Being LGBT in Turkey

Project Overview

A documentary screening, panel discussion and exhibition to raise awareness and dispel myths about being LGBT in Turkey.

Identifying the Problem

As in most countries, homophobia and transphobia are rampant across Turkey. Much of the stigma against LGBT individuals stems from a strict belief in the adherence to distinct and separate gender roles, the violation of which often results in violence and discrimination. Many LGBT individuals in Turkey are too fearful to open up about their sexual and gender identities, which causes great suffering and angst. There is an effort among teachers and school counselors to become more supportive of LGBT students by helping to raise awareness, break down stereotypes and violent prejudices, and work towards creating a healthy, safe environment for all students in the country. Duygu wanted to organize an event at her university that would serve as an opportunity for students and faculty to learn more about the issues faced by LGBT people in Turkey.

Creating A Solution

Duygu organized an afternoon of three events to raise awareness and dispel myths about Turkey’s LGBT population. The afternoon began with a screening of the feature documentary My Child, which follows parents of LGBT children through the coming out process, support groups, and advocacy on behalf of their children’s rights. Duygu contacted Listag, a solidarity and support group for friends and family members of LGBT individuals, which was featured in My Child. The group was very supportive of the project, and not only granted permission for Duygu to screen the film, but put her in touch with one of the mothers featured in the documentary to discuss her participation in the project.

Following the screening, there was a panel discussion with one of the mothers featured in the documentary, as well as an activist from one of Turkey’s most prominent LGBT rights NGOs, KaosGL. Having the mother on the panel added a personal side to the discussion, and provided an opportunity for the audience to empathize with the struggles faced by LGBT individuals and their families. The LGBT activist provided professional expertise about homophobia, transphobia and LGBT rights in the country. She also provided an overview of the distinctions between sex, sexual orientation, sexual identity, gender and gender identity. 

The afternoon concluded with a “Rainbow Exhibition,” which provided educational materials regarding LGBT issues developed by students of Culturally Sensitive Counselling course. The exhibition included a puzzle about homophobia, a Taboo game about myths about the LGBT community, a poster with a lesson plan regarding homosexuality for high school students, hand-made t-shirts with LGBT symbols and banners, rainbow flags and colorful cookies. 

Duygu advertised the event on Facebook, and there was a very large turnout. The participants were very grateful for the opportunity to learn more about LGBT issues, and left feeling not only more educated but more willing to become advocates in the struggle for LGBT rights.

Lessons Learned

Because this project required a large amount of planning and coordination, Duygu made sure to begin organizing the event very early. She believes that much of the success of her project is attributed to how much time she gave herself for the planning phase.

Funding

Duygu brought her project proposal to the administration of Baskent University, and asked if the university would be willing to sponsor the event. Not only did the university agree to host the event, but it agreed to cover all associated expenses (with the support of Baskent University Counselling Psychology Student Society), including a fee for screening the documentary, stipends and plaques for the panelists, coffee during the break, the exhibition materials and invitation cards.

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About This Project

HIA Program:

Denmark Denmark 2014

Developed by:

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