Lambdaistanbul LGBTI Solidarity Association

Lambdaistanbul is an organization that was formed by a group of LGBTI+ people, right after the governor of Istanbul banned the Christopher Street Day Sexual Liberation Activities (Pride Events) that were attempted to be held in July 1993. After this, the group that used to gather under the name “Gokkusagi” (Rainbow) took the name Lambdaistanbul.

Lambdaistanbul is an organization run by volunteers only. Our main goal is a society free from all kinds of discrimination, while our main focus is heterosexism and the binary gender system. We are organized in a horizontal, non-hierarchical manner, so we don’t have a chairperson, or any hierarchical structure, but we do have committees formed by volunteers for various issues (Activities, social media and communication, women’s committee, etc.)

In our early years, we organized regular Sunday meetings for queer people who need to find each other to share their experiences, and to realize that they are not alone. For this reason, we have also prepared a radio show that lasted for a year and a half (1996-97) on a prestigious local station of Istanbul, Acik Radyo (www.acikradyo.com.tr).

From 2002 to 2016, we had a permanent office / cultural center that is open to anyone and everyone. We held many activities there, such as discussions on various issues (“Why are queer people against all wars?”, “What is Queer Theory?”, coming out, etc.), LGBTI themed film screenings, solidarity lunches to provide LGBTI people with the opportunity to talk to each other in a relaxed atmosphere, where your conversation is not interrupted by loud music, dark, smoky environment (as it would be in a gay bar) and share the food we cook at home. Since 2016, we do not have a permanent space but we do continue our events at various places.

Each year, at the end of June, we organized pride activities to re-think Stonewall and to celebrate the fact that we are not ashamed of being who we are. During these activities, we had panels, discussions and presentations (history of the Turkish LGBTI movement, LGBTI movement in the world, etc.), films (“Stonewall”, “Documentary on Harvey Milk”, “Documentary on Aversion Therapies”, etc.), concerts, parties, dinners, etc. In 2013, we have handed over the organization of the pride weeks to an independent group of volunteers.

We organized pride marches every year starting from 2003. We marched a busy pedestrian street in the center of the city and we ended the march with a press statement. From 2005 on, we started to give out “Genetically Modified Tomato Homo/ Trans/ Biphobia Awards” to public figures who made public homo/trans/biphobic statements during the year. Of course they never showed up to get their award, but it still got a wide media coverage. 2007 pride week was the first international one and was a great success. There were many participants from many different countries. Vladimir Luxuria, a transgender member of the Italian Parliament at the time, was with us. The 2007 march had 1500 people, including a candidate for the Turkish parliament in the then-upcoming general elections. After that, the activities and the marches grew exponentially, but unfortunately came to a halt with the police intervention from 2015 on. Still, crowds gather for a protest on that day.

Lambdaistanbul LGBTI helpline was active between 2004 and 2016. It was open daily for two hours and people from all over Turkey reached us with questions on homosexuality and transsexuality, sex, legal matters, military service, etc.

We organized two symposiums on LGBT issues, together with Istanbul Bilgi University in 2003 and 2004.

Lambdaistanbul always tried to link street activism with lobbying activities. We participated in several demonstrations that contributed to the LGBTI visibility in the country in a significant manner. Together with Kaos GL (Ankara), the other main LGBT group in Turkey, we have worked out our demands on twelve articles of the new Penal Code and presented our suggestions to a member of the Commission of Justice of the Parliament in Ankara, which we also declared through a press conference, broadcast in various Turkish television channels.

Lambda is a member of CSBR (Coalition of Sexual and Bodily Rights in Muslim Societies) and ILGA (International Lesbian and Gay Association). We open stands during various fairs and festivals like Human Rights Fair, Alternative Music Festival, festivals at universities, H2000 Music Festival and give speeches on heterosexism at universities, conferences and symposiums.

In cooperation with various disciplines in academia, we have accomplished a very detailed survey that has been applied to 400 people and which gave us in-depth information on the problems and the situation of the LGB people in Turkey. The results of this survey have been published by Lambdaistanbul and the English summary can be found here:
http://www.wluml.org/node/2971

We have done another survey on the problems of the transgender women in Turkey in 2008 and it was published in Turkish in 2010.

Lambdaistanbul and other LGBT organizations in Turkey have formed an LGBT human rights watch platform in late 2006 and have reported and published annual LGBT human rights violations and have sent it to all 550 members of the Turkish parliament.

Lambdaistanbul also worked for years on a campaign to have “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” added to the equality article in the constitution of Turkey.

Lambdaistanbul registered as an association in the summer of 2006 and in 2007, the Istanbul City Government has made a complaint and had a court case opened for Lambdaistanbul to be shut down. The local court first gave a verdict to shut it down but then the Supreme Court overruled the decision and the local court followed the Supreme Court decision. However, the detailed ruling of the Supreme Court hinted that they might shut us down anytime, if we “engage in activity that promotes homosexuality” which is a very vague statement, open to manipulation, so we have taken this ruling to the European Court of Human Rights and it is still pending. On a positive note, this case has given us a big opportunity to campaign and make the public (both in Turkey and in the international arena) to question LGBT and freedom of organization issues.

In 2013, we have proudly added the “I” (Intersex) to the LGBT in our name and published a statement that draws attention to the intersex issue and a public apology to the intersex community: