Alex Blaze

Turkey is improving the lives of gays, slowly

Filed By Alex Blaze | July 17, 2007 7:37 AM | comments

Filed in: The Movement
Tags: European Union, homophobic behavior, transphobia, Turkey

The AP has a story up about how gay life has changed over the past several decades in Turkey:

In the 1980s and 1990s, Turkish police routinely raided gay bars, detained transvestites and banned homosexual conferences and festivals.

In May, in a sign of how the state has loosened up, gay activists held forums on several university campuses to discuss their rights and the discrimination they still face. Some delegates came from Norway and Sweden, and discussion topics included homophobia, the history of homosexuality and gay life on campuses.

Turkey has been trying to get into the EU for quite some time now, and this will put them further along in that direction. Although freedom of expression issues loom large in their battle for accession, and sexual expression should definitely be considered one of those forms of expression.

But the battle for queer Turks isn't going to be over any time soon, says a man who spoke to the paper under the condition of anonymity:

The man, now a university student, said he avoids physical contact with his boyfriend when they are in public and passes him off as a close friend. He said he is often mocked if he wears an article of clothing that people think is feminine.

Unable to find regular jobs, many transvestites and transsexuals work as prostitutes, an often-dangerous profession that has led to the murders of some at the hands of clients.

And there are still many other human rights issues for the government to take care of:

But Turkey's homosexuals are jostling for more rights in a crowded field.

The historical feud between Turks and Armenians, as well as the concerns of ethnic Kurds and minority Christians, attract more international attention and pressure for change on the Turkish government.

"There are so many problems in Turkey," Ali Erol, a member of the gay rights group Kaos GL, said in an interview in his office in Ankara, the Turkish capital. "It looks as though gay rights are put down below in the list of things to be taken care of."

Aren't they always?

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The first guy I slept with in college was an international student from Turkey. He was hot! He used too much cologne, but to this day I can't smell that scent without immediately thinking of him. The stories he used to tell of the LGBT community in Turkey were horrifying - this was in the early 90's. I'll never forget some of those tales.