“My account of things goes back twenty years. The pioneers of the LGBT movement in Turkey were the trans community. I began seeing friends of my own kind as I went out around the Taksim area for the first time. Just as I was rejoicing in this dream, the 12 September coup d’état happened. The military coup interrupted our lives. At the time a lot of feminine homosexuals and trans individuals were making a living as singers on stage. Some were sex workers. The living spaces available for trans individuals were very limited in that period and also before the eighties; there were a few clubs or bars. There was also the Abanoz Street. Biologically female and trans individuals worked in this area. Trans individuals also began to capture some streetwalking areas in Harbiye and began expanding them. Before Ülker Street, for the first time in 1985, trans individuals began forming their first ghettos. Actually it was possible at the time to find customers in clubs or on the street. Afterwards they began to accept customers at home and that street became an open brothel.”
Demet Demir is a Turkish activist who has taken an active role in shaping trans rights since the 1980’s. She was jailed many times after the 1980 military coup in Turkey and was often subject to torture. Demet has been part of the fight for the legal rights of trans people in Turkey and was a local government candidate in the 1999 election. Demet was one of those responsible for the protection and upkeep of the Ülker Sokak movement, a ghetto in the center of Istanbul which housed transgender, gay and cis female sex workers. Demet used and spread a trans slang known as Labunca to the people of Ülker Sokak as a means of protection. Lubunca has its roots in Romani and Greek, only emerging through the necessity of disguising dialog related to sex work. During Demets time in Berlin, she began to write a lexicon for Lubunca slang and defined more than 400 words alongside friends Koray Yılmaz-Günay and Ulaş Yılmaz. Viewers of ‘ğ – queer forms migrate’ will encounter a QR code on one of the walls which will lead you to Demet’s lexicon project prepared as a smart phone application by Ulaş Yılmaz. We are sharing the joy of migrating the form of this historic slang into todays digital based social environment. On the 16th of April, Demet Demir will hold a speech about Lubunca through her own personal history. The speech will be in Turkish with an English translation.