29/03/2010 | Writer: KAOS GL

March 26, 2010
Hurriyet Daily News

For his portrayal of the transsexual son of a southeastern Anatolian family in Gunesi Gordum" (I Saw the Sun), Cemal Toktas won the Yesilcam award for Best Supporting Actor on March 23. He dedicated his award "to all the people who have ever been a victim of being different."

The day before, Turkish conservative human rights groups sent a letter of support to Minister of Families Selma Aliye Kavaf for defining homosexuality as a "sickness" earlier this month. One of the groups was Mazlum-der, which takes its name from mazlum, meaning "oppressed".

Of the hundreds of sign-carrying female members of Mazlum-Der I've seen, all of them have worn headscarves. Limiting definitions of human rights to suit one's kind and throwing other victims of discrimination to the wolves is not self-serving; it's self-destructive.

Maybe the gay community can do more than call for apologies and resignations. They could back the right of covered women to enter public universities and state institutions. Gasp.

Tipping the point

Same-sex couples started marrying in Mexico City this month. In May couples will likely get married in Portugal. It's legal in Belgium, Canada, the Netherlands, Norway, South Africa, Spain and Sweden; in Washington, D.C. and five U.S. states.

When my sons are adults I think they will look at the gay rights movement of today in some of the same ways my parents remember the momentum of black civil rights in 1960s America.

Successes aside, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had a new strategy in the works when he died. If it had been realized, people of all colors, classes and sexualities might have enjoyed more equality than they do today.

Sitting beside me on a bus rolling through West Virginia, Jesse Jackson recalled when King introduced the strategy to their last meeting before he was assassinated. In 2004 I was hired by Jackson, a member of King's civil rights' circle and former presidential candidate, to write press releases on his bus tour of Appalachia. He was not running for office or supporting blacks, but giving voice to the people of that region who had sacrificed life and limb in local coalmines and in oil wars in Iraq.

Jackson has been working on behalf of this mostly poor, white population ever since King died. He was jailed protesting the loss of miners' pensions. I saw him welcomed as a revered friend at rallies and barbeques.

Jackson told me how King laid out a plan that day to embrace the poor white worker in the civil rights movement. Introducing a white coalminer to the group, King said blacks could not achieve equality without extending a hand to all folks deserving better rights. And most of those people were white – many of them racist. Similarly, in Turkey most of the women wear headscarves and are thus deprived entry to public schools and jobs – the activists among them seem to be anti-gay. Numbers and common cause can transform any society.

Instead of waiting for pious people and their politicians to stop fighting for the lion's share of "democratic" sympathies, the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender crowd could reach out to them in earnest. Then religious conservatives might find some empathy in their agendas.

If not, people like Kavaf and her supporting cast could soon be in hot water. The government completed a draft law this week that would punish those who discriminate based on a person's gender, race, language, religion, ethnicity, sexual identity, social status, marital status, political views, health situation, age and disability status. It's the right step for all of us.

Original Link of this News Article: Gays and covered women unite
Tags: human rights