Ph.D student leads Rainbow Center lecture on gender in Turkey

Guest lecturer Caner Hazar, a UConn Ph.D student in sociology, speaks during his lecture at the Rainbow Center in UConn's Student Union on Thursday, Dec. 10, 2015. (Allen Lang/The Daily Campus)

America has made progress on social issues such as gay marriage, but with this surge towards equality there are still countries that are behind on civil rights. One such country, Turkey, was discussed at a lecture at the Rainbow Center Thursday afternoon, led by guest lecturer Caner Hazar.

“What do we understand when we talk about gender performance?” Hazar asked at the start of his informative and investigative talk.

Hailing from Turkey, Hazar’s research into gender performance gave rise to notions of the LGBT culture of his native country. He shared with those in attendance flooring observations about the state of the LGBT community, going into provocative detail. The research he presented examined the way law enforcement polices the country’s citizens and the strategies the oppressed community engages in, in order to be safe.

“There is no hate crime law in Turkey to protect you if you are fired,” Hazar said.

It is a grim reality in his country, where the law is out of control when it comes to the prosecution of hate crimes. All of the circumstances he presented come from the notion of gender performance and its interaction with the law. For example, there is homosexuality regulation via inaction about hate crimes. This leads to the decreased punishment of someone who would otherwise be committing a hate crime were it not for the gender policing.

If someone who is gay is not wearing an earring in the right ear, a signal the police require of them as a homosexual, then it is their fault for not adequately informing the public around them. These signals are called visible patterns by Hazar, the knowledge of which is part of his research.  These patterns change from neighborhood to neighborhood and if someone from the LGBT community doesn’t go by that neighborhood’s signal set and a criminal act upon them that could be a hate crime can basically not count as a hate crime, resulting in the reduced sentence of an offender.

This means members of the LGBT community walking through just two different neighborhoods may have to carry as much as changes of clothes and different shoes because these sets of signals change to that degree. These signals have become a part of the LGBT culture in Turkey. In no less words, this culture has adopted these signals to survive against the police.

“I think it is interesting how much the gender policing was manipulated in order to figure out how to find life for themselves,” Fleurette King, the Director of the Rainbow Center, said.

This gender policing goes as far as causing homosexuals who do not want to be publicly out to steer away from men expressing femininity, a visible pattern, so they can avoid the scrutiny from the law.

It is ostracizing the LGBT community from itself.

Beyond even visible signals, police are trained to assume that if someone is of a certain political orientation, then they can be defined as lesbian, gay, bi-sexual or transsexual and are to enforce the law based on that.

“It gave me insight into a part of the world that I wasn’t knowledgeable in. It was shocking and informative about that culture,” said Jose Silva, a fifth semester student majoring in chemical engineering.


Matthew Gilbert is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at matthew.gilbert@uconn.edu.