Entertainers only

Saturday, September 4, 2010
Jenny White has put up a link to an interesting story re transgender brothels in Istanbul. Originally I was going to just link to Kamil Pasha in the N & P, but I ended up writing so much I decided to make it a separate post. 

I always found the place of transgendered people in Turkey to be interesting. With the exception of Thailand, I've probably seen more transgendered people in Istanbul than anywhere else in the world. When I was living in Istanbul in the 1990s, I'd often walk home to Tesvikiye late at night from Taksim via Cumhuriyet Caddesi and Harbiye, where loads of transgendered prostitutes would hang out late at night, standing by the side of the road and looking for a date. I'm not sure if they're still there, but the market clearly hasn't diminished since then.

Many of the transgendered in Turkey have been the victims of attacks, and there have been several murders in recent years in Istanbul. 

But what is also interesting is the degree to which transgendered and other effeminate and/or semi cross-dressing entertainers have been popular in Turkey, a country that many people associate with "macho" behavior and/or "Islamic values" (whatever that means).

Years before Boy George seemed so risque in the US, Zeki M
üren was wearing long, flowing Mrs. Roper-style muumuus and wild costumes that appeared to evoke dresses. In his early days, however, he'd played a straighter public role, often appearing as the male lead in romance movies.  
A young Zeki Müren 

Müren in the 1970s


My guess is that this is from the 1980s


I visited the Zeki Müren house-museum in Bodrum in 2000. You can see a larger shot of this photo here. I think Müren's face looks very tough and decisive on this statue, kind of like Charlton Heston.
Bülent Ersoy, meanwhile, likewise had a closeted beginning to his career prior to a sex change operation in the early 1980s.

Bülent Ersoy in his early years...

...and later in her career.


Here is a pretty cool academic article on Müren and Ersoy that I assigned to my modern Turkey class last year. In the last decade, meanwhile, there was even a prime time talk/variety show hosted by one Huysuz Virjin.  

Huysuz (petulant) virjin 
It's cool that the transgendered or openly gay are often celebrated on stage in Turkey, and I guess we shouldn't find this so surprising. Nevertheless, people often are surprised by this stuff, especially if they have some sort of "Islamic" preconception of what Turkey (and other predominantly Muslim societies) are about. 
But it's also important to remember that the transgendered (and openly gay) are not just celebrated on stage, they are also attacked on the street and in their homes, and don't appear to have much public acceptance at all in Turkey. 

Unless they can sing.


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