On the occasion of November 20th, Trans Day of Remembrance, we decided to compile the discussions we have been having as trans fighters in one article. Similar discussions are undoubtedly being held by other trans comrades not only on the frontlines where the war is raging but also in all areas of the people’s war. In this article, based on our own experiences, we will try to evaluate the damage that the binary gender system and heterosexism cause to the people’s war and how it manifests itself in more insidious forms.
Trans+ TiKKO fighters
Achievements are increasing but transphobia changes its masks
The steps of the trans+ freedom movement, which is rising all over the world, turn into leaps forward within revolutionary organizations. The discussions carried out within the trans+ freedom movement are similarly influenced by its environment and are developing constantly. We see this more clearly in processes such as the TEKEL Resistance (1), the Guler Zere Death Fast Resistance (2), the Gezi Uprising (3), alliances with women’s movements, election processes, Newroz (4), 1 May, 8 March, etc. The interaction that emerges in such periods or in the agendas created by the trans+ movement sometimes turns into concrete steps within revolutionary organizations, and sometimes it just becomes a part of daily discussions without concrete steps being taken. However, although the gains of the trans+ freedom movement, which has been affecting the agenda in this geography for 35 years, have made tangible progress, our problems are far from being overcome within revolutionary organizations and in the areas where the people’s war is being waged. In fact, we can safely say that we are just getting started.
As with other forms of patriarchal and heterosexist violence, the more blatant forms of violence created by the binary gender system manifest themselves in our lives in different ways. Today, as a result of the fronts won by the LGBTI+ movement, breaches have been opened in the system and some changes have started to take place. However, the idea that everyone who is not visible is considered heterosexual and cis-gender is still quite strong. Moreover, the visibility that has been achieved is often based on stereotypes and presents a caricature of transness rather than its extensive reality.
Sexism against trans people is increasingly hidden under a liberal veil, giving a misleading sense of progress. However, as stated in the column “Half of the Sky” in the 37th and 38th issues of Ozgur Gelecek, “The fact that we have moved away from some crude aspects of LGBTI+ phobia such as ‘ignoring’, ‘mocking’, ‘not touching’ does not mean that we have overcome our disease.” The disease refers to the masks produced to hide LGBTI+ phobia, which continues to be a burning problem in the ranks of the people’s war today. The problems faced by trans+ people and cis-gender homosexuals and bisexuals are of course interrelated, but there are also differences. Today we will focus more on trans+ people.
Although visibility is one of the challenges of the battlefield, the problems do not become less, but they do change, after becoming visible. Even though the visibility of individual subjects creates a general sense of positivity, this visibility is limited to facts that are open to direct observation. However, these singular subjects who become visible can pay the price of visibility in different ways. If we come out as trans women, non-binary persons, or trans men, we face a series of problems ranging from the direct assignment of our sexual orientation to the manga we will stay in. In joint work with other revolutionary organizations, our trans + identity also confronts us when going to the front. In the ranks of the people’s army, positive steps are being taken to prevent these. The solutions produced without falling into opportunism are worth the price paid. Especially the decades of experience of women fighters and the fronts they have won turn into opportunities for us in this sense. The comradeship we have built with cis-gender women comrades continues to develop on the basis of criticism and self-criticism beyond a hypocritical sisterhood discourse. Our discussions with cis-gender male fighters are also bearing fruit. However, where the struggle against the binary gender system is not realized as a class struggle by understanding its historical and contemporary causes, the same excuses always come up.
One of those excuses follows the logic of “Of course, we are affected by the binary gender system! In the society we live in, we cannot eradicate it all overnight. As Comrade Mao said, the Yellow River does not freeze overnight.” While this claim defines the problem, it also legitimizes and excuses our situation and the deprioritization of the trans+ struggle. If we reject bourgeois-feudal morality, why do we advise trans+ people to think that we cannot continue the struggle in the current situation? The reason for our opportunist and pragmatist approaches is the same morality. The morality of the private property system.
Forward in the fight against transphobia!
When we express our commitment to trans+ comrades and the struggle for freedom, what is needed is effective policies and oversight of their implementation. Social expectations are contextual and we need to engage with them. Being trans+ means a lot of pressure to conform to rigid binaries and in doing so we face a lot of social backlashes. This social backlash is rooted in a wrong approach to class struggle. In this direction, we adapt our stance by saying “of course, this is not a matter of us, but of the conditions, we are in”. We allow the meanings of these methods to be defined by societal thought rather than revolutionary thought. When things get a bit difficult, the first thing that is abandoned is trans+ politics. This applies not only to society but also to the organizations that are our comrades in arms in the alliances we form. Some arguments may seem very logical, some methods may seem very useful, and some statements may seem very revolutionary. But what matters is which class we serve. Does it serve to deepen trans+ politics, which is an indispensable part of class struggle, or does it work against it?
As with sexism against women, we need to see sexism against trans+ people as part of a broad and powerful patriarchal system that manifests itself in deeply rooted mindsets, so we must first confront and fight it in ourselves and each other in order to change our class attitudes rather than just symptoms of oppression. In what ways should we all change the way we relate to gender roles in order to fight patriarchy and heterosexism? The issues raised are not abstract ideas, they are the immediate realities that we all live in, and we all struggle with in direct relation to trans comrades, so what does this mean for those of us who are cis-gender? What do our trans comrades need? What steps are we taking in this regard?
For trans people, liberation also means the liberation of all the masses of people from binary gender roles. As trans warriors participating in the war in the ranks of the people’s army, we know that freedom is not something “individual” as liberalism imposes on us, and we see that we are liberated together with our collective as we seek collective ways of liberation. In order for these steps of liberation to turn into leaps forward, we call on all our comrades, especially cisgender comrades, to deepen in trans+ politics!
This struggle we are waging in the ranks of the people’s army is the struggle to strangle the fascist AKP / MHP alliance. This alliance is the current representative of Turkish fascism, which organizes “big family marches” (5), attacks our existence at every opportunity, does not hesitate to burn even its own soldiers (6), and uses chemical weapons against our comrades (7). Turkish fascism is the enemy of nature and of our people of every nationality, gender, sexual orientation, and belief. As we end this article, we would like to state once again that we swear revenge for all trans+ people who lost their lives due to transphobic attacks and the impositions of the binary gender system.
(1) In Ankara in the winter of 2009-2010, workers from TEKEL company resisted AKP privatization
and employment policies. LGBTI+ activists joined the organizing of this working-class uprising, and through this many workers got to know LGBTI+ people for the first time.
(2) Guler Zere was a political prisoner, she got cancer in prison and was not given adequate medical care. LGBTI+ activists wanted to join the organizing for her release, this sparked many discussions in these solidarity groups related to their stance on LGBTI+ issues. Some groups accepted LGBTI+ organizers and some did not, but the discussions on the topic were fruitful and can be considered a step forward.
(3) In Istanbul in 2013, initially started as the defense of Gezi park against gentrification, but the uprisings quickly grew and spread throughout all of Turkey. Core issues were freedom of the press, expression, and assembly. LGBTI+ activists were on the frontlines, leading in fights and politics. Gezi protesters also joined in the 2013 Istanbul Pride March. These events are considered a turning point in LGBTI+ politics in Turkey.
(4) Newroz is a yearly (march 21st) Kurdish celebration of the coming of spring and the new year. It is one of the biggest celebrations of Kurdish culture and identity. Every year LGBTI+ activists join Newroz, and sometimes they are faced with discrimination and physical attacks during the celebrations. These attacks have led to discussions among political groups.
(5) In Istanbul, Ankara, and Trabzon the government organized anti-LGBTI+ marches, called “big family marches”. They were held this September and October. In each of the cities, the marches attracted thousands of participants, including islamist fascist groups and some Kemalist fascist groups. They are emblematic of the anti-LGBTI+ line that is being implemented by the Turkish AKP/MHP government.
(6) It has been extensively reported that Turkey is burning its soldiers, who died in the mountains
of Kurdistan, rather than returning them to their families. See angenglish.com/ecology/imagesconfirm-Turkish-army-setting-bodies-of-its-own-soldiers-on-fire-63525
(7) The Turkish state has been using chemical weapons in Kurdistan against opposing forces. Especially in Zap, Avasin and Metina, there has been heavy use of chemical weapons against guerillas in the mountains. But they have also been used in Afrin, Serekaniye, and other places in Kurdistan.