Queers In-Between

Globalizing sexualities, local resistances

Authored by: Abdulhamit Arvas

The Postcolonial World

Print publication date:  August  2016
Online publication date:  October  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138778078
eBook ISBN: 9781315297699
Adobe ISBN: 9781315297682


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The 2012 Turkish movie Zenne Dancer (dir. Alpay and Binay) narrates the real-life story of Ahmet Yildiz, a Kurdish youth, who, at the age of 26, was shot dead allegedly by his father in Istanbul because of his aberrant sexual orientation. 1 Deriving from the Persian word zen [woman], and also evoking one of the historical characters appearing in Turkish theatrical shadow plays like Karagoz from the fifteenth century onwards, zenne refers to a man in drag; and today the word is used for campy male belly dancers in the Turkish language. The movie presents Ahmet and his zenne friend, Can, as victims of social, familial, and state violence. The story of the two “queer” men reaches its climax when they try to acquire an official exemption from their military service that is obligatory for all “healthy” males in Turkey. 2 For Can and Ahmet, there is only one possible way to avoid this service: undergoing an interview with military doctors to prove their “homosexuality” by adopting extremely flamboyant and feminine manners during the interview, and providing the military officials with photos of themselves having sex as evidence for their pasif [passive] sexual behavior. 3 After being diagnosed as “psychosexually disordered” by the military doctors, and forced to come out to his father as ibne, the leading character Ahmet is shot dead by his father to save the honor (namus) of the family right before his European boyfriend Daniel was to “save” him by taking him to Europe. 4

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