Michelle's first interview did not begin ostentatiously when her request for information was rewarded with: "Are you kidding me? Can a transvestite be a journalist?"
"Bianet" a Turkish English language news source interviews Ms. Demishevich and asks her "It's been a month so far. How is it going?"
"It was challenging actually. Because you are the other and they always make you feel like that. But you have to be strong. For example, we have common space for eating and smoking. The very first days people were poking each other and pointing me out. Women would go past me and laugh, I had no clue. In my opinion, women should have understood me better. Every time I was going through security, guards were causing issues even though they knew where I was working. The very first 15-20 days, I used to cry every time I got back home. But I made up my mind, I wouldn't give up. Security guards can call my boss every single morning. I love my work environment. I am just like everyone now. My gender identity is out of the question now. I love my job. At first, people were so surprised to see me write scripts and make announcements. I can say that people were astonished to see me as journalist. This is so important for me. I don't want to lose my job due to little mistakes. I get up at 6:30am every morning to go to work."
What kind of feedback do you receive from people?
I first reported from Sirkeci Police Headquarters. Officers were informing other journalists but ignoring me. I asked one of them why he was not responding my questions. I said I was a journalist, too. "Are you kidding me? Can a transvestite be a journalist?" he said. "You could be a cop, I can be journalist too," I said. They were handing out bulletins. They passed one to me as well, probably thinking that I was a lunatic or something. Other journalists ignore me, too. I greet them but they never greet back. There are a handful of journalists who don't hold a distance. I guess the rest will get used to it.
If I face discrimination at work, I cry all night and get back to work the next morning. I don't care, I suffered enough for my identity already. I came to this point by struggling. Nothing can bring me down. I learned how to stop fearing.
Please read the whole interview on Bianet Turkey's First Trans TV Reporter Reveals Her Story. So often Turkish news sources revictimize our family after they are murdered in Turkey. Perhaps this will be a new beginning.
Turkey: TransAction ConVergence "Demand Freedom" for Five Transgender Activists Türkiye'nin Beş Transseksüel Aktivistler Talebi Özgürlük
Demand Freedom for five
TransAction ConVergence joins with Episcopalian TransEpiscopal in calling for the imediate release of five transgender activists beaten, gased, falsely charged and held for trial on Oct. 21 2010.
For Immediate Release
(New York, October 18, 2010) Prosecutors should investigate the attacks against five transgender rights activists by police in Ankara and drop all charges against the activists, five human rights organizations said today. In a letter to Turkey’s Interior and Justice ministers, the rights organizations said that the police officers responsible for the attack should be held accountable and called for an end to violence against toward transgender people.
The five activists from the Ankara-based transgender rights organization Pembe Hayat were arbitrarily detained and beaten by police officers on May 17, 2010. Following a familiar pattern in Turkey, the five were speedily charged with resisting the police, before the prosecutor had concluded an investigation into their complaint of ill-treatment. Their trial is set for October 21. If convicted, they face up to three years in prison.
"Police ought to protect transgender people and their advocates, not attack them," said Hossein Alizadeh, Middle East and North Africa regional coordinator at the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission. "When police turn into perpetrators, it becomes painfully clear that official apathy allows leeway for attacks on transgender people."
The letter to the Justice and Interior ministers was signed by the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), Human Rights Watch, COC Netherlands, GATE - Global Advocates for Trans Equality, and the European Region of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans & Intersex Association (ILGA-Europe).
Four police officers from the Esat Police Station stopped the car the in which the activists were riding at about 10:30 p.m. on May 17 and accused them of intending to commit sex work. The women –Yeşim (Duru) Tatlıoğlu, Buse (Bülent) Kılıçkaya, Türkan (Deniz) Küçükkoçak, Selay (Derya) Tunç, and Eser (Nehir) Ulus – phoned for help, prompting 25 local human rights observers to go to the scene. The police forced the five activists out of the car, beat them with batons, kicked them and sprayed them with tear gas. Witnesses told the human rights organizations that the police screamed at the activists, "[f]aggots, next time we will kill you!"
"The Turkish government is turning us trans people into criminals, for no other reason than existing. Being trans in Turkey means being judged and condemned just because of what we are," said Mauro Cabral, co-director of Global Advocates for Trans Equality (GATE). "We are the crime: the government abuses us and forces us to live and die outside of the law, instead of protecting us."
Police handcuffed the women, forced them to kneel, and beat their heads and legs while one policeman told them their activism would not protect them. All five women, visibly bruised, were forced into a police van and taken to the police station. Police held them in custody until the next morning. They were officially charged on June 18, 2010.
Full press release (IGLHRC) Turkey: Drop Charges Against Transgender Rights Defenders
The Rev. Cameron Partridge of TransEpiscopal has this to say:
"We stand in complete solidarity with the five transgender activists as they go on trial in Turkey . We pray for their release, for the recognition of their human dignity, and that those who have treated these women in such a dehumanizing way would be held accountable for their actions. As we move toward Transgender Day of Remembrance on November 20, when communities around the world remember those who have died because of their gender identity or expression, we work to transform cultures of violence into spacious communities in which all of us can be who we are."
Please join TransEpiscopal, Integrity and other major international human rights organizations by expressing your concerns to the two Turkish Ministers:
Mr. Sadullah Ergin
Ministry of Justice
Address: 06659 Kizilay, Ankara, Turkey
Fax: +90 312 419 33 70
Mr. Beşir Atalay
Ministry of the Interior
Address: T.C. İcisleri Bakanlığı, Bakanlıklar, Ankara, TurkeyTel: +90 312 422 40 22
Walking with Integrity supports global transgender community
Turkish LGBT org. "Pembe Hayat"
Demand Freedom for Five Turkish Transgender Activists
TransAction ConVergence. Transgender, Transsexual, Intersexed, Asexual, Gender Gifted and Allied people converging on Facebook, the world's largest social network, to share news and ideas and to advocate.