Original Content

Created by and for LGBTI News Turkey

Volunteering to Secure LGBTQI+ Rights in Turkey and Beyond

In a social environment defined by the absence of equal rights, downright discrimination and repressive cultural norms, representation is all the more crucial for LGBTQI+ individuals. The LGBTQI+ movement is growing stronger in Turkey. From the academic production of knowledge to representation in political arena, from demanding an end to ethnic discrimination to calling for new laws regarding sex workers, the LGBTQI+ movement is indeed active in all aspects of daily life. Its strength lies in its power to revert stereotypical imagery back to its beholder, most particularly through methods of creative resistance. This is exactly why we, LGBTI News Turkey, come together as an active group of volunteers to translate news on LGBTQI+ life in Turkey into English.

eringobro-via-flickr-cc-by-nc-2-0-768x512While working for political representation in municipalities, at the National Assembly and all levels of governance, the LGBTQI+ movement mobilises its efforts to produce its own cultural representations and images against the discursive and symbolic violence, two aspects of heteronormativity and sexism ever so sinister and so deeply engraved in our lives.

eringobro-via-flickr-cc-by-nc-2-0-768x512As LGBTI News Turkey, we try our best to spread the word and put these images of self-construction into circulation, to help  the ceaseless work done by LGBTQI+ civil society organisations (CSOs) of Turkey. For LGBTQI+ CSOs, it takes a relentless effort to maintain continuity in the face of an increasingly authoritarian government, and legal controversies regarding the freedom of speech and right to assembly.  We believe that “increasing the visibility of LGBTQI+ individuals” is more than a catch phrase for CSO work: it is a matter of life and death for many of our fellow LGBTQI+ community members. It is about reclaiming the right to live as we are, without any compromise. It is about rejecting to remain in the margins of a life not worth living. As one of the popular protest chants says, “Get used to it, we’re not going anywhere!”

We support these efforts by translating and archiving sources on LGBTQI+ life and rights violations in Turkey. By doing so, we create the necessary resources for international CSOs and international human rights bodies to report on Turkey. Files on rights violations help us document and report these cases at the United Nations, Council of Europe, and elsewhere with LGBTQI+ CSOs.

We believe that such efforts must be heard in other parts of the world. Because the LGBTQI+ community stretches beyond national boundaries. Because our experience might teach others and inspire them to act. Because we can only grow if we share. Because we cannot expect others to write about our lives. Because, for most of us, each day is a struggle and by sharing in each others’ struggles we can be empowered.

LGBTQI+ movements in different countries have similar experiences and go through similar processes to what we are facing in Turkey. Therefore it is very important for us – and other activists across the globe – to follow each others’ experiences in order to weave a network of support and solidarity. We believe that our translation work contributes to building a stronger bond, and ensuring an open dialogue with activists abroad. There is indeed interest towards what is going on in Turkey with regards to the LGBTQI+ movement and our blog renders the news accessible, by focusing solely on LGBTQI+ related news and by producing accurate and updated content. In 2016, we had 15 thousand readers from USA visiting our blog, and this traffic was due to The Advocate referring to our translations. The fact that we have become a steady and reliable source of information keeps us motivated. We believe that being knowledgeable about the history of LGBTQI+ resistance in other countries as well as in Turkey, and following the current developments, are essential for building a strong and true LGBTQI+ media.

Aside from publishing news articles on our blog, we give translation support for the annual Istanbul Pride Walk and related workshops, events and any written material. International visibility is vital in these organisations, especially at times of protest bans, police violence, and prosecution. As the mainstream media turns a blind eye to LGBTQI+ related events, if not openly showing them as targets, LGBTQI+ media outlets have an enormous workload on their shoulders and it is our responsibility to help in any way we can. As members of the rainbow nation, the task to strengthen global solidarity falls on our shoulders, and opening new channels of communication through translation is the least we can do.

Zeynep Serinkaya is an academic and volunteer at LGBTI News Turkey. This post was written for Disrupt & Innovate, a project by the International Civil Society Centre.

My Pride Story: Go On to Shout “We Are Queer, We Are Here, Get Used To It!”

Today in Pride Stories: This photograph, taken when we broke our friend taken into custody away from the police, actually shows where my story comes from.

Cüneyt Yılmaz’s Pride Story

I guess it was 2007. My friend Cihan, studying in Trabzon, wanted to stay in my house when he came to Istanbul for Pride. In brief, he came and stayed, Pride was a day later and I can remember his enthusiasm even today. When we were on the bus on the way to Taksim, he was champing at the bit and his heart almost stopped from excitement. Well, of course he was one of the most popular queers of the time and he used to write for Kaos GL periodically.

pridekacis

I, on the other hand, used to be a ghetto-gay and live my queerness in my quiet life. We went to Taksim, Pride was about to start, I let Cihan reach that colorful, glowing crowd, and then I disappeared into the side streets of Taksim. I was watching the crowd from the side, I was changing my location with the fear of being seen, I was running away in order to avoid to run into someone familiar. The night of that day, based on my reviews, I planned to be open and visible, to join Pride even from the back or with either masks, glasses or other ornaments. However, I could not make it because of some reasons that I cannot even finish writing here.

Afterwords, my queerness got stronger year after year. Just then, I participated Pride 2012 vaingloriously, and with our increased visibility during the Gezi Occupation 2013, I proudly shouted ‘Don’t you dare to make me stop!’

I have never skipped a Pride until the first Pride that I attended in 2010. With the ‘call of dispersing’ last Sunday, we dispersed into every street of Taksim by waving our rainbow flag. The photograph, taken when we broke our friend, who was taken into custody, away from the police, actually shows where my story comes from.

For the sake of our friends who have been murdered, or committed suicide (which is another form of murder)… By becoming Ivana Hoffman, we will continue to fight against darkness, cruelty and homophobia, to live, to laugh, to make love, to kiss.

With our persistence and consistence of last year’s banned Pride, I consider it a duty to march in Trans Pride and Pride from beginning to the end.

We will continue to be in the very front, to be seen, to shout ‘we are queer, we are here, get used to it’ as police and government violence, homophobic and transphobic attacks, verbal harassments and physical abuses, trans murders and hate speeches continue, I will.

Stories multiply as they are shared. If you would like to tell your Pride story as well, send your writing of maximum 500 words to web@kaosgl.org, we will publish it on both Kaos GL and LGBTI News Turkey both in Turkish and English. Do not forget to include your name or nickname.

My Pride Story: Pride from Sisterhood to Sapphism

 

Today in Pride Stories: Who cannot settle with feminist sisterhood, sapphism and LezBiFem

Gaye’s Pride Story

lezbifempankart

Nowadays, I am in the middle of a busy work schedule which I thought was ‘temporary’ at first. Like other things that I postpone, I was waiting for the right time and place to write and share my little story, with a cup of coffee on the table and shed from the anxiety of being late to work.  Sometimes activism needs the right time and place too… For me and my friends, working or being broke is such a common reason for not being able to go or organize an event; it is a relief to know that we will run into each other at Pride at least.

(more…)

My Pride Story: From 15 people to tens of thousands

Today in Pride Stories: From the first Kaos GL cortege on May Day 2001 to Pride Marches of tens of thousands…


Murat Özen’s Pride Story

It’s the year 2001, my senior year in university. As a “kezban” [1] who has just begun to know his identity, I frequently go to Kaos GL. In one of these visits, I overhear a discussion on whether to join May Day demonstrations as Kaos GL. When they ask me “will you come as well?”, I cannot say yes straight away.

(more…)

My Pride Story: Istiklal has never been so beautiful

Today in Pride stories: Friends calling to ask “are you ok”, my brother calling to ask “what are you doing with those fags” (!)

Cihan’s Pride story

When I read Hakan’s Pride story in the middle of the night, I said to myself “Yes, I have to share mine as well”.

Last year’s Pride March was my first Pride as well. In the previous years I was mostly held back by my make-up exams – I’m not lazy, studying medicine is hard work- and more importantly visibility was a problem for me. I was thinking that I would be somehow visible among the tens of thousands of people and not having an Istanbulite koli [1] to stay with and being poor had impacts as well.

(more…)

My Pride Story: Ideological banner!

Today in Pride stories: Our paths, that crossed for the first time with the people in our procession during that march, never parted.

Tunca Özlen’s Pride story

It’s 2012, a year has passed since we founded the Red of the Rainbow, together with a handful of people. The pride of coming out, finding each other and holding on together is not enough. The struggle is pushing us to producing politics, to going out on the streets. We want to see what our political claims correspond to in life. With the hope we mustered at the march we attended in Ankara, we rolled up our sleeves for Istanbul Pride March. 

We said we would walk behind the banner “Equal citizenship is in socialism!” After all, we believe in equality against discrimination, citizenship against pan-Islamism, socialism against capitalism. We have never gotten banners made in our lives and here I found myself in a flagmaker’s on Kazım Karabekir Avenue. Then off we go to Istanbul. It was time for Pride March. It’s our first time participating as an organization, we are excited of course. With our red rainbow flags and our banner, we joined the march from a point we saw fit.

A friend, who we later on found out was a part of the Pride Week Organizing Committee did not take his/her time to ‘welcome’ us: “Your banner is ideological, you either take it down or walk at the back!” Only we were ideological among the thousands of rainbow flags, slogans against heterosexism, the tens of thousands who filled Istiklal Avenue, ultimately we are communists! The imposition of “Pride March above politics” is itself ideological, we don’t buy that! We said “We will walk behind this banner, through the crowd”. And we did what we said, we are communists after all.

Our paths, that crossed for the first time with the people in our procession during that march, never parted. We were a few before the march, our numbers grew, even if [just] a little, after the march. We accepted being a few at the beginning, in order to grow. If we took down our banner that day, we would have given up altogether. Today we are not few at all, for we focused on growing our crowd and not on our banner. But we are still terribly ideological!

Stories multiply as they are shared. If you would like to tell your Pride story as well, send your writing of maximum 500 words to web@kaosgl.org, we will publish it on both Kaos GL and LGBTI News Turkey both in Turkish and English. Do not forget to include your name or nickname.

My Pride Story: Being born into love

Today in Pride stories: Maybe my story doesn’t take place in Istanbul, maybe I didn’t walk with thousands of people, maybe I wasn’t soaked by water cannons but that day a big void inside me was filled.

içimizdenbiri’s Pride story [1]

May 21, 2016/ Lefkoşa [2] March Against Homophobia

Note: Maybe it wasn’t Pride, but it was for me.

img_9516

A child, who never thought they could and who never did join Pride, whose self acceptance process started only a few years ago, who is only trying to let themselves go to be happy. This child has only lived inside themselves and raised their voice only for others. But that day something was different, that day this child walked for themselves. You know why? Because love…

Maybe my story does not take place in Istanbul or any other big city in the world, maybe I didn’t walk with thousands of people, maybe I was not soaked by water cannons, I wasn’t exposed to homophobic stares, maybe I wasn’t shot that day, but a big void inside me was filled. The hope that years took away from me piece by piece was standing in front of me as a whole and all it needed was a little courage.

When we got to the starting point of the march, there was a little group and we did not draw too much attention. But minutes later, people started gathering, people who brought their children with them, people who drew rainbows on their faces and eyes. As the crowd got bigger, I couldn’t stop the enthusiasm rising inside me. I grabbed a flag, looked at the crowd and the first thing I felt was happiness. I wasn’t the “other” anymore, I did not feel different. I was there, everyone was seeing me and I was smiling like there is no tomorrow; we were infinite. The march started and people started joining the crowd along the way. Old aunts and uncles applauding from their balconies. Slogans, whistles, laughters, I didn’t want any of that to end. But everything ends and so did this, but this end was the beginning of many things.

If I learned anything these past few months of my life, you become someone when you let your guard down, a person. And your whole life stands in front of you and looks at you. Your feelings are free, your thoughts are not restricted. That is when love comes- or not but that’s what you think- it enters your life when you least expect it. The feelings whose existence you did not accept for years stand in front of you like a mountain. No one knows, and many don’t believe it but there you know it and the rest is not important. What you hold on to is not that love or what you feel for that person, it is just that hope. Then the desire to get up and do something is born inside you and your march towards the sun starts.

As Sezen Aksu [3] says “If I didn’t die of love, if I wasn’t born into love, would I devote myself to fairy tales?”

Stories multiply as they are shared. If you would like to tell your Pride story as well, send your writing of maximum 500 words to web@kaosgl.org, we will publish it on both Kaos GL and LGBTI News Turkey both in Turkish and English. Do not forget to include your name or nickname.

Translator’s Notes:

[1] İçimizden biri means one of us in Turkish.

[2] Lefkoşa is the Turkish name for Nicosia, a city in Northern Cyprus.

[3] Sezen Aksu is an iconic Turkish singer/song-writer.