Human Rights / Education

LGBTI Students Organizing at Turkish Universities

Thursday, January 9, 2014
Students against homophobia and transphobia –Free Colors- in the Turkish city of Bursa’s Uludag University get organized despite of the university’s excuse that “society is not ready for them”.
"Free Colors" of Uludag University, 2014
There are LGBTIs, too, on this campus!
Universities are at the heart of LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersex) movement in Turkey. Students against homophobia and transphobia invite LGBTI organizations to their campuses for various events, form reading groups to discuss feminism and queer theory and say “there are LGBTI people, too, on this campus”. However, they do not find support from the administrative bodies of their schools all the time.
The 1st Pride Parade at Middle East Technical University, 2011
When Lion Queer was established as an official student club at Galatasaray University in Istanbul, it caused a great hope for many. For the first time, a Turkish state university did not ignore its LGBTI students that want to get together under school’s umbrella. Unlike Galatasaray, Middle East Technical University in the Turkish capital rejected LGBTI students’ demand to form an official club as the idea was found to be “sexual”, Ege University in the western city of Izmir used the well-known excuse -“society is not ready”- against its LGBTI students while Gaziantep University in the southeastern part of Turkey did not allow the screening of a documentary called “My Child” which tells the stories of families with LGBTI kids. To cut a long story short, it is not so easy for LGBTI students to get organized in Turkey. As someone who got involved in forming “Renkli Dusun-Think Colorfully” – officially recognized by Bilkent University, a private one in Ankara- I can tell that the administration does not consider LGBTI groups as “any other”. Therefore we share experiences of LGBTI students on to give them a voice about their lives on campus.
Free Colors of Uludag University Get Organized
Nowadays, students against homophobia and transphobia in Bursa’s Uludag University gather together excitedly. Four students who dreamed of establishing an LGBTI organization two years ago have realized that they are not as lonely as they thought after two events that took place last year.
Students protesting Ege University’s decision, 2013
“Most of the students live in a small district called Gorukle and we could see that there are LGBTs there, too”, Cagatay of this skeleton crew says. He tells how impressed they were by the interest of students to a theatre play “Women, Loves, Songs” telling the stories of trans women and an anti-homophobia event held by Kaos GL Association.
Çagatay underlines that they took action for a campus where homophobia and transphobia are unacceptable: “We thought if we found a student club we can reach out to those people and organize events.”
Bilkent’s LGBTI club "Think Colorfully" on World AIDS Day, 2010
Cagatay and his friends had prepared for a presentation in front of a school committee.
“It went really well, nothing bad at all. The committee talked very supportively. As the head of the committee was out of the town, they told us that the decision would be given after he is back.”
Ready for the Spring Semester?
After waiting for one and a half months, they got the answer in late November: Let’s postpone this student club thing to the next semester, the society is not ready for it at the moment; we care about your safety.
Whether the committee would come up with a new excuse in the spring semester is not know but the students did not even lose a bit of their energy. Now they meet at least twice a week under the name “Free Colors”. They plan for screening “My Child” and organizing a queer tango event.
If you would like to say “we are ready” and contact them on Facebook, you can use this link.    
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