An Interview With a Member of LGBT Community

Posted On 3/3/2019 7:44:00 PM, 4Comments

The following is an interview with one of my closest friends,Kaan(21) who moved to U.S.A to continue his education. It was a great pleasure to have him as my guest on behalf of the LGBT Community.


  1. In Turkey, what do people do or say (or not do or say) if they want to be seen as gay [lesbian] [straight]?

In a pre-dominantly Muslim country like Turkey, it is quite hard for LGBTQ individuals to be accepted by their families, and communities. Therefore the efforts people make to be seen as heterosexual exceed those which are made to be seen as gay or bisexual, however there are always some people who are brave in expressing their non-heterosexual orientations in such a heteronormative society. Once a society that provides the freedom to talk about your sexual or emotional orientations is achieved, I do not think there would be many things that should be said about those.

  1. How is this different in another country? How is it similar?

Even though it is impossible to say that the freedom of speech about one’s sexual orientation is as limited in most countries as it is in Turkey, I do not personally believe that non-heterosexuality can be accepted as a norm in any country or society, as in my opinion people tend to accept the majority as the norm. It certainly is a lot easier for LGBTQ people to come out in certain countries, like Spain, The Netherlands and France but I believe that we have a long way to go in achieving total and universal acception. 

  1. Why do people sometimes want to be seen as straight [bisexual][lesbian]? Why do they sometimes not want to?

No matter how many countries in the world grant their non-heterosexual citizens equal rights, protections and so on, I believe that as human species, we are inherently programmed to categorize various concepts as normal and abnormal. Sexuality is indeed one of the concepts that are debated the most, and where rules are being imposed in. Some LGBTQ people might want to be seen as straight because of the hurdles of being recognized as what they really are can cause them, however I do not believe that people want to be seen as LGBTQ sometimes, when they are actually not, as LGBTQ majority communities do not exist. 

  1. Is it easy to identify someone as gay ? Why or why not?

In a word it is ‘terrifying’. As for me, and I believe the majority of LGBTQ individuals in Turkey, there are several closets we have to come out of before we can start identifying as anything. We have to come out to ourselves first, as most of us have likely been taught that being an LGBTQ is wrong, or worse than being straight. The second one is when we come out to our families and close friends, which challenges us, as we are vulnerable to people that we care the most about and are not sure how they would react. Then we come out to our outer circle of friends and acquaintances and I would say that is rather easier compared to the first two closets we have to come out of. All in all, the oppression from people we do not know and the government/authorities is a never ending one, and thus even many LGBTQ professionals have to stay in the closet in fear of losing their jobs or being discriminated against. 

  1. In Turkey/your university, which gender identities seem natural or acceptable? Which do not? How can you tell?

I have recently transferred from Istanbul University to a college in The United States to continue my studies in the field of English Literature. In my experience the genders roles were a lot more aggressively defined in Turkey then they are in a higher education institute in The United States. The commonly practices understanding of the terms masculine and feminine seem to be the trend in Turkey as well as many other countries, including some western ones too. On top of that is marginal is usually considered unacceptable or unfavorable in Turkey.

  1. After people move from Turkey, do they change how they think about gender identities? If so, how? If not, why not?

As someone who has spent much time travelling and living in western countries such as the United States, France, Italy and etc. I could say very comfortably that the government’s approach towards gender identities is one of the most important factors that determine the public opinion. As for myself, I am sure even my opinion has slightly changed after my experiences. And for other Turkish expats I’ve come to know, I would again very comfortably say that their opinions have radically changed to be more acceptive of differences. When foreigners from more democratic countries, of which there are 109, move to Turkey I think that they are confused because of the seemingly homophobic society and the abundance of LGBTQ people.

  1. How about when foreigners move to Turkey?

Most campuses of Istanbul University are extremely dangerous for LGBTQ people, and we have seen people who have been physically and verbally harassed over the years, and the administration is determined to turn a blind eye to everything related to LGBTQ people. It isn’t really hard to imagine that the situation is similar to this most Turkish universities.

  1. What do you think to be an ally to LGBT students mean?

Being an ally to LGBTQ students means standing with a group of people who are unrightfully discriminated against, and bullied and looked down upon. It will probably put you under the spotlight of judgment, but make you feel good too. I think it is really important for LGBTQ individuals to have non-LGBTQ supporters, both morally, and emotionally.

Comments (4) -

Deniz Ortactepe
3/5/2019 9:00:41 PM #


Thank you Dilanur for interviewing your friend. I hope Kaan is a pseudonym ���
The first thing that attracted my attention was how he started his interview by relating religion to LGBTQ issues. This is something we didn’t discuss at all in our webinars, and religious beliefs are certainly factors that lead to hostile behaviors against LGBTQ members but not only in Turkey. Religion is a very powerful factor everywhere on earth, and even here in the States religious groups are attacking members of the LGBTQ community. Shameless actually has really good episodes about this.
I am afraid I agree with him in this: “we have a long way to go in achieving total and universal acception.”
I was really moved by his descriptions of coming out from cycles of families, close friends, and outer circles. Actually, I am really moved by everything he’s said in this interview. Very powerful! And very right on! Please thank your friend for me and I’d be happy to get to know him if he’s somewhere around!

3/6/2019 6:24:39 AM #

Thank you dear Ortaçtepe !
Unfortunately,people forget that the tolerance,peace and respect are prior to homosexuality in religions-especially in Islam.It should not be that hard to respect instead of breaking hearts by judging and harassing.The ignorance is actually a venom,I think.

Kaan Sener
3/6/2019 9:21:08 AM #

Hello dear Ortactepe,

I am pleased to find out that you were moved by the interview. Thank you very much for your support. Kaan is not a pseudonym, because even though I might not be fully out, I believe that using a pseudonym or initials in this kind of interview would be agreeing with the mentality that tells LGBTQ people to stay incognito or change their sexual identity, therefore I believe we will be more visible and significant as a group if we decide for our names to not be invisible and be brave enough to do so even in a country like Turkey where violence is often the answer to our call to be seen and recognized. I live in New York City now, but even with thousand miles between us, I am more than concerned with our community’s struggles, as well as the Turkish society’s wild turn to become a one man state. I do not know if you are in New York or on the East Coast at all, but would gladly accept to meet if it is possible. Thank you again for your admiration. You’ve giving me a lot of what keeps me motivated to fight.

Kaan Sener
561 10th Avenue, New York, NY

Bill Snyder
4/5/2019 11:58:04 PM #

Hi Dilanur,

This is well-done interview. I'm impressed with how clearly Kaan expresses the complexities of the situation of LGBTQI+ people not just in Turkey but in the world still. And I believe that he is right that the way forward lies in an honest presentation of self to the world. Yes, there will be hostile reactions from some. And for this, it does take bravery but I think that it also helps build community, both among the LGBTQI+ community and with their supporters.

I think this building of community is important for another reason as well. Kaan mentions that institutional structures in the state shape public opinion on issues like sexuality, and I think this is true. Institutions like education are often designed to preserve the status quo (As a cartoon I recently shared on facebook put it, "No one will give you the education to overthrow them.") but there are pressures in the opposite direction as well, and sometimes, eventually, the state responds to them.

The legalization of gay marriage in the US is an example. Public opinion changed well before the laws did in most places, and gradually reached a large enough consensus that institutions had to respond. It didn't take change in everyone's heart/mind but in that of enough people. And this is why it is important to take the brave step of being open to the world. There's evidence that what changes people's minds most if simply knowing someone from the LGBTQI+ community. From knowing one person, people do move to understanding that for their friend to have the life they want, whole classes of people have to be treated equally. I'm not saying that this would be achieved with equal ease (and it wasn't easy) in other countries with more top-down, authoritarian structures but I'm optimistic that even in those places, change must come if the public wills it.

Thank you all! This is an interesting discussion.

Best wishes,


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