HOMOSEXUALITIES IN TURKEY
Homosexualities in a Muslim-Majority Country
Many gays and lesbians in the West, judges the East without knowing and understanding it what exactly is happening there. This Orientalist point of view conceals even the simplest facts: Interpretation of Islam and lifestyles due to Islam differs in each country. In this report, the state of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) movement in Turkey is discussed. Turkey is a Muslim-majority country. In this sense, one of the major purposes of this report is to investigate the relation of Islam and homosexualities in Turkey.
The organization of the report is as follows. In the following chapter, attitude of Islam, Christianity And Judaism to sexual relations including same-sex is discussed. This chapter also includes the impact of Islam on homosexualities in Turkey. In Chapter 2 the current state of LGBT youth in Turkey is explained. KAOS GL and its activities are discussed in Chapter 3. The report concludes with the Chapter 4 in which the main concerns of gay movement in Turkey and the future projects are stated.
1. RELIGIONS AND HOMOSEXUALITIES
Islam, Christianity And Judaism
The laws of Islam rely on Qur'an and Haidth Qur'an is the holy book of Islam, and Haidth are collection of sayings attributed to Muhammad. Haidth and stories about Muhammad's life can be used to have an Islamic point of view. However, compared to the Qur'an, Haidth are not reliable: philosophers and groups claim to propose Haidth in order to support their ideas. However, the general idea derived from the interpretation of Qur'an and Haidth, is that same-sex sexual relation is forbidden in Islam. There are a few references in the Qur'an which have been cited as referring to same-sex relation:
The people of Lut rejected the apostles. Behold, their brother Lut said to them: ``ill ye not fear (God)? I am to you an apostle worthy of all trust. So fear God and obey me. No reward do I ask of you for it: my reward is only from the lord of the Worlds. Of all the creatures in the world, will ye approach males, and leave those whom God has created for you to be your mates? Nay, ye are a people transgressing (all limits)!'' They said: ``If thou desist not, O Lut! thou wilt assuredly be cast out!''
He said: ``I do detest your doings. O my Lord! Deliver me and my family from such things as they do!'' So We delivered him and his family, - all Except an old woman who lingered behind. But the rest We destroyed utterly. We rained down on them a shower (of brimstone): and evil was the shower on those who were admonished (but heeded not)! Verily in this is a Sign: but most of them do not believe. And verily thy Lord is He, the Exalted in Might Most Merciful.\footnoteQur'an 26:160-175
The above passages are apparent references to the activities at Sodom and Gomorrah. It seems to imply that there was no homosexual behavior before it first appeared in Sodom. This is a uniquely Islamic concept; it does not appear in Jewish or Christian beliefs. The passage also links the sin of Sodom (the reason for its destruction) to homosexuality. But it should not be concluded that the only reason addressed for this destruction is homosexuality. There is only one passage that can be an order as a law against same-sex relations in Qur'an:
... and punish those who are guilty of this. If they regret what they have done, leave them. God is merciful.
Although, the mercifulness of Allah by this passage of Qur'an is clearly in contradiction with the passages in which the punishments of other sins are addressed, it may be concluded that same-sex relations are not allowed but is not punished with death in Islam.
Very similar to Islam, the laws of Christianity rely on holy books. The references in these books which have been cited as referring to same-sex relations are not less stricter than the Qur'an's.
God created man and woman look like His silhouette. God created them as men and woman. God blessed them and said: be proliferating and fill the earth(BAP: 27 and 28, Tekvin: First book of Musa).
You cannot make love to a man as if you are making love to a woman, that is evil(BAP: 18:22, Levililer: Third book of Musa).
And if a man makes love to a man as if he is making love to a woman, absolutely, they will be killed. Their blood will be on them(BAP: 20:13, Levililer: Third book of Musa).
Sinners cannot take over the Lord's Sovereignty. Don't you know that? Don't be mistaken! ..., perverts, homosexuals, burglars, inebriates, curser, robbers cannot take over the Lord's Sovereignty(BAP: 9-10, Krontliler, New Testament).
Be away from perversion! Some of them hadn't care this, and twenty three thousand of them are killed in one day(BAP: 10:8, Krontliler, New Testament).
... and similarly, men forgot about the natural use of the women and they satisfied their sexual desires on other men. These perverts who are having sex with other men got their deserts from the Lord(BAP: 1:27, Romalilar, New Testament).
One important point that is to be noticed in the above passages is that the scope and the aim of sexual relation: waste of sperm should be avoided and the aim of the sexual relation should be reproduction. Otherwise it is not acceptable. This rule is not only for same-sex relations but a general one. As a result, same-sex relations are not acceptable at all due to its nature which is not aiming reproduction.
Islam And Homosexuality In Turkey
As explained in the previous section, same-sex sexual relations are not acceptable or even forbidden in Islam, Christianity and Judaism. If the degree of freedom of homosexuality was assumed to depend on religion in a society, then any kind of same-sex relation would be forbidden and punished nearly the same way in Islamic, Christian and Jewish societies. In this section the validity of this assumption is discussed on a Muslim-majority country: Turkey.
Turkey is a republic. Geographically, the country lies between Middle East and Europe. It is a tragedy that the fate of Turkish Republic is also in between these two. It is a modern society with a Muslim-majority population.
In Turkey, the laws are not arranged according to Qur'an. Here follows a few articles from the constitution of the republic:
[Article 2]The Republic of Turkey is a democratic, secular and social State governed by the rule of law; bearing in mind the concepts of public peace, national solidarity and justice; respecting human rights; loyal to the nationalism of Ataturk, and based on the fundamental tenets set forth in the preamble.
[Article 20 A]Everyone has the right to demand respect for his/her private and family life. Privacy of individual and family life cannot be violated. Exceptions necessitated by judiciary investigation and prosecution are reserved. Unless there exists a decision duly passed by a judge in cases explicitly defined by law, and unless there exists an order of an agency authorized by law in cases where delay is deemed prejudicial, neither the person nor the private papers, nor belongings of an individual shall be searched nor shall they be seized.
[Article 10 A]All individuals are equal without any discrimination before the law, irrespective of language, race, colour, sex, political opinion, philosophical belief, religion and sect, or any such considerations. No privilege shall be granted to any individual, family, group or class. State organs and administrative authorities shall act in compliance with the principle of equality before the law in all their proceedings.
In the constitution, the characteristics of the republic is defined as in Article 2. Article 20 A of the constitution defines the privacy of the individual's life, and the individuals' equality is stated as in Article 10 A. Obviously, there are not any rules by law that oblige or punish homosexual relations. This makes homosexuality legal in Turkey. It is even possible to have an operation in order to change sex if you have a legal medical report. But, Turkey is still a Muslim-majority country. In order to understand this case, one should investigate how much individuals' lives are determined by Islam. The following examples can make it clearer:
LGBT also fast in the fasting month Ramadan. But this does not mean that they stop their sexual activities. In day time they don't eat, don't drink and don't have sex, but after the breaking of the fast they do whatever they want including sex. Actually, having sex after the breaking of the fast is already allowed in Islam.
At the time of coming out to self, LGBT does not even consider the rules of Islam which are against same-sex sexual relations.
Especially, for male homosexuals, the main reason of discrimination and violence is not primarily Islam: the male homosexuals are violating the macho culture of the society which is united as a whole with the masculinity. That is why they face with discrimination and violence.
Coming out is not a reason for being fired from your work or school. But the fact is that coming out disables you to have a carier. ``Don't ask don't tell'' is the most common strategy.
There is only a minor group of people in the LGBT society to consider that homosexuality is against the laws of Islam. Tendency is to simply overcome this difficulty by the following assumption: ``god created me this way, and I do not mind the rest.''
When homosexuality is considered, non-homosexual people including the Islamic ones have the following common idea: in your privacy, you can do whatever you want.
There is not a direct restriction of Islamic rituals on daily lives of LGBT. This explains why an Islamic LGBT group does not exist in Turkey.
Although the rest of the Islam world seem to disprove this idea, living in a Muslim-majority society may not end up with an Islam-centered lifestyle.
2. A BRIEF LOOK AT THE CURRENT STATE OF LGBT YOUTH IN TURKEY
The following sections are compiled from the report presented by Yesim Basaran, at the "Conference on Gay and lesbian youth on the border of EU accession" held by International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Youth and Student Organisation Gay (IGLYO) in January 2002, Ljubljana, Slovenia.
LGBT Youth Situation in Turkey
There is not any regulation on queer citizens in state laws and constitution of Turkish Republic. Homosexuality is mentioned in terms of neither aiming to protect non-heterosexual citizens against discrimination nor punishing homosexual act. However it is a common use to have an article that regulates ``shameful offense'' and to utilize this kind of articles for covering discrimination against both young and adult non-heterosexual people both in governmental and non-governmental institutions. The administration of student dormitories is one of the most striking examples of the usage of this ``shameful offense'' act.
Age of consent for heterosexual and so-called heterosexual citizens is 18.
General Public Opinion on Homosexuality
In general, people have usual kind of prejudices against non-heterosexuality and non-heterosexual people. Homosexuality is perceived as a perversion, at least an illness, in general. Some suppose that homosexuality can be a sexual fantasy especially for the upper class, not a sexual identity. They are a few, like just a kind of ``lunatic in the neighborhood''. Your butcher, the nurse in the hospital or ``normal'' looking neighbor cannot be a ``faggot'' or lesbian, but a fashion designer or a writer -people who are far away- may. For the extreme rightist people, homosexuals should be removed from society by expelling or in more bloody ways. For some people, they are also human and they can be accepted on condition that not being so much out about their homosexuality, because it's their private life. But the rising public coming out of lesbian and gay movement and the westernization politics as a whole increase the number of anti-heterosexist heterosexuals, also promotes the discussion on homosexuality in society, and sides are getting more evident.
Traditional family values determine the whole social atmosphere dominantly in Turkey. Although the form of relations within family members and relatives are changing gradually in time, it would be easily concluded that the nuclear family dynamics influence and control the behaviors and the attitudes of individuals in Turkey. The controlling attitudes of nuclear family and relatives have great impact on social order, not just because of their social power but also their economical power over individuals.
Although there are parents who accept their daughter or son as a gay individual easily or hardly, the discriminatory and strict heterosexist families use several methods to ``change'', ``heal'', threaten and oppress their lesbian or gay child. Sometimes they prefer the method of ``not to hear, not to talk about''. The usual oppression methods of families are following:
They take him/her to psychiatrists in order to provide ``treatment''.
They isolate him/her away from ``degenerated'' social environment and friends. Because the young people are perceived as a victim, not an object, by society, in general. If their child is homosexual then some elements must have seduced him/her.
They punish him/her by threats, beating, limiting pocket money, limiting social support, etc.
They give him/her in marriage by using force.
They expel him away from home. Young gay male who is expelled from home sometimes meets with transgender subculture while seeking similar people like himself and then is exposed the whole difficulties of being an MTF transgender in Turkey, which are explained in ``Transgender People'' section below.
This dangerous risk of losing family support and confidence keeps individuals away from coming out to their families. There are lots of married closet gay people in Turkey. Since homosexuality is a secret issue, it is hard to drive the statistical data on discriminations which homosexuals face. Those inferences are based on personal witnesses in lesbian and gay subculture; LGBT organizing, meetings and our journal open a path to make those realities known in public.
As a young queer you mostly have to choose to be open or to have a career. It is very difficult to have both social necessities because discrimination against non-heterosexual citizens is not legally punishable in the job space and heterosexism dominates public space. To be known as a lesbian or gay may easily result in not finding a job, being fired or not being promoted even in the case of deserving.
As in any sector of life in Turkey, family values and family legitimacy easily influence the work space. This reality forces employees to stay in closet. As obviously known, being in closet sometimes is more difficult than being open. Because you have to create an imaginary secondary life to talk about while socializing and follow all opinions and rumors about yourself. Labor unions are not paying any attention for the rights of their non-heterosexual members yet. But we are hopeful on this issue in the near future with the assistance of rising gay liberation movement.
Transgender MTFs cannot find employment, and the only alternative for them is to perform sex work in order to earn money. This reality strongly defines the transgender subculture.
The most serious obstructions of being out are family and career as explained above.
Parents generally take their child to youth or adult psychiatrists if they realize their child is homosexual or their child comes out to his or her family. In these clinics, international scientific standards are not taken as guides in a personal manner, even DSM 4 of American Psychiatry Association has been accepted by Turkish authorities. The common approach to LGBT youth in these clinics is to convince them that ``they are heterosexual!''. If the psychiatrist tries to convince the family that she/he is not ill or pervert, usually the family finds another psychiatrist.
Although the necessity of sexual education in schools has been discussed a lot by governmental and civil organs, the content of such an educational program cannot be agreed upon. A reproduction centered education program, limited to the biological aspects of heterosexual sex, had been included in health lessons in recent years in the secondary and high school curricula as a result of those discussions. While heterosexual students cannot find answers to their practical questions on sex, non-heterosexual students learn ``how perverted they are''. One of the most important parts of a sexual health education, STDs and AIDS education, is limited to a discussion of the diseases within a framework of heterosexual sex and excludes information on condoms and lubricants. It is even questionable whether this sex health education provides heterosexual students with the tools to have conscious, physiologically and psychologically healthier sex. In addition, it should be noted that there is no control mechanism by which one can be certain that a particular curriculum is being followed in the classroom. That is, application and content of this sexual health education strongly depends upon the environment and administration of the schools. There isn't any sexual consultation service for students, either.
Schools are one of the most important public spaces where heterosexism is reproduced ideologically and practically. Non-heterosexual students are constantly left alone to face the homophobic, degrading, and violent behavior of friends, teachers and school administrators.
The situation in the universities is not much better. It's almost impossible for non-heterosexual students to be open about their sexual orientation in the universities. Fortunately, LGB organizing encourages the university students, especially in Ankara (the capital) and Istanbul (the biggest metropolis). There were several public outreach activities, like public speeches, seminars, movie screenings, etc., in Middle East Technical University and Hacettepe University in between 1997 and 2000, by KAOS GL and unregistered LG organizing in these universities. Those students performed their activities by participating in other registered student organizations. With the aid of this experience and heritage, the uncontinued gay group GayAnkara had started a university project through internet for more than 30 universities by starting queer mailing lists for each of them under the name of LEGATO project. LEGATO was the name of the first unregistered student organization in METU. But that campus communication hasn't been evolved as LGB organizing yet. They are trying to be visible through internet and meet other LGB students in their universities by mailing lists and two web sites by Bogazici University and Istanbul University LGB students. But it is difficult to claim that those initiations have political ground.
We suppose the major reason for slowness of this process in the universities is related to identity development process. Most of the time people can discover and accept their queerness, develop a sexual identity consciousness and understand sexual politics when they are in the universities, especially if they get in touch with LGB organizing. But it's a time consuming process. When one is getting more experienced and more encouraged to undertake the role of being open and active in terms of anti-heterosexism politics, then he/she would graduate from university. We believe this reality makes difficult to provide a ground for LGBT university students to be organized. Another reason for this incapacity of student organizing is the overall believe on irrelevance of politics and homosexuality among young queers. Because political atmosphere among youth strongly depends upon the social ambience created after the army cue took place in 1980. Even the term of ``politics'' is a threat for most of the young people in Turkey.
In addition to organizing activities, there have been lots of papers and research conducted on homosexuals, LGBT organizing and heterosexism issues by students and professors in the universities of Ankara and Istanbul. LGBT organizations participate in those researches by providing theoretical and practical materials. Especially whole issues of KAOS GL journal supplies a lesbian and gay literature for that research since 1994.
Most of the time media covers homosexuality as a magazine material that strengthens the current public opinion. Besides this magazine coverage, some newspapers and TVs have conducted several interviews with LGBT organizations. Mainstream media is not reliable in terms of reflecting the whole content of those interviews. They usually pick sentences out of context and change content as presenting them, while alternative media stays loyal to the interviews. It's interesting that popular magazines use homosexuality as cover subject frequently because of the increase in circulation.
Lesbians are not visible as gays in media. Actually lesbians are less visible than gays in all public reflections of non-heterosexuality.
The media discourse on sex worker transgender MTFs is totally outraging. The usual headline is ``Transsexuals terrorized public again!'' after any event. Actually public terrorizes them by attacks, after death of a friend of them or bad-treatment in hospitals after attacks, etc.
In addition to lesbian and gay organizing, the common social atmosphere for non-heterosexual people is the entertainment industry in the big cities. Unfortunately, even if they are lucky to access people like themselves, when this takes place in such ``entertainment'' environments only, the costs are often a social life of high alcohol consumption and/or alienation.
There have been cruising areas for gays even before the LGBT organizing like parks, cinemas, public baths, etc. for years. They still exist in addition to the several bars, two cafes and the KAOS GL Cultural Center. After the increase of internet usage, it has created another way for LGB people in order to access LBG community. Not all of those paths are safe for people. Especially men often date with men whom they don't know. The number of known murders and theft gay males exposed has been increased recently, especially after internet.
The meeting places for youth and elders are common.
The drama of transgender people is one of the bleeding aspects of non-heterosexual people of Turkey. Transgender MTF usually work in the sex industry, facing violence every day. Murders or attacks targeting transgender MTFs in sex industry are familiar news in the media. Because of the deeply patriarchal society, more than 50\% of transgender MTFs in the sex industry are actually gay. Many of these prefer to have surgical intervention to their bodies as an investment in their own bodies as workers in the sex industry. They also feel that it is necessary to have the ``correct'' body in order to justifiably love other males, i.e., they need to be perceived as women and live in a woman's body in order to love men. Sociologist Pinar Selek has reached this conclusion based upon sociological research she conducted within the framework of her thesis work (later published in book form) on the expulsion of transgender people from ‹lker Street where they had been inhabitants for years. According to her research, as gay subculture develops, the number of non-heterosexual males in the sex industry proportionately decreases because more and more of those sex workers, who are actually gay rather than MTF transgender, are able to find their space in the gay subculture.
Since the army health unit follows DSM 2, which categorizes homosexuality as an illness, a non-heterosexual male can apply to the army health service to be excluded from the obligatory military service. But army psychiatrists can ask him for any kind of documents (photos, etc.) as a proof of his queerness, as an arbitrary practice. Since non-heterosexual young males believe that if they don't perform their military service, it will affect their whole future in terms of job opportunities and social acceptability -which is a reality-, a few people apply to army medical services in order to prove that they are ``unfit for the service''. Others have to spend 8 to 18 months in a strongly patriarchal and heterosexist military service environment.
Health workers do not undergo education on homosexuality and their attitude toward non-heterosexual people is strongly affected by society's conservative and heterosexist atmosphere. Since non-heterosexual people naturally do not rely on the ``secrecy principle'' of health service and they face discriminatory behaviors in health offices, they cannot easily and healthily access health services.
The oldest LBGT organizations, which showed continuity, are Lambda Istanbul, since 1993 and KAOS GL, since 1994. They perform public outreach by several different methods and encourage other LGB people to have their local organizations, host the half-annually meeting of Turkey's LGBT people and organizations, etc. Both organizations (and others while they exist) also have a function of helping people for their sexual identity development process. Although the number of active and permanent people in those organizations increases gradually year to year, there have been thousands of LGBT people involved in the activities of them. Lambda Istanbul has an expression for this situation: ``People who graduated from Lambda Istanbul''. Besides some number of local groups had been formed from time to time, especially on account of the influence of KAOS GL journal, but they do not show continuity as a politically active organization. KAOS GL journal is currently distributing in 11 cities. Lambda Istanbul and KAOS GL are members of ILGA.
There had been a number of active groups, which don't exist anymore. They published leaflets, magazines, brochures, etc. Sisters of Venus, BET, Daughters of Sappho, GayAnkara, Spartakus are some of them. Besides, MTF transsexual and woman sex workers issued some numbers of magazine, called Gaci.
The lesbian and gay movement of Turkey are welcoming two new magazines recently. One is called ``PenÁe'' by Bear Anatolia, and the other one is called ``÷te-ki Ben'' by a lesbian feminist initiative. Both groups published their first issues in recent months, and they are working on their second issues nowadays.
3. KAOS GL
What Is KAOS GL?
KAOS GL is a group founded in September 1994 with the purpose of bringing Turkey's homosexuals together to struggle against discrimination. The group's underlying philosophy is that liberation of homosexuals will also free heterosexuals. KAOS GL has been publishing the journal KAOS GL (now a quarterly) since it was founded. In 2001, a monthly newspaper PARMAK (Finger) is also published. But it lasted only for 3 issues. The group owns the KAOS CULTURAL CENTER in which many cultural activities, meetings and film shows are held. Also, the first LGBT library is built in this center.
How Was KAOS GL Founded?
A Gay and Lesbian Rights Commission was established in the Human Rights Association's (YHD) Ankara Branch in the summer of 1994. The commission included the KAOS GL group, which had started publishing the journal KAOS GL at that time. However, the new administration in the YHD Ankara Branch didn't recognize the Gay and Lesbian Rights Commission. Although there were people in the new administration who supported homosexuals, the administration shut down the Gay and Lesbian Rights Commission after a voting, as a result of which the homosexual members of the YHD decided to leave the YHD. Some of the homosexuals who left the YHD joined the KAOS GL group and since then the KAOS GL has defined itself as an independent homosexual group. The KAOS GL group is continuing on its way as a component of Turkey's homosexual movement.
Why A Group Like KAOS GL?
Organization of homosexuals was one of the chief requirements for the liberation of homosexuals who have been ignored and/or subjected to all kinds of discrimination when they were noticed. Trying to lessen the feeling of loneliness through strengthening solidarity between homosexuals, fight stigmatization and labels such as pervert or sick men forced us to organize for making politics with the aim of creating a world in which we would like to live in. The KAOS GL group emerged from the need to show that homosexuality isn't only a sexual act, it doesn't only start and finish in the bed, and that it is a life style.
Is KAOS GL A Political Group?
The generations following the Sept. 12, 1980 military coup have been taught that politics is harmful and means deviating from the true path. However, it was always ignored that this description of politics was also political and as declared by feminists in Europe in the 1970s, what is personal is political. Politics lies just at the heart of how we live, how we dress and how we contact each other. Saying that heterosexuality is the only legitimate and normal sexual orientation is as political as arguing the contrary. That is, arguing that homosexuality is a sexual identity as normal as the former is also political.
KAOS GL refuses all categories established by the heterosexual male domination that ignores homosexuality. It also fights to create our own identity as homosexuals and our own life style. This naturally requires a political stance.
How Does KAOS GL Work?
There is no leader, chairman or an administrative board in the group. The group refuses hierarchy and prefers a horizontal organization model. Every individual in the group fulfills his/her responsibilities undertaken voluntarily. Group members meet every Wednesday evening to discuss technical issues and thus maintain the smooth continuation of the journal KAOS GL and KAOS CULTURAL CENTER. Working schedule of the group is decided by the participants of these meetings. Seminars and meetings are held as part of KAOS CULTURAL CENTER activities.
The Journal: KAOS GL
The KAOS GL group has been publishing the journal KAOS GL since 1994. The chief reason for publishing the journal was and is to have a ground allowing homosexuals to say their words and talk and share their problems. Increasing visibility of homosexuals was another purpose of the journal where every word said against heterosexism would find its way allowing them to create their own agenda.
KAOS GL started to be published as a photocopy journal on Sept. 20, 1994. In time, it has passed through many changes. Its number of pages increased, started to be printed as an A quality journal with colored cover and richer visual materials. However, it has made no concessions from its strong voice against heterosexism, homophobia and all kinds of discrimination. KAOS GL has been a magazine co-produced by its publishers and readers with articles on gay and lesbian liberation movement, theoretical discussions, personal experiences, stories and poems.
How Can You Subscribe To KAOS GL?
You can subscribe to KAOS GL, which has been published since Sept. 1994. When you subscribe to KAOS GL, the magazine will be delivered in a closed envelope. You can learn the annual subscription fee from us. Please write to email@example.com or Ali ÷zbas P.K. 53 Cebeci/Ankara TURKEY. Your subscription will take start after you send the photocopy of the invoice that you are given after you pay the required amount to the following account.
T¸rkiye Is Bankasi Mesrutiyet Subesi (ANKARA)\\
Ali ÷zbas, No: 4213 0544328
Where We Distribute KAOS GL
At the beginning, KAOS GL was distributed only in Istanbul and Ankara. Now you can find KAOS GL in many cities all around Turkey. Furthermore, the journal is sent to our readers and contacts abroad.
Please, contact us if you know bookstores that would sell KAOS GL .
KAOS GL Abroad
KAOS GL has reached many points abroad from Zimbabwe to Kazakhstan and from Serbia to Denmark. A communication channel was opened with many individuals and institutions and this channel has been strengthening. However, many of our efforts to communicate with other groups remained at the level of merely hearing about each other. We attach more importance to contacting gay people from neighboring countries because we think that we share similar problems. Although we try to learn from the experiences of the Dutch and Danish homosexuals, we are very curious about homosexual life in Georgia, Iran, Syria, Serbia and Greece. We hope that the communication developed through letters will in the near future lead to a Conference for the Homosexuals in the Middle East and the Balkan Countries.
KAOS CULTURAL CENTER
The KAOS CULTURAL CENTER is another substantial step and progress made by the KAOS GL group Homosexuality is lived in Turkey in the private sphere but not in public. Homosexuality is confined to homes, clubs and Turkish baths. But we thought that homosexuals need more than these and a few well-known streets in big cities. Homosexuals were confined to unrecognized spaces and activities. But now, they have a place of their own. This was essential to be recognized to get out of the closet-like artificial freedom zones or ghettos, and to refuse to be marginalized for their sexual orientation. KAOS GL had not been able to solve its problem of the lack of a meeting place since it was founded, and having a meeting place for ourselves was compulsory. Therefore, we have turned a flat into a setting for ourselves that has a library, a meeting room and a cafe.
Activities at KAOS CULTURAL CENTER
Our culture center is open to other gay and lesbian groups and political groups which are not homophobic. We are trying to make this place into a center of production and solidarity by weekly seminars, conferences, VCD shows, photo and other exhibitions and English lessons. We want to open up to the heterosexual community via this setting rather than isolating ourselves. At the same time, we want to create possibilities of finding new ways of relations among homosexuals to replace conventional relations.
What Are The Financial Resources Of KAOS GL?
KAOS GL has no connection with any business group or political party and it is entirely independent. All activities are mostly financed by the contributions of group members. KAOS GL received financial aid from ASTRAEA (A National Lesbian Action Foundation in the United States). A computer, scanner, printer and fax machine were bought thanks to the first \$4,500 donation and the second \$5,000 was used for the establishment of the Cultural Center. However, \$5,000 could meet only a part of the requirements to open a Cultural Center, and we had to get loans from banks and donations from individuals. Today, only the donations from individuals are used to finance our publications and activities.
Plans And Projects For The Future
It is really a pleasure for us to see that most of our future plans which we have proposed in our very first brochure released in 1998 are realized. But as time passes, new future plans are appearing on our minds. Some of these are: A Publishing House, a Psychological Counseling Center, a Law Bureau for Gay Rights, Solidarity Network with Homosexuals in jail, a Health Center, a Common House for Old Homosexuals, Radio Channel, etc.
Who Are The Members Of KAOS GL And Who Can Join?
Any person who is not hostile to homosexuals can join the meetings. Everyone who would like to question sexual categories and stereotypes can join the group regardless of race, ethnic group, age, sex, and sexual orientation.
Contact With KAOS GL
In order to contact us, you may call us by phone, send us fax/mail/email or come to our culture center. We'll be pleased to meet you.
[KAOS Cultural Center:]Open Monday to Saturday between 14:00 and 18:00
[Address of KAOS Cultural Center:]Selanik Caddesi, 48/8, Kizilay, Ankara, Turkey
[Mail:]Ali ÷zbas, P.K. 53, Cebeci, Ankara, Turkey
[Te/Fax:]+90 312 418 8715
[Mailing list for the journal KAOS GL:]firstname.lastname@example.org
What Has KAOS GL Done So Far?
The group has been publishing the journal KAOS GL.
We distributed free condoms in November 1994 issue of KAOS GL, the whole of which was spared for articles on AIDS.
Two KAOS GL members made speeches at the Homosexuality and Society conference at Hacettepe University, Ankara, on Dec. 7, 1994.
KAOS GL Special London Issue was prepared by a friend in London and distributed to gays and lesbians from Turkey in June-May, 1995.
Two KAOS GL members made speeches in Ankara University's Law Faculty in a conference held within the framework of the Human Rights Week in Dec. 1995.
We attended the meeting made for the World Women's Day in Ankara on March 8, 1996.
We held a meeting with our readers in Istanbul on Oct. 26, 1996.
We translated ILGA'S 1996 annual report and distributed it as a supplement of our magazine in Sept. 1996.
KAOS GL members attended and made speeches on AIDS with medical and ideological dimensions in the Freedom and Solidarity Party (÷DP) «ankaya, Ankara branch on Dec. 7, 1996.
A KAOS GL member made a speech in the panel of Socialist Worker magazine in its bureau on March 8, 1997.
We attended May Day demonstration meeting in Ankara in 1997.
We presented the seminar ``KAOS GL and Homosexuality'' in ›stanbul Technical University (YT‹) on May 20, 1997.
We attended the program ``Fahrenheit 451'' on «a�da˛ Radio on December 1, 1994. We attended another program on Radio Arkada? on Feb. 3, 1996.
We prepared weekly Radio Kaos thirteen times between June 25, 1995 and September 3, 1996. After that, the radio was shut down for a while. We made two more programs on March 1997 and then the radio station we worked with was shut down again.
Our gay and lesbian friends in the Middle East Technical University (METU) held weekly meetings on the campus with around 20 members between 1996 and 1997. They organized many activities on the campus during this period.
The group members at METU held workshops on gay and lesbian themes such as gay identity, coming out and history of the gay and lesbian liberation movement.
At the same time, the group showed movies with gay themes such as Maurice by James Ivory, Edward II by Derek Jarman, and Law of Desire by Pedro Almodovar.
The Presidential Office of METU did not permit the lecture entitled ``Homosexuality as a Political Identity'' by the gay writer/journalist Y˝ld˝r˝m T¸rker on May 13, 1997 as part of the Spring Festival on the campus, due to the word homosexuality in the lecture title.
We, 76 gays, lesbians, transvestites, transsexuals and heterosexuals went to see the movie Hamam all together.
KAOS GL was invited to the panel ``How Can We Defeat Sexism'' by the Revolutionary Socialist Workers Party (DSYP) on Nov. 15, 1997.
KAOS GL Friendship and Solidarity Meal was held on Jan. 31, 1999.
We distributed leaflets and sold the journal KAOS GL at the Healthy Life Fair 99 at Hacettepe University held between March 17-21, 1999.
Hacettepe University's Struggle with AIDS Society invited KAOS GL to have a discussion on homosexuality on April 30, 1999.
Sexual Education, Treatment and Research Association and Cognitive and Behavioral Association held the Third Sexual Problems and Treatment Congress in Istanbul between Nov. 26-28, 1999. KAOS GL was also invited to the congress. A member from the group, psychologist Murat YalÁ˝nkaya, made a speech in the ``Homosexuality'' session together with the noted psychiatrist Sinan D¸zy¸rek, U.S. gay activist Allen Lawrence and psychologist Ay˛e Kayhan.
We organized an event ``KAOS GL Friendship and Solidarity Night'' at Ankara Art Theatre on June 17, 2000. The event included modern dance, music by Anatolian Peoples' Ballads, poetry reading by Yusuf Eradam and theatre performances.
We promoted our journal KAOS GL on a stand together with women organization Flying Broom in Ankara between Dec. 2-3, 2000 as part of the Second European Youth Festival.
We attended the May Day demonstrations in Ankara with our own banners and signs in 2001. The appearance of homosexuals at such a demonstration was the first of its kind in Turkey and it received great attention by the media. Almost every channel and daily newspaper spared time and space for the appearance of the KAOS GL members at the demonstration. We are proud to note that Labor organizations welcomed the participation of homosexuals in May Day demonstrations.
On the 8th anniversary of KAOS GL, a series of workshops are organized at the KAOS CULUTE CENTER in October 2001. Famous academics and feminist of Turkey has attended this occasion. It lasted 1 week.
we attended anti-globalisation meeting (November 9th, 2001) with our own slogans on hand, like: ``Compulsory heterosexuality is a crime against humanity'', ``Gay and Transgender murders are political murders. We know the murderer.'' etc.
Also in 2002, we attented the May Day demonstrations in Ankara with our own banners and signs. The participation of homosexuals with their own banners and signs in May Day demosntrations was expected, and it was seen as natural as if we had attended the occasion for years.
In this report, homosexualities in Turkey are discussed. Turkey is a Muslim-majority country, however the laws are secular. Although Islamic rituals seem to be dominating, the lives of individuals are not Islam-centered. This also applies to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals. In order to figure out how this happens, the following statements are extracted as a conclusion to this report:
The main problems and concerns of LGBT individuals in Turkey are not Islam-centered. LGBT people agree on the same starting point: being oriented to their own sex.
There are two important conclusions about this First one is that the LGBT movements in Turkey cannot depend on the positive approaches of Islam to same-sex relations. Second one is that others, -researchers, collaborating organizations, etc.-, should not get stuck in the negative approaches of Islam to same-sex relations. Each society has its own social dynamics. These dynamics can determine the approach of religion to homosexuality rather than being determined by it.
In general, people have usual kind of prejudices against non-heterosexuality and non-heterosexual people. Homosexuality is perceived as a perversion, at least an illness, in general. However, for some people, they are also human and they can be accepted on condition that not being so much out about their homosexuality, because it's their private life. But the rising public coming out of lesbian and gay movement and the westernization politics as a whole increase the number of anti-heterosexist heterosexuals, also promotes the discussion on homosexuality in society, and sides are getting more evident.
LGBT movements in Turkey have the following common idea: our main concern is not living our homosexualities behind closed doors. Our goal is creating new regions in order to destroy heterosexism. This idea has been clear for LGBT movements in Turkey since they first appeared: we do not want gay ghettos, but the whole city (from the first issue of the journal KAOS GL, 1994).