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Gender matters: stories from Istanbul

Public access

Open (the accompanying exhibition, SEX SHOOTER is 18+)


Free entry


Stationskwartier, Snekertrekweg 1, 8912 AA Leeuwarden, Netherlands

Date & Time

16 September – 17 December, 2023 | Wednesday – Sunday inclusive 11.00 – 18.00


Turkish (with English subtitles)

This video installation is co-produced with Yalan Dünya Films from Istanbul. As curator Gülen Güler says, "In the Netherlands, you're looking for acceptance. In Turkey, it's still a fight for basic rights. The installation can be found alongside SEX SHOOTER | The Liberation of Sexual Identity, produced by Noorderlicht.


Istanbul and Leeuwarden will co-organise video screenings on the theme of gender freedom in the city of Istanbul. The Turkish part of the exhibition will therefore show the journey from the Turkish perspective of activism and fighting for gender rights.

The exhibition falls into two parts:

  • clips from the film My Child, directed by Can Candan, in which four parents talk movingly and with touching honesty about discovering that their children are gay or transsexual;

  • four videos which document the timeline of the LGBTQI+ struggle in Istanbul.


My Child (extracts)

Director: Can Candan / Production: Surela Film / Producers: Can Candan, Ayşe Çetintaş,Gökçe İnce / Co-Producer: H. Metehan Özkan / DOP: Oğuz Yenen

My Child is about a very courageous and inspiring group of mothers and fathers in Turkey who are parents of LGBTQI+ individuals. They have not only gone through the difficult path of accepting their children for who they are, but have also taken the next brave step of sharing their experiences with other families and the broader public. In these videos, the parents intimately share their experiences with the viewer, touchingly and radically re-defining what it means to be parents, family members and activists in a conservative, homophobic society.


Video Credits: Video artist/ Editor: Alper Şen / Directors: Can Candan, Alper Şen, Oktay İnce, Gülşah Özgen, Sibel Tekin / Archival footage: Kaos GL, Pembe Hayat Derneği, İstanbul Pride’23, Work of Image

The history of LGBTQI+ Movement in the Streets of Turkey (2000-2023) in four parts: Appear, Demand, Celebrate and Pride Against All Odds.

In Turkey, it was in the year 2000 that the streets first encountered LGBTQI+ individuals. On May 1, 2000, the LGBTQI+ organisation, Kaos GL, participated in a march, and despite homophobic attitudes from participants, media, and the police, everyone still looked at this “new” political organisation with curiosity and interest. This march marked the beginning of the struggle against homophobia and transphobia on the streets.

Over the years, as the visibility of LGBTQI+ individuals increased, so did the societal pressure and exclusion they faced. However, the LGBTQI+ community continued to organise and fight together, expressing their human rights demands through demonstrations and actions in public spaces. One significant event was on 17 July 2007 when LGBTQI+ individuals made a collective application to the Turkish Employment Agency and held press conferences, making their human rights demands more visible.

As we reached the 2010s, positive developments in freedom and human rights also led to spaces where LGBTQI+ individuals could openly express themselves. Starting in 2011, the celebration of Pride Week on Istanbul’s iconic İstiklal Avenue became a transformative walk, breaking many societal prejudices. In 2012, for the first time, parents of LGBTQI+ individuals also participated in the Pride Walk as an organised group.

Unfortunately, however, since 2015 all these freedoms have been increasingly restricted and face bans every year. First the Pride Walks on İstiklal Avenue were cancelled, and then all the cultural and artistic activities of LGBTQI+ individuals and organisations were prohibited. Despite these pressures and obstacles the LGBTQI+ community did not stop or give up. This year they celebrated the Pride Walk on the city streets despite all the hardships they faced.

This series of videos portrays the traces of 23 years of LGBTQI+ individuals’ presence on Turkey’s streets and how they continue to be proud against all the odds.

(Another event on the theme of Co-existence in Contemporary Europe, following Ulysses episode 10, took place in Istanbul between June and August 2023).

Background photo: Arjen Jan Stada

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