Meeting to bring together all against homophobia and transphobia
Emrah GülerMay 17 is the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, a day of celebration of sexual identities and sexual orientations, a day to raise awareness on the violation of LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex individuals) rights in as many as 120 countries and, as Yıldız Tar from the Turkish LGBTI rights organization Kaos GL puts it, “a day to stand against and take action on all physical, moral and symbolic acts of violence against gender identities and sexual orientations.”
It’s also a day in marking the week-long gathering in Ankara that is the International Anti-Homophobia Meeting. Coordinated by Kaos GL, and in its tenth year now, the International Anti-Homophobia Meeting is a set of activities spread over a week to raise awareness in combating homophobia and transphobia. The meeting culminates on May 17 with the now-traditional March Against Homophobia and Transphobia.
Yıldız Tar, a LGBTI activist and the editor of KaosGL.org, said, “Organized since 2006, the objective of the International Anti-Homophobia Meeting is to create a platform for discussions on discrimination against LGBTIs in Turkey, a chance to increase their visibility, and to liberate LGBTIs and heterosexuals together. Everyone who is willing to discuss the problems of LGBTIs, homophobia and transphobia are welcome at the meeting.”
“Various networks have flourished through the fight against discrimination and thanks to these networks the International Anti-Homophobia Meeting has reached beyond Ankara to many cities in Turkey,” said Tar. “Many people who are against homophobia and transphobia are coming together both through the events in the International Anti-Homophobia Meeting, as well as many other events organized in other cities.” Tar cites gathering of LGBTIs in 25 cities and towns across the country on May 1 as a good example to the organized structure of the LGBTI movement in Turkey.
In the name of love and freedom
Kaos GL has more than a decade of experience in organizing social, cultural and academic events to increase the human rights of LGBTIs. The program of this year’s International Anti-Homophobia Meeting is a testament to that. Queer pedagogy and activism, as well as homophobia, sexism and ethnic discrimination in sports, will be discussed next weekend. The meeting will also be home to the award ceremony of the Women to Women Story Contest, the only lesbian short story contest in Turkey.
With the LGBTI movement getting stronger in Turkey, how has homophobia/transphobia and perceptions of LGBTIs changed in the last decade? “The last decade has been a period of fighting where the LGBTI movement has become stronger and more organized, making its way from the bedrooms (so to speak) to streets and public spaces, demanding equal citizenship and equal rights,” said Tar. “Naturally these fights, these paths we have created against homophobia and transphobia have an impact on everyday lives.”
That said there is still a long way to go for LGBTIs in Turkey. “Today, we still cannot talk about constitutional equality. We cannot see equal citizenship on the horizon. Homophobic and transphobic discriminations continue in the work place. The education rights of LGBTIs are being hijacked. Discrimination continues in every sphere of life. Spaces for breathing, rights for organization and thought are being restricted. Hate crimes continue to claim lives,” said Tar, giving a very recent example. “Only last week, four transphobic hate crimes took place in three different cities on a single night. Not only do these crimes claim lives, they also hope to silence LGBTIs, as is the nature of hate crime and hate speech.”
For Tar, these adversities bring LGBTI communities closer. “In this more than bleak atmosphere, LGBTIs do not stay silent, claiming streets, schools and the work place. Organized structures are increasing throughout the country. While the legal regulations don’t look hopeful, social transformation seems to be on a roll as we have never seen before,” said Tar. “’Society is not ready for homosexuals,’ is a tired argument now. As part of society, LGBTIs continue more ardently to stage fights for their rights, freedoms, equality and most important of all, for love,” Tar said.