Archive for the 'transgender' Category


“The problems occur at night” – Being a transsexual in Istanbul

It’s late afternoon in Taksim, the centre of Istanbul. Ebru, Demet and some of their friends are sitting in a violett painted, yet quite empty room, somewhere in a side street of the lively district. The women chat over a cup of tea, exchanging the latest news: new relationships, politics, the job market, cooking recipies. Everything seems normal untill I enter the scenery, asking them how life as a transsexual in Istanbul feels for them, what sort of difficulties they face. One of the women looks at me, confused by the question. She responds: „It’s good, my life is good, I don’t have many problems.“ I am puzzled. Demet jumps into the conversation: „But as a transsexual, she means, we face problems in our lifes, don’t we? Friends of us get killed by their lovers, we are harassed by the police, shop-keepers charge us more because of our sexual identity. We have problems.“
Problems that prompted Demet and her friend Ebru six months ago to rent the little room we are sitting in now. Problems that caused them to offer a safe space for transgender and transsexual friends, for counseling, debating, exchanging news, chatting.

Ebru Kırancı and Demet Demir on the İstiklal Cadessi in Istanbul

Ebru Kırancı and Demet Demir on the İstiklal Cadessi in Istanbul

Working conditions and legal situation

News that did not make it to the news: One day after the last Pride Parade at the end of June 2009, a 19 year old transvestite from Şişli/ İstanbul was killed. The story of facts is as short as her life. The transsexual was picked up by a customer in the centre of Istanbul. What happened afterwards in the customer’s car remains unclear. The dead body of the transvestite has been dropped by its murderer in Zeytinburnu, another district of Istanbul, around 20 minutes away from the centre. A relative of the transsexual sewed the case and LGBTT people in Turkey tried to spread the news over their own information channels like their homepage or facebook groups. Besides this, no public attention has been paid to the killing of this young person. Recently there is no media coverage of violence against transvestites. The only way to do something, says Demet, is to protest. “Then the police is forced to find the murderers.”

One of the major problems transsexual face are linked to working conditions for transsexuals, especially in cases where they earn their money as sex-workers. “We can’t even work at home.The state and the local government use to close houses in which transsexuals and transvestites work, even if we live there.“ Due to a new regulation, private houses are assaulted and closed down for three month. After this period local authoratives close them down again for the same period. This has not always been like that claims Demet: “I saw the coup d’etat in the 1980s and how everything changed. Before the coup the environment was considerably friendly. After the coup transsexuals have been unrightfully taken to prison, raped, murdered. This continued until the new millenium. Since 2000, after the EU-negotiations things became more easier for transvestites, at least for a brief period. Then when AKP came into power things started to get more difficult again. Before they came into power 2002, they would close down houses for 10 days. Recently the period has been expanded to three months. Even the state runned brothels are closed down one after the other under the islamist-neoliberal AKP (Justice and Development Party) administration. After 1995 there were around 10.000 sex workers. Around half of them were registred. Now there around 4000 registred sex-workers but the total number is near a hundred thousand. So the number of unregistred sex-workers has been increased incredibly.“

In order to survive many of the sex-workers go to the street where they are confronted with new difficulties. On the pretext of blocking the traffic, disturbing public life, sex-workers get arrested on a regular basis due to a law that has been passed by the islamist-neoliberal AKP government in power. Another law that made life more difficult for transsexuals is the recently passed, so called, exhibitionist law. Transsexuals, officially being accused of showing their sexual organ in public, Ebru argues that „even transsexuals who show up in the most conservative dress are taken over by the police“. „They take you to the police department where they charge you between 60 and 70 YTL. On top of that we are supposed to pay food and rent. It is not possible to live like that. We can’t work. In this situation we say just give us a monthly payment. But they don’t want that either. They want us to starve and die,“ Demet adds. According to her, this situation where transsexuals can’t neither work in their homes nor in the streets, forces transgender people who work in the sex-business to their last station of choice – the highways. „There our friends get raped and killed by the customers or cars run over them. The responsible organ for that is the state because they force us to work there.“ Moreover, the state began a programme based on a court decision, that has been passed around two years ago on which basis transsexuals and transgendered are transferred into mental institutions. Being transsexual, according to the court, was considered, as a mental sickness that needs to be cured. „We know about 100 transsexual and transgender people that have experienced such assaults by state representatives. “We could only convince a couple of them to sew them because they are scared“, says Demet. „However, when we file reports concerning sexual harrassment at the police station the answer we get is: ‚it’s probably because you shook your tail, thats why he jumped on you ’“, says Demet.

However, there are also more positive examples. Başak, a friend of the group, recently got accepted as a teacher in an elementary school. The kids don’t know about my sexual identity, she says and claims that so far no problems have been occured, even not with teachers or parents.

Family situation and marriages among transsexuals
Demet came out when she was 22. Afterwards she lived for one year with her parents “but I am an exception”, she states. In contrast to her, Ebru has not seen her family for 20 years. Both of them agree that after coming out in the family it is hard to find a place in the transsexual community. Sex-work is mostly the only chance to survive for transsexuals. „Usually,“ Demet says „if you give money to your family they still consider you their daughter, if not then you are the fagot kid. Most families of transsexuals cut ties untill they die. If they die though they are hunting for what remains of the person“. Demet knows around 10-15 transwomen who got married while their husbands know about their sexual identity. However, when they get divorced, the men generally take advantage of this knowledge and pretend that they did not know before and that now, when they find out, they want to get divorced.

Transphobia among heterosexuals and LBGTs

Being a transsexual, even in the westernized centre of Istanbul, means being constantly in struggling not only with state authoratives representing a strongly patriarchal system but also with the Istanbulite population, including family, neighbours and shop- and house owners who perform a starkly unfriendly social environment for transsexual and transgender people. Interestingly, not just heterosexual oriented people exclude transsexuals and transgender socially, politically and economically. Yet there exist also transphobia among gay and lesbian people, another reason for Demet and Ebru, who worked in a well established LGBT organisation to open the first little association for transvestites and transsexuals.While many gays and lesbians feel that “transgender” is simply a name for a part of their own LGBT community, others actively reject the idea that transgender people are part of their community, seeing them as entirely separate and distinct. In the latter cases it is for instance controversely debated if transsexuals are homosexuals or not. The old discussion among scholars that are involved in gender studies becomes here a precarious tool for discrimination: What is the difference between gender and sexuality? If for example a transwoman is attracted only to other women, she is either lesbian by nature, being a woman, or is otherwise a heterosexual man which causes transphocic LGBT to exclude other transvestites transsexuals from their community. The implacability of the question whether a transgender person considers him- or herself as homosexual or not has been overcome by the rise of Queer Theory in the 1990s and the Queer community, which defines “queer” as embracing all variants of sexual identity, sexual desire, and sexual acts that fall outside normative definitions of heterosexuality. Thus a heterosexual man or woman as well as a transgender person of any sex can be included in the category of queer through their own choice.

More information on webpage of the lgbtt group or on other LGBT platforms in Turkey such as

LGBT Rights Platform

Kaos GL
LGBTT Association

LGBT Solidarity Association

MorEL (PurpleHand)
Eskisehir LGBT Initiative

Pembe Hayat (Pink Life)
LGBT Association

Piramid LGBT Diyarbakir

Siyah Pembe Ucgen (Black Pink Triangle) Izmir Association

Cases of hate crimes against transsexuals, transgender and transvestites who have been murdered in Turkey in the last two years:

On 15 July 2008 Ahmed Yıldız was shot dead in Üsküdar, Istanbul
On 10 November 2008, transsexual Dilek Ince was shot dead in Ankara.
On 19 December 2008, an unidentified transsexual was shot dead with two bullets through the chest at a roadside in Gebze.
On 10 March 2009, transsexual Ebru Soykan was stabbed to death at her home in Cihangir, Istanbul.
On 20 March 2009, transvestite L.D. (29) was stabbed in the stomach and wounded by three people in Eskisehir.
On 22 March 2009, the body of a transvestite, whose head and sexual organ had been cut off, was found in a rubbish container in Bursa.
On 27 March 2009, Yasar Sert (35) killed Sükrü Gençer (57) for suggesting a sexual relation (Edirne).
In Istanbul, the bodies of Yasar Mizrak (44), Mehmet Naci Zeyrek (30), Enes Arici (25) and Ercan Coskun were found in a well. The murderer, Özkan Zengin, said he had killed them for being gay.
On 11 April 2009, Melek K. (25) was stabbed to death in her home in Ankara.
See full article


Intersexions – Feminist Anthroplogy, Gender, Culture and Sexuality – a review

Feminist stanciling: Red Riding Hoods mother warned her about the patriarchy. (Photo by David Wolf)

Feminist stanciling: Red Riding Hoods mother warned her about the patriarchy. (Photo by David Wolf)

The time of pristine identities and categories are over. Which place take “gender” and “culture” in the new feminist anthropology? Which impact have sexuality, biological and social gender on the constitutions of subjects? What role does racism play here? And what have feminists to say about the critiques of ethnographic representation?

Intersexions or – how the editors alternatively name it – the goodbye of Othering – has been chosen as a title to illustrate that gender can not be seen as a singular category but as an overlapping of differences in the focus of biological gender and sexuality. Gender, in the view of the editors, never comes to exist by itself but is constructed, articulated and socially realized with and through other differences such as class, ethnicity, race et cetera. Studies where gender has been linked to these differences led to a decentralization of gender. Especially the radical critique of western, white feminism in and outside sciences through post-colonial feminists and feminist of color questioned the notions of “women” and “gender” as central categories of social hierarchies and emphasized a “politics of difference”. Also the question of gender in regard to these differences is (re-)produced and embedded into local and global systems of power. In accordance to these debates the authors of the papers that are presented in the Intersexion Reader discuss specific key points of the overlapping of differences and question categories and dichotomies such as man/woman, hetero/homsexual that are articulated by Queer Theory and feminist anthropology that re the basis of western notions of identity and sexuality.

Sylvia Yanagisako is focusing on sexuality, gender and reproduction and shows the consequences of what happens if we concentrate our discussion only on only one of these notions. She is developing her arguments by opposing David Halperins study of homosexuality in antique Greece who is ignoring gender, and Emiliy Martins analysis of body images of women in the USA who is ignoring sexuality. She claims that it is not enough if feminist and mainly heterosexual anthropologists in the US are working on gender and reproduction while social scientists of Gay&Lesbian Studies are working on sexuality. Moreover, a field of study such as sexuality, she argues, should not be conceptualized only as an autonomous field of sexual desiring since it risks to develop an ontological aura. In general she highlights that every social practice is constituted by a multiplicity of discourses. The categorizing and explaining of these discourses, she argues, does not show us how these discourses are articulated in all day life of people. In order to understand how they are articulated and put into practices, Yanagisako claims a feminist culture analysis that is taking as its starting point where and how do people link discourses and how they realize these links.

Similarly Brigitte Kossek is emphasizing the construction of sex and the power interest of naturalizations. In line with other post-colonial approaches of Cultural Critique where culture and imperialism are associated to each other, Kossek analyzes how culture is used and abused as a possibility to put scientific power of definition over the “Other”. Instead of questioning cultural difference, it is asked here if the conclusion that there is cultural difference does something else than evoking systems of power. In general, Kossek sees no neutral point from where we can differentiate sex and gender or nature and culture.

Contrarily to this assumption Sabine Lang is argues in favor of an analytical separation of sex and gender who made it possible for instance that the phenomenon of the “berdache” is not a sort of homosexuality that people are born with but that it is a system of multiple gender. She is analyzing that it is not the choosing of sexual partners which is central for the identity of north American two-spirits but their ethnic and spiritual awareness which can furthermore not be separated from the political-economic situation of the indigenous population in the USA.

Hilde Diemberger demonstrates that the Khumbo in Nepal do not distinguish between sex and gender or perceive the human body apart from kinship, religion or gender. She is contrasting her own experience of pregnancy in Nepal and the conceptualizations of he Khumbo that have been applied to her with the concepts of pregnancy in the West. Yet, to be pregnant in the West, she says, is far away from being “the most natural thing in the world” but is embedded in powerful societal and political contexts, from which it can not be perceived and experienced apart.

Susanne Schroeter in contrast is arguing for a universal connection of sex and gender. In her point of view human generativity and sex are linked to each other. Anatomical differences and their functions in the reproduction are perceived universally. Presenting empirical ethnographic material, she outlines that an understanding of sexuality can not be achieved without taking gender constructions into account. In each society, she argues they are the starting points of specific gender constructions or lead back to them ideologically. In this approach gender and other sort of differences as mentioned above, such as ethnicity and class are difficult to theorize.

What unites the contributions of Intersexions is that the relation of sex, gender and sexuality can not be answered on an abstract basis but only in regard to existing life realities. Without the inclusions of other fields of difference only a very reduced view and analysis is possible. So even if it is impossible for social scientists to understand and analyze the intertwining of systems of power, as Kossek articulates it, the articles of Intersexions show that our efforts should be directed towards a decovering and deconstruction of systems of powers and systems of difference.


Embodying Masculinity and Ethnicity in Macedonia

by vaporiss on deviantART

by vaporiss on deviantART

What is masculinity? What are its indicators and who defines them? What role play
women in the establishing and reproduction of the notion of the masculine gender? How does ethnicity, nationality and class influence gender?

These questions are discussed in the following essay (4 pages) that you can download as a pdf file @: Embodying Masculinity and Ethnicity in Macedonia


Pride Parade Istanbul

On the last sunday of June, the sun came out after a little summer thunderstorm and the pride parade started their 6th annual protest in the heart of Istanbul. Im- and expressions of the powerful march and my little report in German that has been published in the Berlin based gay and lesbian onlinemagazine

Around 2500 LGBTs and solidarising heteros showed up at the Parade on Sunday

Around 2500 LGBTs and solidarising heteros showed up at the Parade on Sunday

Celebration of symbols: the blowing rainbow coloured peace flag in front of the fixed blue moon wolf, symbol of the Turkish fascists

Celebration of symbols: the blowing rainbow coloured peace flag in front of the fixed blue moon wolf, symbol of the Turkish fascists

Under the flag
"we are bisexual"
happy folks
"get used to us"
a transsexual walking for her rights
The police stopped the parade in the middle of the big İstiklal Avenue

The police stopped the parade in the middle of the big İstiklal Avenue

"Are you lesbian?" asks the little boy a heterosexual, french participant of the parade


Sympathy for the difference – The ambivalent relation of feminism, postmodernism and anthropology

"I feel pain inside me"

What is feminist ethnography? Is there something like a feminist ethnography anyways? Are feminism and ethnography, that are both so deeply concerned about difference, really able to co-exist in harmony? What kind of contradictions do they evoke among feminist scholars and ethnographers? Where are the overlaps and where are the differences? In the first part of the essay I will outline the definitions and notions of feminist ethnography by the feminist scholars Lila Abu-Lughod, Diane Bell, Judith Stacey and Kamala Viwsweswaran followed by a comparison of Bell and Stacey. In the second part, I am going to outline the ways in which difference is described by feminist scholars, mainly on the articles of Vicky Kirby (1993) and Frances Macia-Lees, Patricia Sharpe and Colleen Ballerino Cohen (1989) who were involved in the mutual relationship between feminism and postmodernism. What are the differences between the, at least at the first sight, closely related movements? How can they benefit from each other and how, again linked to postmodernism, can the feminism scholarship respond to the idea of difference?

The complete essay as pdf-version can be downloaded here: symphathy-for-the-difference

Warning: this essay is highly theoretical!


Sexual Identity Politics in Turkey

Mustafa Özer during the transsexual protest parade in Istanbul

The 29th of June 2008, the day the pride march took place on the Istiklal Caddesi, the big commercial avenue in the heart of Istanbul, has been a historical day for all poeple in Turkey who were and still are fed up with the patriachal and militarist state ideology. Although homosexuality has not been an issue of criminal justice in Turkey since the modern nation-state emerged in the 1920s it still seems to be a threat to the key concepts of Kemalism and hardline Islamists who exercise homophobic practices in public institutions and the Turkish legal system in favor for “militarism, male hegemony and de-feminized femininity. One of the organizers of the 2008 pride march was Lambda, one of the most prominent gay rights groups in Turkey. When Lambda applied for the status of formal association a turkish court rejected Lamba as an official association and stated that the the words “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transvestite and transsexual” in the group’s name are “against the law and morality” and infringe upon the constitutional protection of the “Turkish family.”
Another official institution that highly discriminates homosexuals is the military. According to the Turkish Armed Forces Health Requirement Regulations, people with “high-level psychological disorders (homosexuality, transsexuality, transvestism)” are to be barred from military service. In the Turkish Republic of northern Cyprus homosexuality is by law banned from public appearence. Read the full article in the Middle Eastern Report.

Read also more in my report about the life of transsexuals in Istanbul.

In the leftist magazine Arranca (10/07) an article by Georg Klauda is dedicated to the relationship of islamophobia and homophobia. The article is available in german and english.

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