AK Party LGBT: Of course, as LGBT people, we do not endorse the Justice and Development Party’s (Turkey’s ruling party, AKP or AK Party- AK means “white, clean”) attitude towards LGBT people.

We started the AK LGBT group to make AKP authorities and those who vote for AKP say, “there are LGBT people who support AKP”, “LGBT people can have various political views outside of parties like the Republican People’s Party (CHP), the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), and the People’s Democratic Party (HDP), and we should accept and tolerate this.”

Let us say to ourselves what we have been saying to heterosexuals. We say we can live together despite our differences, and there will be different people within the LGBT community as well; lesbians with headscarves, bisexuals doing their daily prostrations, transsexuals going to perform the hajj, atheist gays, etc.

By: Beren Azizi

I wrote this piece in the wake of the debates that ensued after the announcement that LGBTI AKP supporters will join Istanbul Pride this year. I want to let AK LGBT friends speak, but I have a couple of issues.

I think that consistency is an important discipline. I find it scary that a movement that calls itself the LGBTI movement prescribes a normative LGBTI existence, and think that LGBTI people must abide by this prescription. First of all, it is not realistic to think that a country’s majority party would not have an LGBTI constituency. Because I believe that, to be truthful, we cannot draw boundaries around the “you” in “we are one less if you are not there,” and I find it homophobic to draw this boundary.

We know what homophobia is, but it also matters when it occurs and becomes frequent. Homophobia is not a static hatred of gays. Like other instances of hatred, homophobia uses many excuses and pretexts. These pretexts range from “causing extinction of the human race” to “being a bad role model for children.”

To say “AKP LGBT people” are like this or that corresponds to something similar. If it is sufficient to be an AKP supporter in any situation, why criticize that person specifically on account of their sexual orientation or gender identity?

The moment that tests your homophobia is the moment when a gay person stands right across from you. What does “across” mean to you? Whatever “the other side” is for you, what happens when it is occupied by a gay? If you start to analyze the moment you hear a gay say they voted for the AKP, support the AKP, or are even members of the AKP; if you get accusatory by saying things like ”they always lean to power because they are oppressed” or “do you love being killed?”, I say, think again.

Now, I want to let “them” speak. It will be somewhat Ayse Arman [Hürriyet newspaper columnist] style but they are gay AKP supporters. They came out as gay AKP supporters at the LGBTI Political Representation and Participation Platform. They said: “We are there this year in Istanbul Pride as AK LGBTI; we are coming.” They do not want to disclose their names, like in the 90s… Whereas gays from the CHP and HDP are now openly able to do interviews, AKP supporter gay people have to hide themselves. I do not think this has only to do with the AKP.

Can you tell us a little about yourself? Where are you from? What do you do?
In response to the “where are you from” question, I want to say I am from Turkey. I am 23 years old, an LGBT person who has accepted himself/herself. I work in the city I live in and I also study. That’s all.

Are you a member of the AKP? Do you have any party membership?
I had party membership 3 years ago; but I had to cancel it because of my job; two days after the [local] elections when the AK party won in my hometown, I renewed my membership.

Are you out with your LGBT identity or are there people from the party with whom you are out?
To be sure, I am an individual who has accepted himself/herself, therefore from the day I accepted this there have been heterosexuals from my family and friends to whom I have come out. Several AKP friends know that I am gay; but they are not very involved with the party; or rather they vote and do not inquire much about the details… those types of friends know I am gay.

You came out in the social media in an AK Party group as an “AKP supporting gay.” What kind of feedback did you receive afterwards?
There were only likes, and no one commented; but we had an account before Twitter was shut down. We received many congratulations from a lot of heterosexual people.

Why are you an AKP supporter?
Well, you should have asked in the plural (laughs). Why are we AKP supporters? Let me try to answer this on behalf of everyone who is a part of the AK LGBT formation, an organization that is targeted with various threats and insults at the moment. Of course we, as LGBT people, do not approve of AKP’s attitudes and behaviors towards LGBT people. There are so many problems in Turkey today… There were so many problems in Turkey when the AKP rule began in 2002…The economic crisis, discrimination between Turks and Kurds, discrimination between Alevis and Sunnis, etc, etc. I could easily continue adding to this list. The LGBT issue ranked way below all these topics that I may or may not have mentioned here.

Let me answer your question with some examples. There were numerous social groups who suffered after February 28, 1997… Even though the headscarf issue has now been resolved, not everybody has been able to soothe their pain. If Tayyip Erdogan was able to resolve the headscarf problem, I have a reason to vote for him. It does not even matter if I suffered because of this or not.

Similarly, take the “Kurdish Opening” that has been on the agenda for some time… For years, Kurdish people were not allowed to speak their language. For years, they were unable to seek healthcare in Kurdish at hospitals. Let us take a moment to observe the situation today. It has been over a year since there have been no accounts of guerilla deaths or Turkish soldier deaths. Well, of course there are people who are dissatisfied with this situation. Those political groups who abuse martyrs and guerilla deaths as instruments for their political agenda are very unhappy and they are trying to hurt this [peace] process.

But, my friend, I care more about action than words. Today, people who have suffered from othering for years do not sabotage factories, airports, or roads in Hakkari or in Sirnak. This, too, gives me a reason to vote for Tayyip Erdogan. I evaluate Turkey’s problems not as an LGBT person but foremost as a person from Turkey. And I invite those who are against the AK LGBT organization to do the same. If we were to only approach issues as LGBT people, no LGBT person would be able to cast a vote for any party. This is how we think.

You talked about threats. On the Facebook site of the LGBTI Political Representation and Participation Platform, you declared that you would take part in this year’s Istanbul Pride as members of the AK LGBT group. What kinds of reactions did this declaration receive? Did you face homophobic or transphobic attitudes?
You know what? This may be the most hurtful issue you have touched upon throughout the whole interview. One could expect that the heterosexual groups will be homophobic and that they will throw around threats and insults. One might be able to stomach that. But when educated activists who are members of LGBT organizations do the same, it is very sad. There are people who only attribute the activist identity to those with whom they share similar points of view. I received threats and insults from those people. There was an activist friend who immediately labeled us without understanding us or listening to us. I would not disclose their name here. Again, someone I admired and looked up to as a brother insulted me through his Facebook profile and removed me from his list of friends. We are only beginning to communicate with heterosexual circles. When that is the case, it is so very sad to see that LGBT organizations are saying, “Stop! We will stop you because you have different affiliations.”

On the other hand, there were some activists who supported us. I would like to take this opportunity to thank them here. Yes, we were going to participate in Istanbul Pride. But after such terrible threats and insults, we began to talk about not participating. Because our only aim in joining the Pride Parade would be to make our voices heard; we would not be there to cause a fight or to challenge the main goal of the Pride Parade. When we saw the kinds of messages sent from the other side, to be honest, we kind of gave up on participating. Our organization is still intact. There is a talk about organizing an LGBT Pride Parade in Izmir and there are some activists who seem to encourage our presence there. We will wait and see what happens.

What can an AKP LGBT organization bring to LGBTI communities?
The government is currently perceiving LGBTs only as those who participated in the Gezi Park protests, unfortunately. That is true not only for the government but also for the general public and the media, yet there are other LGBTs, hidden with their voices unheard. There are LGBTs who did not participate in Gezi, conservative LGBTs, LGBTs who are against the government but do not support the Gezi Park movement… That is, LGBTs are not solely those who protested against the government, whom the prime minister saw. Our goal in organizing this group was to state, and to have AKP authorities and AKP voters say, that “LGBTs are voting for us too. There are LGBTs who support the AKP. There are LGBTs who are not represented by the CHP, BDP, HDP etc, whose views are not shared by these political parties; we should tolerate them and accept them as such.” When the AKP sees our organization, its view of LGBTs will naturally change.

The CHP and HDP had candidates who were openly LGBTI. Do you think the AKP or other conservative political parties will have such candidates?
Of course, and why not? If we sit down and talk about LGBTs in a proper way to conservatives and to the AKP, I believe Erdogan would support us.

What kinds of obstacles and difficulties do you expect to encounter?
From the outset, we had problems with LGBT people who were against the AKP. This is currently one of the problems we encounter. If we can get over this issue, I don’t believe we will experience any problems with any person, group, or organization. Our only reservation is the reaction of the LGBTs and the government against us when we walk in Istanbul Pride. We have seen the reactions of LGBTs and our participation is currently suspended, hence it seems that we will not get to observe the reaction of the government yet. We don’t have any other worries.

Would you like to say anything to LGBTI people supporting the AKP?
I want to say to my LGBTI friends who support the AKP that, whatever the consequences, do not let anyone use your sexuality. Let others think whatever they want to about you; if you agree with us on the AKP’s hold on the government, never let go of your cause. Additionally, we have this organization, we have officials on Facebook. Contact them. Without you, our organization will always be lacking.

Would you like to say anything to LGBTI people who are not supporting the AKP?
There is only one thing I want to say to LGBTs who do not support the AKP: do not confuse my political identity with my sexual identity. My thought is my decision, your thought is your decision, speak after acknowledging my reality. You will then see, naturally, that something is not right.

And to heterosexuals, regardless of political affiliation?
To the heterosexuals: The Ak [“White” –trans.] LGBT organization has the same goals as the other LGBT movements. There may be nuances in our goals but it is to show that we can all live together; even if our means to attain them is different, our intended destination is the same.

I want to thank the Kaos GL team and you, my precious friend Beren Aziz, for this great interview. I have one last word: we say to others that we can live together even though we are different from you. LGBTs, too, are a diverse community. Lesbians with head coverings and veils, bisexuals who pray five times a day, transsexuals who go on the hajj, atheist gays, and so on. We should please tell ourselves what we tell the heterosexuals.

We are everywhere, get used to it!

Translation: LGBTI News Turkey