Tutus, Turks and Tear gas: Istanbul Pride 2011

As some of you are well aware, I’ve recently been hanging out in Istanbul with about 30 amazing people from around the world talking about sex more or less 20 hours of the day (and dreaming about it for the other four). So it seemed somewhat serendipitous when we realised that we were in Istanbul for pride week and more importantly that the Istanbul Pride March was going to be on the afternoon of the last day of our institute. For some members of our group it would be their first march, coming from countries where homosexuality is illegal and can result in harsh punishment; from beatings, imprisonment and even execution (state sanctioned or other). So for these individuals, pride was more than just a party, it was a real opportunity to be proud, something like the true spirit of pride which can be somewhat lost in the big events with their choreography and flash. Not that I don’t love a bit of glitz and hairspray, but Istanbul pride was really about making the LGBTIQ population of Turkey’s presence known and appreciated.

Istanbul is the only pride march in a muslim majority country in the world and this, it’s 9th year, drew thousands of marchers from across the country and international visitors as well. It is a demonstration of solidarity, an opportunity to show the people of Istanbul that the LGBTIQ community exists and generally just a good excuse to party. There was no registration, no requirement to march as a part of a group, you just turned up, grabbed a rainbow flag or banner from one of the organisers and marched through Taksim, an area of Istanbul full of colourful nightlife, including many gay majority and gay friendly bars and cafes. Continue reading