Personal Stories

Personal stories on LGBTI issues in Turkey

Second expulsion for police officer Osman: It hurts…

Osman was fired from his job as a police officer, filed a claim against it, and won the case. However, the Council of State overturned this decision after he had worked as a police officer for 3 another years. “I took the exam with the people whom I had been drafted together at the same time; then I won the exam, met the requirements for the state of health, and became a police officer in this country. I don’t ask for a favour, I want my right.” said the police officer. Osman is bound and determined to fight in order to resume his job.

Source: Second expulsion for police officer Osman: It hurts… (Polis Osman’a ikinci ihraç: İnsanı yaralıyor…) Çiçek Tahaoğlu, Gazete Duvar, February 20, 2019, https://www.gazeteduvar.com.tr/turkiye/2019/02/20/polis-osmana-ikinci-ihrac-insani-yaraliyor/


DUVAR – Osman, whose real name is hidden by us upon his request, is one of the police officers who were expelled from their jobs due to homosexuality in Turkey. Years ago, his sexual orientation was found out as a result of unlawful wiretaps and he was referred to a disciplinary committee after being interrogated at midnight under insults and cuss words. Then, he was expelled from his job by the Ministry of Interior in 2013 due to his sexual orientation, after being told that “he had committed a disgraceful offence.”

Police officer Osman who did not accept the definition of this offence, filed a lawsuit at the Administrative Court in order to stop the execution of the decision regarding the expulsion and won the case. He was working as a police officer for the last 3 years; however, the Council of State reversed the district court’s decision by referring to the Article of the Law on Public Officers “doing something ungraceful and shameful at a degree which cannot be proper while holding a public officer title (Article 125/E-g of the Law no.657)”.  At the decision of the Council of State, it was also stated that the previous statement of police officer Osman “has the characteristics of a sincere confession” and his behavior is not proper for a public officer.

BY THE DECREE LAW NO.682, HOMOSEXUALITY IS BANNED FOR SECURITY, GENDARMERIE, AND COAST GUARD OFFICERS

Lawyer Fırat Söyle, who commented on the decision, highlighted that there is not a clear nor implicit statement referring to homosexuality in the Law on Public Officers and said that “despite the fact that offences as stealing, bribery etc are disgraceful offences, the administrators are trying to define homosexuality as a part of this category and work accordingly.”

Stating that police officer Osman had been expelled before the state of emergency after the July 15th coup attempt and the legal procedure had been conducted according to the Law on Police Officers. Osman’s lawyer, Söyle said that as a result of the Decree-Law no.682 which was published in January 2017, a “homosexuality ban” was put on all Security, Gendarmerie, and Coastguard Officers. As a consequence Söyle made a claim to cancel this ban: “Until now, only the Military Penal Code has had a  statement as ‘unnatural intercourse with a person’, but this statement has been expanded by including all the Security, Gendarmerie, and Coastguard personnel. After this Decree-Law became a Law, homosexuality was put into a definition as ‘unnatural situation’. Now, homosexual people are punished and dismissed from their jobs, and the personnel who are expelled from Security General Directorate, Gendarmerie General Command, or Coast Guard Command are not employed at other state institutions / establishments. We made a claim to the Constitutional Court on the grounds that this Article (8/6-cc of Law no.7068) is contrary to Articles 2, 10, 13, and 20 of the Constitution and Articles 8 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights.”

Now, Osman started the legal struggle in order to resume his job for the second time. With his lawyers, he requested the revision of the decision from the Council of State. The decision will be made within the coming days.  When we met for this interview, Osman said that “I am announcing to the public the cruelty that I have faced, the rest depends on the opinion of the people.” After indicating that his performance grades are high, he has a report stating “there is no inconvenience for him to work as a police officer”, and those who started the disciplinary proceeding about him and decided his expulsion in 2013 are under arrest now due to accusations as being involved in FETÖ (Fetullahçı Terör Örgütü – Fetullahist Terrorist Organisation), he added “Why cannot the people who love their country and nation work at the public institutions just because of their sexual orientations? I hope they will correct their mistake soon and allow me to resume my job which I love a lot.”

Now, let’s hear Osman’s words.

When and how did you hear that you were expelled?

A couple of months ago, I went to my job. We have a system called the Personnel Information System. I entered into this system, saw that I was expelled from my job as a result of a court decision, and was devastated.

Can you tell us about the job you had after winning the first reemployment case?

I was working with a team in the field. You know, we get police announcements, go to the location, solve the problem of citizens, and continue our duty again. I was working in İstanbul. I had a really nice work environment. I was getting along with my co-workers. I was the team leader.

Did the other officers at the police station know that you were reemployed after being expelled?

They knew it, but they didn’t know the reason for the expulsion. They were saying with puzzled eyes that “how come this could happen to a person like you?” Then, I mean, a couple of months ago, my co-workers called me when I was expelled again and they told me that “We are always here for you. You are always our team leader. We live in the 2000s and it is so cruel that a person is expelled because of a reason like this.”

So, they heard about the reason for the expulsion this time, didn’t they?

Yes, they heard the reason, as well. Someone told them at the police station.

You hid your sexual orientation at the police station where you started working after being expelled the first time. When you were expelled for the second time, it led you to come out to your co-workers, didn’t it?

Yes. After hearing the decision, they called and told me that they wanted to gather some money from among themselves and send it to me, and they wanted to meet with me. They did their best for me, to make me feel that I am not alone. I still meet with them, all of them are waiting for a positive decision to be given and for me to continue working with them. Moreover, a friend of mine told me that “I just got married. If my child in the future is a homosexual and wants to be a soldier or police officer, they cannot work in these jobs, can they?”

It seems the things you have faced have changed the police officers at the police station you worked.

Yes. I mean, the world has changed now, so we need to keep up with the changes. They see us as immoral people. Whose morals are these, what are they?

How does sexual orientation affect the job as a police officer?

It doesn’t affect it. Let me explain it like this: We are given performance grades annually at the end of each year. During the three years that I worked after gaining my right to be re-employed, the grades that I received was “excellent” which is the highest. You can see from this whether or not I let my sexual orientation be involved in my job. Actually, there is nothing to be involved, we are not from the outer space. We are the people of this country, too; we love our homeland and the people of our country. I wore that uniform with pride and I will again. I will win this case, too.

When we met 5 years and a half ago, when you were expelled the first time, you were so determined and won the case. What did you do till the time the re-employment decision was made? How did you pay your living expenses?

I worked. I found some jobs in the private sector. I stood on my own feet. There is always bread for a person who works. Each of us has just one stomach to fill.

You seem to love your job a lot. Have you always wanted to be a police officer?

I like helping people. I have always been a solution-oriented person. Who asks for help from a police officer? People who have trouble. I have been working as a police officer since I was 20. To me, the importance of solving a person’s problem and seeing the happiness on their face cannot be compared with anything.

How does being expelled from a job you work with passion feel like?

I can’t accept it, sometimes I can’t sleep because I am thinking about it. Because I’m in a situation that cannot really be accepted. The state makes me othered. I wish there was a machine which could compare my devotion to our country and my work ethic with those of the people who made this decision about me. Am I clear?

But you cannot work at the job you love because of a discriminatory law which bans homosexual people.

Yes, I have been exposed to discrimination, I have been unjustly treated, but I was on the streets during the night of the 15th of July for my country. If it were today, I would do the same. There was a coup attempt. I went out to protect our country and republic on that night, as every citizen should do.

Were you working as a police officer during it?

Yes. We received a message from the communication office, saying “go to the units you are located”. And I went to the closest police station, then I came to Vatan. We had a one-on-one fight that night. Why can’t people who love their homeland and nation in this country work in public institutions just because of their sexual orientation? Recently we see in the news cases of bribery, rape in a police car, police officers who cooperate with drug dealers. I didn’t do any of this. I just acted with my human feelings, I liked a person and I was judged because of it. President Erdoğan said yesterday that all citizens live their rights and freedoms in the broadest sense and that no one has the authority to intervene.

Now, you are fighting against the expulsion from the job the second time. How does it feel?

It hurts because I love my job a lot. I am always ready to die for this country. I do not have another homeland to go. I took the exam with the people whom I had been drafted together at the same time; then I passed the exam, met the requirements for the state of health, and became a police officer in this country. However, I face discrimination now, despite the principle of equality at the Constitution. If there was a situation preventing me from being able to work as a police officer, then I would say OK. But I went to Bakirköy Psychiatric Hospital twice and I got the report stating “there is no inconvenience for him to work as a police officer” on both times. I have excellent performance grades, but you see the decision of the court. I am tired of being a victim from this sort of thing. Can they destroy me? No, they cannot, I am a strong guy.

The Osman I met 5 years ago was different. Now, I see a self-confident, fighter, resistant Osman. Do you feel the same?


If the things you face make you stronger, that means you are on the right path. One of the reasons for this interview is that: Yes, we are a couple of people; however, there is a quote from His Holiness Umar “if there is nothing you can do against cruelty, announce it to the people.” I made it my priority. I am announcing to the public the cruelty that I have faced, the rest depends on the opinion of the people. I hope they will correct their mistake soon and allow me to resume my job which I love a lot. Actually, this is not asking a favour, I will not die until I get my right back.

During the first time you were expelled, you didn’t have any relation with activism nor the civil society. But in the meanwhile you met with LGBTI organisations. Can we say that this period made you an activist?

Yes, I realized the importance of organisations. Two heads are better than one. Maybe it seems like I am fighting alone, but there are lots of activist people who support me.

Before 2013, I mean, before the first expulsion, did you as a police officer have any prejudice against activists?

Police officers and activist people generally stand on opposite sides. But you stand at some kind of junction. It is correct, if you are a police officer, you have to obey the orders when a superior gives them, as long as these orders comply with the laws.

Orders may not always comply with the laws. I couldn’t go on without saying this when I find a police officer who answers my questions.

Then, you ask for a written order and fulfil the duty. No unlawful order can be given. If so, it is not fulfilled.

Regarding the topic, we can understand from their glances and body languages that police officers dislike or even hate activists and journalists.

Yes, because we have become polarised.

The thing that I am trying to understand here is that, did your thoughts about civil society and social movements change during your fight after the expulsion?

They definitely changed. I look at the case now as a human being. Nationality, gender, sexual orientation, etc are not really important. A person is a human being. Now, I don’t have any relation with politics, I stand apolitical.  

 

Court nullified the termination of a contract due to a “homosexual relationship”

Source: “Court nullified the termination of a contract due to a “homosexual relationship” (Mahkeme “eşcinsel ilişki” gerekçesiyle sözleşme feshini iptal etti) Kaos GL, 30 January 2019, http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=27479

The 34th Labor Court of İstanbul enforced the re-employment of R.S. whom Kağıthane Municipality fired without any severance pay upon discovery of a “homosexual relationship”.

The lawsuit filed against Kağıthane Municipality by garbage truck driver R.S. whom the Municipality fired without severance pay as a consequence of being in a “homosexual relationship” has been concluded. The court accepted the re-employment lawsuit of R.S. and nullified the termination of the contract.

According to the news piece by Dinçer Gökçe from the newspaper Hürriyet, the lawsuit was heard at the 34th Labor Court of İstanbul, where R.S.’s lawyer Mehmet Benan Ülgen demanded that the re-employment lawsuit be accepted, and stated that his client had no grounds to be fired.

Kağıthane Municipality’s lawyer Nebi Karaca stated as the defense that the lawsuit was not filed within the trial time limit and asserted that “we have rightful and valid reasons for the termination”.

After hearing the claims of both parties, the court decided to accept the lawsuit and invalidated the termination of the employment contract. As a result of this decision, R.S. can go back to their job.

The lawsuit of the other garbage truck driver A.S. who also filed a lawsuit will be heard in February.

What happened?

In July, the newspaper Hürriyet published the news with the headline “the homosexual relationship of garbage truck drivers caused trouble in the Municipality” and announced that the Municipality “fired 3 garbage truck drivers for having intercourse with the garbage collector laborer who works with them”. The newspaper used a discriminatory language regarding the violation against the right of privacy and the right to work.

Kağıthane Municipality said to the newspaper that the event which it describes as “improper” didn’t take place during the work hours and “as a result of the internal investigation carried out at once, the required procedure was conducted and the relevant people was fired immediately”.

The newspaper published these events as news and stated that “Kağıthane Municipality is shaken by the news of a homosexual relationship between 4 laborers who work in garbage collection for the district.”

Non-Binary

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

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Non-binary is used for gender identities that are not limited within the borders of masculine or feminine identities. It rejects the idea of binary gender. On the other hand, since the definition changes from person to person, it is useful to ask people who say they are non-binary, what the definition of non-binary is for them. Some may define their gender as both male and female, as well as calling themselves non-binary, and others can identify themselves as non-binary by saying they are neither male nor female. In addition, it can also be used as an umbrella term that covers all the genders outside of the binary gender framework.

Can a person be trans and non-binary at the same time?

Yes. There can be cases that a person does not define oneself with the gender assigned by birth and states as being out of the binary gender framework.

Non-binary pronouns and language

In almost everywhere in today’s world, people are defined according to their appearances. Discourses, which maintain and support the binary gender system by addressing to masses as “Ladies and Gentlemen”, are some of the unfavourable parts of daily life. How to address non-binary people is important for them and the correct manner of address is a way for these people to feel comfortable with their gender.

-Are you a girl or a boy?

-I AM NEITHER!

Makeup

I am going to Rome with one of my friends tomorrow. I am so excited; however, there is something bothering me for a while. I want to talk about it with my friend.

The last night before going to Rome

“I do not know, I thought a lot during the last few weeks when I was alone. I guess I am planning to resume taking hormones.”

“Why? You looked like you were sure that this was not the thing you wanted.”

“The change that I had during the time I took hormones was actually the one I wanted. Day by day, I started to look like the way I wished to be.

“Your appearance didn’t change much after you quit taking them.”

“I don’t think so. I feel like I am going back the long way I came. I feel less and less happy with my image in the mirror. No matter how confused I felt when I was taking hormones, I was happy for the things that I did to my appearance. I felt more free with a more feminine look.”

“The hormones won’t make you more feminine. Look at me, my oestrogen level is much higher than my testosterone level, but I define myself as masculine and express myself to the world in this way. Now, no one calls me a feminine woman. Everybody knows me as masculine. Because I see and define myself that way. If you want to be and look feminine, you don’t need any supplement. You can become feminine once you believe you are being one and then define yourself that way.

“I guess you are right.”

First day in Rome

“Humph, this suitcase is really heavy.”

“Come on, you are a guy, you can carry it.”

Third day in Rome

“You are a sweet boy.”

Fifth day in Rome

“Look, this old man is your future self. But you will be wearing makeup and be whinier.”

Recently, I have been trying some ways to be the one I wanted to be. This was hormone, makeup, or clothes; but none of them made me feel, like enough. I wonder if I know who I want to be. I have always felt something missing on the road that I started to walk without knowing where I wanted to go. Whenever I felt like doing right, some barriers were created before me, and I stumbled. Why don’t they just allow me to look like and behave how I wish? Even my closest friends give me the things which I fear most. Why do they act like my appearance has to determine my gender? I want to be feminine most of the time, but I don’t want to be a woman. I want to be masculine sometimes, but I don’t want to be a man.

The fact that people call me a man when I look masculine prevents me from being masculine and the fact that they call me as a woman when I look feminine prevents me from being feminine. Even my friend, who said to me the previous day that your appearance does not define your gender, can easily tell me that they see me as a man when I step outside without wearing any makeup the next day. Then, they can say to me in the same moment “You don’t need to wear makeup or take hormones in order to be seen feminine.” Due to this contradiction, all the things they said earlier lose their significance. Now, I don’t know what I will do. I want to use makeup, not because other people can understand that I am not a man, but because I want to look like that way on that day.

Then, they ask me why I care how other people think. Because how they think does not allow me to be the way I want to be. They don’t allow me to be feminine or masculine. They do their best to shape me into how they perceive me. And I stumble whenever I try to step outside of their perceptions.  

*The articles at KaosGL.org Gökkuşağı Forumu (Rainbow Forum) are under the responsibility of their authors. The fact that the articles are published at KaosGL.org does not mean that the opinions at the articles reflect the opinions of KaosGL.org. As a translation of the KaosGL.org article, LGBTI News Turkey should also emphasise that the views seen here are those of the author and that the views expressed here don’t necessarily represent those of LGBTI News Turkey.

Gizem Aksu Performance Workshop

The Pink Life QueerFest workshop series aims to provide channels of expression for LGBTI+ individuals through art. This year, it continues with a performative workshop led by Gizem Aksu. The workshop will take place on January 26, 13:00-16:00 at Asmalı Sahne.  

For the first time Artist Gizem Aksu will introduce an object they used in two of their works Yu and Barınak, Barikat, Tabiat to a queer context in such a manner that participants and performers will be able to use it. In their solo performance Yu the artist investigates organic wisdom of the body and their installation Barınak, Barikat, Tabiat (Shelter,  Barricade, Nature) which was produced for IV.Mardin Biennale focuses on the absence of the body. The participants of the workshop will be taking the role of performative researchers at the workshop and try out performative premises for the queer construction of the body, movement and perception. Anyone who is open to performative experiments can participate. The participants are requested to send an e-mail to kuirfest@gmail.com by January 22, 2019 as participation is limited to 15 people.

To participate please click: https://goo.gl/forms/NRMxgvZWTN7MAw052

Share your festival memories with the hashtags #ÇokGüzelsinYasakMısın and  #URPrettyRUBanned

 

“When you don’t feel at home with your body, you can’t belong anywhere”

Bianet’s reporter on LGBTI+ issues Çiçek Tahaoğlu interviews non-binary trans student Evren about their identity and education life.

Source: “When you don’t feel at home with your body, you can’t belong anywhere” (“İnsan Kendi Bedenine Ait Hissetmeyince, Hiçbir Yere Ait Olamıyormuş”), Çiçek Tahaoğlu, bianet, November 17,2018 http://bianet.org/biamag/lgbti/202668-insan-kendi-bedenine-ait-hissetmeyince-hicbir-yere-ait-olamiyormus

 

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Evren is 20 years old and studying physics at Boğaziçi University. They define themself as a “trans non-binary” individual. The concept of “non-binary” is used for identities which define themselves outside of the binary gender regime between male and female.

Evren says “People often assign a trans male identity to me” but in actuality they define themself neither as a trans woman nor a trans man.

I met Evren in the Southern campus of Boğaziçi University. We talked about their questioning of the gender issue, the state of being exempt from the binary gender, their academic life, the dreams of becoming a researcher at an institute, breast dysphoria and the hormonal process.

Can you tell us about yourself?

My name is Evren, I’m 20 years old. I study Physics at Boğaziçi University, it’s my first year. I was studying Engineering at İstanbul Technical University and I transferred to this department.

I’ve been on testosterone for almost 5 months. I’m a trans non-binary individual.

So you don’t identify as trans woman or trans man?

Non-binary means outside of binary gender system. It’s in fact the “or” in the phrase “female or male”.  

How long did you study at İstanbul Technical University?

I finished the prep and the first year. I thought I’d be happier at Boğaziçi. And I am.

Why?

I didn’t really have any bad experiences there. But I always feel that in general Boğaziçi embraces LGBTI+ individuals more.

For instance I wanted to stay at the dorms this semester but unfortunately the dorms are now under MEB [Ministry of National Education]’s control. But Boğaziçi [employees] did everything they could to arrange a room for me. Still, I had to rent a room later and it is financially hard to maintain.

Where were you staying while you were in Istanbul Technical?

I was staying at the girls’ dorm. I hadn’t started the hormones yet, so it wasn’t much of a problem. But sometimes when I was going to my room, female students warned me saying “Sorry but you can’t go up there”.

Did it affect you, staying at the female dorm?

I was getting nervous each time the dorm manager called for me. I was worried that there might be a complaint about me being a trans. Thankfully no such thing happened. I generally did not like staying at the dorm. I was staying in a tiny room for four people. It was challenging.

Is your family in Istanbul?

I live with my mom. My mom is in Fethiye.

I guess you and your mom get along.

We do now.

Would you like to tell us about your coming out?

Actally when I was growing up I wasn’t aware of gender difference. This was a wonderful experience for me. I saw kids as kids, not as girls or boys. I saw myself as a kid too.

The problem started when by breasts started growing. I liked girls and I was feeling guilty. When I started senior high school, I started playing charades. I changed three schools, Aydın Science Highschool, İstanbul Atatürk Science Highschool and Kabataş Highschool…

Why did you change three highschools?

Because when you don’t feel at home with your body, you can’t belong anywhere, that’s what I realized.

At the schools I was enrolled in, people got along with me but something didn’t click, I didn’t feel I belonged. Especially at the first highschool I went, I was in a game of charades. I was trying to perform all the roles society dictated. My hair was long, I didn’t get a haircut. When I got my period, I thought it brought me closer to the performance of femininity which I was very clumsy at, and I was extremely happy.

In time, I realized that I like women but it didn’t feel OK to define myself as a lesbian. I spent the last years of highschool saying “I don’t have any gender, don’t call me anything”.

In 12th grade, when I found out that I have the opportunity to start testosterone and get my breasts removed, I thought that maybe I was a trans man. Because all those who experienced bodily dysphoria like me were trans men. This put me in a different model. I had just been saved from the female role that society imposed on me. This time I started getting in the trans man mold.  

Were you learning about all of these by reading things online? Or were you talking to doctors or people who went through similar experiences?

Yes, I researched on my own. I was feeling alone as I never met anyone like me.

It was terrible, trying to fit in the trans male model, I was swearing , sitting with my legs wide open, I was not smiling…I was trying to perform “masculinity” after all. For instance I was observing the men on the subway. I was trying to stand like they do but I couldn’t stand upright as I was bothered by my breasts, I was getting into all sorts of shapes.

When did you start  to use the name Evren?

On my prep year at Istanbul Technical University. But I couldn’t insist on it with my friends. Then I met someone who stood by me to this day, they were the first to ask me “Would you like me to call you Evren?”. From that moment onwards they always called me Evren and scolded anyone who didn’t. This gave me strength. It helped me get out of performing trans masculinity.

It was hard. I was getting out of one mold into another. Then I started to ask “What am I?”.

Then I came across a term: “Non-binary”, meaning “genderqueer”. Living as a queer gendered person…I was this way as a child, it was the same in highschool, it is the same now. I could really be me, when I thought of myself as independent of gender. In fact, the discomfort I have of my body has nothing to do with my gender. That’s why I don’t like the terms like the “gender transitioning process”, “gender confirmation process”. Because, what am I transitioning from, to what? What am I changing?

People often assign the trans male gender identity to me, trans activists do it sometimes too. When I discovered that the dominant hormone in the body, whether from birth or by treatment, has nothing to do with gender, I was really liberated.

When you came out to your mom with your identity, how did she take it?

I came out to her in highschool about being attracted to women, I had no problem with this. But when I came out to her saying “I don’t feel like a women, I don’t feel like anything”, it felt distant to her.

This is what I think: Just as I went through painful times, she too has gone through similar times herself. I am proud of her. And I think that she refrained from reflecting her troubles on me.

What would you like to do when the school is over? What’s your dream?

I want to be a physicist, like working at Max Planck Institute. I want to do research. Maybe I can do it at a university, but I would like to experience the institutional environment.

On our chat we had before the interview, I noticed that you are interested in social work. You said that you participated in the training for gender instructors organized by TOG (Community Volunteers) . What else do you do?

I started dancing this semester; Lindy Hop and solo jazz. It’s the first time I’m dancing and I noticed that I never communicated with my body until now. It is really liberating.

How did the gender instructor training go?

You know I’m already into gender issues (laughs).

This training was illuminating for me, I sometimes had a hard time explaining simple things to people before the training. I thought I could turn this into activism. Now I’m sharing my own process over Instagram.

As far as I know, you would like to have a surgery, right?

I would like to have an operation for my upper body, I’m not thinking of getting a lower body surgery.  It’s a very difficult surgery and I don’t find it necessary either. The biggest part of my dysphoria is due to my breasts, when I get rid of them I will be free from a great burden.

Actually there is a chance that the state can pay for my surgery, but not only does it take a long time but also I have to change my ID as a condition. As long as I don’t have to change my ID, I don’t care if my ID is blue or pink*. If it won’t be a great problem in state bureaucracy, which hasn’t been so far. It’s only a problem on busses with the whole “women side-men side”. **

Will you change your name on your ID? Do you feel uncomfortable when people call you with your ID name?

I do actually. But I won’t change my name, I will only add a name.

My ID name is actually not gendered. I can share it with you as I’m not particularly bothered by it: Pınara. Pınara is the name of an ancient city and thus has no gender. The problem is, it sounds like the female name “Pınar” therefore it assigns female gender automatically. It started bothering me as people take it as a female name, therefore I can actually make peace with the name. I mean I had no problems with it growing up, but people turned it into a problem. I’m happy with Evren for now.

So can we sum it up as: You define yourself as non-binary and you don’t want to deal with the color of your ID. You just want to get rid of your breasts because of the bodily dysphoria and move on. You think people are happy as they are and can decide it all on their own. Did I get it right?

Yes (laughs).

First thing I will do after the surgery is to wrap a towel around my waist and not my breast. The second thing is to spend a night at the library, because I can only stay until 2 a.m, afterwards I get short of breath. I feel the urge to go home and take off my binder and be alone. And then I also want to run in the mornings. Because I like doing sports but the binder makes it very difficult to run, it suffocates me.

My binder is physically challenging to walk around with. When you wear it for 12-14 hours it starts to hurt and it really exhausts me. It comes right over your stomach and presses there, that’s why it gets hard to wear a binder after I have a meal.

How long have you been using Binder?

For around 2 years, since 12th grade.

When we were chatting you said “people don’t understand what sort of thing dysphoria is”, would you like to talk more about that?

Some days, dysphoria makes me feel like I can’t get out of the bed or out the house. It’s a feeling you carry around at all times. On many days, especially when I have serious things to attend to, it makes me think that I can’t leave home today and so I stay in.

Breast dysphoria or penis dysphoria are visible dysphorias. But then there are others, such as that of shoe size and height. Even if you are aware of these, it won’t reduce your dysphoria, at least that’s what happened to me.

I don’t think you need to experience dysphoria to identify as a trans individual, I have a clash of opinions with many trans individuals on this subject. I can define myself as a woman or a man without being uncomfortable with my own body. We say that the body does not dictate gender, then why would dysphoria dictate being trans?

When you went to the doctor to initiate the hormone procedure, how did you tell them about the non-binary issue?

Frankly I didn’t try to tell them. I started it as a trans man.

In one of our sessions a psychiatrist asked me “Do you see yourself as a trans man or as a man?”. I said “what’s the difference”. Now I understand what they meant to ask. They meant to ask “are you happy with your trans identity”.

For instance there is this trans male Youtuber. He has many problematic statements like “If you don’t hate being trans then you’re not a trans individual”, “You’re not trans unless you have dysphoria”. I don’t like generalizations and I think that this puts you in a mold when you’re fresh out of a mold dictated by the society. We use labels in the LGBTI+ movement to make things easier for us, to make us feel better; not to replace the old molds with new ones.

 

* Translator’s note: Old Turkish ID cards are color-coded according to gender. The new IDs are gender neutral in color, however not all citizens have changed their old IDs.

 

**Translator’s note: On Turkish intercity busses when one’s buying tickets, women are assigned seats next to women if they’re travelling alone. Therefore one has to fill in the gender slot so that the bus company can arrange the seating accordingly.

 

“Let’s fight against Homophobia by having our stories told”

Lesbian, bisexual, and transsexual women tell stories about the violation of their rights and how they were exposed to discrimination. First story by Zeynep S.

Source: Aslı Alpar, “Hikâyelerimiz anlatılsın diye homofobiye karşı mücadele edelim”, Kaos GL, March 19, 2018, http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=25360

About 2 months remain before the 17th of May, the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. Throughout these 2 months lesbian, transsexual and bisexual women, through KaosGL.org, are going to tell their stories of the violation of their rights and how they were exposed to discrimination. We will listen to lesbian, bisexual and transsexual women’s experiences in every aspect of life from education, health and family to work life.

The first story belongs to Zeynep S:

Not being able to tell our story

I have experienced discrimination in regards to sexual orientation several times. Being verbally abused by your peers in school and by your family and the inability to walk the streets holding hands; aren’t these already discrimination? Still, I want to talk about my most tragi-comical discriminative experiences. I call it tragi-comical because it was in an event organised by an NGO that claims to be working for women’s rights where I came across by the event organiser turned into discriminative behaviour.

Eight years ago, there was a meeting in Ankara. Women’s conditions and experiences were supposed to be discussed. In this activity, women of different ages were gathered together and the mediated conversation was directed to recounting experiences. The topic was sexism.

Immediately starting to talk in a meeting has never been a thing I would do. I waited, I listened to everyone else. Listening to severe sexual harassment stories encouraged my audacity. Yet, I continued listening. About 10 women quoted their stories. Rape in marriage, sexual abuse, safe sex methods and abortion were discussed. All the sexism-related experiences discussed were between men and women. Possibly. I wanted to tell my story, too, but since no other homosexual women shared their experience and even the existence of homosexual women wasn’t discussed I was pushed to my corner.

There were some missing points, but there was a sincere atmosphere. I decided to tell my story as the meeting was getting to the end. I felt brave since I had recently come out to my mother. I started talking, before telling my story I decided to make an introduction.

I said: “We spoke about sexism but all the stories where experiences between woman and man,” I was about to continue when one of the participants said: “what else could it possibly be.” It was one of those times when I would escape from speaking in a meeting; when I heard that I blushed and my heart was jumping out of my mouth. The moderator didn’t say anything so as I was trying to calm myself down I said, “sexism can be experienced between women too.”

The moderator asked, “Are you a homosexual?”

I answered, “Your topic has nothing to do with me being a homosexual or not. This is the topic; sexism is not only being experienced between men and women.” This broke my courage including the story I was about to tell.

The moderator asked again: “Are you a homosexual? Please tell if you’re lesbian, as long as you’re telling your story.”

This insistence, encouraged the guests as they were staring at me with their curious eyes, someone asked, “Some doctors believe your homosexuality is an illness, have you ever received treatment?”

I told them homosexuality was not a disease, that their claim was not scientific and that I identify myself as bisexual. As I was not yet done with my sentence, the moderator panicked and said things like: “our meeting is about to end. We have said quite a lot in the past 1.5 hours.” However, s/he didn’t say anything to the participant who said “homosexuality is illness” and s/he ended the meeting. My story stayed with me.

In the end, a title was asked for this series of articles. I would say: “Let’s fight against Homophobia by having our stories told”, this is my title.

Photo Credit: Kelly Beeman

KaosGL: How to “pass” police tests in Istanbul LGBTI+ Pride March

Istanbul LGBTI+ Pride March was banned by the governor’s office for the third year in a row after more than a decade of peaceful marches. With the ban, police set up checkpoints across Istanbul’s main thoroughfare, İstiklal Avenue, and central Taksim streets. Police prevented people from gathering en masse for Pride using these checkpoints, as well as riot-control methods like tear gas and plastic bullets. Still, a few hundred people could gather in Cihangir and groups read press statements via Facebook live.

Below are stories from Pride-goers as they attempted to “pass” as non-participants through police checkpoints.

Source: Yıldız Tar, “Onur Yürüyüşü’nde polisten alıktırma (!) testi,” kaosGL.org, 27 June 2017, http://kaosgl.org/sayfa.php?id=24097

Tote bag, badge, colorful shirt, earring, scarf, sometimes tshirt, sometimes shorts, and sometimes only the way you look is enough! People who have passed the police’s “LGBTI+ test”, those who failed it, and those who’ll stay for summer classes tell their stories to KaosGL.

Foto: Şener Yılmaz Aslan / MOKU

Our country launches a new practice and people who wanted to attend the LGBTI+ Pride March had to compete to “pass.”

Police blockaded the whole Taksim area the day of the march and allowed people to enter Istiklal Avenue based on their “types” throughout the day, leading to farcical dialogues. Police forced a person wearing a rainbow pattern to strip, said “normal people can pass,” among so many others.

We asked people what they went through that day, the police’s reasons if they weren’t allowed in and what they experienced if they managed to enter the area, knowing it’s a problem if you’re naked and another problem if you’re dressed.

“I got in by hiding my shirt with my backpack”

Cüneyt is one of the lucky few who managed to pass through the police checkpoint. How he did that is like a summary of the day:

“Police saw the rainbow on my t-shirt and said on the police radio ‘it’s clear you’re supporting them [LGBTI+] through your t-shirt’. So I wore my backpack on the front and passed.

Another tactic to pass the police checkpoint is to stand together with both sexes. Most probably as a result of the police’s not knowing about bisexuality, varied sexuality and gender possibilities, and even more so about the fact that people attending this march can be heterosexual, Gülay was able to pass the checkpoint easily:

“I passed hand in hand with Barbaros. They did not say anything like ‘Maybe they are bisexual, maybe they are here for the march.’ So we entered freely.”

“We tried to look like a straight couple”

Elif applied the same method:

“As I’d entered [Taksim] in the morning, I was already in when the police cordoned the area off and started to choose people as they like. But in order to be able to report, I spent the whole day trying to look like a straight couple with a lubunya friend of mine, ignoring our friends we passed by. This way I was able to shoot certain cases of police violence and detention. And I was able to take a lubunya friend of mine to Istiklal, who was otherwise rejected by the police, telling him “come my love”.

Ask them about the colorful shirts

“We were three people and we were stopped by the police right at the entrance to Istiklal. Bedreddin was stopped because he was wearing a colorful shirt. Yes, this was precisely their justification. He said ‘it’s a color sensitive situation, you can’t enter Istiklal’. So after listening to the political defense for a while, I realized he won’t understand. I simply said: ‘What’s that got to do with anything, there is no green in rainbow.’ And the police opened the cordon.”

“Hold these guys!”

Hakan +Arda

“We sat for a while at a venue on the entrance to Istiklal. Then a friend of ours passed by and entered [through the police cordon]. As we tried to go after him, a police officer told another one ‘hold these guys’ and stopped us. I had a gray t-shirt, earrings and an orange bag on. So we went through Cihangir and entered the avenue from Galatasaray.”

“We were able to enter after hiding our stuff”

Deniz Buse

“My girlfriend and I came through nostalgic funicular from Karaköy. We were not allowed in Istiklal because of our earrings, bandanas and pins. ‘We are here on Eid al-Fitr, don’t bother us with this’ they said. We said ‘we won’t give them [the accessories]’. I said : ‘If I give them to you here, I will buy new ones from the shops on Istiklal anyway. They replied, ‘Then our friends will detain you and that’s it’. We said we won’t give them. They said ‘then we won’t take them’. We went back to Karaköy. We put all the stuff they didn’t allow in my girlfriend’s sunglasses case and left it on a construction site. We hid it. That’s how we went to Istiklal. We returned and took back our stuff afterwards.

“Your type is not allowed”

Başak’s dialogue with the police

“-You can’t enter.

-Why, is it just me who is not allowed?

-No, you and your friends.

-I don’t get it, why? What’s the deal?

-Your type is not allowed!”

Shoulder bag is a reason for not being allowed!

Erdem

“Five of us entered Istiklal. Our outfits were more or less similar. We all had a casual t-shirt and shorts. Only one of my friends and I had a shoulder bag and we were the only ones that were stopped. It was either the bag or us being too campy, I don’t know. After that I was rejected several times on my own.”

“They’re normal!”

Şevval:

“They stopped me. I asked, ‘Why can’t I pass, look, everyone else is in’. The police said ‘They’re normal’. I snapped like a princess. Eventually they said ‘please come in’.”

“The street is closed to you today”

Fırat!

“They didn’t let me in either. They stopped me right when I was entering the avenue and said ‘The street is closed to you today’. I asked ‘Who is we’ and they replied ‘LGBTI’. When I told them that I don’t understand, they said ‘Don’t understand, just move along’.

“My ID doesn’t say that I’m a faggot”

Ekin: “ We had pins that read ‘peace’. They said ‘Take them off, or you won’t get in’. When we said ‘It just says peace, we won’t take them off’, he asked for my ID. When told them that my ID doesn’t say that I’m a faggot, they stared at us and made way. We walked chanting slogans. We were caught near Demirören. But then we ran away when they were about to detain us. 10 minutes later we were able to re-enter.”

All of this is just a small portion of what happened on the day of the march. There are even more tragic stories on the part of the iceberg that remains below the surface.