Despite the raids and evacuations of trans homes in Cihangir and torture in police custody, the LGBTI in Turkey became organized during the 1990s. Lambdaistanbul and Kaos GL associations were founded after the police dispersed the 1993 Pride Parade and the first LGBTI publications appeared.
Source: Elif İnce, “LGBTİ: Kaldırımın Altından Gökkuşağı Çıkıyor”, (“LGBTI: The Rainbow is Peaking Out from the Pavement”), bianet, 8 December 2014, http://bianet.org/bianet/lgbti/160544-lgbti-kaldirimin-altindan-gokkusagi-cikiyor
The 1990s were the years when the LGBTI movement started to organize as a social movement against police violence. Despite the raids on homes and nightclubs and the days-long torture in police custody, these years witnessed the foundation of the Lambdaistanbul and Kaos GL associations, the LGBTI organizations in universities, and the first LGBTI publications.
The first Pride Parade named “Sexual Freedom Events” in 1993 in Beyoğlu was blocked by the police based on the governor’s ban. Activists’ houses were raided and they were taken into custody. Participants from abroad were deported. The first pride parade was held ten years later in 2003 and was attended by 40 people. In the last pride parade, 2014, tens of thousands marched.
Gays, Feminists, Greens
The oppressive environment of the 1980 military coup led to the weakening of mainstream leftist groups. Those who could not previously find a place for themselves in these movements began to have their voice heard. In 1997, the Kaos GL Association submitted a statement to be published in Radikal İki, a Sunday issue of a liberal daily Turkish newspaper (now only online). The statement read as follows:
“Transvestites, transsexuals, feminine gays also experienced the oppression of the 1980 coup. Things were ignored and it was a time of every man for himself. When we tried to make a little bit of noise, our voice was drowned among those endless hierarchies. They’d say “not now; there are bigger urgencies”… In the 1980s, there were similar reactions from many different groups to voices that people were not used to, voices they had not heard before. Gays, feminists, greens… Where the hell did they come from?”
In the mid-1980s, the Radical Democrat Green Party Initiative was founded under İbrahim Eren’s leadership. Greens, feminists, atheists, anti-militarists, as well as gay and trans individuals started to organize within this initiative. The party declared its support for gay rights. Eren observed that gays became the largest group within the party and the party was dubbed the “party of the gays”. In 1998, trans activist Demet Demir said, “the group was called the gay group but the majority were trans.”
Sevda Yılmaz, who wrote under the pen-name of Ali Kemal Yılmaz, tells the story of a hunger strike that began on 29 April 1987 to protest the systemic violence and oppression of gay and trans individuals at the hands of the Beyoğlu Police Department. The Radical Democrat Green Party Initiative supported the strike.
The strike which began in a house in Taksim moved to the stairs of Gezi Park on 30 April and was dispersed by the police. The strike continued in different houses for a couple of weeks. Yılmaz was the spokesperson for the strike, which found coverage in international press and drew the support of important artists such as Türkan Şoray, Rıfat Ilgaz and Barış Pirhasan.
This hunger strike is remembered as the first large-scale LGBTI protest before the 1990s.