Today’s heroes were also the heroes of Gezi…
Now, they are more reliable, more respectable..
Gezi; along with Çarşı, Redhack and Anticapitalist Muslims, has brought LGBT individuals under the spotlight. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans individuals will rejoice and walk together at 17:00 today. Their main slogan is “If you are not here we are one missing”. They are candid and they are really inviting everyone to walk. I have interviewed a transsexual, a homo sexual and a lesbian. They spoke very candidly and consciously about their Gezi experiences and their own positions…
I was at Gezi to pay them back for all times I’ve cried.
What kind of difficulties are you facing as a transsexual individual in this country?
- Every moment of our lives is filled with difficulties: renting a house, using public transport, going to a cafe or a restaurant, receiving medical treatment, access to education. The list goes on to infinity! To keep it short, it is hard to live! Imagine that you are always an outcast. This is how hard my life is. Transsexuals are not given proper jobs either. It does not matter if you are highly educated or not…
Would it be different if you lived in Europe?
- Of course. People are freer in the countries where governments embrace LGBT individuals.
What did you experience in Gezi?
- It was a fantastic experience. I was supportive right from the start.
You were not scared and you did not run away…
- I was not scared? I was scared out of my wits! You cannot protect yourself against tanks or guns. They attack you outright. With tear gas, batons and bullets. I was scared, frightened and chickened out. But I felt courageous when I saw the spirit of fight for their rights in the people’s eyes. I felt more confident. Gezi has been so good for me… I felt more like a human being then I have ever felt before.
What does that park mean to you?
- Gezi is very important for LGBTs. It is the place where we gather and meet and now the name of the place for support and solidarity.
Were you not affected at all from the gas?
- I was affected. The gas had side effects. I’ve lost my hair, my eyebrows and eylelashes.
What is your problem with the government?
-I don’t believe anything this government says. When they first came to power they said really nice things about LGBTs. They promised to give “rights to the homosexuals” said “We will protect their rights with law. They will not be looked down on in public institutions” etc. But what did happen in practice? We can see those words were all lies! The members of the parliament and AK party provincial chairmen said “Homosexuality is an illness. These sorts of people are sick, their souls are messed up, and they are psychos”. So we are no longer sympathetic to this government. In 2002 nearly 60 percent of LGBTs voted for them as we thought they were going to be amicable. But now, no one believes them. They are hypocrites.
At the park you were together with some people who you would never actually have communication with, weren’t you?
- Yes for example people supporting MHP party were the ones I would never be seen together with. I wouldn’t believe it even if I saw in my dream that I would walk with them, chant slogans with them and be in the same platform with them. But it happened. We walked together. They made “bozkurt” signs while I was making a peace sign. It was an unbelievable sight.
So what sort of lesson did you learn from this experience?
- I learned that people can unite and struggle against tyranny together.
Did this experience widen your horizon?
- I didn’t want to live in this country just a month ago. And 90 per cent of other trans individuals did not want to live here either. We thought if AK party was elected once again they would either kill each one of us or exile us. We were preparing our passports. But together with this resistance we said. “wait a minute! Why are we going? There is still hope in this country”. After I saw that park, those people, and the youth now I believe I can live in Turkey with my trans identity, and I can live here quite well actually. I want to struggle for this.
IF YOU ARE NOT HERE WE ARE ONE MISSING
Were there no positive developments at all during the past years?
- No, on the contrary everything has worsened day by day. We are not valued at all in this country, even stray dogs are better off than us. Even while we are just walking down the street the police come and pick us up. They fine us. We ask “why” and they say “because you are a transvestite, this is the law!” They have grading systems, and the more they fine us the more grades they get. Their rank increases with better grades. That’s another reason why I have resisted. To pay them back of all the times I’ve cried!
How can they just take you to the police station without any reason…
- They have used the law of misdemeanor. They say that a man wearing women’s clothes do prevent the flow of traffic and they gain money by fining us. Three different policemen can fine the same person in one night. They have certain quotas. When they fulfil such quotas they rise in rank. It is harder to catch a thief or other criminals; the easiest is to catch transgenders.
What was the LGBT demonstration made last week and what is today’s?
-Last week was the “Trans Pride walk”. Today’s is LGBT pride walk.
Why did you separate yourself from LGBTs?
-Actually we did not. We just wanted raise awareness because within the LGBT individuals we are usually given the hardest time. But we are actually united, but we produce politics from different areas.
Last week was like a festival, how will today be?
-It will be fascinating! We are expecting a huge crowd. Our heterosexual friends are also supporting us. Everyone is invited. Our slogan is “we are one missing if you are not here”. We like everyone. We want everyone to support us.
I loved your slogan “Huh! We are resisting!” (We are resisting ayol!) …
- Yes. There are other slogans such as “Huh! What is prohibition anyway?”, and “Huh, we are everywhere!” These slogans just came out naturally from the spirit of Gezi resistance.
What is your expectation from the crowd?
-All I want is for them to see me as a human being. What can I expect more?. All I want is to live free like everyone else.
Do you think that your social recognition has increased together with Gezi?
Absolutely! While walking on the street people who see our flag come and walk with us comfortably. Because they trust us. They know we are not provocateurs.
An advocate paper supporter of the government wrote that “The bottom and top groups of fagots joined together and walked”. When we were at the resistance with Çarşı Group, they chanted slogans against this statement of the newspaper. And their slogan was “Courageous Fagots!” While one thing was so insulting, on the other hand Çarşı’s slogan made us proud.
Come and join us… Walk with someone who you think is very different, just once in your life.
- Sedef Çakmak. I have been involved with the LGBT movement for the past 9 years. I am a prior Lambda Istanbul activist. I am also the managing chairman of an organization called Spod. Our work is a bit more boring. We carry out business such as soliciting education, interviews with members of parliament, and sometimes we travel to Strasbourg and Brussels.…
- I graduated from Galatasaray University, department of Sociology
What kind of difficulties do you experience as a LGBT individual?
- In this country, the first thing people look is the appearance of a person. As no one can understand anything from my appearance I usually do not have problems individually. The ones who have most difficulties are transsexual individuals.
What’s the difference between being an LGBT in Turkey and being an LGBT in Europe?
- In Europe if someone beat you up in the street you can go and ask protection from the police. However in Turkey many LGBT individuals would not even go to the police for fear of being “raped or abused”. Unfortunately a part of the violence is inflicted to us by public organizations in our country.
What is your problem with this government?
-I see the government not as a father figure but as a child. It does not carry out its responsibilities. We have to keep reminding our rights to them. When we say LGBT rights the politicians immediately think we want homosexual marriage rights so they ignore by saying it is still being discussed internationally in other countries. However we are talking about a very basic right. The right to live. The government is already responsible to guarantee this. My only expectation from the government to get a grip of its responsibilities for god’s sakes.
What have you reacted against in the past 10 years?
-I was frustrated as my close friends was beaten up in the middle of the street just because their sexual orientations were different. I always went and hugged them. The only thing I could do was nothing else but to comfort them. The worst thing is you cannot even advise them to go to the police. Ok. They can file a lawsuit but even when this happens there is no hope that you will get 100 per cent positive results from the lawsuit. The point I am most upset about is, to feel that despair. The problem is not only to be beaten up but people also commit suicide. They cannot find any other way and you cannot prevent them from committing suicide. Then you feel absolutely helpless.
Why would you lie in front of TOMA?
- The thing is, we want a life without violence. This belief is what led us to lie on the ground in front of those vehicles. It is a weird feeling. On the one hand you know the TOMA could run you over and on the other hand you seem to give a 5 year old reaction to the thing happening. “No way! He is not going to run me over, is he now?” You feel shocked with many things that happen. The fact that Ethem was shot. Although I have seen the eighties and the nineties and have seen what has happened in the East. I still feel shocked with violence. I think it is a human feeling and it is what protects us, to be astonished by events. I should be astonished when people die. I should be scared of myself if I do not feel anything when other people die.
How has Gezi widened your horizon?
- The culture of sharing is what we were obligated to do and that is what we saw in Gezi. This is something we like. Sharing.. we do not trust the police, the prosecutors, some people get thrown out of their houses and we have learned to share and support each other. We open our home for those who have been thrown out. And we relived all of this sharing and support in Gezi at a larger scale.
Were there no developments in LGBT rights in the recent years?
- We were not prejudiced when AK party came to power. But later on as the police got more powerful we started having more problems. At the point we have arrived, no one has trust any more. When our organizations were shut down with force in 2007, we tried to reach the members of parliament. Only two of them replied to us and they were Sebahat Tuncel and Ufuk Uras. We had to go the European Parliament even though we did not want to. Every time we go to Strasbourg and Brussels I curse myself and I ask myself why I cannot address my own Parliament and I have to call sisters or brothers from abroad. But now the opposing parties are helping us…
What is the importance of today’s pride walk? What do you think people should remember when they read this interview?
- the LGBT individuals who have lived in fear and in contempt will come together today and share the mutual air. There will be different type of people, with different clothing and they will be holding different banners…In these pride parades people will be however they want to be. Some walk in silence. Some only take photos and some wear the most exaggerated stagey costumes. We have had 12 walks until now and we have not had any problems during these walks. That is why we have invited everyone. I want them to walk with someone who they think is totally different to them for once.
What do you expect from the community?
- We are not a wise community but everyone has their own ideas even though they do not have enough knowledge. Everyone says homosexuals carry diseases and that we all have AIDS. However we are no different to other people. We also have financial problems, and we swear when the bus doesn’t show up on time. I want people to forget about what they think they know about us and to sit and talk to us. They should not be afraid to ask us questions.
We do not have 3 ears and 5 noses
-We accomplished something we could not in 3 years, in 3 days in Gezi. We wanted to reach out to people. We wanted to tell them we were not weird people with 3 ears and 5 noses. And we accomplished this in Gezi.
We are waiting for 50 thousand people to participate today
-When we walked in 2003 we were only 30 people and only 5-6 of us had not covered their faces. All the other had masks so they were not recognized. In 2013, 20 thousand people walked and only 5-6 people had masks on. This year we are waiting for 50 thousand people to attend. Our pride walk will start at 17:00 in Taksim from the streetcar stop. We plan to walk until the tunnel. When one group reaches the tunnel the rest could still be at the square. That is how crowded we plan to be. We want everyone to be there.
- Hasan Hüseyin Şehriban.
- I studied biomedical device technologies. And left Yeditepe Plastic arts department before graduating.
Are you working?
- I worked for 3 years in Düşler (Dream) Academy with the disabled. I worked as an arts teacher and I worked in a Bank too.
THE CRAZY PERSON IN THE FAMILY
How would you describe yourself?
- I am LGBT. I do not stereotype myself. I do not feel that I have to accept the gender identity that people enforce on me. I am like a fluid surface. I put on nail polish if I want to and wear high heels if I want to. I will fall in love with a woman or a man. I live according to my feelings. Imagine a wardrobe and I go in and come out according to how I am feeling. I can wear high heels and speak to my mom in the house like that. I can wear blue nail polish if I want.
What about love?
- When I fall in love I do not care about gender. But I usually prefer men.
What kind of problems have you been experiencing?
- The most difficult time was when I explained all this to my family. My brothers beat me up. But now they have all accepted. They see me as the crazy person in the family. I am everywhere but I look different all the time. I was one of the person’s reading a book to the policemen in Gezi.
Why were you at Gezi?
- I was protesting during the murder of Hrant Dink. I was there when Emek cinema was being destroyed. I was there to protest the demolition of Haydarpaşa train station, I was there to protest the 3rd bridge and for Pınar Selek… There are so many things to protest. In short whenever there is oppression from the government I am there to protest. And of course there are the hardships they have given to LGBT’s. For example I do not want to do Military service. They ask me to bring a photo of me during intercourse. If you are not happy about this they do not accept. The Turkish Military Forces have a huge porn archive that nobody has. Even now they want someone from the family members to vouch for you and tell them I am gay so I do not have to do military service. I am old enough to speak for my own so why is my statement not enough and they need a family member to vouch for me?
All this time and have there been no developments regarding the freedom of LGBT individuals?
- No and it has gotten worse. Trans individual murders have increased. For example Irem Oka was a transvestite. And was operated on. She was killed and the person who murdered her said to the court “she offered to have anal sex with me so I killed her!” Yet Irem had had an operation and she did not have a penis anymore. I do not know how much this guy was sentenced to but I am sure he will be out in no time. There is a huge trans terror and hate campaign.
What do you expect from the community?
- I want everyone to live comfortably. I want everyone to accept that homosexuality is not a simple choice, it is a tendency. Why would I choose to be an outcast and to endure such pain and difficulty? I am not an idiot. This is not a simple choice.
WE ALWAYS STRUGGLE
In Gezi there was a mutual understanding regarding the credibility of LGBT individuals. What do you think about this?
-Our life is a struggle from the start to the end. Nearly from birth onwards. To discover yourself, to make other people accept who you are. Always a struggle. However this reality makes you credible and strong too.
Do you believe that this government will give you the rights you want?
- They cannot even defend their own rights. They carried out politics using the headscarf and told them they would give them special rights and they could not even give rights to them. We had friends with headscarves during the resistance and we were together with them. We were hand in hand with Anti capitalist Muslims in Gezi Park..
29 June 2013
This post is also available in: Turkish