I just watched “Edie and Thea: A Very Long Engagement,” a documentary about two women that fell in love in 1960’s America and waited 42 years to get married. It’s the first film I can remember that made me feel nearly every imaginable emotion ranging from joy to sorrow and anger to hope. In the end, I sat and cried. Perhaps it’s because of the “time of the month” we women suffer from, or maybe because it’s the most perfect love story I’ve seen (I’ve seen a lot). These two women are the epitome of love for every generation regardless of sexual orientation. Despite being “straight” in sexuality terms, I believe that (consensual) love is love regardless of who is involved in the loving process. There is so much hate in the world that requires infinite love to defeat it.
I tried my chance at supporting the right to love in Turkey at Gay Pride in Istanbul a few weeks ago. I left my very straight boyfriend drinking beer at Nevizade Street in Taksim to join the march down Istiklal Street. In order to even get to Istiklal I had to pass through throngs of riot police. As I passed a group of these young (sexy) police, I said “Kolay gelsin” or let it be easy, in terms of working. They said thank you and off I went to Taksim Square wherethe masses were formed to start the parade. About five minutes into my walk the sounds of tear gas being shot caused every to run towards the nearest shop. I ducked down and pushed through the quickly closing metal gate of some random clothing shop. There was no air
circulation in the store, and the locals and two German tourists were chattering about what the fuck was happening. After a bit of translation, the guy controlling the gate opened it and let me out. When I stepped onto the street I ran into TOMA, the lovely water canon vehicles we have come to accept as part of the street scenery in various cities around Turkey. Clearly this wasn’t going to be a Gay Pride parade, but a battle with the police, yet again, over freedom of expression.
I got my ass off Istiklal at the nearest side street, as an American woman with a camera during a “protest” in Turkey is somewhat of a Molotov cocktail. My dear friend (who will remain unnamed for security reasons) was in Cihangir, a neighborhood
nearby, but away from the conflict in Taksim Square. He and his fellow gays had tried to reach the square, but were blocked by police. So the fun began. There was a
lively and picturesque organization of people in the Cihangir area, so we were able to laugh along with the many colorful people that passed by. When tear gas came and people ran we retreated to a side street for a few minutes. This continued for an hour or so. The police remained, but quit firing tear gas, so we were able to stay in the streets enjoying the scenery with friends and watching the creatively costumed people celebrate. There were 20-something hipster girls holding signs saying “So what if we’re lesbians,” and “What kind of world is it
where everyone is loving”, alongside various chants that usually ended with an empathic “Ay ay ay!” in a high pitched scream of pleasure similar to an orgasmic female. The afternoon had finally reached an air of a proper gay festival. After some time, we gathered the courage to venture to Istiklal St. We fucked up.
A few friends managed to walk the pedestrian street towards the main area of commotion, but found themselves blanketed with tear gas. When they ran down side streets to find fresh air, they were met by men beating them with sticks. One friend described the situation as a horror movie. The government was clearly trying to silence any opportunity for free speech yet again. My crew of three and I walked as far as we could until the gas burned our eyes and nostrils. This day of celebration was becoming really fucking exhausting.
We retreated to a restaurant with a Bosphorus view to reenergize and recollect. After food and beer, we were ready to join the celebration again. My friend and I wandered
easily down Istiklal to the main area where people were drinking, singing and dancing in the streets with happiness. After maybe half an hour, tear gas was fired directly at us, so everyone scattered like cockroaches in a Bronx apartment when a spotlight is shined into their tiny eyes. I ran for the nearest doorway that just happened to be a cozy little bar I had visited a few years before. The owner was telling people to run up the stairs so he could close the doors. As people inside coughed and wiped their eyes from the gas, I searched for my friends. I found two, but the others didn’t make it in. So the search began for the others, who of course had dead phones from the long day of updating the situation on social media.
We watched with nervous energy, from a broken window in the bar, people on the street conversing, aka yelling, with the police. After about 10 minutes the streets remained empty and the police seemed to return to their corner, so I peed like I’ve never peed before, and headed outside again.
As the owner of the bar unlocked the door, I held my heart and said thank you. He embraced me with a death grip that helped me relax and prepare myself to hit the streets. His hug reassured me we would be OK and to keep up the fight. At least in my panicked state that’s how it translated. I walked out the door stronger and ready for more. I ran into two friends that were looking around the empty the street wondering what the hell happened. They had been in a nearby club, so they weren’t gassed like the rest of us, but instead were dancing freely in love as they should have been! We hugged and cursed the police, then ventured onward to find our missing
friend who turned out to be having tea and simit far from the conflict zone. Moral of my story- people should have the right to love as they choose (when the other party consents); the Turkish government is hell bent on killing any freedom of expression and happiness, and I will always fight for people that are oppressed or persecuted. Love each other and let others love each other. It is this simple.