Day 20 of 32 – Happy Thanksgiving (NSFW – if your workplace happens to be in Turkey)

28 Nov

Today I realized that all forty of my Thanksgivings have been Canadian. I mention this because on Thursday I was invited to my first ever American Thanksgiving meal / event / party. And it was great. Stuffing. Chicken pretending to be turkey (the food not the place). Beer. And a good mix of Yanks, Canuck, Turks, Swede and a ridiculous number of Finns (two).

So I spent the better part of the evening talking with one of the Turkish guys who happens to be gay. It was a fascinating conversation. I have some Canadian friends (and one American) who are gay and I talk to them pretty regularly but I’ve never talked to them about being gay. So the other night, dude was more than happy to answer my interview-style questions about what it’s like to be gay in Turkey.

Disclaimer – when I blog my travels, I’m reluctant to write about any of the negative aspects of my host country. This is because of how the human brain works – I could write a hundred articles saying that country X has the best toilets in the world but if I publish a single sentence about a single bookstore selling a single novelty item with a quote from Adolf Hitler, then that’s all the reader will be able to remember about the country for the rest of her life.

I’m told it’s his “big lie” quote and not his “Armenian” one.

I’m told it’s his “big lie” quote and not his “Armenian” one.

So here’s the thing about Turkey – the military service is mandatory for men. But, you can get an exemption if you’re gay. In the US it used to be that gays were exempt from joining the army. Of course the main differences between the two systems are a) the American statute has been abolished b) an individual’s decision to join the US army is a voluntary one and c) the manner in which the army goes about determining ones… how do I put this… level of gayness? Yeah, I think that will have to do.

In America, disclosure of this information is voluntary. In Turkey the current system involves an interview, a six-hundred-question psychological test, and then a second interview. And here’s the kicker – once you get exempted, you get to have your information in the giant, countrywide government database include a record of your sexual orientation. This is all very unsettling because the country has been moving in a more conservative religious direction. If an extreme government were to come into power, this information could be used to very negative ends.

It’s also a huge change from the previous system where individuals were required to provide video evidence of their homosexuality. I’m not making this up. And this system, it had to work inside a large government bureaucracy. Just imagine a bunch of (presumably) straight, old, Turkish army guys sitting around a meeting room trying to decide which sex acts are “gay” and which ones are not.

Somewhere there exists a written record of this meeting. Internet, don’t fail me now.

I really didn’t want to have the Hitler bookmark be the thumbnail. Here’s a photo of 2.5 litre bottle of Coke instead.

I really didn’t want to have the Hitler bookmark be the thumbnail. Here’s a photo of 2.5 litre bottle of Coke instead. We don’t have these in Canada.

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2 Responses to “Day 20 of 32 – Happy Thanksgiving (NSFW – if your workplace happens to be in Turkey)”

  1. Jason Chapman (@jasonAchapman) December 1, 2014 at 14:18 #

    This blogterview needs fact-checking. And a bibliography.

    • Die Hard Three December 1, 2014 at 14:24 #

      I ran it by a second source. She said it was valid. Also, I’m not googling this stuff from over here – need to stay below the radar. The Turkish cops aren’t afraid to hit you on the head and / or face. There are no repercussions if they do.

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