What is Queerstanbul ?
Some parts of Istanbul like Beyoğlu are generally considered safe for lesbians, gays, bi- and transsexuals. In recent years, Istanbul has experienced a boom of gay bars and pubs, clubs and hostels, and is conceived to have a flourishing gay metropolitan scene – it is conceived as a metropolis with a flourishing and vibrant urban gay scene – also by tourists. Since 2003, Istanbul’s LGBTI Pride March is organized by the organization “LGBTI Istanbul” every year. After modest beginnings with 30 participants in its first year, July 2013 saw thousands of homo-, bi- hetero- and transsexuals opposing Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan and homophobia with Gezi Park-protesters in Taskim square expressing their solidarity.
The LGBTIQ* Pride Parade is considered the biggest Pride Parade in South Eastern Europe. Even though queer people can express their sexual identity in public, homo- and transphobia are still a severe problem. Under the Erdoğan government, a strengthening conservative influence legitimizing itself via religion has become apparent. Voices addressing these grievances are growing stronger. At the same time, “Western“ perspectives construct a more and more homophobic “Turkish and Arab“ world.
Inspired by the research seminar“Global City Istanbul” supervised by Prof. Dr. Sabine Hess and Dr. Gerda Heck at the Institut for Cultural Anthropology of the University of Göttingen we developed an exhibition project with the aim to present our research results to the public.
The everyday life of homo- and transsexual people in Istanbul as the center of Turkey’s queer scene is the focus of our research. We looked into role of the metropolis as a melting pot of different cultural identities, as a touristic attraction, and as the home of choice for many Turkish homo- and transsexual people. In which urban locations is queer life (in)visible and how does is manifest? Which dynamics and processes of the urban appropriation of space are occurring especially before and during Pride Week? Which forms of queer life are present in Istanbul? With a focus on the emerging market of Gay Tourism and taking into account current debates on Orientalism, we analyze imaginations of “Western” and “Oriental” in queer everyday life of tourists and the Istanbul population alike. Our examples show how demand and supply in tourism determine local transformation processes.