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Created by and for LGBTI News Turkey

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.

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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.