Istanbul moves forward with plans for Pride festival, HEAR+QWERE holds fourth forum


On Tuesday, Istanbul's Pride Committee launched an Indiegogo campaign to fund their 2018 Pride Week, which they expect to celebrate June 25th through July 1st.

For the past three years, Pride marches have been banned in Istanbul while other Pride events such as LGBTI film festivals have been shut down due to social sensitivities.

In November, Turkish Governorate used powers under the state of emergency, in place since a coup attempt, to impose an indefinite ban on all public events by LGBTI organizations in the city, citing “public safety,” “safeguarding general health and morals,” and “safeguarding the rights and freedoms of others,” according to


Last weekend, on an active Saturday near Istanbul's Taksim Square, SPoD, a social policy, gender identity and sexual orientation studies association, hosted our HEAR+QWERE open conversation. It was a morning of new beginnings. 

A trans man shared that he'd just began mentoring someone else at the beginning of their transition. A small-town Greece native had just moved to Istanbul five days prior. And Luca was experimenting with their new name.

Nine of us explored our experience and trepidations with coming out and the pressures we feel to adhere to social standards.

"As a newly come-out trans guy in Turkey, I was expecting more harassment. Positively, I have not experienced any of it. People are very supportive and in work environments I have good support. Also as a stigma, people have an image of how a Turkish man should be. That's the difficulty I'm facing."

I’m bisexual and in the movement and still bisexuals are feeling pushed aside. Sometimes we forget the intersex and bisexuals. Maybe we can be more inclusive of our works within the community.
— H+Q: Istanbul

Safety was a talking point and the group agreed there were a handful of areas in Istanbul where they felt safe. And though the Turkish queer community is becoming more visible, there is still lots of progress to be made.

"I was in Southeast Turkey not far from the Syrian border talking to a queer community who met in secret. They can't even go into cafes because they're being targeted. They get hunted down. They can't be themselves on the street. [Being gay is accepted] in Central Istanbul, but once you leave these areas it's very difficult."

On the subject of film, which was a topic born during a New York conversation about Call Me By Your Name, another LGBTQ blockbuster was mentioned: The Danish Girl.

"Generally, I find that a lot of movies put us in a difficult light and are a different way than I feel," said an Istanbul attendee. "[With] The Danish Girl, I was sad they didn't show how happy she lived afterward [her transition]. She was a happily married woman. They finished with a sad death, alone in a hospital."


Because the stars are always aligned, an organic conversation began on May 15th during HEAR+QWERE: Bucharest at M60 Cafe. A younger Nigerian guy sat down across from me with his lunch and laptop, and a conversation about culture emerged.

Childish Gambino's "This Is America" had just dropped so we dished on that, and he also mentioned series like Issa Rae's Insecure and Atlanta as his modern Black American media representatives.

Living in Bucharest post-education to work with a start-up, the guy said he soon plans on moving closer to his parents and siblings who live in Ohio.

He was shocked to hear about the low percentage of Black Americans and cost of living in the San Francisco Bay Area. And though I never mentioned H+Q: Bucharest to him, our conversation organically created a total of one participant.

For more information on SPoD in Istanbul, visit their website.


The next HEAR+QWERE session will be in Oakland on May 30th at 7:30 pm. For details and to RSVP, email or visit