Book Review: Our Children, A Guide for Families and Relatives

“Our Children, A Guide for Families and Relatives” (Çocuklarımız, Aile ve Yakınlar için bir Rehber) is a booklet designed for LGBTI+ parents and relatives. The booklet is published by LISTAG (Families and Relatives of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Individuals) in collaboration with LGBTI+ family groups from different cities around Turkey serves as an invaluable resource for parents and relatives of LGBTI+ children and youth. In the preface it reads that the purpose of the booklet is to share knowledge gained by the common experiences of families of gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans individuals, and provide families with less or little experience with information and help raise their awarenesse. Included in the preface is an important note on the fact that the feelings and thoughts many LGBTI+ families initially experience when their children come out to them are similar and that knowing they are not alone is in itself comforting.

What makes this resource booklet a powerful read is that it also includes extracts from the book, “Stories Under the Rainbow” (Gökkuşagından Hikayeler), a compilation of real life stories from the families of LGBTI+ individuals. These accounts, distributed throughout the booklet, are the voices of parents of LGBTI+ children and youth relaying their own struggles, challenges, and experiences. Perhaps these narratives effectively echo similar sentiments to the parents reading “Our Children”, reassuring them that their experience is not unique to them.

The booklet provides definitions for core LGBTI+ terminology such as for gender identity and sexual orientation; information and suggestions for parents on ways to cope with their own feelings; information about the coming out process as LGB and how best to support LGBTI+ individuals and the coming out process of trans children and youth, and what the transition process in Turkey entails. It also contains information about LISTAG and the work it does to support families and raise awareness about LGBTI+ discrimination and rights.  

Stressing the importance of carving space and time for reflection to process feelings and thoughts, the booklet notes that many parents may neglect the fact that they too need support, and encourages parents to also tend to their own feelings while supporting their child.

One main suggestion the booklet provides to parents is to operate from a place of love despite wherever they may be in their own acceptance process and that a great way to find solidarity is to get in touch with LGBTI+ family groups. In the afterword, a parent encourages other parents to confront their own fears together with their children and to be open to learning about other lives without judgement and adds, “Let’s try to really understand and let’s not leave our children alone on this challenging journey.”

For a parent whose child may have recently come out to them as LGBTI+ and who may lack knowledge on the topic, finding access to information and guidance on LGBTI+ topics in Turkish might be a challenging endeavor. Providing parents with a good starting point, this is an impactful resource that will serve this gap and help many families better understand and support their LGBTI+ child. It is not difficult to imagine the positive impact “Our Children” will have on many families. With its clear explanations, suggestions and the narratives from experienced parents, “Our Children” makes a great gift to all parents of LGBTI+ children and youth.

Review by Lukka Alp Akarçay for LGBTI News Turkey

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.

 

European Parliament Candidate Niyazi Kızılyürek signed LGBTI + Friendly Candidate Pledge

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Queer Cyprus Association has published the press release below [May 25] on Niyazi Kızılyürek signing the LGBTI+ Friendly Pledge, since then Kızılyürek has won a seat at the European Parliament:

The 2019 European Parliament elections come in an increasingly polarized social and political climate. The very core values and standards upon which the EU was founded – respect for human dignity and human rights, freedom, democracy, equality and the rule of law – are being called into question and human rights, in particular, the human rights of LGBTI+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Intersex, and Plus) people, are facing a forceful challenge.

Queer Cyprus Association called on European Parliament Candidates to sign LGBTI + Friendly Candidate Pledge in Mid-April for the upcoming European Parliament election. LGBTI + Friendly Candidate Pledge was today signed by `Niyazi Kızılyürek (AKEL)’ as well.

Queer Cyprus Association (QCA), under ILGA Europe, carried out a campaign asking candidates to pledge to stand up for the human rights and equality for all LGBTI+ people in the European Union and beyond and will do so by working to:

  1. Strengthen protection in EU law and policy,
  2. Ensure an enabling environment for LGBTI+ human rights defenders,
  3. Be an ally to underrepresented voices,
  4. Ensure EU leadership on LGBTI+ rights, and
  5. Harnessing the power of their position to advance the human rights of LGBTI+ people.

 

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.

LGBTI+ associations launch campaign against the killings of transgender people

Two days ago, Gökçe Saygı, a trans woman was murdered at her home in Antalya. Saygı’s loss added to the loss of many other trans women, all victims of transphobia and the impunity against hate killings.

LGBTI+ and women’s associations launched a hashtag campaign on May 14, repeating their demand for the outlawing of hate crimes in the Penal Code. The civil society organisations have been campaigning for a law against hate crimes for years, emphasizing how discrimination against LGBTI+ individuals results in impunity against violence, with sentence reductions on the premises of “provocation”. The activists have been repeatedly demanding public awareness for the killings, stating “Trans murders are political!”.

Turkey has ranked 48th among 49 countries in ILGA Europe’s annual review of LGBTI+ rights, which underlines that the country has currently no law defines and targets hate speech or hate crime. The report also suggests that at least 4 trans women were murdered and many were attacked on 2018.

The hashtag for the campaign #Yasaİstiyoruz means #WeWantALaw [against the hate crimes].  Members of Antalya-based LGBTI+ organisation BİZ Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Association has called for a gathering today [May 15, 2019] at 19:00 to commemorate Gökçe Saygı and to read their press statement. The association has also stated that they will be following the trial.

Trans woman was murdered in her house

In Antalya, a trans woman was murdered in her home.

Source: Trans woman was murdered in her house (trans kadın evinde öldürüldü), Pembe Hayat, http://www.pembehayat.org/haberler/detay/2152/antalyarsquoda-trans-kadin-evinde-olduruldu, May 15, 2019

Trans woman Gökçe Saygı, who had been living in Antalya, was stabbed to death by a man who came to her house today (May 13).

During the early hours of today, Gökçe, a transgender woman who had been living in Antalya was attacked by a man who entered her home. After hearing shouting and noises from the apartment, the neighbouring residents called the police. They found Gökçe’s dead body in the house. Gökçe was killed after being stabbed seven times by the murder suspect who entered her home.

The CSI team made an investigation at the crime scene and found out the identity of the murder suspect through the security camera records of the neighbouring building. The law enforcement officers are now looking for the suspect. Gökçe’s body was taken to the Council of Forensic Medicine of Turkey.