14/04/2023 | Writer: Selma Koçak

From trans sex workers organized within the Radical Democrat Green Party to parliamentary candidates with openly LGBTI+ identity…

Highlights from the short story of political participation of LGBTI+s in Turkey Kaos GL - News Portal for LGBTI+

Only one month is left for the upcoming Presidential and 28th Term Parliamentary elections to be held on May 14 in Turkey. Some candidates with openly LGBTI+ identities were nominated from various parties. There are also some candidates who promised to struggle for LGBTI+ rights.

We may remember the struggle of LGBTI+s in Turkey from the Guidance for Political Parties and Institutions prepared by Social Policies, Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation Studies Association (SPoD) addressing members of political parties and decision-makers.

Here are some highlights from the history of political participation of LGBTI+s in Turkey.

Trans sex workers organized within the Radical Democrat Green Party

“Having been excluded from the political scene till the 1980s, it was mid-1980s for LGBTI+ movement in Turkey to find a visible place for themselves in the political scene. Trans sex workers, who were organized within the Radical Democrat Green Party and went on a hunger strike due to the torture they were subjected to, may be considered as the starting point of this organization. Even though LGBTI+s, who became visible through hunger strikes and various actions, have always existed in life, they were included in political scene in Turkey in these years.”

Association and Representation within Freedom and Solidarity Party

“Taking part at civic space for LGBTI+s launches at the beginning of 1990’s. The establishment of Lambdaİstanbul, Kaos GL, and LGBTI+ initiatives at universities and also some milestones just like the first Pride Week held on in İstanbul, raised LGBTI+ visibility and representation in politics, arts and academia. And from the beginning of 2000s, reorganizing Pride marches and participating LGBTI+s in mass demonstrations such as May 1st and March 8th with their own identity and slogans strengthened the place of movement within the social opposition.”

“LGBTI+ movement in Turkey has been conducting a policy insistently regarding the participation and representation in political parties, civil society and public spheres for many years within its’ almost 40-year history. LGBTI+s, who began to take part in party administrations with their open identities with the establishment of Freedom and Solidarity Party (ÖDP), gained a great momentum in the local elections, which took place after Gezi Park Resistance, and they started to struggle within many political parties visibly, with their open gender identities.”

Openly LGBTI+ candidates in 2014 elections

On one hand some political parties, such as Peace and Democracy Party, Republican People’s Party, Democratic Left Party, Communist Party of Türkiye nominated openly LGBTI+ candidates, and on the other hand LGBTI+s were also organized within Justice and Development Party (AKP) and other right-wing parties and began to discuss the issue.

These inspiring steps with both feet on the ground continued with the election of Sedef Çakmak, who is the first openly LGBTI+ candidate took office in Turkey, as a council member of Beşiktaş Municipality in the 2014 local elections. This was also a period when LGBTI+ units and commissions were started to be established within trade unions and professional organizations.

Gezi Park resistance, bans and present

“LGBTI+s, who had become visible both in the civic space inspired and extended by Gezi Park Resistance, in the political parties and on streets, started to be criminalized via the ban on Pride March in 2015, through the indefinite ban on LGBTI+ related events in Ankara in 2017, and from then via ever-increasing hate speech encouraged by the government.

This period, in which everyone, every non-governmental organization and every political party, which stands in solidarity with LGBTI+s, which is related with LGBTI+s, which puts LGBTIs+ on the agenda is targeted, acts as a litmus test for all social opposition, in the context of LGBTI+ rights. The fact that the government, which included LGBTI+ rights even in its election manifestos before 2015, specifically targets LGBTI+s among the groups it has adopted a hostile policy against in the post-2015 period, creates hesitation in many segments of the social opposition to speak on LGBTI+ rights.”

Nowadays, political participation and representation of LGBTI+s goes on with LGBTI+ parliamentary candidates with open gender identity and also with the candidates who promises to struggle for LGBTI+ rights, against the systematic hate policies of the government since 2015.

Tags: human rights