Two years ago, I received a Global Arts Fund Award from the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, for these images of queer women in Istanbul.
‘Butch It Up’ is a guerrilla art project that draws attention to the violent marking of LGBTI bodies as targets of Turkish “public morality,” in both the political and social arenas. About one thousand cards, printed with these illustrations, were scattered across Istanbul, distributed randomly in public places. When the project caught the attention of Bayan Yani (a Turkish, feminist satirical magazine), editors published a selection of the cards in their February, 2016 issue.
The criminalization of LGBTI people in Turkey doesn’t happen through law enforcement. It happens through powerful social regulation and pervasive censorship. It happens through forcing traditional gender roles on children; forcing gay men to prove their homosexuality to military psychiatrists; forcing transgender women into prostitution (as, often, the only means to earn a living). It happens when lesbians are forced into arranged marriages.
By creating non-stereotypical images of women’s bodies that challenge mainstream attitudes, my intention with the project was to: break stigma through visibility; break taboos through questioning gender roles; break invisibility through appearing in public spaces; and break isolation through engaging in dialogue.