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by Cihan Huroglu, Lambdaistanbul LGBT Solidarity Association – Turkey

The Istanbul LGBT Pride Week 2010, which took place through June 18-27, generated a great dynamic in terms of its organizational capacity, and opened the floor to new discussions around its specific theme of ―the family. The week was concluded with its traditional pride march realized with an ever-growing number of participants.

Istanbul Pride has been organized every year since 1993; the pride march, however, has become visible on the streets only since 2003. Number of people who participated in the march this year was estimated to be around 3000-4000. Undoubtedly the most celebrated activity of the LGBT Pride, the march was also the culmination of Istanbul Pride following 10 days of events including a series of workshops, panels, exhibitions, film screenings and parties.

This year, the main theme of the Pride Week was inspired by the encouraging achievements of LISTAG; the family support group of Lambdaistanbul, and thus was declared as the concept and construct of ―the family. After the unfortunate statement of the Minister of State Responsible for Women and Family Selma Aliye Kavaf who declared ―homosexuality is a disease, the Pride organization team further mobilized its efforts around the LGBT protests against the minister.

The main motivation behind this year‘s conceptualization was primarily to go beyond the first step of the movement, namely the individual LGBT emancipation (meaning coming-out discussions, the declaration of identities and following discussions around identities, the queer alternative etc.) and to focus more on the social relations of non-heterosexual individuals, where one faces the family in the first instance. The question of alternative family models and the economic and social role of the family were discussed from a queer perspective. There, the focus has been placed not only on the families of LGBT individuals, but also on LGBT as family members to deconstruct the traditional perception of ―queers as a threat to the family. This motive was reflected during the week in the form of a workshop on ―being a father; informative speeches on partnership regulations around the world; and critical discussions on hetero-normative family models and transgender fertility.

In addition, the week also addressed the issues of the current LGBT movement campaigns and agenda as well, such as hate crimes, conceptualization of gender, sexuality and morality, police pressure and the politicians‘ ignorance and disregard of LGBT issues, as portrayed in the statement by Minister Kavaf. One of the most inspiring achievements of the Pride Week was the broad participation in the organization of events. A lot of LGBT individuals contributed to the week in a variety of ways; for many, this experience was their first contact with the movement and an LGBT community. The  participatory method not only broadened the activities‘ sphere of influence,but also improved the quality of the critical perspective in the discussions during the conceptualization of the entire project. A separate women‘s initiative with a separate agenda was established under the organizational committee as well.

Guests such as Stefan Liebich, an MP from the Leftist Party of Germany, and various representatives from LGBT organizations in Germany, Lebanon, Portugal, Greece, England, Spain and USA all enriched the program. Discussions on the rising Homo-nationalism specifically in Germany, as well as the conditions of migrant LGBTs in Turkey indicated the great diversity of issues on the LGBT agenda and interconnectedness of the social problems. A special session was also held on Queer solidarity against the apartheid in Israel.

Art exhibitions and discussions on queer art, workshops on sexuality and body led by Female to Male transgenders, inspired new initiatives. The Genetically Modified Tomato Awards Ceremony that ―awards the most homophobic persons and institutions of the year also caught much attention and became one of the most visited events of the week. Needless to say, the Genetically Modified Tomato Award for the ―life long homophobic performance has gone to the Minister of State, Selma Aliye Kavaf.

The week also included many social events such as parties, cocktails, and film screenings followed by discussion sessions. In the panel of family support groups, activists exchanged their experiences and encouraged the LISTAG initiative to extend its work beyond Istanbul to other Anatolian cities, where the LGBT movement has recently been developing and gaining strength.

Istanbul Pride this year, as in previous years, served as a major driving force for LGBT activists from various cities to connect with activists in Istanbul and elsewhere, and create the spirit of LGBT solidarity which materialized in the pride march around the rainbow flag on Sunday June the 27th bringing thousands of activists and supporters together. The international participation was visible during the demonstration with banners that read ‘queers against Israeli apartheid’ and slogans in various languages including turkish, english, kurdish and armenian.
www.lambdaistanbul.org www.prideistanbul.org/

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