Parents Get on Board With Turkey’s LGBT Movement

In Turkey, the word “family” often carries coded messages. A “family restaurant” usually means one with no alcohol on the menu. Director Can Candan has now made what he calls a “family film.” But far from catering to taboos, his documentary breaks one: Parents of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals in Turkey are speaking out for the first time in support of their children, marking a new milestone for the movement in the country.

Unlike other Muslim nations, Turkey has never criminalized same-sex relationships, and the LGBT struggle has grown increasingly organized and outspoken in recent years. But homophobia remains widespread, and die-hard patriarchal norms further raise the cost of coming out. For many it still means banishment; for others, death at the hands of relatives “cleansing family honor.” Transvestite sex workers bear the brunt of social stigmas, routinely harassed by police and often the victims of gruesome hate murders.

The documentary, “My Child,” chronicles the “coming out” of a group of parents who went through years of torment and soul-searching to join hands and line up behind their ostracized children. Shattering stereotypes in the Turkish mind, the film sends out a powerful message that the LGBT person is not just the flamboyant drag queen on TV or the transvestite working the streets, but more often than not the kid next door. Humble women and men, their faces wrinkled and voices trembling, gaze straight into the camera as they recount how they overcame denial and shame to re-learn parenthood and embrace their offspring. The final scene shows bewildered onlookers as the parents make a debut at a Pride March in Istanbul brandishing banners that read “My child is homosexual” or “My child is transsexual.”

“My Child” trailer from Can Candan –

“It’s a family revolution. No conservative pressure can now stop this movement,” Murat Akay, one of the parents featured in the documentary, toldAl-Monitorin Ankara.

The retired television producer is an extraordinary Turkish father, even by the standards of the brave souls speaking out in the film. While other fathers trailed behind mothers on the way to acceptance, Akay took the lead. His eyes well up with tears as he remembers the day several years ago when he took his teenager — a female-to-male-transsexual — to a nascent transgender association in Ankara to “see he was not a freak” and meet with peers.

“They embraced each other like long-lost friends and burst into tears. It was a moment that never stops haunting me,” he said.

The LGBTI Support Centre greets this film and the initiative of the parents in Turkey, hoping that it would be a positive experience for parents throughout the world. We also remind you that the LGBTI Centre has its ownsupport group for parents, families and friendsof LGBTI people, in which you can always find the understanding you need.


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