Being a LGBTQIA+ family in Turkey
By Ogulcan Ozgenc
The Turkish government frequently argues that LGBTQI+ people are a “threat to the institution of the family.” In the recent period, President Erdogan campaigned against LGBTQI+, and various groups organized anti-LGBTQI+ meetings. In debates on constitutional amendments, conservative circles argued against LGBTQI+ rights by saying it would harm the institution of the family.
Nedime Erdogan from GALADER talked with us about the struggles of LGBTQI+ families in Turkey. “Our children want to live their identity and existence openly and honestly in all aspects,” stresses the activist.
THE COMING OUT
Erdogan begins by telling the story of his child’s coming out and how he welcomed the process. Erdogan was running a cafe when his child came out as gay with a letter: “When you experience it with your child, it creates a distinct feeling. At first, I was sad; then I tried to calm down”.
Erdogan, who said he initially sought the help of a psychologist but that this was not the correct method, adds that discussions with her son helped her: “My son and I were always arguing, and I was always trying to corner him or find fault with him. He was in contact with the KAOS GL Association; he had read everything and clarified everything in his mind. That he gave me logical answers made me feel good. His confident attitude and open-hearted answers to all my questions made me feel good”.
WE HAVE TO CHANGE, NOT OUR CHILDREN
Erdogan says that another turning point for him in this process was meeting other LGBTQI+ families. Erdogan remembers meeting with the Lesbian Gay Bisexual, Trans Intersex Individuals’ Families and Relatives Association (LISTAG). The association visited Ankara, presenting the film Benim Çocuğum (My Child) of Can Candan: “I learned that a family group was meeting regularly in Ankara. Then I started attending the GALADER group. I even started using my private phone as a hotline. I learned again how important peer support is because it has a healing effect. We try to give as much support as possible and explain the need for change. We have learned that we must change, not our children. There are a lot of teachings memorized by our dirty minds. We must try to deal with them, replacing them with the right and new ones”.
Erdogan says her contact with the LGBTQI+ movement helped her change and thinks it’s good for parents to attend Pride marches to see that LGBTQI+ people are part of families like everyone else. When we stand with our children, we are not in a state of diminishment. We are in a form of multiplication”.
Erdogan says having children changed her worldview: “Our children want to live their identity and existence openly and honestly in every aspect. And this makes us proud because our children show self-confidence and a strong attitude. It also affects us because we must reinterpret the family and rethink the question, What is a family? With the birth of our children, our families have also changed. Our families have become places of liberation, where we rebuild strong bonds of solidarity and love. This situation has destroyed and restructured the family’s oppressive, ignoring, imposing, and patriarchal profile”.
Erdogan quickly became visible as a LGBTQI+ mother in her social circle and saw every area as an opportunity to fight for LGBTQI+ rights. Correcting wrong sentences, attending court interventions, and supporting children are all ways to help.
THE STRUGGLE OF LGBTQI+ PEOPLE IS THE HONOR OF THIS SOCIETY
Erdogan states that the growing anti-LGBTQI+ sentiment in Turkey is not an obstacle to the struggle. Erdogan says that despite state support, anti-LGBTQI+ Big Family Gatherings in Turkey are not widely accepted by society, and the battle will continue: “As injustices and deepening poverty increase, they need a marginalized object. The concept that they criminalize by calling it ‘LGBT’ is also used for such an effect. However, this family cannot retreat from our history of struggle and organization. We will say again what we said. The struggle of the LGBTQI+ community is the honor of this society. Despite all the difficulties, they have never given up this struggle. That is why this struggle can no longer take a step back”.
FAMILIES’ HARD TASK
Stating that the main demands of LGBTQI+ families are equality for their children in all areas of society, especially in education, law, and health, Erdogan adds: “Families must support the struggles of their children. This support will create an atmosphere of comfort for all of us. But families also have an arduous task. Under these circumstances, the attitude of families should be that of a social worker. This is the work of the state, not the work of families. Families unite to protect their children as state institutions use violence against them.”
Erdogan also adds that they made a social media announcement titled “Call us, let us tell you” to convey their demands to political parties during the election period: “In this announcement, we said to all parties without any discrimination; let us share with you what we know, our experiences, and what we have lived through. But unfortunately, no one except TP responded to this call. The more hate speech develops, the more hesitant the parties become to avoid being caught in the net of those who develop hate speech and not to be the target of their lynchings on social media.”