Proving you’re gay to the Turkish army

“They asked me when I first had anal intercourse, oral sex, what sort of toys I played with as a child.“

Ahmet, a young man in his 20s, told officials he was gay at the first opportunity after he was called up, as he and other conscripts underwent a health check.

„They asked me if I liked football, whether I wore woman’s clothes or used woman’s perfume,“ he says.

“I had a few days‘ beard and I am a masculine guy – they told me I didn’t look like a normal gay man.“

He was then asked to provide a picture of himself dressed as a woman.

“I refused this request,“ he says. “But I made them another offer, which they accepted.“ Instead he gave them a photograph of himself kissing another man.

Ahmet hopes this will give him what he needs – a „pink certificate“, which will declare him homosexual and therefore exempt from military service.

Over the years, gay life has been becoming more visible in Turkey’s big cities. Cafes and clubs with an openly gay clientele have been opening in Istanbul, and last summer’s gay pride march – unique in the Muslim world – was the largest ever.

But while there are no specific laws against homosexuality in Turkey, openly gay men are not welcome in the army. At the same time, they have to „prove“ their homosexuality in order to avoid military service.

Gokhan, conscripted in the late 1990s, very quickly realised that he was not made for the army.

As a gay man he was also afraid of being bullied, and after little more than a week he plucked up the courage to declare his sexual orientation to his commander.

“They asked me if I had any photographs.“ Gokhan says, “And I did.“

He had gone prepared with explicit photographs of himself having sex with another man, having heard that it would be impossible to get out of military service without them.

“The face must be visible,“ says Gokhan. “And the photos must show you as the passive partner.“

The photographs satisfied the military doctors. Gokhan was handed his pink certificate and exempted from military service. But it was a terrible experience, he says,

“And it’s still terrible. Because somebody holds those photographs. They can show them at my village, to my parents, my relatives.“

Gay men say the precise nature of the evidence demanded depends on the whim of the military doctor or commander. Sometimes, instead of photographs, doctors rely on a „personality test“.

The Turkish army refused BBC requests for an interview, but a retired general, Armagan Kuloglu, agreed to comment.

Openly gay men in the army would cause „disciplinary problems“, he says, and would be impractical creating the need for „separate facilities, separate dormitories, showers, training areas“.

He says that if a gay man keeps his sexuality secret, he can serve – an echo of the US military’s recently dropped Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy.

„But when someone comes out and says he is gay, then the army needs to make sure that he is truly gay, and not simply lying to evade his mandatory duty to serve in the military.“

The social stigma associated with homosexuality in Turkey is such that outside the young and urbanised circles in big cities like Istanbul and Ankara, it is hard to imagine a man declaring that he’s gay when he’s not.

However, the possibility causes the military a lot of anxiety.

„Doctors are coming under immense pressure from their commanders to diagnose homosexuality, and they obey, even though there really are no diagnostic tools to determine sexual orientation,“ says one psychiatrist who formerly worked at a military hospital.

“It is medically impossible, and not at all ethical.“

On Gokhan’s pink certificate, his status reads: “psychosexual disorder“. And next to that, in brackets, “homosexuality“.

Turkey’s military hospitals still define homosexuality as an illness, taking a 1968 version of a document by the American Psychiatric Association as their guide.

Some people in Turkey say with resentment that gay men are actually lucky, as at least they have one possible route out of military service – they don’t have to spend months in the barracks, or face the possibility of being deployed to fight against Kurdish militants.

It is not uncommon for employers in Turkey to question job applicants about their military service – and a pink certificate can mean a job rejection.

One of Gokhan’s employers found out about it not by asking Gokhan himself but by asking the army.

After that, he says, he was bullied. His co-workers made derogatory comments as he walked past, others refused to talk to him.

“But I am not ashamed. It is not my shame,“ he says.

Ahmet is still waiting for his case to be resolved. The army has postponed its decision on his pink certificate for another year.

Ahmet thinks it is because he refused to appear before them in woman’s clothes. And he doesn’t know what to expect when he appears in front of them again.

Could he not just do his military service and keep his homosexuality a secret? “No,“ says Ahmet, firmly.

“I am against the whole military system. If I have to fulfil a duty for this nation, they should give me a non-military choice.“

When Turkish Men Love Men

Homosexuality is taboo in Turkey. But in Germany, Turkish gays have more freedom. Language, however, sometimes creates problems.

Metin was married in Turkey. After nearly eight years, he got divorced because his wife didn’t understand him. Being gay played no role in the decision, he said. He didn’t realize that he loved men until he came to Germany. Now Metin is one of approximately 15,000 homosexuals with Turkish roots living in the country.

For this group of people, coming out is the biggest problem, Metin said: “I am active, but I don’t identify myself publicly as a gay man. For familial reasons, because in the Turkish community, gays are not held in high regard. For me it’s no problem, but my family would be sad.”

The rainbow flag, a symbol of gay pride, flies in front of Berlin city hall for the annual gay pride parade.

Metin believes that German gays have it better because their families understand homosexuality as normal. He likes living in Germany. There are many more chances for gays, he believes. In Turkey, he would only be allowed to do a small portion of the things he can do in Germany.

In part, though, it remains a game of hide-and-seek. Turkish gays often prefer to stay in the immigrant scene and the majority of immigrants in Germany don’t come from the big Turkish cities, where there is more tolerance for people who live alternative lives. They mostly come from rural areas of Anatolia, where homosexuality is at best seen as a sickness.

Even though tolerance toward homosexuals has increased in the past years, people behave cautiously. It’s not difficult, however, for gay men with Turkish roots to meet people, said Metin. There are Web sites, parties and classified ads, for instance.

The Internet helps Turkish gay living in Germany to connect.

Lola is the founder of one of these Web sites: “Delidivane” has become an important virtual meeting spot for Turkish gays to meet not only Germans, but also other immigrants. Delidivane is “very international,” said Lola. She is heterosexual, but said she has a good understanding of gays.

In contrast to most gay Web sites, hers doesn’t promote sexual encounters, Lola said. The point is really to make contacts. “We have no pornographic pictures,” she said. “I don’t want to have them at all. And our members don’t want them either. They always say, Delidivane has to stay clean.”

Even if meeting people isn’t a problem, there are other things that are of concern to Turkish-German gays. AIDS is a special issue because many gay Turkish immigrants are not well informed and therefore the infection rate is higher, said Gökay, who works at an AIDS project called “Maasallah” in Essen.

A big part of the challenge is that much of the information material is only printed in German. “Even married men may prefer sex with other men,” Gökay said. “Because they do this without knowing about the AIDS risk, the risk of infection is relatively high.”

Maasallah is also concerned about lesbians, Gökay added. But Turkish women who love women seldom identify themselves publicly, and thus are hard to locate. “Many lesbian women are married,” he said. “I believe that’s the reason they hide. We can’t reach lesbians. I think this is because we live in a man’s world.”

When Turkish Men Love Men

Er sucht Ihn: Schwule Singles aus Duisburg

GayParhsip ist der Platzhirsch unter den Partnervermittlungen für homosexuelle Singles, aber auch in der örse sowie bei unseren Partnern sind homosexuelle Männer auf der Suche nach einem Flirt oder der großen Liebe. Die folgenden Singleprofile sollen dir einen ersten Eindruck vermitteln, weitere passende Profile kannst du nach deiner kostenlosen Anmeldung entdecken. 

 Er sucht Ihn: Schwule Singles aus Duisburg

Turks & Caicos – How gay friendly?

Hello! I’ve heard that Turks & Caicos is not very gay friendly. My gf and I will possibly be honeymooning at Ocean Club West and are a bit concerned about possible negative reactions to our being there. We are extremely low key and not into PDA’s but want to relax and be ourselves. The resort looks just gorgeous- exactly what we’ve been looking for. Any input would be greatly appreciated.

I dont know if this is too late for you but I would say that like most CaribbeanTHe Sands which said that they did not encountered any negative remark. That being said, Grace Bay is mainly visited from the North East, Canada and England and the visitors will not really care either way. Ocean CLub West is a good choice – better than Ocean Club in my opinion. Ocean CLub, Ocean Club West, Royal West Indies and The Sands tend to have more childrens. You may want to look at Le Vele although it does not have a restaurant there is quite a few nearby.

Ocean Club west is more family oriented but not? It has all amenities, restaurants, bar and it´s location is very you like for it!

We stayed at the sands and people are very friendly (a highlight of our trip). We brought our children- there are some there, but not overrun and well behaved. I agree most people (from North East, brits and Canadians) we met there would not be worried in the least about you and your partner being there- people are laid back and friendly. Enjoy!

We stayed at the sands and people are very friendly (a highlight of our trip). We brought our children- there are some there, but not overrun and well behaved. I agree most people (from North East, brits and Canadians) we met there would not be worried in the least about you and your partner being there- people are laid back and friendly. Enjoy!

Turks & Caicos - How gay friendly?

Meet interesting Turkish men worldwide on LoveHabibi – the most popular place on the Web for finding a handsome husband or boyfriend from Turkey. Signup free, create a profile for yourself, browse photos and get in contact with the man of your dreams today – wherever he may be.

Meet interesting Turkish men worldwide on LoveHabibi - the most popular place on the Web for finding a handsome husband or boyfriend from Turkey. Signup free, create a profile for yourself, browse photos and get in contact with the man of your dreams today - wherever he may be.

male saunas & hamams

Equivalent to the Western sauna, the Turkish bath or ‘hamam’ plays an important role in the Middle Eastern culture, serving as places of social gathering, ritual cleansing and architectural institutions.

Whilst these hamams are not gay venues, they are recommended to those who want to experience the history and tradition of the Turkish bath.

Equivalent to the Western sauna, the Turkish bath or ‘hamam’ plays an important role in the Middle Eastern culture, serving as places of social gathering, ritual cleansing and architectural institutions.

Whilst these hamams are not gay venues, they are recommended to those who want to experience the history and tradition of the Turkish bath.

Historical Turkish bath originally built in 1841. Tahiri Galatasaray Hamam was once a men-only venue but now has a section for female clients. Classic Turkish interiors with marble, tile work, etc.

There are some semi-private rooms. Massage service available.

steam room, massage, sauna, jacuzzi / hot pool, spa

Kuloğlu Mahallesi Turnacıbaşı Sokak 24, Beyoğlu, Istanbul

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9.85 based on 1765 reviews. | Spacious rooms. Close to shopping, sightseeing and gay nightlife.

7.6 based on 40 reviews. | Gay-owned & managed. Great location for sightseeing, shopping & gay nightlife.

cosmopolitan area and centre of art, entertainment and nightlife

major tourist destination and hub of Istanbul’s shopping and gay nightlife

This 300-year-old Turkish bath, with an area of about 2,800 m², is considered the last hammam to be built in the Ottoman empire.

This place has been visited by many celebrities and offers various types of services including Turkish massage, exfoliating, complete bath service and deluxe Oriental service.

steam room, massage, sauna, jacuzzi / hot pool, spa

Prof. Kazim Ismail Gurkan Cd. 24, Cagaloglu, Istanbul

· up to 75% off · flexible booking policy · refundable rates

Small, historical and popular bathhouse in Beyoglu. Attracts men of all ages. Massage services offered and private cabins available for a fee.

Firuzaga Mahallesi, Cukurcuma Cd. 6, Beyoglu, Istanbul

Male Turkish bath, featuring a dry sauna, 10-man jacuzzi, gym with basic equipment, heated pool, massage service, private cabins with beds, shower room

There’s a café bar serving coffee, tea, beer, soft drinks and snacks. Open 24 hours and centrally located – just off Istiklal Avenue in Taksim, on an alley opposite Aga Mosque.

bar, cafe, swimming pool, massage, sauna, jacuzzi / hot pool, relaxing cabins, gym

Gay-popular Hammam, located close to the Eastern end of the Ataturk Bridge.

Facilities include three bathing rooms, dry sauna and a number of semi-private spaces, spa service (scrub), massage services.

Relatively small (400 m²), gay-popular sauna with limited facilities that include a dry sauna, Turkish bath, private cabins, dark room, lockers and a small café lounge.

More popular on weekends, particularly Sunday afternoons. Massage service offered.

Istanbul · gay-popular gyms & spas

Flash Gym (500 m²) that has enough equipment to get your workout done for the day, including cardiovascular machines and free weights.

Conveniently located on Istiklal Ave (near Galatasaray Square) on the 4th floor of a historic shopping mall building, Aznavur Passage. Closed on Sundays.

Istiklal Caddesi Aznavur Pasajı No: 108, Galatasaray, Beyoglu, Istanbul

One of the more modern, professional gyms and spas in Istanbul. The Marmara Gym belongs to The Marmara Taksim hotel. Non-hotel guests and visitors can sign up for membership with flexible options.

The gym features state-of-the-art equipment and free weights. There is a large outdoor swimming pool with sun loungers, sauna, steam room and jacuzzi. Massage service are offered.

Group classes such as Pilates, Total Body, Crunch and Power Yoga are available.

cafe, swimming pool, massage, sauna, jacuzzi / hot pool, gym, spa

Gümüşsuyu Mh., Sıraselviler Caddesi 7, Beyoğlu, Istanbul

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Gay Turks and Caicos

You may have heard of the Turks and Caicos from a recent string of celebrities vacationing and getting married there. Hollywood has discovered the spectacular beauty and relative isolation of this island archipelago, known worldwide for it’s incredible diving and snorkeling. In fact, Turks and Caicos has the third largest reef system in the world, and it’s also a good spot to see migrating humpback whales. You might even see the famous dolphin JoJo, who is one of only 8 known dolphins to seek out the company of people in his native ocean environment. In 1989, he was declared a “national treasure” of the Turks and Caicos. The islands started gaining tourism prominence, however, in the 1960s when John Glenn happened to come ashore on Grand Turk after being the first man to orbit the earth. This exposure caught the attention of American investors who built an airstrip and gradually, the islands‘ resort status became full fledged after Club Med built a resort in Grace Bay.  Being separately ruled at times by Spanish, French, and currently British forces, the islands have a unique cultural history. They were never officially settled by any of these powers, so the culture on the island is its own unique blend based on the locals‘ own affectations. People who have lived on the islands for generations (and generally have what we’d consider citizen status) are known as “belongers” and aren’t subjected to immigration restrictions in relation to the amount of time they may remain in the Turks and Caicos. Many people can trace their belonger ancestry back to an African slave ship that granted their ancestors freedom by virtue of sinking offshore from the slavery-abolished British territory.    More than half the population of the Turks and Caicos lives on the island of Providenciales, and this is where the main tourism hub is also located. The famous turquoise waters of Grace Bay stretch along a 5 mile long beach, surrounded by uninhabited cays. This beach frequently wins awards for its beauty and worthiness to see and visit. The western half of the island is mostly wilderness and features the locale’s best natural attraction, Chalk Sounds National Park.  The weather of the territory is arid compared to the rest of the Caribbean, in fact, the Turks got their name from a cactus found in the area whose spiny top resembles a Turkish Fez hat. In the Summer months (June to November) the temperature ranges from the high 80s to the low 90s, and they receieve most of their rainfall—about 50 inches a year. In Winter (December to May)  the temperature dips to a chilling 75-85 range. It’s typically breezy and sunny though, and the water is a consistently pleasant 80 degrees.    Turks and Caicos may not exactly be completely gay friendly, but it isn’t not-gay-friendly either. It doesn’t really seem to concern most people except for the devoutly religious types. You shouldn’t have any problems if you’re hanging out at the resorts and touristy areas though. As a general rule when traveling in the Caribbean, you should avoid public displays of affection.   All things considered, the Turks Islanders seem to be a fairly friendly and welcoming people.

Capitalizing on Christopher Street Day in Cologne

When the city of Cologne hangs out rainbow flags for Christopher Street Day, it hopes to do more than raise awareness for the gay and lesbian community. The city is looking to make money off the giant festival. (July 6, 2003) 

Being Turkish and Gay in Germany

​​An unusual advertising campaign is making waves in Berlin: Posters and billboards of young good-looking men aren’t anything new. But these ads are funded by the Lesbian and Gay Federation of Germany with the aim of bringing homosexuality out in the open within Berlin’s large Turkish population.

With over 120,000 Turkish immigrants, Berlin is home to one of the biggest Turkish communities outside of the country. Despite being an important part of the liberal German capital, sexuality is still a difficult issue for the Turks in Berlin. The new poster campaign hopes to change all that by bringing homosexuality out into the open.

​​Showing five good-looking young mean wearing baseball caps, sweatshirts and low slung jeans, the bright yellow poster could be a typical advertisement for casual streetwear. Except that the slogan reads: „Kai is gay. Murat too. They belong to us. Always.“ Kai is a typical German name, Murat a typical Turkish one.

According to Bali Saygili, a spokesperson for the Gay and Lesbian Federation of Germany, the campaign has caused a flood of calls to the organization’s telephone help lines.

„After this awareness campaign, we had many calls from men from Turkish backgrounds who want information,“ Saygili said. „We even had parents who rang to ask, ‚My son just told me he is gay, how do I react‘ or ‚How can we reconnect with our child‘ because the family has had problems dealing with their child’s homosexuality.“

Twelve thousand posters and 50 billboards are plastered around Germany’s capital, from Turkish newsagents to police stations. The campaign is also supported by the Turkish Association Berlin Brandenburg. The organization’s spokesperson, Erin Ünsal, says that although homosexuality is still kept quiet in the Turkish community, there has been some change for the better.

„Even just a couple of years ago, it couldn’t be talked about. It was still a very taboo topic. But I have the feeling it’s getting better,“ Ünsal said. „It’s still not enough of course, but the poster campaign has greatly helped in getting the Turkish community to speak out. Naturally there has been criticism, but we have received much more positive reactions.“

Although it is illegal in Europe to discriminate against anyone because of their sexual orientation, prejudice against gays and lesbians still exists in Germany.

This makes it difficult for many people to come out, especially for those who belong to often conservative immigrant communities.

This can have devastating consequences including repressed feelings, living in fear of being shunned and even depression or suicide. Families also suffer because sons or daughters, brothers or sisters may move away rather than admit to being homosexual.

Sahin knows all about such difficulties. A German citizen with a Turkish background, he is also gay. But his family doesn’t know about his sexual orientation.

„Sometimes I find playing this game very difficult, because it’s simply a lie and I don’t know how much longer I can go on before I tell my family that I am homosexual,“ Sahin said.

„But at the moment, my family is very narrow-minded in their attitudes. In Turkey, homosexuality is hushed up, even though it exists. And my parents come from a very traditional region in Turkey, and it’s difficult to tell them that their son is homosexual. „

The campaign organizers believe bringing the topic of homosexuality out into the open in the immigrant community is vital. Not only for the psychological health of gay people, but also for their physical health. That’s particularly important for sexually transmitted diseases.

Birol is a gay Turkish man, whose family and friends know about his sexuality. He works with people with HIV/AIDS. He has first-hand experience on how silence about homosexuality can cause unsafe sex practices and increase the risk of AIDS.

„A large number of Turkish men live a double life, some of them married, and they go out in secret, and live their sexuality in the night,“ Birol said. „The connection with AIDS is a problem. We wish that people would come out earlier, but this isn’t the case in the Turkish community. But of course, being gay and being Muslim, is very problematic.“

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Coronavirus Update: Please note that some venues may be closed in line with local government advice. Please check the venue’s own website for the latest opening hours and information before making your journey. Stay safe and follow the local authority’s guidance in order to minimise the risk of transmission of the virus.

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