Suppose I’m a fag

Suppose I’m a fag

Suppose I’m a fag, as I would translate “velev ki ibneyim,” is one of the slogans of the annual Istanbul Pride Week, which culminated in the traditional İstiklal Avenue parade on June 28. Suppose you are a fag as well – or a kite. What kind of problems would you have to face?

In a recent short paper, which was published on London think-tank Research Turkey’s website, Volkan Yılmaz of Bilgi University and İpek Göçmen of Boğaziçi University summarized the results of an online survey on the social and economic problems of LGBT individuals in Turkey.

In addition to the difficulties inherent in online surveys, the sample size of 2,875 is very small. As the authors note as well, it is not possible to conduct a nationally representative survey on LGBTs because coming out is not easy. However, the survey was complemented with more than 200 interviews in 10 cities. So if nothing else, it is definitely a good starting point.

At first look, things do not look that bad: 62.9 percent of the participants report that they have been employed in the last three months, higher than the national average of 45.5 percent in 2014. Moreover, only 8.9 percent have been discriminated against in their workplace – 8.4 percent while searching for a job.

However, 78.9 percent are not open about their sexual orientation and/or gender identity at work. And for good reason: 55.7 percent report that they have seen or heard of an LGBT colleague receiving negative comments/reaction at work. Some 29.1 percent state they are treated unfairly because of having a same-sex partner.

Similarly, 67.4 and 51.7 percent have been discriminated against during their primary/secondary and tertiary education. Some 8.3 percent had to drop out of secondary school, and 4.7 percent from college, because of discrimination. It is no wonder then that LGBTs have to struggle to make a living: 35 percent report that they do not earn enough to cover their basic needs.

The results in other areas are not much better. More than half do not know how and where to get sexual health services, although they are probably not missing much: Nearly 15 percent of those who do state that medical personnel tried to “treat” their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. Some 43.2 percent have thought about committing suicide at least once in their life.

Housing and social life are equally difficult: 29.5 percent report that they feel obliged to live in certain parts of their city, and 8.8 percent have been harassed by neighbors because of their sexual orientation and gender identity. Another 18.5 percent have been harassed on public transportation.

Couldn’t they resort to the legal system? They could, if it worked: Of the 46.1 percent of participants who report that they faced discrimination, 10 percent have filed a complaint. Of those who did, very few found a satisfactory result.

Yılmaz and Göçmen conclude that discrimination on sexual orientation and gender identity is rampant, with legal ways of fighting it limited. This should not come as a surprise, even without knowing the statistics. After all, didn’t President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s crony press attack the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) for nominating gay activist Barış Sulu for parliament?

They were only following in the Master’s footsteps: According to Erdoğan, gays, along with journalists and Armenians, are representatives of sedition. LGBT rights? We are lucky he is not sending them to concentration camps.