Faces of Pride – Deniz is paving the way for queer writers in Turkey

As a writer and digital activist, Deniz Erkaradağ wants to encourage the voices of queer people in Turkey. Working with one of the first podcasts in Turkey that focus on queer and feminist visibility, as well as having published one of the few queer love stories in the country, Deniz aims to support and create a safe space for lgbti+ people who are silenced by oppression. Deniz is one of many brave activists joining Civil Rights Defenders for Stockholm Pride this week.

How and why did you become an LGBTI+ activist? 
I started my activism journey in 2011 by becoming a Lambdaİstanbul (one of the first LGBTI+ organisations in Turkey) volunteer. My first motivation was to be able to find my people and find a safe space for me. After becoming a volunteer, I’ve found the courage to take a space and raise our voice in the emerging social movements in Turkey. 

How do you and your organisation work to strengthen LGBTI+ rights? 
I’m a queer writer and digital activist. The QueerTroublemaker Podcast is one of the first podcasts in Turkish which focus on queer and feminist visibility. We aim to empower women/trans folks/anyone whose voices are not heard, not only in Turkey but also in the LGBTI+ community. In each episode, we discuss a specific topic and we often invite activists and scholars who are specialists in their area to be heard not only by the LGBTI+ community but also by the mainstream audience. Alongside our podcast, we launched a website to extend the project and invited people to collaborate and share their creative work. With our website, our goal was to nurture conversation around LGBTI+ culture and art; to support freedom of speech. Through this work, we aim to maintain a safe space for LGBTI+ people and women who cannot raise their voices against oppression while drawing attention to the issues that are overlooked.

I would like to talk a little bit about my writing journey. My first novel was published in Turkish, and my short stories and poems have been published in magazines. I wrote a queer novel, it is a lesbian love story, and while this is not the first lesbian story, it’s not very common to hear queer stories in Turkish literature which is a very macho and male-dominated scene. I want to be heard as a queer person and I also want to encourage others to write. Because we need queer writers more than ever in Turkey’s current oppressive atmosphere. 

What has Pride meant for the LGBTI+ movement? 
In the shadow of attacks, insults, and harassment, I think that we should be able to be seen as who we are, show our true colors, and not be afraid of society’s misjudgments. Pride month, pride events and pride marches are both a collective space for the activists, all queer people to get together and get stronger together, but also, is a space to show the rest of the world, that we’re proud and that we’re queer. It also shows what the LGBTI+ movement has achieved over the years. 

What does Pride mean to you? 
Our pride march had been attacked by the police since 2015. Before that, I was lucky enough to see really big pride marches in İstanbul. (Almost 200.000 people attended the biggest one). And this year (2022) our pride week events were canceled by the governor. As a person who could be able to see the joy of pride month in Turkey, Pride means that we can exist despite everything, that we’ve been here since the beginning, and we’ll be here no matter what. 

Pride means that we can exist despite everything, that we’ve been here since the beginning, and we’ll be here no matter what

– Deniz Erkaradağ

Read more about how Civil Rights Defenders works to support LGBTI+ rights here.

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