I apologize. If you are a man who answered “Yes” to the question “52 men will write for 52 weeks about male violence against women, would you be one of them?”, the first sentence when you start writing should be “I apologize”.
I apologize. An apology without a “but”. An apology said in a low voice. A sincere apology with the statement that “It will not happen again”.
A male writer is only a writer but women writers are addressed as “woman writer” most of the time. No one says male journalist but as for a woman journalist, the emphasis is always on the gender.
Usually the expression “Sit and write your piece like a man” is used but I mostly write like a woman. I try to place myself in shoes of everybody I mention in my pieces. Now, for instance let me place myself in shoes of dear Michelle.
Michelle came to İstanbul in 1999 at the age of 24. She was a very handsome journalist. She was a person of distinction at the newspapers he worked at in İzmir. Michelle still regrets for not having kept the letter of sacking from the last newspaper she worked in İzmir.
It was written in the letter that she harassed the newspaper’s driver during a news coverage! She packed and came to İstanbul in 1999. In an interview with Çiçek Tahaoğlu from bianet in 1999, she tells that that handsome boy whom she doesn’t want to mention died that year, and she was born with a new name and surname, Michelle Demishevich.
The new surname she picked for herself was the surname of her family, who immigrated from Macedonia to Turkey. Hold on, hold on.
Now I’ve placed myself in shoes of Michelle and I am not sure if I’d like that old handsome boy to be mentioned again. If she says “dead” for that boy, then he must be dead. It’s best if I go on.
Michelle became the first trans woman TV reporter in Turkey. She was lastly working at İMC TV. Even a tele viewer who doesn’t pay much attention saw her when she was subjected to bodyguard violence as she attempting to ask question to Sümeyye Erdoğan, daughter of then-Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan, on İstiklal Street.
The images of Michelle struggling and saying “Ms. Sümeyye, they don’t let me ask question, they are pulling my hair Ms. Sümeyye” and being taken away from the scene had drawn my attention as well.
We first talked on that day and then I started to follow her news reports. Michelle had told me that she was returning home in tears from a media organization like İMC TV, which managed to become the voice of the “marginalized” and was unfortunately closed after a while.
She had told how people were nudging each other and pointed as she was eating with other staff at the common areas in the work center where the TV channel is located in the first days, women giggling when passing by her and private security officers hampering each time even though they knew where she worked.
She had also told how her questions were ignored during press conferences and people including her journalist colleagues avoid saluting her. I can almost hear you asking me, “so what did you do?”. I did this: As soon as I heard that this successful journalist is looking for a job after having left İMC TV, I considered working with her at Kanal D Sabah Haberleri (Morning News), right in the middle of mainstream media.
We needed a reporter like her who chase news day and night and ask brave question. Now, I have to apologize at this point. I am sorry Michelle, I acted a bit early with the excitement of this idea and called you immediately.
Forgive me, I gave you hope even before talking to the employee. And you got very excited. I had understood it from tone of her voice. I know you waited for days, but I didn’t. I acted without hesitation because I knew that being a trans woman reporter could be challenging in mainstream media and she could have faced all sorts of prejudices.
I couldn’t know whom to talk to first about this matter, then I considered contacting the highest level. I thought the man who was the friend and right hand of the boss, a columnist writing pieces about manhood after 60 years old, was ideally suited for this. And that is what I did. I asked for his help to have you hired.
After all, this gentleman was enthusiastic about writing articles that break taboos. He walking onto taboos with his pink trouser! The response I received from the gentleman was a huge disappointment for me as well Michelle.
The gentleman got shocked as if struck by an evil spirit when I mentioned your sexual identity. He warned me over and over again by saying, “Oh please, what you are talking about is what the boss hates the most. He cannot stand it even when he sees it, he gets angry. Forget about it and do not share it with anyone else.” I could not have them hire you, Michelle. First, I gave you hope, then, I made you sad. I am sorry.
As a matter of fact, in this country, even the names of trans individuals were not mentioned in violence news. If it was a sex worker who was murdered, then, she or he was to blame at the very beginning. Everyone had children and it was a crime for a trans individual to walk along the street in broad daylight, right?
This society was so hypocritical that someone who came to your door to lynch you in the morning returned to your door at night to demand sex. Our last encounter with Michelle was in the Neighborhood of Denizköşkler in Avcılar.
After the earthquake in 1999, the severely damaged buildings in this neighborhood were polished and the trans individuals, who were not allowed to harbor in any part of İstanbul, took refuge in those buildings that no one wanted to live in.
Some of them became property owners in time. Other were still tenants. One day, provoked by a television news broadcasted by a male journalist, the people living in the neighborhood pounded their doors. They were carrying torches in their hands. They were saying, “You either get out or we will burn you alive.” The harassments and threats reached an unbearable level.
Among the ones threatening trans individuals with burning were also women who were tightly holding the hands of their children. In an interview, one of those women revealed a secret which no man had confessed: “Now, there is this thing called urban transformation. Our houses will increase in value, but the ones who see them here will not buy these houses. Isn’t it an injustice to us? Because of these transvestites, the price of the neighborhood falls. We do not want them here.”
It was in this neighborhood that I met Michelle for the last time. And what is more, it was the night of July 15. Michelle was not angry or cross with me because I could not make them hire her. I understood it that night. Our morning news were on a summer break on July 15, 2016. At that Friday night, we were at the wedding of a colleague of ours from our team, whom we dearly loved.
The wedding was at a garden in Avcılar. At first, there were tweets which mentioned a bizarre situation at the bridge, then, everyone warned each other by saying, “A coup is being staged.” The guests started to leave the wedding one by one and the bride and groom just stood there.
We took to the roads as a group of 10 women and men, who got very well-dressed for the wedding. We started to walk along the E-5 Highway. We could not understand what was happening. First, we decided to open Twitter in turns so that the batteries of our cell phones would not run out. Then, we humped some of our friends who were having difficulties in walking in high heels.
There was a group of angry people walking towards us. Some of them shouted to a girlfriend of ours, who dressed meticulously for the wedding and was wearing a mini skirt, “Because of you, there is not any suffering left that we have not lived for the last 90 years. Your end has come.” Then, in the middle of this pitch-dark night, I heard a familiar voice while passing through the Denizköşkler Neighborhood.
It was not anyone else but Michelle, who was leaning out of the window and shouted to us, “It is very messy outside, come upstairs if you like, our girls have a couple of guests, if you do not feel uncomfortable, you can rest here for a while.” This offer was like an olive branch extended in the middle of a cataclysm. We were like the characters of a Dali painting at that moment. Our last encounter was one of those coincidences that can happen to people only once or twice in their lifetimes.
Now, Michelle can continue doing her job in Germany. I apologize to everyone. But I hope you were not expecting that I would give an advice to solve the most important problem of this country, the problem of violence against women, with a short piece of writing!
Besides, I learnt from Gülsüm Kav, the General Representative of the We Will Stop Femicide Platform. Gülsüm Kav told it to me after a performance of mine, whose obtained amount was granted to an effective non-governmental organization. On that day, at that backstage, Kav thanked me for not being one of those men giving advice about how to struggle with violence against women.
I made my decision on that day. I will keep my opinions to myself and continue standing beside or behind women and supporting them when they want it. And I will start doing it by first apologizing to them. (İD/ŞA/APA/TK/SD)
52 MEN 52 WEEKS
"This campaign has been produced as part of Sivil Düşün EU Programme, with the support of European Union. The contents of this campaign are the sole responsibility of IPS Communication Foundation/ bianet and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the European Union.
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