2020 has been and still is, a crazy year for all of us. After March, I had difficulties with following the news on TV. That was the reason I started using Twitter actively this year. It was an effective tool for me to, as the phrase goes, take the country’s pulse on specific issues and topics, like LGBTQ+. From hashtags being a trend to the probability of banning Netflix in Turkey because “watching Netflix makes you gay”, here is what I have observed about the view on LGBTQ+ in Turkey, and how Turkish society evolved, if ever.

I want to start with the hashtag #lezbiyengörünürlükgünü (#lesbianawarenessday) being on the trends list in Turkey on 26th April 2020. I was utterly shocked when I saw it because I already knew the perspective of society on LGBTQ+ first hand:

Even though some tweets were homophobic people attacking LGBTQ+ people as seen above, I also had a smile on my face while reading some tweets because they were genuinely celebrating the day.

A couple of days later, the conflict between 3 Bar Association and the Turkish Directorate of Religious Affairs erupted: The president of the Religious Affairs connected being homosexual to “the cause of infectious diseases being spread out” in one of his talks on Friday. Ankara Bar Association first accused him of “encouraging the hatred and hostility in the society”. Diyarbakır and Şanlıurfa Bar Associations supported Ankara’s response. Many politicians took sides and most of them stood up with the Religious Affairs and said, “Quran says it with showing Lot as the example. It is haram. Who ‘attacks’ the Religious Affairs also attacks the government.”

A similar scenario occured within the society. Our politicians are part of the society afterall, so it’s only normal to see these parallels. “We” boycotted Nivea and Decathlon under the hashtags such as #niveaboykot when Decathlon announced that they support LGBTQ+ rights and celebrated pride month, and “we” boycotted Nivea when they shared a rainbow decorated cream in pride month. “We” applauded LC Waikiki when they announced they would ban all rainbow- themed products because they are “the propaganda of LGBTQ+”. I wrote “we” in quotation marks because there were some people in the society that stood up for Nivea and mocked LCW because they saw how ridiculous banning rainbows from products sounded. Here are some tweets:

“If you said #NiveaBoykot and boycotted LGBT supporting companies, throw that phone of yours out the window.”
“How ironic it is that a brand that doesn’t believe in the evolution theory and LGBTQ+ comes from a rainbow-colored monkey @LCWaikiki #LCWaikikiBoykot #LCWaikikiDestek”

Just as they tried to ban the rainbow from the products we buy, they also tried to ban the rainbow we see in the media as well. Firstly, it was spread out that the character Osman in the Netflix series “Love 101” was first introduced as a gay man, and this was later changed because of the response they got in June 2020. This collected both approval and rage from social media platforms. During that week, the probability of Netflix being banned in Turkey was announced.

The reason for this ban was because of the “content”. It caused anger in the younger population and they showed how they felt about it on social media platforms pretty well, even under
the hashtags that supporters of the ban created such as #netflixadamol (#netflixbeaman).

“I have been watching Netflix for two years now, still not even a bit of homosexuality… I guess something’s wrong with me…

Trying to attack and constantly ban LGBTQ+ content in this country has become such a norm that I lost my ability to be surprised and frustrated when I’m on Twitter and see an anti- LGBTQ+ hashtag trending in Turkey. There was one time I saw the words “Atatürk LgbtiyeKarşıydı” (“Ataturk was against LGBT”) trending on Twitter. My personal favorite was #yallahhollandaya (#giddyuptothenetherlands).

“You aspire to be a ****** then leave #YallahHollandaya #LGBTDernekleriKapatılsın #LGBTFaaliyetleriYasaklansın”

I can’t believe we were the first country in Europe to legalize homosexuality in 1858 as the Ottoman Empire. How come this hatred has evolved over time? It’s like we went backwards instead of forward. There are police forces and TOMAs during pride parades, if they ever happen that is because many governors don’t allow them to. Turkey has one of the highest rates of trans murders.

I just saw a news today about a girl named Melike trying to ask for help on TikTok with a video showing how she locked herself in her room and cried out loud while her family literally kicks her door and shouts her to open the door after they learned about her sexual orientation.

Screenshot from Melike’s Tiktok

No child should ever go through something like this. I have many friends who are closeted mainly because they are afraid of the reaction they would get from their families and the society. Home and family are supposed to be the one place where you can be yourself freely, without being afraid of being judged, and feel loved by the people around you.

Homophobia and transphobia are deeply rooted and normalized in this country that families, who claim that they cherish their “family values” and believe in strong bonds between family members would disown, threaten or even beat their own children to death just because their children are not cishets (cisgender heterosexual person). And yet, these incidents are not covered in the news. Ever. I have not seen any news on TV about a trans woman being murdered by their neighbors, but I can easily watch a TV series where women are beaten up, people are getting shot or a little girl is forced to marry an old man, and so on. Maybe that’s why I watch Netflix series instead of TV series on screen and end up “turning queer”. Yes, that was definitely a choice.

“Ban it already, it’s damaging our societal customs… It’s always about #LGBT.. #netflixturkey #netflixyasaklansın #NetflixPedofiflia”

There was a photo of a Polish couple holding up a pride flag with “HELP” written on it in Vatican City, and they wrote “Rainbow doesn’t offend.” on their post. I strongly agree.

Rainbow doesn’t offend.

Rainbow doesn’t separate.

It’s welcoming.

It represents the diversity in LGBTQ+, no matter
gender, sexuality, race, age, nationality, language… It is homophobes who offend with their close-minded thoughts and actions that hurt everyone and separate the society with hatred.

Even though the situation is so negative for queer people right now, one thing that amazes me is the humor that people in Turkey still have after so many heartbreaking news in this country.

To conclude the article, I would like to share some of the most hilarious tweets here. Because apparently, these are the only things that still surprise me.

**It is important to note that “#SuAnLgbtliOldun” roughly translates to #NowYouAreLgbtq as if you have caught a disease and is used ironically.

“Homosexuality has fallen upon the mighty Istanbul… #SuAnLgbtliOldun”
“I wanted to buy some straws from the internet. Something happened to me while I was looking, suddenly I became a lesbian and started hitting on every girl I saw. God forbid, don’t do the same mistake #SuAnLgbtliOldun”

“Those who say #NiveaBoykot better not drink another beer.”

“I won’t be able to draw again, I almost became a homosexual #SuAnLgbtliOldun”

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