Story of the first issue of Kaos GL - Full-Color Display: Ali Özbaş and Ali Erol

Monday, December 10, 2018



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We start a new video interview series within our oral history research. In this video series which we call as “Full-Color Display”, we will focus on daily lives of LGBTI+ people, organization of LGBTI+ movement, the struggle in 80’s and 90’s and media.

Our second guests are founders of Kaos GL, Ali Özbaş and Ali Erol. They started to come together at early 90’s, wanted to publish a magazine, gathered all the articled and eventually first issue of Kaos GL was printed in 1994. But how? How were they coming together in those years? Did they have a place? How were they publishing the magazine? Partners for more than 25 years, Ali Özbaş and Ali Erol told the story of Kaos GL magazine.

First issue!

Even though the first issue of Kaos GL was published in 1994, there’s a background to that story. Ali Erol tells how did they find the money to publish it and Ali Özbaş adds the story of historical cover of the first issue.

Ali Erol: I mean they say god damn the poverty, maybe with the studentship, we were the poor of the poorest I think. Well, all kind of people, from all sections, all status, they come together while doing gullüm* (making jokes in Turkish queer slang language) at Güven Park but it does not evolve into work. The stories we know and we might assume. And we were in need of a very small amount of money regarding from now. The first issue, I think, was the most distributed issue. Because it was copied again and again but it was something 16 pages and 8 sheets. 75 liras…It was 75 liras I think. Such that…But I do not know how much it does make today. But it was a ridiculously small amount of money then. But for us, when you are poor, everything is much for you…And I mean…A heterosexual woman friend gave it to us at last…

Ali Özbaş: Because she had said enough. Ali, at every meeting, was talking about publishing a journal but how we could not publish I mean “take it and publish, you relax and so do we” such that and such that Ali’s, afterwards I had been to how Ali published journals during the university period but we would not see the second issue or how to publish the second, then published the second issue but we would not publish the third, his fear and discourse was continuous. Therefore Ali will have not been in silence when the journal is published. But somehow the journal kept going the second and the third and with determination, not even skipping one month, it started to regularly publish monthly. But before that well, we were organizing meetings and how people receive this idea and looking for their ideas and discussions.

We published the very first journal because for a long time we had articles. Being very very uneducated about journal composition, leaving spaces of 5 cm from each side of the pages, at the computer at my work, using Word, especially for creating the triangle for we dreamed about the cover page…

A.E.: Reverse triangle aayyyy...

A.Ö.: Spending a whole day...

A.Ö.: The first issue gained a publishable format…or rather copiable format but I had to mention that there was no name of Ali Özbaş or Ali Erol not because we hesitated. It was not because the fear of visibility. Our fear was… The people were just like “pfff, is it again” and they would not read the articles “well, they are the Alis again” they would say. It was because of this…

A.E.: We made up names.

A.Ö.: ...Beautiful names…What, with an apostrophe e, gay’e, with those names we wrote our articles. Such that, the first issue we published it and gave to the people who we were organizing meetings together by saying “Surprisee”

“How can you trust a faggot?”

After the first issue, how did they manage to continue? Ali Erol, emphazises on the importance of trust. At those days they tried to establish a commission in Human Rights Association (İnsan Hakları Derneği). Bu it was interrupted. Ali Özbaş tells how they were organizing their meetings in 90’s.

A.E.:  for the new generation, I do not want to blame on them but for young friends, such issues are boring. It is boring in two meanings, “it is done and gone” meaning and secondly the part of the issue, the hard work part but something I wanna share although they could find boring in short. For example in 1999…No, no, until the end of 1999, 94, 95,96, 97, 98…until that time the journal was on the shelves at the 20th of the every month. In Ankara at Konur Street, notably Dost Bookstore every 20th… Any journal might come out at first of the month or at 15th but why 20th, what is it? Actually, it hardly had been caught up at that time…I mean, to copy, to fold, we could make it at least at the 20th. And afterwards at the 20th of every month we set it up. It was such that I mean the people, the self confidence…Whatever their status the people had a distrust in this issue. There was different kinds of prejudices of different people etc etc. Plus the society was already thinking, “it is the know faggot” that you are. Therefore, we, I mean, that journal for years at the 20th of every month at the shelves at least the shelves of Dost Bookstore at Konur Ankara, we did, we did not skip it not for a month. We did it because, we are not maniac…I mean did we lost our minds? No, no. “AAA these were not, those were not young intellectual university gay friends, they had an case.” They should say. “If they want it happen” they say, “look, this is…this journal publishes every month by them” they say and to give them that trust, we made it actually. Gaining that trust well although all the shock and surprise came after that I think.

A.Ö.: İHD (human rights association) by saying getting rid of, it was actually an saying get out of here. They knew who we are, they let us having meetings there but it was not enough for us. Bigger and bigger, it was such that, for the bigger… We were having meetings there but who are we? A group of… we were not a bunch of poor lubunya* (a term used for roughly queer in Turkish) or something…Let’s take a name…Officially they should recognize us and we could do something from this. We thought and the association had commission, it was organized in commissions, we said, gay lesbian, then it was not like LGBTİ, but you know, all this came with time, plusses are added or new people who say that “I am this”, the vocabulary enrichens by time. But at that time we say gay and lesbian.

However İHD did not lean on this. Our demand was prolonged, they said at first let’s talk about that and afterwards it was not accepted. They did not see it as an proper demand. Always there was an “even” thing a privilege. “But we did not let even to this” such that. Well, this made us turn against having meetings there but since we had no place for ourselves we started to meet at the cafes. Especially silence hours and silent spaces were chosen. Since then we could speak freely. And the spaces that all our friends might come without feeling any uncomfortability. We visited lots of spaces. But I do not remember encountering any negative behavior at any cafe but…

A.E.: But we stayed very short at some of them

A.Ö.: Because they were not proper. They were crowded, people come there for listening music. You cannot say that “we have a meeting turn off the music”. Therefore for a long time at different spaces at different cafes we took meetings, Sunday meetings, there was a period but however at different cafes it did not make it productive. On the contrary at the very hearth of the discussions, just some productive things would emerge we had to stop and cut the meetings.

A.E.: Two of them were different I think. I mean it is not possible to count all them, but at Olgunlar Street, the Sakal Cafe, because they used to reserve one room for us, thanks to them, for the hours of our meeting. The meetings there were so that they were not interrupted etc. and at Kızılay, there was Social Researches Association just opposite of the old French Cultural Center, actually it was an apartment of three rooms and a saloon and they gave the room at the back to us. For example our meetings at the Social Researches Association’s hall (TAKSAV), the meetings that lasted for long hours were meetings that we tried to be institutionalized actually. Because there were work groups. Those who regularly attend to the meetings and also translation group and other groups etc. We were watching movies. We were organizing discussions about those films etc. Those meetings were so, I meant, went good.

A.Ö.: But all the meetings, besides, a socialization “what we can do together”, all together go to the cinema but a proper film for our purposes and let’s watch it critically. Let’s go to hamam being all gays I mean.

Trying and failing and trying again!

Lastly, Ali Özbaş and Ali Erol tells the story of their home at Demirlibahçe, Ankara which was also a center for the magazine.

A.E.: E... Demirlibahçe, is not only for our lives, at the end, our lives, when we think about at least the process of building up of Kaos, it was not possible to think separately, building up of both our lives and KaosGL together, construction process such that…It was the center…It was de faco the center, the house in Demirlibahçe. I think it was demolished. I mean when we think that how we could not lay claim to our spaces etc…On one hand, it makes upset. For example we are talking about Güven Park, where we meet and find each other. Güven Park is not the same space anymore, when we look. All these spaces are gone. But at Demirlibahçe for a long time, well, the building up of Kaos, regularly publishing the journal, organizing home meetings etc, all were going on. At one day comes…Out of blue…The police came. And said that “you are publishing this journal etc.” I immediately put myself forward, because of my old insights from my studentship, “no, no, no” I said “I am publishing it myself alone”. I thought at least one person…would be arrested. “Ok” he said “There is no problem but” continued “you cannot publish this journal anymore because this journal had no something registered etc.” I mean now the public prosecution office is at the courthouse but at that time it was in police headquarters’, therefore the bureau of media, was in police headquarters’. “Either you will come and register it or you cannot publish it anymore” he said. I said ok we will do whatever needed. It meant that at the same that we should register an official administration address. Actually the police and all the lubunyas (queer in Turkish queer slang language), everybody knew that the center was in Demirlibahçe. But we should have to make it official and formal and there was a procedure for it and they control us for following this procedure or not. Afterwards we started to, we said that we cannot register this house because we should not. It is our home that we live in, ok, we do not have something hidden, we had lived at that neighborhood and we did not encounter any problem but anyway to register as an official address at the journal means something else. At our search for a space, first we registered somewhere at Kennedy Avenue that we did not go for a very short time. At least for not disrupting the journal. Afterwards to whom Ali mentioned and then having become one of our friends, at Ergün Sokak, in the accounting office of one of our friends we started to make our meetings in one room of this office.

A.Ö.: I mean both we rented there…

A.E.: Yes...

A.Ö.: ...both there was our officially declared…...

A.E.: Yes. One room of that bureau.

A.Ö.: ...It was our office. Both we used it and not only for an official address…

A.E.: Yes.

A.Ö.: ...It was not. However until that period all we had lived it was not something that we does things like that. Practically we, included, did not know how to proceed, did not know the procedural part, we moved trying and failing and trying again. I mean it was not like…We do not register to anywhere, it was not like that.

A.E.: I mean it was not an underground journal, it was not an illegal journal.

A.Ö.: What was needed for us to make it and how to proceed and what were our opportunities. All these processes were improved such that. When we were joining in any kind of protest, at first we became visible at May 1 protests, I mean, until that time it was not like let’s keep in secret and at that specific time let’s turn visible, it was not like that clear. I mean of course the necessity to be visible is obvious, and the protests were the best places that the visibility of the existence of homosexuals, we are not only in the pubs and parks at nights, we have a word to say…Of course we have but how to say it, all these were succeeded by trying and failing and trying again in the process. We put themselves. But the period of publishing the journal at first, it was not like that we publish this and this is a big journal with advertisement revenue, big money come from the sale and therefore relaxing for the next period, it was not like that. Always we had in mind the anxiety of “whether it would be possible to publish the next issue?”. We say that it should be out at 20th of every month and we do not skip it, we are spending our nights for this, we are staying at work for night to publish it, now the people might complete any journal almost with their mobile phone but at that time the process was not such that or the period was not like that.


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