Translation from Turkish: Öner Ceylan
Today, for the 19th time, intersex people, survivors of forced surgical operations, lovers, spouses, families, friends and allies all over the world are celebrating the Intersex Awareness Day and commemorating the first ever intersex protest in the world that took place in Boston on October 26, 1996.
What we did in Turkey
In Turkey, we may not be able to talk about an institutionalized intersex movement but we have come a long way that we couldn’t have imagined ten or even five years ago. We come from such a big silence and invisibility that the visibility we have gained at least within the LGBT community in the last few years and a handful of intersex comrades are very meaningful to us.
If we are to speak of an intersex activism in Turkey, I have to say that this has been possible firstly thanks to organizing over the internet, various internet media and most importantly, with the support of non-intersex comrades from the LGBT community. During a time when intersex people were yet not able to reach out to one another, when we were few in number, lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, anarcho-feminist allies tried to be our voice and they are fortunately still by our side. If we look briefly at what we did, I guess we can say that the foundation of the period was formed in year 2009 when we first reached out to the LGBT organizations and started making contacts.
We had started out with the blog…
Then came the founding of our blog (intersexualshalala.wordpress.com) and the articles in this blog started appearing in other organizations’ publications such as Lambdaistanbul, Kaos GL and Pink Life, thus the intersex issue started gaining visibility little by little among LGBT circles. During this time, we, intersex activists, continued to find each other through the blog and in addition, we opened accounts on all social media platforms. It is safe to say that this blog has become the most satisfying source of information on intersex in Turkish, through both firsthand accounts of our personal stories and translations. We have also translated some articles in the blog into English and Kurdish.
The Argentinian intersex activist Mauro Cabral gave a speech in Istanbul during the pride week events. Then one of the articles in the blog was translated into English and appeared in the book of the work by Gabrielle Le Roux called “Proudly Trans in Turkey”. Articles in our blog were also translated into German and appeared in a book where intersex experiences in Germany were told. All of this let global intersex activists know about the intersex people in Turkey.
The “I” of the LGBTI
Meanwhile, we organized some meetings at Lambdaistanbul and other organizations from time to time and thus we tried to help our LGBT allies get to know intersex people more. At the same time, our number kept going up through the blog. A few years after we started participating the pride marches, Lambda’s “Intersex people exist” signs started appearing at the march which was an important and nice thing for us. It was a milestone to see the word “intersex” alongside gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans signs and banners at the pride march. Around the same time, Lambdaistanbul released its “Intersex Manifesto” and declared that it would, from then on, continue its struggle under the LGBTI umbrella and apologized to all intersex people for leaving out the “I”ntersex until then. While starting out, we had said that there is an “I” of the LGBT, and that we had come to bring the letter “I”. We now see that we have accomplished that everywhere. The abbreviation “LGBTI” became so popular that even the homophobic publications don’t leave the “I” out!
Thanks to our comrades, Feministival, which is one of the most inspiring examples of the third wave feminism in the practice of Turkey, mentioned the intersex and this was a lovely development in terms of embracing one another with the feminist movement.
Media visibility and our video
A relatively small yet important victory for us was a bunch of interviews that we made on daily popular newspapers such as Hurriyet and Cumhuriyet, and the alternative internet medium, Bianet, although there were no photos and we were still shy. Thus, we found the chance to reach out to larger masses for the first time. This year, everything is very different. We are in another sort of excitement. Because, we, intersex activists, are no more a few people; we found each other, we got the chance to come together, meet and exchange our stories, we became friends. Now we have an internal solidarity group. Recently, we, altogether, made a video for the commemoration events for the valuable trans activist Aligul Arikan, whom we lost in the recent years, and we made a screening of the video. We showed our faces and made our voice heard for the first time in such a public event. This was a very particular feeling.
Now we have, lined up, a book project of one of us and a thousand more ideas and plans. We hope that in the near future, we will become an organization that a family can contact for inquiry and solidarity when they realize their child to be intersex. Perhaps when a doctor, psychologist, psychiatrist sees an intersex counselee, they will forward them to us. There will be a law that protects intersex people’s rights, intersex children will no more be operated without their consent. We know that there is a long way ahead of us to get there but we do have hope. Our biggest motivation is to be able to offer better conditions to the next generation, and to see that the intersex children that will be born from now on do not go through the same traumas that we went through, and to see that they are happy, unhindered individuals.
Belgin on behalf of Intersexual Shalala Writers