Pembe Hayat is an LGBTQI organisation based in Turkey and a member of IGLYO. To discover more about the many initiatives and activities, Pembe Hayat is involved in, we interviewed Ali Can for our usual Members’ Monday appointment.
1) What is your name and your role inside Pembe Hayat?
I am Ali Can Kalan, a transgender activist from Turkey working at Pembe Hayat LGBTT Solidarity Association as an International Affairs Coordinator. My main duty and repsonsibility include facilitating communications among my organization and international stakeholders (other NGOs, international networks, international human rights mechanisms, donors, etc.), as well as, raising funds for the activities of the organization..
2) What is a very exciting project Pembe Hayat is currently working with?
I believe that the most exciting Project that my organization has currently been working with is the Rainbow Coalition Against Discrimination. It is a networking Project supported by European Instrument For Democracy & Human Rights of european Commission. The Project involves Kaos GL (Ankara) and Black Pink Triangle (Izmir) associations as partners, as well as other LGBTI organizations (registered or non-registered) are forming the Advisory Board of this Project. It aims to enhance the capacities of local LGBTI organizations and activists to create their own local networks and provide them with sustainability at their activities; thus, to finally enable/ facilitate infrastructure appropriate enough for forming a functioning network platform of LGBTI organizations in Turkey. Right now there are 36 LGBTI organizations from 13 different cities of Turkey involved within the scope of this Project. And we regularly visit those cities to bring trainings to teachers and lawyers, as well as capacity building programs for activists, and awareness raising seminars to universities upon the requests and cooperations of relevant local LGBTI group/organization. And this Project really excites me. I am curious about its success withint next 2 years that the Project will continue running.
3) What is a priority in Pembe Hayat’s agenda?
Pembe Hayat is the first and the largest registered trans self organization in Turkey, established in 2006, by trans women sex workers in majority. Over the years, the profile of the organization evolved and there is an almost equal balance of trans spectrum right now at the association. Our priority agenda currently is to abolish arbitrary rule of law against trans people, and to raise public awareness on hate crimes in order to pressure government to pass an all-inclusive seperate hate crimes bill. The legal gender recognition is a hot topic for most of European countries, and so is it for us, too. However, the situaiton in regard to the gender recognition bill is a bit different than the rest of the Council of Europe countries. The law on transexuality and change of legal gender is available in Turkey ever since 1987 while it is limited with some series of severe pre-conditions, such as; forced sterilization, gender re-assignment surgery, pathologization, and divorce (in case previously married). Many trans self organizations in Turkey struggle against the arbitrary implementation of the existing law in regard to legal gender recognition since there is no standard implementation. Thus, besides fighting for a more inclusive LGR bill, our main focus gets stucked in the limited moving space with the existing law and how to make judges and state prosecutors to implement it alike, properly.
4) What are currently the main challenges for LGBTQI people in Turkey?
I believe that one of the main challenges is the shrinking space for civil society in Turkey. Another one is the ongoing violence atmosphere after Syrian civil war and the flow of refugees and asylum seeker into Turkey. The tension between the government and the Kurdish population is also another contributing negative impact which has on LGBTQI community in Turkey. These all have direct effects on everyday lives of LGBTQI people, as well as, on the activities of LGBTQI organizations. It is somehow limiting what we are capable of doing within the existing system, as well as increasing the individual and group violence against queer citizens. The normalization of politics and political atmosphere is a necessity for a breathing space of LGBTQI people here.
5) Why did Pembe Hayat want to become a member of IGLYO?
Pembe Hayat being a trans self organization does not only work with adults but also with trans youth and children; especially on how to give them legal, social and psychological consultancy. Therefore, we have a lot of youth Works involved in our activities, and most of our volunteers are trans youth. That is why we are part of IGLYO and the global discussion on queer youth policies. We wish to bring what is being discussed here to others’ attentions, and bring back what is discussed outside to where we live to enable mutual capacity and knowledge enhancement, experience sharing.
6)Which is the most useful advice you would like to give to an LGBTQI young person at present time?
This is something easy to answer for me, actually! Because it is part of my voluntary contribution my organization’s everyday activities to give pre-consultancy to trans youth. I suggest them to realize their true selves without hesitation or fear but with strong support from within their own power. Study hard (be it formal or not) because you need knowledge, be fierce and ambitious about what you wish from life because you will need that spirit to keep going on no matter what, and make friends and families (not only one family) because variety is spice of life!
Would you like to know more about Pembe Hayat’s work?