CHALLENGES OF TRANS INDIVIDUALS IN SOCIAL AND EMPLOYMENT AREAS
Turkish society; While it has a traditional structure with the effect of the geography, it has also been under the influence of western culture. Therefore, it is in conflict arising from this synthesis. This conflict creates many disadvantaged groups in society.
We also focused on trans individuals from disadvantaged groups in society and their problems. While conducting this research, we set out to draw attention to the problems of transgender people and to raise awareness.
The society’s abstraction or attempts to isolate transgender individuals form the framework of the problems we encounter during this research. Trans people do not have rights at the constitutional level and are marginalized and excluded by the state. The vast majority of trans people, who cannot freely live their sexual identities, cannot provide the financial resources they need to continue their lives, and they are not employed. Based on this, there are many transgender individuals who have to become sex workers. They cannot benefit from education and health services, which are their most natural rights. Since the patriarchal and conservative social structure defines the life of trans people as immoral, they are condemned to a lonely and isolated life. It is another fact that they lose their health by being exposed to physical and psychological violence. The state and society, which does not care about the problems of transgender people, deepens this wound.
In our research, reach trans individuals using the snowball method. We contacted 19 people and interviewed 9 people. During these interviews, we recorded 642 minutes of audio. Apart from these meetings, we contacted associations such as SPoD, Listag, Istanbul LGBTT, and KaosGL magazine.
1. What is Transsexuality?
Our gender, which is determined by our anatomical, genetic and biological characteristics at birth, is called ‘biological sex’. When the person is 2-3 years old, the feeling of ‘I am a girl’ or ‘I am a boy’, that is, his ‘sexual identity’ begins to form. Although the sexual identity of the majority of people is compatible with their biological sex, some people may feel that they belong to the opposite sex, not to their biological sex (for example, a person with female genitalia defines himself as male at birth, or a person born with male organs defines himself as female…). This situation where sexual identity and biological sex do not overlap is called ‘transsexuality’. Transgender individuals may need medical (hormonal and/or surgical) intervention to overcome this incompatibility they experience.
2. History of Transgender
Since the history of humanity, it is known that some people feel that they belong to the opposite sex. However, the concept of transsexuality was first used by Magnus Hirschfeld in the early 1900s. He defines this situation not only in terms of dressing, but also as feeling himself in the characteristics of the opposite sex mentally and physically.
3. First Transsexuals
The first transgender to be recorded is Danish-born Einar Wegener. Born in 1882, Wegener married at the age of 22 as a man. He is also a successful artist and his wife is a painter like himself. They did not feel the need to hide as their spouse accepted and embraced the situation. The name she uses as a woman is Lili Elbe. She had five surgeries as Lili Elbe, died in Germany in 1931 and was buried as a woman. Lili Elbe’s life has also been the subject of the movie ‘The Danish Girl’.
In Turkey, the first recorded sex surgery belongs to Serbulent Sultan. However, since Serbulent Sultan was born as a hermaphrodite, she did not experience a complete gender change while continuing her life as a woman in the operation she underwent at the age of 18. The first transsexual is the famous artist Bülent Ersoy. Bülent Ersoy, born in 1952, has been an important step in terms of awareness of trans people in Turkey after the operation he had in England in 1981.
4. Transsexuality in the World and in Turkey
As in every subject, the perspective of trans people differs according to countries and geography. While the constitutional and social rights of trans people are protected in well-educated societies, they are prohibited and not accepted in many societies. For example, while Scandinavian countries and countries such as Canada and Australia display an egalitarian approach in this regard, transphobia is high in peripheral countries such as the Middle East or African countries. in Southeast Asia; In countries such as the Philippines, Thailand and Singapore, there is a dense trans population compared to the world. The situation is considered normal in the geography, but almost all trans people work as sex workers and this has become an industry.
When we look at Turkey, trans individuals continue their lives under difficult living conditions. There is no egalitarian structure, there are many obstacles in front of them in social and legal terms.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience, and they should treat each other in a spirit of brotherhood.” It starts as. However, as in many parts of the world, this article has no validity for trans people in Turkey. To list some of the basic rights that trans people are discriminated against; education, health, social security, marriage, employment, housing emerge as the most important ones.
1. TRANS INDIVIDUALS IN SOCIAL INEQUALITY
Gender-based discrimination is based on the assumption that gender roles are ‘natural’ and unchangeable, dependent on our biological existence. This assumption is wrong because gender roles change both over time and from culture to culture. The fact that men and women are different from each other is not simply experienced as a ‘difference’, but also the justification of inequality and discrimination is based on this difference. Diversity is maintained and reinforced by producing and reproducing the common patterns of Femininity and Masculinity. Discrimination is one of the most important tools that maintain the existence of these patterns. Trans individuals, who are among the most disadvantaged groups of society, suffer greatly from this gender-based inequality and discrimination. In addition to the psychological damage caused by being not accepted by the general public, many of them have been exposed to persecution, bullying and physical violence. The biggest factor that feeds inequality against transgender people is the unequal approaches of legal rules as well as social norms. The legal framework that will protect transgender people from discrimination and hate crimes does not exist in Turkey, as in many other countries. In addition, it is not possible for them to marry the gender they want to marry in accordance with their sexual orientation, in accordance with the rules of law.
1.1. EXCLUSION FROM CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS
The constitutional rights they should have are not recognized by the law, and they are marginalized and discriminated against in social life. Trans people are treated as a homogeneous group and excluded.
Deniz describes their deprivation of constitutional rights as follows:
Just think about the fact that you can’t marry the person you love even though you wanted to. How can the reason for marriage be to be of different sexes, if you put this as the reason, then why is it that the gender I belong to? you make it so difficult to give your identity.(…) Why do we have to deal with such difficulties when those with the same gender they are born with have such a right, this is my right, how can you deprive me of this.(…) [Trans man]
While all heterosexual individuals have the right to marry, LGBTIQ+ individuals are legally discriminated against. In addition to the fact that homosexual relationships have no place in the law, there are many difficulties in obtaining the identity of their gender. For example, transgender individuals who need a psychologist’s report in order to have their identities ‘crawl’ in hospitals for years.
1.2. EXCLUSION, EXCLUSION AND DISCRIMINATION
They are exposed to social inequalities as well as legal discrimination. They are excluded from social life by being marginalized in addition to the pressure they face from their families and friends. Yener told us about this issue:
(…) I had an older brother, we were hanging out, his wife and I were spending time together and doing something. He said to me one day; “I want to try a fantasy with my wife, but I don’t want a biological man with us, you became a later thing, I’m not jealous of my wife.” By saying that, they invited me to fantasies in this way.[Transgender male, 24]
Although Yener feels like a man because she is not a man biologically, she is not considered a man around her. Because transgender people are ‘a later man’, they are segregated from other men and treated differently. They are viewed as a homogeneous group and marginalized in social life.
1.3. CONSERVATIVE SOCIETY STRUCTURE
This geography we live in has a traditionally patriarchal society. When this social structure is combined with the conservatism that has settled in the country, trans individuals are considered immoral within the moral norms determined by the society. It is portrayed as their fault that they have souls trapped in the wrong bodies. Trans people are viewed as ‘infidels’ and their gender reassignment is defined as ‘shameful’. Çağlar told us the following about this issue.
(…) When people talk about religion with me, they turn to me and say; They say things like “You are an infidel, you do not understand these matters anyway”. Just because I changed gender, I am now considered apostate. When I first mentioned this to my mother; She said to me, “Repent, my daughter, your path is not the road, turn from this road”. The result is that we don’t see each other anymore.[trans male]
Çağlar, who has a conservative family, is only one of those who had to leave his home and family before he could even open up to his father due to such reactions of his mother.
1.4. THE STRUCTURE OF ATAARRICH SOCIETY
In addition, when the patriarchal social structure we have is left with a dominant gender like masculinity and the transition to the ‘gender ruled by the man’ like femininity, trans women are exposed to more discrimination and harassment in society than trans men. Trans women are viewed as sex workers and perceived as ‘their only function is to decorate men’s fantasies’. Emel told us about this issue with these words:
When you leave a high level as a man and become a woman, it is more difficult for you to be accepted by the society.(…) According to them, we only have the right to go out at night. Even the way we walk on the road as if we are perverts is projected as a provocative act.[Transgender woman, Activist]
For this reason, we had much more difficulty in reaching trans women throughout our research. The number of trans men we can reach is twice the number of trans women we can reach. In this country, where the male and female population is almost equal – 49.8 for women, 50.2 for men – women are among the disadvantaged groups of the country. Therefore, every individual who is a trans woman has to deal with the difficulties of being a woman as well as the difficulties of being trans.
2.TRANS INDIVIDUAL AND WORKING LIFE
Working life is one of the areas where discrimination is experienced most intensely for transgender people. Because the right and freedom to work are among the most fundamental rights of the individual within the scope of economic and social rights. And like everyone else, transgender people have to work to ensure their financial well-being. Although the right and freedom to work is a constitutional right, for transgender people, this right is still an issue that needs to be tackled in our country.
Mobbing can be defined as the social bullying of a group of people against someone or another group. Psychological violence means pressure, siege, harassment, inconvenience or distress. The most expressive meanings are intimidation or psychological terror in the workplace. The already poor working conditions in our country place even greater pressure on transgender people. Trans individuals, who have difficulty in finding a place in business life, are also exposed to mobbing in their workplaces. Many resign or are forced to quit for this reason. They are subjected to all kinds of transphobic and sexist attitudes in business life, including the processes of applying for a job, being recruited, being promoted, leaving the job, and being unskilled. Masal told us the following about this issue;
I have been working at the place where I worked before for about 2 years. Although they have put the burden of many jobs on my shoulders since I got the job, neither my position nor my salary has increased. When I asked for a raise, I couldn’t stay there any longer when I got the reaction “Are you not praying that I made you work like this, but you also want a raise from me without shame”.(…)[Trans Woman, Sales Consultant]
Due to the mobbing that the tale suffered at work, she had to hide her identity in the new workplace. Many more trans people, such as Masal, are exposed to verbal and physical harassment, insults and humiliating attitudes, many times by their colleagues, employers and customers in the working environment.
2.2.LIMITED WORKING AREAS
There are many transgender individuals who have to continue working at the same workplace despite being exposed to mobbing, because they cannot afford to be unemployed due to the limited workspace. Alper told us about this:
(…) I have been unemployed for about 3 months. I applied to many places, most of them were rejected
There was no answer.[Trans man, Unemployed]
The limited working areas of transgender people and even the fact that they are at the ‘mercies’ of their bosses to be employed in these limited areas creates financial difficulties for many of them or they are forced to do many jobs that they do not want to work.
*The pseudonym has been used.
As can be understood from all these findings, transgender individuals can be considered as a disadvantaged group in all areas of life. Although they face many problems in all their socialization processes, most of them are forced to turn a blind eye to psychological violence in order to continue their lives. However, all these behaviors towards trans people in our country have reached such unbearable levels that along with hate speech, trans murders have increased at the same rate. These murders go unpunished in the legal dimension as well as in the social dimension. As a result of this research, we tried to make it visible how difficult the lives of transgender individuals are and how society makes life even more difficult for them.
GENDER/BIOLOGICAL GENDER: Going beyond the idea that there are two fixed gender identities is a new and difficult idea for some of us, while for others it is life itself. “Biological sex” and “gender” are separate but related concepts. Biological sex is generally defined by a person’s biological characteristics such as penis, testicles, vagina, uterus and so on. These are the characteristics that anatomically define a person as male or female. “Gender” or, as the medical term, “sexual identity” is used in various meanings. Sometimes the concept of “gender” refers to gender roles or expressions—features of behavior that are considered “masculine” or “feminine” in a particular culture at a given time period. These traits can range from hairstyle and clothing style to the way people speak or express their emotions. The concept of “gender” can also be used to express gender identity—our internal perception of ourselves as male, female, or transgender.
SEXUAL ORIENTATION: It refers to the ongoing emotional, romantic and sexual attraction towards an individual of a certain gender. It is one of the four elements that make up sexuality. The other three elements related to sexuality are; 1-Biological gender, 2-Gender identity (psychological sense of being male or female) 3-Gender role (adjustment to cultural norms that determine masculine or feminine behavior). The three defined sexual orientations are; -Homosexuality is when a person turns to one of his own sex, -Heterosexuality is when one turns to someone of the opposite sex, -It is bisexuality when one turns to both genders. Sexual orientation differs from sexual behavior in that it includes emotions and self-concept. Individuals may or may not express their sexual orientation through their behavior. Whatever the individual calls his own sexual orientation is essential.
KARŞIT CLOTHING-TRA(NS)VESTISM (TRANSVESTISM): It is the wearing of clothes belonging to that sex and acting like the opposite sex in order to temporarily live like someone of the opposite sex. There is no desire for a permanent sex change or related hormonal/surgical treatment. This term corresponds to Crossdresser in Europe, but in our country it is more confused with transsexuality.
TRAVESTI: A person who desires to belong to the opposite sex, mostly with his appearance and behavior. This word denotes transvestism in the person. When people say transvestite, mostly men in women’s clothing/behavior come to mind, but the word transvestite actually applies to both men and women; that is, it is also used for women in men’s clothing/behaviour.
TRANSSEXUAL: A person who identifies as someone of the opposite sex. It applies to both men and women. A person can want to be a woman even though he is a man, or he can want to be a man even though he is a woman. However, transgender is more of a defining word for spiritual tendencies. It is the person’s seeing and feeling himself as someone of the opposite sex in his inner world rather than his behavior. Therefore, it is out of question to identify transgender individuals from their appearance. Because individuals do not always reflect their feelings of the opposite sex on their appearance. Transsexuality refers to gender identity; It has nothing to do with the sexual orientation of individuals. A transgender individual may be heterosexual, bisexual or homosexual. * Among the people, transvestites, those who did not become women after surgery, but who assumed a female identity only with their appearance and behavior; transgender, on the other hand, are established words used to describe women who have undergone surgery beyond clothing and behavior. However, being valid for both genders, having or not having a gender reassignment surgery should not be the determining feature in the definitions. The definition that the person brings about how he/she feels should be based on.
TRANSGENDER: It is an English definition to cover all of the women or men who have undergone or not undergone any surgical intervention, who interfere in some way with their biological sex and appearance, and includes both the definitions of transvestite and transgender in Turkish. In English, it is the T in LGBT abbreviation. Although it is widely used abroad, this term has not gained much popularity in our country.
Heterosexism: An ideology that asserts heterosexuality is the only sexual orientation and ignores, suppresses or humiliates other sexual orientations. Sexism (sexism), which is discrimination against women, is the version of non-heterosexuals. Heterosexism is the state of seeing heterosexuality as a necessity and imposing it as the only mode of existence.
According to the definition in Gordan’s sociology dictionary, heterosexism is defined as ‘a wide variety of social practices (from linguistics to physical, public and private) in which heterosexuality is ascribed a privileged role in a range of social arenas involving same-sex homosexuality as opposed to heterosexuality in which people of the opposite sex have intercourse. It is a term that describes the field, either explicitly or implicitly. Heterosexism is not a stand-alone situation against homosexuality.
HETERONORMATIVITY: It is the acceptance of heterosexuality as the normal and only sexual orientation, and the acceptance of social values, rules and lifestyles as if everyone is heterosexual. The division of people into men and women; It is a set of beliefs, thoughts, and norms that claim that sexual relations/marriages can only be between people of the opposite sex and that each gender has its own roles.
HOMOPHOBIA: It is generally defined as negative feelings, attitudes and behaviors towards homosexuals. Far from being a personal fear and an irrational belief, homophobia refers to an intergroup process that occurs in a political space that needs to be addressed in relation to culture and meaning systems, institutions and social traditions. Homophobia can be seen as an ideology of intergroup relations, which is affected by more individual processes (personality, self-perception, cognitive structures, etc.), which is formed as a result of the conceptualization of homosexuals and bisexuals as an outgroup and accompanied by certain stereotypes. Homophobic ideology is not formed as a personal trait per se, but within a certain socio-cultural context. Despite all its roots in cultural and individual conditions and processes, many social psychologists think that homophobia can be understood in terms of racism and sexism (sexism). In this sense, homophobia is an important extension of sexism. Violence against people with sexual orientations other than heterosexuality becomes a mechanism for the “protection and control of humanity” through the sexist use of masculinity.
TRANSPHOBIA: It describes the prejudice and hatred towards transvestites and transsexuals. It is a kind of expression of anxiety and fear against those who change gender by not complying with the sexual and social roles expected from them due to their biological gender.
KAOSGL: Kaos GL group is an LGBTI association that has been publishing Kaos GL magazine since its establishment. . Since September 2000, it has been organizing cultural events, meetings and film screenings at the Kaos Cultural Center and has also established the first LGBT library. In addition, she provides consultancy and services on many subjects from social services to psychology, from law to refugee field. Kaos GL, who has been organizing the International Meeting Against Homophobia since 2006, is also the founder and organizer of the Regional Network Against Homophobia, which is the umbrella of the local anti-homophobia organizations working in the Balkan, Caucasian and Middle Eastern countries to share experiences and fight together.
SPoD: Social Policies Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation Studies Association, or SPoD in short, started its activities with the establishment of the association’s headquarters in Beyoğlu on September 21, 2011. is an LGBT association that fights against social exclusion and discrimination. Although the association was newly established, it has undertaken the advocacy of many cases in Turkey that are examples of hate crimes and hate murders against LGBTIQ+ individuals.
TRANS-X TURKEY:Trans X Turkey is an internet portal about trans people in Turkey and to support their rights. This portal has been developed with a trans perspective and will be run by transgender people.
Istanbul LGBTT Solidarity Association is one of the main partners of the Trans X Project.
LISTAG: Association of Families and Relatives of Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans Intersex Individuals, or LISTAG for short, is an association established to support the families and relatives of LGBT individuals. The group regularly holds meetings, brings the relatives of LGBTIQ+ individuals together, and carries out activities to inform them and the society about LGBTIQ+ and homophobia.
ISTANBUL LGBTT: A social assistance association that protects the rights of trans people and opens trans shelters, aiming to provide psychological and spiritual assistance to them.
ŞAHİN Salih, (2015) LGBT Rights Handbook for Labor and Social Security, 1, Kaos GL Ankara,2015.
ŞAHİN Salih, (2015) LGBT Rights Handbook for the Ministry of Interior, 1, Kaos GL Ankara,2015
YALÇIN Sezen, HAT Deniz, AKIN Mehmet, EKİNCİ Sultan, (2014), LGBTI Rights in Local Politics, Cansu Atlay, 1, SPoD, Istanbul, 2014.
KARSAY Dodo, (2015), UN Advocacy Handbook for Trans Activists, Emirhan Deniz Çelebi, 1, Ayrıntı Publishing House, Ankara, 2017.