C.M-S.: What are the problems facing gays
and lesbians in Turkey?
I can’t really speak about the problems of lesbians, but very basically
because women’s issues are not discussed in Turkey and women’s sexuality
is considered non-existent, it is very hard for them to come out
and say they are lesbian, and even to realise for themselves they
are lesbian. Women are taught not to enjoy sex.
For gays it is common – as in other parts of the south of
Europe – to divide homosexuals into the active and passive, and
to give the active role a higher status. This is a big problem in
the gay community because it means giving part of the “community”
a higher status than the other. You may even be humiliated by the
person you are having sex with because you take the passive role.
This also affects the self-esteem of individuals and the gay community
because it reduces the number of “gays” by half !
C.M-S.: So the ones who take the active
role don’t think of themselves as gay?
K.C.: The ones who take
the passive role consider themselves gay and the others consider
themselves "men" - meaning heterosexual – not gay. So
it is a real obstacle. You first have to persuade them that they
are gay and that there is nothing wrong with it! It is, of course,
easier to persuade someone who says to himself “I’m gay” that it
is OK and fine to be so. For the others they consider it a step
A big problem in Turkey is the lack of self-esteem of gay people
and that they are not really interested in politics, like so many
other people. Another problem is the legal system, but I doubt if
it would make any real difference if there was a law against discrimination
on grounds of sexual orientation. It is always the police who apply
the law. They can decide to prosecute anyone using laws that refer
to public morals which are not directly related to homosexuality.
C.M-S.: What is Lambda Istanbul?
Lambda Istanbul is four years old. Basically we are dealing with
the gay community in Istanbul and trying to reach out to gay people
in other cities through our magazine which comes out every two months.
In some ways it is political and in others a “light” magazine for
people who can’t cope with political issues. The idea is to get
people to read – even if they are “light” articles - about subjects
which include themselves – and to be able to speak the words. For
people who can get involved in politics we are trying to pass on
the information that they need to develop their ideas. There is
also a magazine which is published in Ankara, the capital. It is
more political, but also reaching out to the smaller cities.
We are reaching out to gay people, to say that it is OK to be gay
– to build up self-confidence –and to enable them to come and talk
to people about their problems, and to share their opinions, and
to give them the basis to be able to talk to each other.
C.M-S.: What about your own coming out?
K.C.: I was lucky. I think
I always knew I was gay, but it was a shock when I finally admitted
it to myself. I came out to friends at high school. I wasn’t treated
badly, but I was studying at a school where the students had to
pass exams to get there. It was more liberal-minded. I was fifteen
and for a period of two years I didn’t know anyone else who was
gay! Through some friends I learned of Lambda Istanbul, and although
quite scared – went to some of their meetings. But since it doesn’t
involve being drunk or there late at night for people just coming
out you can relax in an environment other than a gay bar.
Colin de la Motte-Sherman