08/10/2019 | Writer: Kaos GL

The forum, held at the International Memory and History Conference, hosted the guests of Color Screen Interviews.

Writing history by reflecting the emotions Kaos GL - News Portal for LGBTI+

The International Memory and History Conference organized by Kaos GL Association continued with the "We are making history here" forum.

Aylime Asli Demir moderated the forum. Demir said, "What these people suffered from so they acted and turned this problem into a public one", leaving the words to the guests to explain how they came together.

The speakers of the forum were Yeeşim Basaran, Oya Burcu, Mine Yanat and Esmeray, who participated in the Color Screen Interviews produced by Kaos GL Association as part of the oral history study.

Lots of problems, but we have the remedy

Taking the floor from Demir, Yeşim Başaran said "I thought I was the only woman who could fall in love with another woman. But I didn't want to be alone, I immediately went to their meeting when I became aware of the existence of people like me".

After Başaran, Esmeray continued: "There is a lot of trouble. I was in political life because I was the child of a Kurdish family. But when I come out with my trans identity, time and space changed. Especially when you're a sex worker, your only place is on highways. Although it looked like a traffic accident in the '90s, there were deliberate murders in Merter. Such a problem... In this environment, my political identity made me feel like I had to do something. That's how I started attending workshops and meetings."

Oya Burcu began their speech as, "I had a problem since I was born", sharing the process they discovered their sexual orientation. "After meeting the Daughters of Sappho, I became a militant lesbian," Oya Burcu said, referring to the organization period.

Mine Yanat said, "What I experienced before the LGBTI movement... You're on your own, there's no one around you, not even the word lesbian... Thanks to the letter friendship, I met a group in Turkey. I started going to the meeting of the Greens Movement. There were gays and trances at these meetings, but there were no lesbians. They come to nightclubs to have fun, but they do not exist during the day. They were saying 'we are living between four walls, we can't open ourselves'. I tried to organize because I wanted them not to experience what I went through in the future," and told about Lambdaİstanbul's association process.

“You can’t be visible if you don’t have courage”

Aylime Aslı asked the speakers, "How did they decide to form the organizations? How did they begin to write the history that brought us to this day?"

Yeşim: "When I first went to Kaos GL, I didn't want to go empty-handed, so I found an article in the school library that said lesbians were not mentally ill, so I translated it and went with it. Not because I'm good at English, but I wanted to do something. I'm not a very brave person as of personality, but when I started going to Kaos GL, I had the courage to 'If it had to be done, we will do it!'

"Then I attended meetings that if there were 40 men, there were two women. We were thinking about gay people's troubles, but after we started thinking about what we could do for ourselves, we started The Daughters of Sappho for lesbian and bisexual women."

Esmeray: "After entering the political arena, I thought that a lot of my stories were your stories. When I first went on stage, I didn't know it was going to cost this much. I played my first little shows to LGBTI+'s, feminists. In the play, Torn Bundle, I realized how many queer stories I've told compared to The Witch's Bundle. Uncut Stories was a sum of these two."

"In some places, I was observing that it was the first time for some people to see a transvestite on stage. Some of them were leaving right after they started. Some of them couldn't understand. Taught me a lot, too, sharing these stories."

Oya Burcu: "Yeşim mentioned 'courage', it's very true. When I opened up to my mother and when she told how dangerous it was out there, I didn't say 'Oh, you're right'; I said, 'But that's what's happening, I will not stay silent to spare myself from what is happening!'"

"In the first four years of volunteering for Kaos GL, I was not a gay woman open to my family. I was like a brave heterosexual woman who did research on lesbians. My mom said, ‘You did the research, are you still seeing them? They'll make you a lesbian, too.' I was able to say 'this is my struggle' with the 2003 symposium (The Problems of Lesbians and Gays and the Search for A Solution for Social Peace).”

Mine Yanat: "You can't be visible when you don't have the courage. There are things that you lose. When I was a student at Yıldız (Technical University), I was closeted, but I wanted to come out. One day I wanted to have a conversation about transgender people with my classmates, but I heard so many phobic statements that I made me quit university."

"So I went to meetings in Yeşil Bizans. In fact, the late İbrahim Eren even said to me one day, 'Don't throw yourself so hard, Mine. And Demet said, "Oh, I have courage, but you have crazy courage or what." I lost so much, because of my courage, I lost my parents, I lost my university, I lost my network then, but I was already alone. I fought for my rights, and if I go back to that time, I would have acted the same way."

Keeping emotional comradeship in mind

The final part of the forum focused on expectations and criticism of the movement.

Yeşim Başaran told that they think the emotional comradeship of the first day of their organization still there. "It's not forgetting what makes you feel that sentiment. We were alone, and when we got together, we got through it. Let's not forget this feeling, let's reflect this on our movement, our policies".

"We could not have foreseen the role of social media" Esmeray continued. Referring to the importance of the transfer of experience, Esmeray pointed out that historical knowledge should be socialized. "The language on social media sometimes hurts me. Suddenly it turns into a lynching atmosphere" she said, adding that the problems experienced in the movement should be addressed on the political plane and a solution should be sought.

Oya Burcu, who took over from Esmeray, said the existence of different LGBTI+ organizations is making them happy and added that it is necessary to work to stand and fight together. Oya Burcu said, "The purpose of our struggle should be to reduce risks, costs", left the floor to Mine Yanat.

"30 years ago, my goal was to live without being marginalized and for the next generation to live comfortably. For me, the movement is moving a little slow, with very small steps. This is because of the policies of this country, " said Yanat.

The forum ended after participants' questions were answered.

The story being told is your story too…

The Workshop prior to The International Memory and History Conference has come to an end. The conference that set off with the call of “Maybe the story that is being told is your story too. Maybe we are tracing something together, maybe we sang songs told stories to leave a trace. With respects to the ones that we walked together, to our separating paths, and to lives that gushes from letters…” continued till September 29.

*Photography: Semih Varol / Kaos GL

**Translation: Yiğit E. Korkmaz

Tags: arts and culture, life