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Culture

When Turkish Men Love Men

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

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Most Turkish men celebrate soccer, not gay pride.

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.”

Christopher Street Day in Berlin

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.

A game of hide-and-seek

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.

Internet-Café

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.

A way to reach out to others

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.”

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