Bu gerçekten bence acı bir şey. “+” yı da biseksüellikten ayıramıyorum ben aslında tabii. Bitopya’nın politikası, “+” ve trans politikadan kopuk, bağımsız asla değil. Çünkü ikili kurulan, toplumun onayı ve bakış açısına dayanan bir sistemle/sistemlere karşı mücadele esaslı, bu sistemlerin birbiriyle ilişkisini, kesişimini açığa çıkarma amacı taşıyor. Bu yüzden mücadele çetin, zor ama imkansız değil. Düşünce sistemimizi ve yargılarımızı ikilikten çıkarma, o ikilik dışında düşünebilme, argüman geliştirebilme, genelleyici bir ikilik tahsis etmemeye yönelik atılacak adımlar, LGBTİ+ hareketinde B ve +’yı önceliyor olacak. 

Yani sözde cinsiyet ikiliğine düşülmeme gayesi var ama ben pratikte bunun egzersizinin yapıldığına inanmıyorum. Eşcinsel/hetero ikiliği üzerinden kuruluyor dil ve politika. Bi+ politikası tam da bu ikiliği eleştiriyor ve diğer yaratılan ikiliklerle ilişkilendiriyor bu durumu. Gerçekten söylenildiği gibi cinsiyet ikiliği eleştirisi layıkiyle yapılıyor olsa eşcinsel/hetero ikiliği tufasına düşülmez. 

Biseksüel olarak açılma anından itibaren başlanan zorluklar var, geçerli sayılmamak, kanıt beklentisi, ciddiye alınmamak ve olumsuzlamalar yağıyor üstüne sürekli. İlişkilenmelere dair kötü deneyimler ve yaşanan travmaların faturası, sırf senin varoluşundan, arzundan kesiliyor. Arzu ile deneyim arasında kurulan hiyerarşiden ve deneyimin daha üstte görülmesinden nasibini alıyorsun. Açılamıyorsun. Açılmanın öncesi de var aslında, tüm kuşanılan nefret, önyargı, kalıp yargılar, olumsuz yargılamalar, düşmanlaştırma, sana bir şeyi zaten gösteriyor oluyor. Bir temsil bulamıyorsun. Zaten “evet biseksüel, bi+ budur” denilen bir temsil de olamaz. Yani tektip olamaz diyeyim en azından. Böyle olunca medyada vs. kendini biseksüel olarak tanımlayan karakterlerin yoksunluğunu görüyorsun ya da stereotip temsillerle karşılaşıyorsun, ne yazık ki. Bir şeylerin çatısında elimine ediliyorsun. “Eşcinsel evlilik”, “eşcinsel çift”, “lezbiyen filmler”, “gey temsiller”. Biseksüellik asla tahayyül edilen bir şey olmuyor. Zaten böyle olumsuz görülen ve hakkında ön yargı üretilen bir şey neden tahayyül edilsin? Hadi açılıyorsun diyelim, ikili cinsiyetçi oluyorsun. O kadar çok karşılaştım ki bu yorumla. Yok yeterince queer değilmiş, yok çok ikiliymiş. Hangi mertebeye çıkıldı ve böyle yargılar yapılıyor? Biseksüeller tek tipmiş gibi bir algı var. Ee hani çeşitliliği savunuyorduk? Bi+ mevzusunda duvara tosluyoruz, kabul edelim ☺. Monoseksizm üzerine düşünmemenin, bunu gündemleştirmemenin acısını yaşıyorsun ve yanındaki insana göre sana yönelim atanıyor, birileri tarafından da buna göre sen lgbti+ topluluğunun içindesin ya da değilsin. Ya herkesin üzerine basa basa hayatını yaşayan ayrıcalıklarla kuşanmış birisin ya da sen de acı çekiyorsun çünkü o sırada hemcinsinle birliktesin. Ben ayrıcalık denen şeyden, birlikte olduğun partnere bağlı olarak üzerinden kıyafet çıkarıyormuş gibi bundan sıyrılabileceğini düşünmüyorum. Hop şimdi ayrıcalıklı değilim, çünkü partnerim hemcinsim ya da normatif görülen biri değil. Hop şimdi ayrıcalıklıyım çünkü partnerim diğer cinsiyetli. Böyle bir şey olabilir mi? Sandalye kapmaca oyunu mu bu? Bu sabit, genelleştirici, keskin sınırlar çizen düşünce sistemini sorgulamamız gerekiyor. 

Dünyadaki durum da farklı değil. Lokal farklılıklar elbet olur diye düşünsem de takip ettiğim kadarıyla gördüğüm yaşanılan yok sayılma, dışlanma, olumsuz yargılara tabî olma, hem hareketteki hem toplumdaki ikili düşünme tedrisatı çok evrensel. Bitopya’daki çeviriler boşuna yapılmıyor  

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Bitopya site tasarımı ve görselleri : Ecemen

Uzaydan dünyaya bakıyorken hazır, bunu da soralım: Bitopya’nın önemli bir görevi çevirmenlik. Bu açıdan  LGBTI+ News Turkey olarak bizimle de ortak bir derdiniz var: Dünyadaki bi+’larla Türkiye arasında bir köprü kurmak. Size göre bunun önemi ve işlevi nedir? İnternetin sağladığı alışveriş LGBTI+ hareketi için nasıl bir potansiyel taşıyor?

 

Çok fazla LGBTİ+’nın internet kullandığını düşünürsek ve hatta kendilerini oralarda daha çok ifade ettiklerini düşünürsek önemli bir iş yapıyoruz. Daha çok insana ulaşma potansiyelimiz var. Aynı havayı soluyamadığımız, komşu olmadığımız nice insana da erişebiliriz. İnternetin kendisi başlı başına pek çok insanı bir araya getiren, ortaklaştıran bir araç oldu ama sosyal medyada bunun nasıl dezavantaja neden olacak şekilde kötüye kullanıldığını da görüyoruz. Bir ortaklaşma, biraradalık yaratırken gücünü nasıl taraftarlaştırmadan aldığını. Bitopya’nın derdi, bu tufaya düşmeden, söylemini, politikasını yaygınlaştırmak. Türkiye’de bi+ politikaya dair büyük bir bilgisizlik hakim. ‘Dünyada neler oluyor’u bu konuda takip etmek benim için elzem. İngilizce kaynakların yaygınlığı ama Türkiye’nin bundan haberdar olmaması, Bitopya’yı bir sorumluluk olarak ortaya çıkardı. Herkes İngilizce bilmiyor, özellikle bunu düşünerek yaygın olan İngilizce kaynakları Türkçe’ye çevirmek istedim. Öz bir bi+ kaynak, alan olması da çok önemliydi, aksi şekilde elimine ediliyor bi+, çok üzerine düşülmüyor. İnternet ortamında yaygınlaşan bilgi kirliliği ve nefrete karşı böyle bir alan yaratarak mücadele etmenin bir gereklilik olduğunu düşündüm. Bu bir yandan bir tercih. Umarım çokça yaygınlaşır. Uluslararası bir dayanışma, iletişim de yaratıyor böyle bir mecra yaratmak. Çünkü çeviri sadece Türkiye’deki okuyuculara sunulan bir hizmet, eylem biçimi de olmuyor, çevirisini yaptığımız yazarla ya da içerik sahibiyle de temas kuruyoruz. O da mesela Bitopya’yı paylaşıyor. Bir bakıyoruz, Bitopya’nın eriştiği yer sadece Türkiye’den ibaret değil artık ☺.  Dilde dönüşümü sağlamak da önemli bir mevzu. Hem dilde yeniden ve yeniden üretilen o ikiliği kırmak hem de İngilizce terimleri, ‘Türkçe’ye nasıl çevirebiliriz’, ‘nasıl yerelleştirebiliriz’ üzerine mesai harcamayı da düşündürüyor. İsteğim, yanlış, nefret içerikli söylemlere karşı pat diye, siteden bir link verebilmek ya da Bitopya’daki her tür içeriğin dolaşıma sokulmasını, yaygınlaştırılmasını sağlamak. Çünkü bir süre sonra inanıyorum ki, insanlar görmezden gelemeyecek, böyle bir şansları olmayacak çünkü. Bunun adımlarını da görüyoruz. Daha büyüyecek bu, buna inanıyorum.  

 

Sitenin bölümlerine de değinelim: Bi+ politika, biseksüel sağlığı ve biseksüel tarihi. Bu başlıklar nasıl oluştu? Yeni başlıklar eklemeyi düşünüyor musunuz? Orijinal içerikler de görecek miyiz? Çok heyecanlandık!

Benim için de çok heyecan verici ☺, sevindim karşılık bulmasına. “Bi+ politika” daha çok yurtdışında yürütülen Bi+ politika’yı Türkiye ve Türkçe dili ile buluşturma amacı güden içeriklerden oluşuyor. “Biseksüel sağlığı” da, LGBTİ+ sağlığı adı altında elimine edilen ve görülmeyen biseksüellerin sağlık koşullarına, sağlık hizmetlerine erişim konusuna, bifobinin ve monoseksizmin sağlıklarına yönelik etkilerine ilişkin makalelere, içeriklere yer veriyor. Biseksüelliğin yeterince bilinmemesinin nedenlerinden biri, biseksüelliğin tarihinin bilinmemesi bence. Bu düşünceden hareketle, bu konuda çalışan bihistory sayfasının paylaşımlarını çevirerek farkındalık yaratmayı amaçlıyor, Bitopya.

Bir de Bitopya’da #StillBisexual video kampanyası çatısında yüklenen İngilizce videolar Türkçe altyazılı ile mevcutlar. Güncellenmeye devam edecek bir bölüm o da. #Stillbisexual yazar ve aktivist Nicole Kristal’ın 2015’te hayata geçirdiği bir video içeriği kampanyasıdır. Biseksüellerin yönelimlerine dair çeşitli hikayelerini paylaştıkları #stillbisexual, biseksüel şemsiyesindeki varoluşlara dair farkındalık geliştirip biseksüelliğin silinmesi, hakkında yaratılan mitler ve olumsuz yargılamalarla mücadele etmeyi hedefliyor.

Yeni eklemeler tabii ki yapılacak. Fikir aşamasında olan ve gerçekleşmeyi bekleyen şeyler var. Şimdilik daha çok video içerikleri özelinde. Türkiye’deki bi+ tarihini deşme fikrim de var. Orijinalden kasıt ne bilemedim şimdi ama yeni şeyler gelecek, takipte kalın ☺. 

Bitopyanın düşlerine ortak olup katkıda bulunmak isteyen okuyucularımız olabilir, özellikle de İngilizce konuşan ve Türkiyeli olmayan okurumuz çok. Size nasıl katkıda bulunabilirler?

Aslında beraber geliştireceğiz Bitopya’yı. Nasıl katkı koymak istediklerine dair bir fikir ya da fikirler siteyi incelediklerinde akıllarına gelebilir belki. Özellikle çeviri alanında katkı koymak isteyenler oluyor. Yazı gönderilebilir, hem Türkçe hem İngilizce dilinde. İngilizce ve Türkçe harici dilde yazı gönderildiğinde, o dillerde çeviri yapabilecek insanlar katkı koymak isterse şahane olur. Zeynab’ın daha önce ILGA’da yazdığı bir yazıyı çevirmiştik, biseksüel sığınmacılarla ilgili. O yüzden o konuda daha çok ses ve söz duymak kıymetli. Tasarım, çizim anlamında katkıya açık olabilir Bitopya. Ufuk geniş Bitopya’yı birlikte yürütmek konusunda. Sadece tahayyülüm, Bitopya’yı sadece editörlük konumunda görmemek, gerçekten paylaşımın, temasın, biraradalığın olacağı bir yer olarak görmek, o şekilde geliştirebilmek. 

 

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Bitopya logosunun tasarımı Ecemen’in elinden.

Logonuz ve site tasarımınız da pek güzel, gözlerimizden kaçmadı. Kimin elinden çıktı bu tasarımlar? Onu da anmadan geçmeyelim.

Siteyi kuran Ecemen yaptı tasarımları da. Fikir ve hayal gücümüzün uyumu ve sirayeti diyeyim ☺ Hep söylerim, Ecemen olmasaydı, Bitopya da olmazdı ☺ 

 

Bitopya.org’u takibe alın!

 bitopya.org@gmail.com’dan iletişebilirsiniz.

Sosyal medya hesapları:

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/BitopyaOrg

Instagram: https://instagram.com/bitopya

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

 

“Şugariyet Ödülleri” aktivistleri birbirlerini kucaklamaya davet ediyor

Kısa bir süre önce SPoD, LGBTI+ hareketine kendini adamış isimlere verilecek “Şugariyet Ödülleri” için bir çağrı yayınladı. Çağrı, LGBTI+ hareketinin her türlü baskıyla mücadele ederken eleştiriye vakit ayırdığı kadar belki de yaptıklarını takdir etmeye vakit ayırmadığı kaygısı taşıyordu. SPoD Genel Koordinatörü Mustafa Sarıyılmaz’la LGBTI+ aktivizminin sırtladığı yüklere, yaşadığı yıpranmışlıklara karşı yapılabilecekleri konuştuk. Röportaj: Zeynep Serinkaya

Şugariyet Ödülleri fikri nasıl doğdu? 

Fikir aslında Yönetim Kurulu üyemiz Cihan Hüroğlu’dan çıktı. Cihan halihazırda GLBTİ+ hareketine çokça ve uzuncadır emek vermiş ve vermeye de devam eden biri olarak bunu uzuncadır düşündüğünü bir toplantıda dile getirdi. Tabii ki biz de hemen heyecanlandık ve “evet hadi yapalım” dedik. İçinde bulunduğumuz politik durumdan fazlasıyla etkilenen bir hareket LGBTİ+ hareketi ve son zamanlarda yurt dışına taşınma oranlarının artması, ifşaların artması, güvenli alanların azalması gibi durumlar insanları örgütlü olmaktan uzaklaştırmaya da başladı. Madiliğin binbir türlüsünü gerçekleştirir hale geldik acısıyla tatlısıyla, ancak “Birbirimizi takdir etmeyi unutmaya mı başladık?” sorusuyla aslında biraz da ortaya çıkan bir fikir oldu. 

Şugariyet Ödülleri, Hormonlu Domates gibi her sene olmasını planladığınız bir etkinlik mi? Bunun için herhangi bir kaynak buldunuz mu ya da destek gerekti mi? 

Şugariyet Ödülleri’nin kesinlikle her sene olmasını istiyoruz. Amacımız Hormonlu Domates’teki gibi aslında, her yıl LGBTİ+ hareketine emek verenlere böyle küçük bir şekilde de olsa teşekkür etmek ve emekleri görünür kılmak. Bunun için kaynak ve destek bulduk elbette. Bu fikir ile birlikte o dönem henüz yeni tanıştığımız Friedrich Naumann Foundation (FNF) Türkiye ile görüştük ve onlar da fikrimizi çok sevdiler ve destek olmak istediklerini bildirdiler. Ama elbette ki her zaman daha fazla desteğe açığız. Şugariyet takip ettiğimiz kadarıyla bulunduğumuz coğrafyada tek ödül töreni olma özelliğini taşıyacak. Bizim istediğimiz bu yıl Türkiye içinde bunu gerçekleştirip, ilerleyen dönemlerde daha bölgesel ve mümkünse uluslararası hale gelmesi için çalışmak. Bölgedeki LGBTİ+ hareketini desteklemek, iş birliklerini artırmak ve iletişimi güçlendirmek istiyoruz.

Türkiye’deki LGBTİ+ hareketi baskılara rağmen ayakta ve yılmıyor. Fakat bu direnç halinin psikolojik bir maliyeti de var ve belki hareketin dışında kalanlar bunu pek bilmiyor. Bize biraz LGBTI+ aktivizminin, genel olarak aktivist olmanın nasıl yıpratıcı olabileceğini anlatır mısın? Siz SPoD’da bununla nasıl baş ediyorsunuz? Onarıcı, sağaltıcı etkinliklerin aktivizmin sürdürülebilirliği için önemi nedir? 

Bu soruya öncelikli olarak bireysel cevap verip ardından kurumsal cevap vermek istiyorum. Genel olarak aktivist olmak bizlerin coğrafyasında fazlasıyla yıpratıcı bir durum. Ben gençlik ve mülteci alanından LGBTİ+ alanına giriş yapan biri olarak şunu söyleyebilirim, her alanın kendine ait zorlukları bulunuyor. İnsan olmayı ve insancıl bir hayat sürmeyi isteyen kişiler olarak, bunların size sağlanmadığı yerde bir yaşam kurmak ve buna ek olarak da konunun aktivizmini yürütmek çok fazla yorucu. Elinizi attığınız her şeyin ters tepmesi, her gün aldığınız kötü haberler, belki de sürekli olarak yaşadığınız şehirleri değiştirmek içinizdeki motivasyonu ve ‘benim bir derdim var’ olgularını yıkmaya o kadar hazır ki, çift taraflı bir bıçağın sizi yaralamamasını umarak aktivizminizi gerçekleştirmeye çalışıyorsunuz. Uygun bir çıkar yol bulmaya çalışıyorsunuz; olursa oluyor, olmuyorsa kopuyorsunuz. Size aktivizm yaptığınız alanı hatırlatan her şeyden uzaklaşıyorsunuz.

SPoD olarak bununla çok efektif bir başa çıkma metodumuz var diyemiyorum ne yazık ki. Öğrenmeye çalışıyoruz, “En efektif yöntemler neler olabilir, biz birbirimize nasıl sahip çıkabiliriz?” sorularını sürekli konuşup tartıştığımız bir dönemdeyiz. Gerekli destek sistemlerini öğrenip efektif olarak kullanmak istiyoruz. Ama şunu belirtmeden geçemeyeceğim; sağlamak için uğraştığımız hizmetlerden yararlanan kişilerin bizlere telefon, mail veya sosyal medya hesaplarımız üzerinden ulaşarak teşekkür etmeleri, hepimizin içindeki ateşi harlıyor. Ve yaptığımız işin ne kadar önemli olduğunu somut olarak görme şansına erişebiliyoruz. Bu teşekkürler, yıpranma payımızın eşiğini yukarıya çekiyor. Onarıcı, sağaltıcı etkinlikler ile maruz kaldığımız olumsuzluklar, kötü haberler ve hatta belki de ikincil travmalardan kendimizi arındırmaya yardımcı oluyor. Aslında muazzam bir deşarj olma yöntemi sunuyor sağaltıcı etkinlikler, bu da var olan gücümüzü yeniden canlandırıyor. 

Söylediğin şey çok doğru aslında. Türkiye’de LGBTİ+ hareketi şu anda en güçlü döneminde. Baskılar da en kuvvetli oldukları dönemde belki. Ancak bu süreç içinde LGBTİ+ hareketinin öznesi, parçası olan kurumlar olarak birbirimizle daha fazla iletişim halindeyiz, daha fazla haberleşiyoruz, daha fazla takdir ediyoruz, daha fazla işbirliği yapıyoruz, daha fazla birbirimizi görünür kılmak için uğraşıyoruz. OHAL ile birlikte de aslında daha fazla sivil toplum kuruluşu ile de işbirliği yapmaya başladık. LGBTİ+ hareketi gün geçtikçe genişliyor ve kuvvetleniyor. Ve bu organik genişleme ve güçlenme bana yine güç veriyor ve yıpranma eşiğimi yukarı çekiyor.

 

LGBTI+ hareketi, adının da layığını veren bir çeşitliliğe sahip. Bu renkli çeşitlilik içinde farklılıkların ayrışmalara dönüşmemesi için de sürekli bir diyalog şart. Ödül törenleri ve parti gibi etkinliklerin bu bir aradalık açısından önemi nedir sence?

Gerçekten de öyle. Çok geniş bir çeşitliliğe sahip LGBTİ+ hareketi. Aslında farklılıkların ayrışmalara dönmesini önemsiyorum ben. Ama bu ayrışmalar henüz her zaman diyalog içinde gerçekleşemiyor. Umarım farklılıklar diyaloglar içerisinde kendine yer bulur ve gerçek bir kapsayıcılık ile yolumuza devam ederiz ve güçleniriz daha fazla. Aslında ödül töreninin ortaya çıkmasındaki fikir gibi bir öneme sahip. Partiler ve bu tarz birliktelikler hem bizlerin stres atmasına yardımcı oluyor hem de bir araya gelerek aslında hasret gidermeye yardımcı oluyor. E tabi gullümler, tatlı madiliklerle de şenleniyoruz, benliğimizi en özgür şekilde yaşayıp, hayatın olumsuzluklarından kendimizi soyutluyoruz bir şekilde de olsa.

 

Sivil toplumda harcanan emeklerin sonuçları uzun vadeli olabiliyor, fakat sürekli bir başarı muhasebesi de yapmak gerekebiliyor, bu da sanırım yıpratıcı bir deneyim. Belki bu açıdan da olumlu hikayeleri, kazanımları daha sık anlatmaya ihtiyaç var. Kötü haberleri paylaşmaya daha teşne olabiliyoruz, iyi haberler arada kaynayabiliyor. En son örneğin Queer Olympix yasaklandı ama yine de maçlar yapıldı, katılımcılar birarada kaldı.  Bu konuda sizin medyadan, sivil toplum destekçilerinden ve sosyal medya kullanıcılarından beklentiniz nedir? Şugariyet Ödülleri’nin amacına paralel olarak bu röportajı okuyanlar neler yapabilirler?

Çok doğru bir noktaya değindin. Kendimizi sürekli krizler içerisinde bulduğumuz için, olumlu hikayeleri, başarıları kaçırabiliyoruz. Ya da konuşmalarımızda çok da fazla değinmiyoruz. Queer Olympix’in yasaklanmasıyla beraber etkinliklerin biçimlerinin ve yerlerinin değişmesi aslında LGBTİ+ hareketinin doğası. Bir taraftan baskılansak da, baskıladıkları yerden bir kaç adım öteye gittiğimizde yeni çözümler üretebiliyoruz. Bu baskıların, yasakların yaratıcılığımıza çok büyük etkisinin olduğunu gözden kaçırmamak gerek. Ve sevgili Queer Olympix ekibi de bunun en son örneğini çok güzel bir şekilde göstermiş oldu. Sivil toplum destekçilerinden beklentilerimiz, kendilerine yakın gördükleri kurumlar hangileriyse, onlara üye olmaları, destek vermeleri, çalışmalarını takip etmeleri ve beğendikleri çalışmaları yaymaları aslında. Zira yaptıklarımız bu şekilde görünür olabiliyor. Medyaya ne demek gerekir çok emin değilim. Zira klasik medya tamamen LGBTİ+ karşıtı bir yerde konuşlanıyor ve yine geçmişe dönerek baktığımızda olumsuz haberlerin, nefret söylemlerinin tavan yaptığını görüyoruz. Nefret söylemlerinden uzaklaşmalarını temenni ediyorum. Sosyal medya kullanıcılarından da sivil toplum destekçilerinden beklediklerimizi bekliyoruz. Kendilerine yakın gördükleri kurumları takibe alsınlar ve çalışmalarını takip etsinler. Anlamadıklarını düşündükleri şeyler için kurumlarla iletişime geçsinler. 

Şugariyet Ödüllerinin amacına paralel olarak bu röportajı okuyanlar, ödüllerin kategorilerini görebiliyorlar. Önümüzdeki gün adaylar açıklanacak. Adayları tanımıyorlarsa kim olduklarına bakabilirler. Jüri harekete emek veren kişilerden oluşuyor. Şu anda devam eden de bir aday önerisi poll’u var. Aday göstermek istedikleri kişiler varsa, onları aday göstersinler. [Poll bu yazı hazırlanırken kapandı] Ve önümüzdeki yıl ve yıllar için, LGBTİ+ hareketini ve emek verenleri takip etmeye çalışsınlar. Devam eden yıllarda daha fazla kategori ile daha fazla kişinin emeğini görünür kılmamıza destek verebilirler. 

LGBTI+ hareketine ve sivil toplumuna katılmak, ya da bu alanda gönüllü olmak isteyip çekinen okuyucularımıza neler söylemek istersin? Bu yorucu yanlara rağmen seni sivil toplumda tutan şey nedir?

Çekinmemelerini söylemek isterim öncelikli olarak. Herhangi bir yerde gönüllü olmak için kendilerine neden sorusunu sormalarını isterim. Neden gönüllü olmak istiyorum? “Bir yerde okuduğum, gördüğüm nefret suçuna sinirlendim”, “ ‘Benim Çocuğum’u izledim, kendimi yeni keşfediyorum”, “bu benim meselem” vs. gibi nedenlerle gönüllü olmaya gelen kişilerin gönüllülük süreleri çok kısa oluyor ne yazık ki. O heyecan, üzüntü, keşif dönemleri bittiğinde gönüllülük de bitiyor ve ne kendilerine ne de gönüllü olmaya çalıştıkları kurumlara bir artıları oluyor. 

Gönüllü olmak isteyenler, neden sorusuna buldukları cevapla, kendilerine yakın gördükleri kurumlar ile iletişime geçsinler, oralarda gönüllü olarak katkı sağlayabilecekleri bir şey olup olmadığına baksınlar. Mümkünse, kuruma gidip oradaki çalışanlarla ve diğer gönüllülerle tanışsınlar, anlaşabilip anlaşamadıklarına baksınlar. Bunlar çok önemli şeyler, çünkü o kurum için çalışırken arkadaşlık ilişkileri gelişiyor, birlikte iş yapma yükümlülükleri gerçekleşiyor. Ve bunları anlaşamadığınız, ısınamadığınız insanlarla yapmaya çalıştığınızda işe yaramıyor asla. 

Beni bu alanda tutan şey her daim var olan idealistliğim galiba. Çocukluğumdan beri, haksız gördüğüm her şeyin peşine düşüp, hak yerini bulsun diye uğraşıyordum. Bu hastanede muayene sırası beklemekten tutun, ’99 depreminde su sırasına girmeye kadar (bunların çoğu olurken 9-10’lu yaşlarımdaydım). Lise döneminde, biraz merak biraz da çalışkanlığın birleşmesiyle, kendimi bir proje kapsamında yurtdışında buldum. Toplamda 6 gün. Döndükten sonra şunu farkettim, ne kadar şanslı olduğumu. Çünkü tüm emeklerim, çalışmalarım beni resmen ödüllendirmişti. Hayatımda ilk kez uçağa binmiştim ve yurt dışına çıkmıştım. Bundan sonrası benim için çorap söküğü gibi ilerledi. Kendimi gençlik çalışmalarının içinde buldum. Benim gibi gençlerin, yurtdışına çıkabilmelerinin yolunu aradım, yönlendirdim, anlatmaya çalıştım elimden geldiğince. “El vermek” denir ya bizde, el vermeye çalıştım, çok güzel insanlarla birlikte çalıştım ve çalışmaya da devam ediyorum. Velhasıl kelam, ben kendime “Neden?” sorusunu sorduğumda, benim erişebildiğime ilişkilendiğim kişiler de erişsin istedim ve bu kısım hala devam ediyor. Sivil toplum alanında çalışmak sizi motivasyonel ve manevi anlamda en çok tatmin eden yer olabiliyor gerçekten. Bunu yaparken de evet çok yorucu olabiliyor, ama biri size direkt ya da içinde olduğunuz yapıda gerçekleştirdiklerinizle birlikte dolaylı yoldan teşekkür ettiğinde, benim için herşey çözümlenmiş oluyor. Bu da beni sivil toplumda tutmaya devam ediyor 🙂

Son soru da azıcık neşeli olsun, biraz da magazinel 🙂  Töreni kim sunacak ve çeşitli sürprizler beklemeli miyiz? Töreni canlı izleyebilecek miyiz?

Bunların tamamı sürpriz, sevdiğimiz biri/leri sunacak. Ve bence güzel şeyler beklemelisiniz! 21 Eylül’ü not edin çünkü, gullümlü, eğlencesi bol, tatlı madiliği but bir akşam geçireceğiz. Canlı yayın için çalışmalarımız sürüyor. Bir aksilik olmazsa canlı olarak da gelemeyenler takip edebilecek 🙂

Eklemek istediğin bir şey var mı? Ya da duyurmak istediğin?

Konudan bağımsız olarak, SPoD olarak geçen aylarda başlattığımız bir destek kampanyamız var. O hala devam ediyor. SPoD’u ve çalışmalarını beğeniyorsanız, destekçimiz olun! SPoD çalışmalarına devam etmek istiyor, daha fazla insana erişebilmeyi ve hizmet sunmayı hedefliyor. Bunun için de herkesin desteğine ihtiyacımız var! Dayanışma çağrımızı da buradan görebilir ve destekçimiz olabilir okuyanlar da.

 

Röportaj: Zeynep Serinkaya 

“Şugariyet Awards”* is inviting activists to embrace each other

Recently SPoD announced the launch of the “Şugariyet Awards” which will be awarded to those who have dedicated themselves to LGBTI+ activism. The announcement underlined the concern that the LGBTI+ movement did not spare time to appreciate its own accomplishments as much as it does for self-criticism, while battling intense pressures. We interviewed SPoD’s General Coordinator Mustafa Sarıyılmaz on how LGBTI+ activism can fight burn-out syndrome with all the weight on its shoulders.  

 

How did the idea of the Şugariyet Awards come about? 

Our board member Cihan Hüroğlu came up with the idea. Cihan has contributed a lot to the  LGBTI+ movement, and in a meeting he said he’s been thinking about this for a while. It got us very excited and we said “let’s do it!”. The LGBTI+ movement is deeply impacted by the political context and lately people have been moving abroad, people have been distancing themselves from getting organized due to the increase in exposure and loss of safe spaces.

We all started doing a lot of madilik** for better or worse, so it got us thinking “Have we started to forget to appreciate each other?” 

 

Are the Şugariyet Awards going to be an annual event like the GMO Tomato Awards? Have you received any funding for the event? 

 

We definitely would like to have the Şugariyet Awards every year. Our aim is to make it regular like the GMO Tomato Awards, this time to thank those who contributed to the LGBTI+ movement and to render their efforts visible. Of course we found support and funding for the awards. We took the idea to the Friedrich Naumann Foundation (FNF) Turkey Branch, they loved the idea and wanted to support it. But certainly we are always open to more support. As far as we know, Şugariyet will be the only award ceremony of its kind in this country. What we want is to do it in Turkey this year and try to make it regional and hopefully international in the future. We want to support the LGBTI+ movement in our region, to increase collaboration and communication. 

 

The LGBTI+ movement in Turkey is standing strong against the pressures. Yet this resilience takes its toll on the psychological wellbeing of the activists, perhaps those outside the movement are not really cognizant. Can you tell us a little about how being an LGBTI+ activist can lead to burning out? How does SPoD deal with it? What is the significance of healing and reparative events for the sustainability of your activism?

 

 

I’d like to answer this question first as an individual and then as a spokesperson for the association. Being an activist in general is highly stressful in this part of the world. As someone who started working in the field of LGBTI+ issues in the issues of youth and refugees, I can say that each field has its own challenges. As people who want to be human and lead a humane life, it is quite exhausting to try to build a life and do activism in a context where this condition is not provided. Things are constantly going wrong, you receive bad news every day, perhaps moving from one city to another, such conditions can easily undermine your idealism and your motivation; therefore you are always trying to continue your activism, hoping a double edged knife will not hurt you. You try to find a way, if it works out, it works out, if not you lose your connection. You start moving away from everything that reminds you of your field of activism.

I can’t really claim that as SPoD we have a very effective way of dealing with the burn out. We are trying to learn and constantly discussing what these methods can be, how we can stand by each other. We want to learn the support methods necessary and to use them effectively. I must stress that when the people we provide help to reach us over the phone, e-mail or social media to thank us, it rekindles the fire in us. It gives us the opportunity to see the concrete outcomes of the work we do. These messages of gratitude increase our threshold of stress. The reparative and healing events allows us to rid ourselves of bad news, negativity and perhaps secondary traumas. These are in fact a great way of unwinding, which is invigorating.  

What you said is right, the LGBTI+ movement in Turkey is the strongest it has been. And so is the pressure perhaps. In this context, the platforms who are the agents of the LGBTI+ movement are communicating more, appreciating each other more, collaborating more and trying to make each other more visible. After the state of emergency we started to collaborate with many more CSOs. LGBTI+ movement is expanding and growing stronger each day. This organic growth empowers me and raises my threshold for burn out. 

LGBTI+ movement is as diverse as the letters in its acronym. It is imperative to have a constant dialogue within the movement, to avoid turning the diversity into separation. What do you think is the significance of events like award ceremonies and parties for staying together? 

That is the case indeed. The LGBTI+ movement has a wide range of diversity. I care about diversity turning into separation. Such separation does not always take place in a dialogue. I hope that [those with] differences can find themselves a place in dialogue and we can continue our way in a truly inclusive manner, we can grow stronger. Indeed this is the idea behind the award ceremony. Parties and similar gatherings helps us unwind and catch up with each other. And surely they are cheerful happenings where we can be ourselves and move away from negativity.

It is often the case that we see the outcome of the efforts spent working in civil society in the long run, yet we have to constantly question the level of our success, I guess this is also quite exhausting. Perhaps this is why we need to hear more on the positive stories, stories of success. Sometimes good news gets lost in bad news as we are inclined to share bad news more. For instance recently the Queer Olympix was banned yet the teams still went ahead with the games and stuck together. What do you expect from media, civil society supporters, and social media users regarding this issue? What can our readers do, with regards to what the Şugariyet Awards aim for? 

This is an important point. We tend to miss the positive stories and achievements as we are constantly in crisis. Or we don’t really talk about them much. It is in the nature of the LGBTI+ movement to come up with ideas like changing the events or relocating them, just like in the case of the ban against the Queer Olympix. Although we are under pressure, we are also able to produce solutions as we move one step beyond. We shouldn’t overlook the fact that these pressures have an important impact on our creativity. And our dear Queer Olympix crew showed a great example of that.  Our expectation from the supporters of civil society is that they become a member of whichever association they feel close to, to support, follow and spread their work. This is how you get our work to be visible. I don’t know what to say to the media, because the typical media outlet is completely anti-LGBTI+ and hate speech is rampant. I hope they grow distant from hate speech. We expect from social media users what we expect from civil society supporters. They should follow the associations they feel close to and get in touch about things they feel they don’t understand.

Regarding the Şugariyet Awards, the readers can follow the award selection process. They can see the categories and jury is to be announced, they can check out the nominees. And for the following years, they should try and follow the LGBTI+ movement and those working for the movement. They can help us render many more people’s efforts visible with more categories for awards.

 

What would you like to tell our readers who like to volunteer or work for the LGBTI+ movement and civil society but have reservations? What keeps you in civil society despite its stressful aspects? 

I would like to say, please do not hesitate. I would just tell them to question why they want to be a volunteer. Why do I want to become a volunteer? People become a volunteer thinking “I got upset with a hate crime I read somewhere”, “I watched ‘My Child’, I’m rediscovering myself”, “This matters to me”, but they do not last long in volunteering. When that moment of being upset or excited passes, their volunteering ends as well which is no good to them or the associations. 

Those who would like to become a volunteer should apply to an association they feel close to, with the answer they found to this question. If possible, they should meet the people working at the association and check if they get along. This is crucial as you become friends and have joint responsibilities while working together. It does not work when you are trying to do good with people you don’t get along with.

I guess what keeps me going is the idealism I have. I have always been working to right wrongs since I was a child. This is the case while waiting for my turn at the hospital queue or holding a place at the water queue after the earthquake in ‘99, when I was at the age of 9-10.  In my highschool years, I found myself abroad for a project, thanks to my curiosity and a bit of hard work. 6 days in total. When I came back I noticed how lucky I was because all my labour and work paid off. I got to fly in a plane for the first time in my life and I got to go abroad. Then, everything else followed. I found myself working in youth projects. I looked for ways to help young people like me to go abroad, I tried to guide them as much as I could. I tried to pass the torch, I worked with lovely people and I continue to. In sum, the reason why I started working is to help people reach the opportunities I reached. Working in civil society can be satisfying and motivating. Yes, it can be very exhausting but when someone thanks you or your association, all is resolved. And this is enough to keep me going 🙂

 

Let’s ask you something fun and a bit sensational 🙂 Who will be the host at the ceremony? Should we expect any surprises? Will the ceremony be aired live?

These are all going to be a surprise, the ceremony will be hosted by someone we love. And you should expect something beautiful! Save the date September 21st on your calendar, because there will be plenty of gullüm*** that night! We are working on live broadcasting, hopefully if all goes well we will be live and those who can’t be present will be able to follow it too! 

Is there anything you would like to add or announce? 

This is not related to the award ceremony, but I would like to remind people of our support campaign for SPoD. It still continues. If you like SPoD’s work, please become a supporter! SPoD wants to continue its work and aims to reach more people. In order to achieve that goal we need everyone’s support! You can see our call for solidarity and become a supporter through this link. 

Interview by Zeynep Serinkaya 

Translator’s note: 

*Şugariyet: In Lubunca (queer slang spoken in Turkey), şugariyet means jewels and/or a state of overall wellness, cuteness, pleasantness

**Madilik: Lubunca for trouble, problem, ill manners or bad intentions

***Gullüm: Lubunca for entertainment, fun, party or fanfare

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 Review of Pride Across Turkey: Defiance and Resilience

The horizon looks bright in some regions of Turkey for future LGBTI+ Pride weeks and marches. New opportunities have emerged for Turkish LGBTI+ rights associations and activists to gain concessions from the police and the judiciary. This year’s pride events highlighted the strength, capacity and resilience of rights defenders, even in a hostile political environment. 

LGBTI+ Pride weeks took place across Turkey, despite state repression and bans on public gatherings. From Istanbul to Mersin, LGBTI+ rights organisations and individual activists marked Pride across the country with defiance in celebration of their identities. Chants echoed across the country with the cries, “we are here, we are queer” and “where are you my love? / I am here my love”.

In many cities across Turkey activists and lawyers were able to win concessions from the police and judiciary making some of this year’s pride events the largest in years. However, in Gaziantep, a city in southeastern Turkey, no improvements were seen in recent years for LGBTI+ rights activists and the situation has even deteriorated since the official lifting of the State of Emergency.

In this article we will look at many of the Pride celebrations across Turkey, reporting the challenges as well as the successes of this year. Looking at the accomplishments of activists can open up new opportunities for Prides in the future. 

Istanbul

The theme of this year’s Pride, EKONOMİ NE AYOL? (‘Economy? What’s that?’), focused on rising inflation in Turkey and the vulnerable position of LGBTI+ individuals in an economic crisis.

Between June 24-30 art exhibitions, picnics, film screenings, workshops and parties took place in 29 venues across the city. The variety of events set an inclusive atmosphere for people of all identities, with an emphasis on inclusion and peace building. 

Early in the week Istanbul Pride Week Committee met with the Governor, who declined their request to hold Pride Walk in Taksim and stated that the LGBTI+ community was regarded as a “socially dubious group”. The Governor also declined a petition to have the Pride march celebrated in Bakırköy, another part of the city designated for demonstrations but less politically symbolic than Taksim.

On Sunday, June 30 without state permission, people were to meet in Taksim for the Pride Walk. Heavy police presence around Taksim and along Istiklal Avenue prevented people meeting on Taksim Square. However, the police consented to negotiate with some of the organisers, allowing the Pride to take place until 17:30 on Mis Sokak, a street near Taksim famous for its LGBTI+ friendly bars. A press statement was read there to sounds of hundreds of people cheering. One quote from the press statement was,

“We do not give up our lives, our solidarity, nor our organized struggle! We are here, get used to it, we are not going.”

At almost exactly 17:30 the police marched down Mis Sokak spraying the few people who remained with tear gas, rubber bullets and chasing them with dogs. A bar on Mis Sokak where people were continuing to celebrate was also sprayed with tear gas. Before the police attack, people were able to meet in security for over an hour. The police did not use water cannons as they had in previous years and some people taking part in the celebrations described the police as more restrained than in previous years. 

As the Pride march was chased from Mis Sokak activists kept meeting in various neighborhoods of the central district of Beyoğlu, reading press statements and celebrating before eventually being dispersed again by the police. The defiance of the continual celebrations was in line with  the message of Pride: we are here, we are everywhere.

Metehan Ozkan from LISTAG, an association which works with the parents of LGBTI+ individuals described this year’s Pride: “We had parents from Ankara, Izmir and Antalya parents groups, we had new members who had a chance to experience Pride for the first time with their children. Though the Pride was ‘limited’ it was very emotional for them.”

Mustafa Sarıyılmaz from SPoD, an Istanbul-based association focusing on social and psychological support for LGBTI+ individuals, said:

“Police was less brutal than last year. I might easily comment that what we had this year was a small gathering that we all missed and longed for a very long time. And, we now have our hope that we might be able to have our parade back in two year’s time. Because, these are all the signs that the movement in Turkey is getting stronger day by day. We have developed a huge solidarity between us now, which wasn’t the case before.”

That night two parties closed the Istanbul Pride, one was put on by Gzone Mag magazine involving trans and drag performers, the other event was hosted by local LGBTI+ DJs. 

During the Istanbul Pride, six people were detained by police.

SECKER_Bradley-Pride 2019-Istanbul-Turkey-1.jpg

Ankara

An indefinite blanket ban against all LGBTI+ events was declared in the capital Ankara under the state of emergency on November 2017. Kaos GL made an appeal which the 12th Administrative Court used to re-examine the ban and ruled that the city governor did not have the legal power to issue bans of that kind. Although the ban was officially lifted, in practice it continued to be in effect.

On May 10, students at the Middle Eastern Technical University staged a Pride celebration despite the rectorate forbidding it. The celebrations were also dispersed by the police using tear gas and rubber bullets. Twenty-five people were detained including an academic working at the university. In reaction students released a press statement calling for “a ban on the bans”. A party was also held afterwards by the students involving drag performances, with the names of those arrested read aloud and applauded.

Some of these arrested students have subsequently had their student loans and assistance revoked on the recommendation of the Security Directorate to the Credits and Dorms Authority. 

Izmir

The 7th İzmir Pride Week planned for June 17-23 was banned on June 14 by the Governorship of Izmir. However, an appeal by the association Genç LGBTİ+ (LGBTI+ Youth) repealed the ban allowing many of the planned events to take place. In the decision to prevent a ban on some of the Pride activities, one judge voted in favor of enforcing the ban and two votes were for the bans repeal. One of those two votes repealing the ban, commented that this decision should be applied to all Pride activities in İzmir.

However, the ban was not fully lifted for the Pride march nor for two events entitled “Bondage Workshop” and “Sex Toy Workshop”. Activists persisted in marching and negotiated with the police, winning the concession to read a press statement on Kıbrıs Şehitleri Avenue in the center of Izmir. However, after the press statement 17 activists were detained. 

Gaziantep 

In Gaziantep  a blanket ban for 20 days on LGBTI+ events prevented Pride events from taking place. During Pride week activists were prevented from putting up a Pride rainbow flag in Çınarlı Park and police prevented activists reading a press statement at Yeşilsu Square. Instead, the Human Rights Association, IHD (Insan Hakları Derneği) hosted a Pride event to read the Pride’s press release:

“As long as you view our existence as a threat, we continue to say, ‘Every step of ours is a Pride March.’

“If it is your tradition to declare those who strive for an honorable and just life immoral and terrorists to cover up your “sins,” it is our tradition to not stop speaking, not stop and not obey.

“We know that what fuels your aggression is our power. We know in our struggle since the 1980s that you are trying to exploit the beauty of our togetherness.”

ZeugMadi Lgbt, an Antep based LGBTI+ Rights association told LGBTI+ News Turkey that for them there was no improvement in how Prides were experienced in previous years. 

“In fact, the State of Emergency is still not over in Turkey. As LGBTI+ individuals we are still under martial law. Both socially and by the law. Harassment, incidents of rape, sexism, homophobia, transphobic rhetorics have all increased after the formal ending of the State of Emergency.”

Mersin

Despite a blanket ban on LGBTI+ events put into effect on June 25, the Mersin Pride still took place. Activists met in workshops and marched in small group unveiling Trans and LGBTI+ Pride flags in a few select spots across the city. Again, the defiance and determination of activists meant that few a short time in different parts of the city, LGBTI+ individuals were more visible. 

Municipalities’ Official Support

From across Turkey, municipalities controlled by the main opposition party, CHP sent out greetings and support to Pride over social media. This occurred in the past but a larger number of municipalities sent out posts  this year. 

On this topic Mustafa Sarıyılmaz from SPoD reported to LGBTI+ News Turkey that 

“Thirty-five municipalities around the country celebrated Pride over Twitter, it seems the visibility of queer community in Turkey has grown, in a positive way. Well, on the other hand, …. the director of religious affairs made all imams around Turkey curse LGBTI+’s in Friday prayers. Yet, we’re hopeful.”

 

Words by George Winter

Photos by Bradley Secker in the İstanbul Pride 

29/07/2019 Correction: The article had previously stated that a Pride after party was put on by GQ magazine, this was incorrect. Gzone Mag put the party on.

Alan Savunması: A voice for women and the LGBTI+ community in sports 

In recent years, women’s and LGBTI+ initiatives in Turkey have been actively seeking to eradicate sexist and heteronormative violence from the realm of sports. From chants inciting rape to sexist coverage of sports news, the spectacle of sports and sports journalism have been tainted with violence. Many remain unaware of the fact that LGBTI+ and female athletes exist and compete in all branches of sports, in both national and amateur teams. Alan Savunması* is a new online platform publishing news focusing on LGBTI+ and female athletes, their negative experiences and their accomplishments. Zeynep Serinkaya from LGBTI+ News Turkey interviewed Ali from Alan Savunması on their work. We would like to remind our readers that for now Alan Savunması is only in Turkish. 

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How did you come up with the idea of Alan Savunması? Can you introduce the crew?

Alan Savunması had been in our minds for a long while. When we witnessed the inequalities experienced by a few female soccer player friends of ours and their efforts in the field, we decided that we did not want to remain indifferent to it all. These inequalities are not only the problem of the women we know. There is worldwide discrimination, which just happens to be felt more intensely in Turkey.

When we started following sports with female players, especially women’s soccer we observed that there are many LGBTI+ athletes struggling to play. I’m saying “struggling” because hegemonic masculinity and homophobia impose themselves on every realm.

While we were still enraged by what the female athletes were going through, we listened to the story of several LGBTI+ athletes’ experiences of harassment, ostracization and verbal insults on the brink of physical violence. This led us to take action. 

Bearing in mind that people are not aware of these experiences or choose to remain silent, we decided that first we needed to render these experiences visible. As we are currently continuing our undergraduate studies and have no regular income, we focused on ideas that we can realize with minimum cost and maximum effort. (Only for now!)

To that end, it was best to establish a news platform: We are journalism students so we believe we have the capacity and we think it can be really beneficial to make these inequalities be known to get people to take action. 

We are a crew of two at Alan Savunması for now. I am (Ali Safa Korkut) 23 years old and currently enrolled at Uşak University as a senior year journalism student. I live in Diyarbakır. My friend Özdemir Atuğ is a classmate of the same age, living in Aksaray. 

I am the editor and reporter for the website, Özdemir manages our social media accounts and technical maintenance. 

 How is the relationship of Alan Savunması crew with sports? What are the sports you are interested in, do you play in any teams?

We are both deeply interested in sports. I played amateur soccer for four years but I am also interested in basketball and swimming. Aside from these, I try to follow tennis, volleyball and athletics. 

As a crew, we try to follow all branches of sports, not just the ones we know. We spend every day involving ourselves in sports. 

The number of initiatives which use sports to stand against gender inequality and discrimination is increasing in Turkey. Karşı Lig, Queer Olympix, Kızlar Sahada are a few examples. How do you think one can support the individual and institutional work of activists and LGBTI+ communities seeking to alleviate the challenges of inequality in sports?

As I mentioned before, I believe visibility is the first step: We need to contribute to the visibility of both the achievements and negative experiences of female and LGBTI+ athletes, as well as the visibility of the initiatives and activists seeking to support their visibility. There are human rights activists who are into sports in their private lives yet have no idea about the victimization or the existence of female and LGBTI+ athletes. Their lack of awareness is not their fault, the media outlets have no coverage of LGBTI+ athletes and activists in their newsfeeds at all. 

By covering organizations like Karşı Lig, Queer Olympix and Kızlar Sahada in detail through the media, it is possible to create awareness. This duty falls on the shoulders of alternative media. As the mainstream media follows hegemonic masculinity and has no respect for the diversity of sexual orientation, it refutes the existence of diverse identities and leaves no space in their news cycles. Alternative media should do its share at this point and include female and LGBT+ athletes as well as the  LGBTI+ activists working to contribute to their visibility in their content. 

As for future steps to be taken, it would be useful to organize symposiums, panels, conferences with larger crowds involving sports clubs, athletes and supporters, in order to guide them towards valuing female and LGBTI+ athletes more.

Sports is perhaps the realm where corporeal and gender norms impose themselves most violently. How do you think the relationship between sports and gender-sexual orientation based discrimination can be changed?

Discrimination begins in the language. Sexist discourses are the greatest indicator of this fact. This is also the case with sports. We see that supporters of any sports use sexist discourses when they want to say something against their opponents before, during or after the game. The supporters are in a mindset that regards being a woman or being LGBTI+ as an abhorrent thing. They use ugly insults against the opponents by alluding to the qualities of a woman or an LGBTI+ individual. 

This can be defined as a manifestation of the patriarchy of our culture. Those who consider sports to be a male realm occupy the bleachers and exhibit their hate speech and sexism with their chants and banners. Therefore, I believe we have to end sexism through language. If we can purify our language from sexist utterances, we can get rid of gender discrimination in every realm of life, not just sports.

While battling against heteronormativity and sexism, is it possible to transform the industrialized and competition-driven sides of sports? In your opinion, what is the impact of reading about the positive examples on the audiences?

Sports have become a servant to capital and has been industrialized in every aspect, therefore I do not think that it can become an activity that sides with the people in the long run. However, this industrialization can have positive impacts against gender based discrimination in sports, albeit for its own interests. 

Sportswear brands such as Nike, Adidas, Puma frequently feature LGBTI+ and female athletes in their commercials. Although they claim that their sole aim is to stand against gender based discrimination, I do not believe the reality to be as such. It is a known fact that as a part of the industrialization of sports, brands seek to create new markets for their products and to increase their client bases. As such, although they are acting in their own interests, they contribute to the struggle against gender based discrimination.  

Reading positive news can create a positive influence in society as well as media.

There might be those who read the articles and news on Alan Savunması and decide that they too can write. What would you like to tell those who would like to join you or send their writings to you? What is the importance of LGBTI+ sports reporting? 

Journalists, writers, academics, students of the Department of Communication, basically anyone can send us their news articles and/or opinion pieces. Alan Savunması is open to their contribution. We would like them to know we can feature any news or articles focusing on female or LGBTI+ athletes in any field of sports. We support any content that will contribute to the visibility of female or LGBTI+ athletes.

LGBTI+ sports reporting is important for the struggle against gender based discrimination and heteronormativity.  The media coverage of the accomplishments or negative experiences of amateur or professional LGBTI+ athletes will not only change the perception of society but also that of media for better.  

Alan Savunması is a good example. Since  we started publishing, we have been observing an increase in the news on LGBTI+ athletes, especially in alternative media. 

 Is there anything else you would like to tell our readers? Aside from submitting articles, how can they support you?

I can tell our readers that they do not need to be LGBTI+ to defend the rights of women and LGBTI+. We are a case in point. Neither I and nor my friend here in Alan Savunması identify as LGBTI+ individuals. Yet we think it is a humanitarian duty to raise our voice against the injustice and to defend the rights of others. So should our readers.

I don’t know about the future but for now we do not need financial support, yet if they would like to we would not mind it 🙂 We appreciate it if you follow our social media accounts and pass the word onto the others.

Interview by: Zeynep Serinkaya

You can visit Alan Savunması at http://alansavunmasi.org.

*Translator’s note: Alan Savunması isTurkish for Zonal Defence.

Guest*House Photobook and Film Launch Event

The Consulate General of the Netherlands in Istanbul hosted an event on Monday, June 17 for the GuestHouse photobook and film launch. The GuestHouse serves the trans community by providing mainly trans women who have no place to stay with a safe shelter. In the opening of the event, Consul General Bart van Bolhuis said that during such difficult political times in Turkey, the establishing of a place such as the trans Guest* House to provide a safe and supportive environment for the trans community is a very important endeavor, that the book and film projects are extremely valuable in helping promote awareness, and added that the Netherlands Consulate is very glad to have been able to support these projects.

 

The Consul General’s opening speech was followed by the screening of the film GuestHouse. The film shows some of the people living in the GuestHouse in their daily interactions, sharing with the viewer their struggles, worries, fears and dreams, and what the GuestHouse means to them. We see some ways in which the GuestHouse is run and supported, and some of the challenges and issues it faces. For a few minutes, the film leaves the viewer in raw silence with displays of photographs of the trans women living in the guest house. The film also shows trans activist and actor Seyhan Arman, talking about how the vision for the Guest*House is to operate it like a senior center with its own staff, doctor and psychologist providing medical support.

 

After the screening of the film, talks moderated by Kübra Uzun, were held with GuestHouse project curator Ipek M. Sur van Dijk, photography artist Ömer Tevfik Erten, writer Defne Çizakça and Doğukan Karahan from SPoD (Social Policy, Gender Identity & Sexual Orientation Studies Association). Ipek M. Sur van Dijk recounted how she was introduced to Ömer and his work and how she was inspired by the impact of the artwork. Ömer and Defne shared with the audience the story of how they both met, the projects they’ve worked on together, their collaboration on the GuestHouse photobook and film projects, and future projects they plan to pursue.

 

Doğukan Karahan from SPoD shared the background and history of the GuestHouse, the way that it functions and how it has served and is continuing to serve the trans community. Doğukan also focused on the current issues facing the GuestHouse. He mentioned that the most pressing challenge has been the need to move to a new place. He added that finding a new place has not been easy due to funding limitations. He stated the urgency of the situation saying that they have overstayed their rent contract in their current location, that the owner of the building will not renew their contract and is asking them to leave. The audience asked questions to Doğukan and shared some ideas, brainstorming possible ways to resolve the problem.

 

The event ended with a networking reception in the consulate’s garden.

Book Review: Stories Under the Rainbow – Compiled real life stories from the families of LGBTI+ individuals

Stories Under the Rainbow (Gökkuşagından Hikayeler) is a book about love and family. This powerful collection of twenty-nine stories is a candid celebration of families connecting and reconnecting with, understanding and supporting their LGBTI+ child. Each story, told by a parent, reveals the many aspects in which the cultural upbringing and societal pressures of heteronormativity create unexamined and limiting belief systems that configure the world of parents for most of their lives. These long-standing belief systems, however, unexpectedly fall to pieces when their child comes out to them as LGBTI+. In these narratives, we read how many of the parents experience similar feelings that impart sadness, worry, incomprehension and indignation in reaction to a reality that at first challenges them. The challenges bring changes that alter their modes of living in positive ways. They come to realize, as they are forced to reexamine their convictions, that what they held to be true can be challenged to show other possibilities or acknowledge what is fundamentally flawed. When families find new ways to reconnect with one another, they begin to explore what it means to fully embrace, support and love their child for who they are. We read how beautifully their worlds expand in their reflections on their fears and struggles to dismantle learned homophobia and transphobia.

These narratives are also a meditation on how much our worlds and thinking are shaped by society. Many parents recount similar sentiments on how little they knew about other lives, how it was impossible for them to imagine the lives of LGBTI+ people or the fact that they even existed due to their own lack of knowledge, fear or merely holding onto misconceptions based on what they had heard from others. A parent puts it, “In this society, there are actually a lot of people who hide and suppress who they are and who do not express themselves for fear of judgement because this society is not a tolerant one.”

At first focused on denial and worry, the narratives evolve to celebrate love and life. “This process allowed me to understand and get to know all the other marginalized groups in society and learn more about the experiences of disabled people, Roma, Aleviis, Kurds and women” reflects one parent on how much their world view has expanded and adds, “I see now that the biggest hurdle in front of us is the world’s biggest terror organization. This organization, is not an armed terror organization. It is everyone.”

As someone who has come out to their parents as a trans man, it was hard to withhold tears reading about some of the coming out dialogues between the families and how time, love, and support restored many broken pieces and uprooted the barriers to understanding one another. Equally moving was the parents’ profoundly transformative journey from one of loss, confusion, and blame to one of joy, strength, and empowerment. Fully supporting their LGBTI+ child, they stand up to their neighbors, to school counselors, teachers, or their own friends, demonstrating how by becoming their child’s best ally, they are paving the way for other families to do the same.

This is a very intimate book that reminds us how much we need to hear the stories of people that are othered and marginalized in order to fight against discrimination and harmful narrow constraints of existing and living in this world. These stories inspire and ignite a powerful celebration of life in all its spectrum of colors.

Review by Lukka Alp Akarçay for LGBTI News Turkey

Not Your Turkish Delight! A compilation against hate and violence

“Not Your Turkish Delight!” exclaims the title of a compilation of tracks from independent artists of alternative music scene of Turkey. The compilation aims to bring together queer, LGBTI+ and female artists to stand against sexual violence and discrimination. Its revenues will be donated to two shelters “Transevi” in Istanbul and “Yaşamevi” in Urfa.The group of artists who made the compilation happen, plan to continue to show solidarity against the sexism, transphobia, homophobia and misogyny which have intensified in Turkey due to growing impunity of hate crime. The first 300 copies of the compilation have been on sale in live concerts and are now sold out. LGBTI News Turkey interviewed Hatice (Soft Rains of April) and Aybike (Reptilians from Andromeda) to learn more about the creation process as well as future plans. The crew is currently looking for ways to distribute the compilation abroad, to extend the solidarity globally. We are excited to see such creative and efficient ways of mobilizing solidarity against hatred and violence and hope to see sequels to this compilation as well as live performances! If you would like to help the group reach a bigger audience abroad and generate more revenues for donations, please do not hesitate to contact them through their facebook page. You can listen to Felix Drake’s interview with some of the crew members and listen to some of the songs in this episode of “Turkish Delights”, aired on Noods Radio.
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– How was the production process with the artists who supported the album with their tracks? How did you choose the tracks, were there any that were recorded exclusively for this album?

 

Aybike: The band “The Hollow Dolly” was born out of this compilation, Neon Jisatsu published their first songs in this compilation. Jtamul, Bewitched As Dark, Soft Rains Of April, Reptilians From Andromeda and Cansu Turgut’s songs were recorded for this compilation but as the other bands chose their own tracks for the compilation, I can say that they were meant to be in this compilation regardless of when they were written.

Hatice: The entire album was exciting but the tracks made for this album were as exciting as the ones submitted for the compilation. After Aybike got in touch with the musicians, she passed the tracks to me and I made a tracklist based on the tone, flow and the mood. I’m hoping the friends who submitted the songs and the listeners are happy with this order.  It was a very exciting experience for me to take place in this compilation and its construction.

– How did you come up with the idea for this compilation?

Aybike: Most of us know each other or are friends, both the compilers and the artists in the compilation. The idea for a compilation was growing in us for a while, based on the relationship we formed through sharing the negative things that happened to us or that we heard in our common spaces. It came about naturally.

Hatice: As every individual who tries to live and produce in this society, you come to the point of saying “Enough” rather easily, as you get smashed each time you take the road less traveled. The need to do something, the rage bottled up within and the cry for justice somehow directs you to a path. It is imperative that we continue to do what we know best, in order to beat back what we live through and what we witness. What we know best is music… It is our equipment, our shield, our battle axe,  and our healing power too.

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– How do you see the approach towards the issues and identities of women and LGBTI+ individuals in the independent music scene?

Aybike: Although the independent music scene looks like a community of listeners and performers standing aside gender norms, there is of course a gender inequality; because even though people act like they are against it, you can still hear them talk behind you, saying “Is this a girl or a boy?”, “Look at that”, “Tsk tsk tsk”, “I thought this one was gacıvari*”. Their faces, actions and behaviours remind you that all these labels attached to us in young age.

There are those who are indeed sincere about their intention to change gender inequality related problems and there are those who live as if these values [of being anti-discrimination] do not exist and they play the game of political correctness to avoid being mob lynched and looking bad when the women, trans individuals and queers raise their voices around the world. I can say that the discussion of these issues have increased over the last year. Both the bands and the music collectives are trying to do something.

Hatice: Aybike is quite right. For a long while there have been many collectives, initiatives, crews and people trying to be sensitive about these issues in the music sector. However, I still hope you can hear what non-male roadies, sound engineers, field managers and backstage attendants have gone through. Degendering of the sector is crucial, and in my opinion it is getting better too, thanks to the labourers of the music sector and musicians. But it is important to unite and form a sustainable, determined, unmonopolized, evolving and multiplying stance at this point. As it is hard to talk about a literally independent music world, we often witness that people look the other way just because it’s their friend, show nepotism and act like nothing happened or they even blame the victim. We can start changing things by calling things what they are.

–  Due to the current political climate, we often fall into a pit of pessimism. Beautiful collaborations such as this compilation gives us hope. How do you battle against pessimism or how do you transform it?

Aybike: You can struggle against it by not falling for the manipulation that tries to convince you that you are alone and by not being afraid…

Hatice: This is precisely how we battle against it, by standing together. Things haven’t turned sour recently, the state has always been cruel in this country, life has always been hard. The monster has always been there, even if it has taken the guise of deceitful conservatism over the last 15 years. The way to struggle against it is to accept that this is not new nor transient and to continue to be productive. It is not so difficult, it is just an idea, 4-5 people and 20 valuable musicians who will share their music with us and 4 people to burn the CDs in one evening and then onwards to distributing them… 300 CDs were sold out in just 3 months, all of the revenues went straight to the associations. Now we are trying to render this sustainable and continue to work.

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– How did you cover the cost of the album?

Aybike: Hatice, Bikem, Oya, me, Petek and Aydan split the cost among ourselves.

Hatice: We are of course trying to figure out how we can make it financially sustainable for future albums, concerts, panels and projects. None of us have infinite resources, we merely took initiative but for the future it is crucial that we maintain continuity, we don’t want it to remain a one-time thing.

– The revenues will go to Transevi and Yaşamevi, how are the sales going? Can our foreign readers support you? Would you consider selling the album on a digital platform?

Hatice: 300 copies of the first compilation are almost sold out, around 10 copies have left. We are having difficulty with payment from foreign countries due to PayPal** but we are currently looking for a solution. When we come up with a solution, we will immediately make 300 more copies, and plan for a new compilation, merch and new projects which will be accessible abroad.

How is the feedback? Would you consider to do similar projects?

Hatice: The sustainability of this project is crucial. We decided to support Transevi and Yaşamevi for the first 300 copies, we dream of increasing the number of centers we support in the future. Not your Turkish Delight must develop in different genres too, it must grow, evolve, transform and continue. This is our greatest dream.  

What can you tell our readers about being woman, queer or trans in the independent music scene in Turkey?

Hatice: It’s not so different from being a woman, queer or trans in the street, at home, school or workplace. The problems are always similar because the culprit is the same. Patriarchy, homophobia, transphobia and sexism reigns all domains of our life, especially the legal system.  I could say things are bit rougher in the music scene but actually all types of violence is rough. We tried to do this through music as our first step, but of course we also plan to organize panels, workshops and events where we can talk about the discrimination and violence within the music sector.  In every field, we should start with ourselves and accept that there is a problem, and start from the people around us in trying to correct the wrong attitudes, discourses and practices, it is important to have a determined stance and continue producing in such manner. We can think more about “how”.

– Our last question is for you to give some inspiration. Some of our readers might have similar projects in mind, what would you recommend for them?

Hatice: Please realize your projects, it is precious to contribute from different branches. They can get in touch with collectives and crews like us, unfortunately there are not so many options for pinpointing a problem and moving towards a solution. It is more than enough if we can co-create, get in touch with each other and continue our journey together, each starting with one step and continuing without giving up or stopping when faced with barriers. One of our dreams is to establish a network which brings together many projects, therefore we progress by making use of the experiences and directions our friends share with us. I recommend the readers to talk, to question, there are so many people who want to do something, we are always here to support and we would love to.  

 

*Translator’s Note: gacıvari means feminine in lubunca, the queer slang in Turkish.

**Translator’s Note: PayPal does not operate in Turkey as their license was denied by BDDK, the local authority on banking and finance, in 2016.

 

Professor Sues Same-sex Neigbhbours

Foreign couple GS and GH are currently involved in a legal battle with their neighbours, who have filed complaints against them in which they use homophobic language. The couple have been at their residence on Büyükada since Christmas 2016. GS spoke to LGBTI News Turkey about the ongoing situation.

 

LGBTI News: You moved to the island to give your dog more space. How long after you moved in did you begin to have problems with your neighbours?

GS: We found this apartment in May 2016, but we didn’t move in until Christmas because the problems started with the neighbours; when they saw two men were moving in, they started disturbing us. We didn’t understand in the beginning what was happening. There is a law on the island that you are not allowed to renovate or do any construction work during summer, we were not aware of this as the real estate agent had already started the repairs as we had in our contract with the seller. One day, the neighbour came down and shouted that it was her holiday and she didn’t want any noise in the building, we sent the workers home. That evening we bought wine and chocolate as a present and went to their door to apologise, she yelled at us saying that she doesn’t want anyone in the garden looking at her, and slammed the door. We stopped the renovation during summer  2016, and we continued after the season had finished, as we had obtained a permit from KUDEB.

LGBTI News: Is it correct to say the problems began with your dogs? What objections did your neighbours have to them?

GS: The problems were never about the dogs, but I came to this realization after the court case began. We had only one dog, Ginger, when we moved in. During winter 2016/2017 we had a big snow storm, so two dogs came and took shelter in our garden. Both are very old and had lived in the streets of Buyukada for more than 10 years, so we decided to take them in until the storm was over. Their names are Volkan and Dragos. Everyone who lives on Buyukada knows them. Also I have to tell that our garden is not protected by walls, so any animal can come in to the garden easily. Then the inevitable thing happened, we fell in love with those dogs and decided to adopt them with one of our neighbours; we called our vet and we registered them as pets with all the necessary steps such as vaccinations and microchips and got their pet passports. The neighbors came in the beginning of the summer season ( they come to the island only during summers ) and found the perfect opportunity to get rid of us by complaining about our dogsThe dogs were  just an excuse; they objected because we are also foreigners, we live together and also we were members of another religion and if you read their police statements, you will see that they basically complained about us being gay and insulted us, and they hardly mentioned the dogs. So they went and complained about many different things and started many cases, including one to remove the animals from the building, in an attempt to push us out of the building, knowing that we would never leave our dogs.

LGBTI News: The thing that had brought you to our attention is a lawsuit regarding your sexuality. Would you kindly elaborate on your neighbors attitude and actions towards you regarding your sexuality and your partner?

GS: The case is about us offending them with our behavior, they said we are living like husband and wife ( though we never came out to them, so I assume they were looking through our windows) they also said that we are feminine, and people like us should be away from normal families. They even had the courage to use a very offensive word  [the neighbours used the word kırık (literally broken), which is an offensive slang term used to refer to homosexuals], this is all in their police statement, meaning they were talking to a police officer, and they signed this statement. They had the courage to protest every aspect of our private lives in front of police officers.

We live on the garden floor, so when we are home, the neighbor above starts stomping really loud, they stare and take our photos when we sit in the garden, sometimes one of them stands outside our kitchen window and stares at us for a while, when they walk upstairs, past our terrace, they hit the stair rail hard and make threatening grunting noises, they point at us if we come across them in the streets of the island, they leave garbage at our backdoor. How did we end up in a court case? I have no Idea, but I am sure they would do anything, using their positions in society to have us evicted. The complainants have listed their social positions in their petition, in what I believe to be an attempt to divert the attention away from their bad intentions.  I am afraid because the neighbour who gave the statement is a doctor – a professor – so if a gay patient visits him, he may discriminate and refuse to take care of them!

LGBTI News: Is there anything else you would like to share with us?

GS: I am asking for support in regards of our court cases, the neighbors are of high status where they educate or treat young adults. Their positions and their ideas need to be known. Could you imagine if a homophobic doctor, for example, refused to treat his gay patient? This is not only about us, today they are targeting us, tomorrow it could be any member of society.

 

GS attended a second court hearing on December 18th 2018 and a third on March 25th 2019. During the second hearing Prof. Galip Zihni Sanus, a key complainant, disputed that he had used the word kırık to describe the couple, and appeared to have altered his statements. The case continues. The fourth hearing is scheduled for 13:30, June 13th 2019  at Adalar Adliyesi, Büyükada, Istanbul.

LISTAG reestablishes itself as an association

LISTAG, Lezbiyen, Gey, Biseksüel, Trans, İnterseks Aileleri ve Yakınları Grubu, (The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Intersex Family and Friends Group) has reestablished itself as an official association in Turkey, registering itself with the Directorate of Associations under the Ministry of Interior.

LISTAG offers family support to the parents and relatives of LGBTI+ individuals in Turkey. With meetings across the country, the organization offers much needed support. Counseling and a support network offered by LISTAG helps parents and family members confront their biases as well as understand and accept their loved ones as they are.

In 2013, LISTAG produced the “My Child” documentary, a film based on interviews with many of the parents involved in the organization. The film shows the incredible ways in which LISTAG has helped empower the parents as well the LGBTI+ individuals themselves through the support network.

In a statement on why LISTAG has decided to take this step the organization explained that:

“We had a yearlong experience being an association between 2015-2016 but when we realized that we did not have the human resources or the mentality to sustain the association, we terminated it. Since then LISTAG has grown bigger across Turkey with new people joining in. There arose the need for a corporate body which brings together LGBTI+ families and friends.  We believe that individuals and names are transitory, what matters is to leave a sustainable structure behind. Our first task will be to improve and strengthen our institutional capacity and human resources. Our aim is to reach more families with LGBTI+ children, to support them and to continue the LGBTI+ rights struggle in Turkey as an alliance.”

Being registered as an association has a variety of legal benefits including allowing the organization to open commercial offices and earn revenues. Registered organizations also have more opportunities to lobby, apply for grants and collaborate with government bodies.  Official recognition also strengthens the visibility of the LGBTI+ movement in Turkey.

How marginal can you get? On discrimination and how METU students stood their ground

Middle East Technical University in Ankara is famous for two things: academic success and a tradition of resistance to political power. Whether it is in reaction to the overnight decisions to bulldoze the forest in the campus or the attempts at changing the stadium’s name  (“Revolution”, as anointed by the legendary revolutionary student leader Deniz Gezmiş and his friends), students have always stood their ground and claimed their space collectively. The tradition remains untarnished, as students’ protests forced the rector to revert his decision to first cancel and then to move the annual spring festival from Revolution Stadium. Despite the rector’s attempts to marginalize LGBTI+ and leftist constituents of the student collectives, the students successfully stood their ground through their solidarity.

As some of our readers might remember, Ankara is still under a blanket ban against all LGBTI related activities, including film screenings and panels – despite the lifting of the state of emergency last year. Although the ban has struck a blow to the public meetings and collective spaces of LGBTI+ people of Ankara, the LGBTI+ student clubs and movement is committed to continuing their social and cultural activities. Such was the case in METU’s Spring Festival, until the rector suddenly decided to cancel the festival, claiming that the students’ demand were financially burdensome, that the students even requested a “tractor” – confusing the DJing software Traktor with the farmer’s favourite, tractors. The rector said the following words, when his decision caused huge uproar:

“First of all, we haven’t cancelled the festival. On the contrary, we have agreed with students from UGT (International Youth Collective) on all matters including the concerts at Revolution Stadium. Yet this group later changed its mind, after having a meeting with LGBT, Marxist, Extreme Leftist, HDP groups [sic]. Their requests cost over a million in total. They even asked for a tractor. We have never had a prohibitory approach as an administration. We are more METU than you. For example I’ve been in METU for 35 years. I know just as well what is what.”

Of course, the rector’s attempts to wag a finger at “good” students being tempted by the evil marginals like “LGBT, Marxist and Extreme Leftist and HDP groups” fell on deaf ears. But once again the official discourse blatantly discriminated against and others the politically active students with the usual tactics: Lumping together all “others” as a united front of villainy, using identity markers and political positions as if they were adjectives to stigmatize the students, reframing the legitimate requests of students to continue their traditional festival as irrational and greedy and as a cherry on the top, claiming to be more METU than “you”. Regardless of the rector’s claims to authenticity, a university is nothing without its students, who have chosen to use the weapon of humour against the misrepresentation of their intentions. The students gathered in front of the Rectorate, carrying a handmade tractor model painted in the colours of the trans flag, garbed in a rainbow flag, a license plate that says “extreme left” and with a hammer and sickle. Indeed this act of creative resistance reverts the power-holders’ attempt at the caricaturized representation of the diversity of the students, by turning the rector’s words into a concrete object shown below.

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Various artists have offered to play for free and supported the students. On April 16th, around a thousand students gathered in protest. On April 17th student collective UGT, in charge of the organization of the festival, had a meeting with the Rector for two hours: The festival is to be celebrated for the 33rd time, at Revolution Stadium on April 24-26. We hope to see the solidarity of students, with all their diversity of ethnicity, political opinion, gender identity and sexual orientation, continue and grow in all campuses around Turkey. Love will win!

*Photos are taken from İnadına Haber.

**This article is based on news from Gazete Duvar and sendika.org.

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