Turkish actress now a ‘free man’ after a decision to change genders

Turkish actress now a ‘free man’ after a decision to change genders

Ayşe Arman ISTANBUL / Hürriyet
Turkish actress now a ‘free man’ after a decision to change genders

Nil Erkoçlar was born a woman but decided to become a man because he never identified as a woman in his entire life. He also changed his name and become Rüzgar. Hürriyet photo

Turkey is currently a buzz with talk about Nil Erkoçlar, an actor who has graced the stage alongside famous names such as Berna Laçin and Kadir İnanır, and who recently underwent a sex change operation to become a man.

The 26-year-old actress-turned-actor said that throughout his life he never felt like a woman, but instead always identified as a male. Erkoçlar’s mannerisms, the way he talks, the way he walks, and the way he sits all identify him as a man.

The story of how Erkoçlar came to change his gender is a long one, which began at the age of six. “I was not like other girls. I didn't play with Barbie dolls, but hung out with boys,” he said, stressing that when he was born he was a girl "only physically."

He said he never wanted to wear dresses when he was a little girl, and always rejected the feminine role he was born into as he felt himself to be a boy inside. However, he never told his story to anyone. “When I entered into adolescence everything hit me like a ton of bricks. I realized that I liked girls, but I had a women’s body. This was really hard for me,” Erkoçlar said.

Although he was physically a very beautiful woman, he felt no connection to how he looked. “I never wanted to be like that, [with a woman’s body]. I wanted to change my body and become free again,” he said.

Eventually Erkoçlar decided to undergo an operation, as what he was going through had become unbearable for him. “I was acting the way society wanted me to all the time. I had short hair and people told me, ‘you are an actress; you should let your hair grow.’ I put in artificial hair extensions. I really wanted to do my job well, but I was always acting in controversial ways.”

As a result of the conflicted life he was living, and after decades of inner struggle, Erkoçlar decided to have a sex change. As he changed his sex, he also changed his name and become "Rüzgar." “I felt as if I was born again after the operation. Nil was dead and Rüzgar was born instead,” Erkoçlar said. His sex reassignment surgery included a mastectomy and the forming of a penis from parts of his leg bone.

My sexuality, my choice

Before undergoing the operation, Erkoçlar began to take hormones and underwent a series of therapies to prepare him psychologically for the end result of his gender reassignment.

“You feel angry [when you take hormones], and you gradually observe some changes in your mind. I feel better now. I have gotten used to [my new sex], but the sex-change operation was a really hard and painful process. It was very hard to endure, but I put up with all these things to get rid of the burden I had been carrying for 26 years,” he said.

One of the hardest parts of identifying as a man on the inside with a female body on the outside was the interest that other men directed toward him, Erkoçlar added. “I have never loved, nor had a relationship with a man. I always had affairs with women, but I had to conceal this all the time,” he said.

Still, he always managed to conceal his male identity. “I risked everything by going through this, and I don’t expect everyone to accept me as I am. They are free to accept or refuse me. But I am a man and that is my own reality. Only my body was different. Now I have found myself,” he said.

With regard to the reactions he has received from the press and society on various social media platforms, Erkoçlar stressed that such reactions did not concern him. “This is my choice, my life, my sexuality. So it doesn’t concern anyone. That’s what I think,” he said