03/07/2009 | Writer: KAOS GL

July 2, 2009
Bianet News

Stuart Milk: "If my uncle Harvey Milk was still alive he would have attended Pride Week in Istanbul."

LGBT rights activist Stuart Milk, nephew of deceased homosexual US American politician Harvey Milk, spoke to bianet about his observations regarding the Turkish LGBT movement, the Pride Week and its closing Pride March (among other things).

What did you think when you received the invitation for the LGBTT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transvestite and transsexual) Pride Week in Turkey?
I was very excited. I came here instead of attending other scheduled events in the US because I think that Turkey is a key country for the global LGBT struggle. So I happily accepted the invitation.

I think your country is the only country that can build a bridge between the East and the West. Turkey plays a very important role in the question of human rights. That is why I am very happy to be here.

Did you change your mind after coming here?
I was optimistic before I came. I am even more optimistic now after seeing the local LGBT struggle and meeting the activists.

So what did you observe?
The struggle in Turkey is run both from inside and outside. This is difficult for LGBT communities. It is hard to strengthen the movement if it is not manifested in the human rights but at the same time people do not mind the movement's existence. "Nobody bothers me, I can go to my pub" - it is difficult to persuade people with this kind of attitude to become active. A position in the middle is the biggest obstacle to take sides.

As an example let's have a look at northern states of the USA, where Afro-Americans had some rights while they did not have any rights in the southern states. When Afro-Americans in the south started to fight for their rights, a part of their northern comrades did not participate in the struggle. As a result of their struggle, Afro-Americans in the south reached equal rights but still not all of the rights being in effect in the northern states were recognized for them.

On average a hundred people attended this week's panel discussions. This is a small number for such an organization. People do not see a reason to go to the panel and discuss issues. On the other hand, hundreds of people came to the parties and hundreds of people went to the gay bars. I guess this sums up the situation clearly.

What do you think about the Pride March on last Sunday 28 June?
The march has increased my optimism and my hopes even more. And not only the march but also the attitude of the people watching it in the street. It is important that people did not intervene and that there was no harassment. Even in the so-called "advanced" USA every march is being disturbed.

On the other hand I got a bit sad.

Because I could not see enough international focus on the events. There were MPs from Germany but I wasdisappointed in the LGBT community for taking too little notice and not participating.

Believe me when I say that if Harvey Milk were still alive, instead of going to New York or San Francisco he would have joined the activities of the Pride Week in Istanbul.

What do you want to tell the Turkish LGBTT activists and community?
Two things. I wanted to show them that they possess more than they actually think they possess. In my opinion, the activists in this country are not fully aware of that. They are not aware of how important their impact is both in Turkey and in the rest of the world.

I think the global movement has to notice what is happening here and should strengthen the resources. But they should not do this as a "rescue" plan.

There is a nice anecdote about Nelson Mandela. When he was in prison, international groups visited him, saying "We came here to help you". Mandela answered: "If you came here for me I don't want your help. But if you thought by helping me you would also help yourselves, you are more than welcome." In my opinion Turkey's LGBT movement is like the struggle of Nelson Mandela.

I want to tell this to everybody through you. It is a great honour and a privilege to be here. I thank the organisation committee very much for inviting me.

* The English abbreviation LGBT is used in Turkish as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transvestite and transsexual (LGBTT).

Original Link of this News Article: "Struggle of Turkey's LGBT Movement Has International Importance"
Tags: life