When I first began to discuss bringing a Hollaback branch to Istanbul, I received unexpected support from almost everyone I spoke to. Yet, a few shining exceptions to that general support revealed just how big of a problem we were and continue to try to tackle here in Turkey and in the world. We are up against an intolerance of others. For over a year, people have shared with me that they supported our work with women, but not those, you know, “alternative” types. Those gays. Yes, from the beginning, we have been been challenged by those with conditional support of a movement against street harassment. They had a mother. They had a sister. If someone touched them, that was absolutely wrong. But a transgendered person getting grabbed—well, lets not think that about that or those people.
My usual response to these conditional supporters is: ‘Harassment is a form of discrimination against someone else. Now an anti-discrimination movement discriminating on whom they represent—are you joking?’ We, as Canimiz Sokakta: Hollaback Istanbul, stand for everyone. We stand for people of all types. And we stand against harassment of all types. I am proud to be a part of this movement. As for anyone who wants to justify why we should protect the rights of only “acceptable” people, I invite you to email us at [email protected]hollaback.org and I will take time to answer you personally.
Sunday, July 1st will be my second pride parade in Istanbul, and I encourage everyone to join. It is a fantastic day, and I had a great time cheering and marching with pride last year. Tellingly enough, however, at last year’s parade, I was harassed. As we walked down Istiklal, holding a flag the size of a building, someone passing by spit on me. I was too invigorated by the day for it to really matter at the time, but I think back on it now. Harassment is ugly and disgusting, and someone spit on me because they disagreed with what they presumed was my lifestyle or they disagreed with my values. In all seriousness, why does someone think they have the right to show that disagreement by violating me? Can they not speak? Can they not engage in a dialogue where we are both conversing as human beings? No. This person and harassers like them have no understanding and respect for contrary opinions.
If we are left in a world where aggression and violence are used to put people in their place, are used to silence people, are used to belittle and disempower others, we are left in a world of dispair, anger, and combat. I have hope for us though. Every day, I see people passionate about tolerance, equality, and empathy. I see people trying to do good in the world by voicing their beliefs and opinions, and respecting others with differences. Despite a constant threat of violence, they tell the world that they exist and will no longer be silenced. That is what the Pride Parade is about. And I encourage you and your friends to attend in two weeks time. Because when we stand together we are the community we all deserve to be a part of.