Instead of photographing Istanbul’s main pride event, Sarah had read about a small group holding a separate Transgender Pride. This was to be a first in Istanbul, with the march being held to bring awareness to hate crimes and discrimination faced by the transgender community living there. Transgenders are a minority in a minority, and one major problem is that they are often looked upon as outsiders by their local gay communities. This can often make the resources available to the gay community not as focused on the needs and requirements of transgender individuals.
Our first day in Istanbul we made contact with LGBTT activist Sevval Kilia, who immediately welcomed us into the community. Sevval works as a counselor at the Womens’ Door Outreach Program, which provides support for people in need.
I started out the gallery with just a couple of very simple portraits. Often these women are looked at as “exotic animals,” – I would see people photographing them from a “safe” distance, or just staring. With these portraits I wanted to show a very human side of them, which many people may forget to think about.
Many of the women that make up Istanbul’s transgender community are not just activists for LGBT rights, but also belong to many different Human Rights groups. Here Demet Demir, in red, joins a protest for the 30,000 Kurdish individuals who have disappeared in Turkey.
Hate crimes against transgenders have been on the rise in Istanbul. In the last year alone eight individuals have been murdered. A few days before we arrived, this young woman was attacked by five men on a public street. Police are of little help, and even when arrests are made, the offenders rarely see more than a slap on the wrist.
A woman asks me to take a photo of her holding a portrait of herself.
Sevval and Ebru Kiranci tape up posters announcing the date, time, and location of the Pride. Ebru is another woman who we would spend a lot of time with and come to admire.
A man reacts to Erbu’s flyer announcing the Pride.
The WWP’s Sarah Baxter and German film documentor, Maria Binder work on a proposal for much needed financial support. The proposal is sent to the Urgent Action Fund Group and much to everyone’s delight it is approved the next day.
The LGBTT office is a small and simple rented flat. This is where we would spend most of our time. The atmosphere here is very warm and inviting. Many people come in and out during the day, just to chat and to see how everyone else is doing.
The day before the pride a press conference was scheduled at the LGBTT office. Several journalist from the local press were expected to show, but not one did. The local press does not give favorable stories on the local LGBT community on the grounds of “morality” issues.
The girls shop for instruments that will be used in the Pride.
Erbu listens to a health discussion held as part of the Pride.
Michelle and several of the other participants get ready for the march.
What I thought was going to be a small and quiet event turned into a Pride of almost 500 people. I was really caught off guard.
Sarah and I had an absolutely great week in Istanbul. We met some really incredible and remarkable people, who were so open and kind to us both. We wish them all the best, and can not thank them enough.