“I Am Living like a Hetero:” Homonormativity Among Upper-Middle Class Turkish Gay Men

Monday, 16 July 2018: 16:00
Oral Presentation
Cenk OZBAY, Sabancı University, Turkey
This paper examines a group of middle and upper-middle class gay men in Istanbul, Turkey, in their prolonged political, spatial, cultural and social journey from the fringes to the center—the normal. This new normality that they actively attempt for being a part of has been largely shaped by neoliberal principles and increasing authoritarianism that underscore (hetero-)normative ideals as well as homogenizing and assimilating policies. “I am living like a hetero,” was something I kept hearing from gay men, aged 28 to 60-somethings, during the interviews I have conducted and the ethnographic “home visits,” I made between 2013 and 2015. By saying that, they explicitly state that their work life, career and financial situation are their priority; they are oriented towards “serious”, long-term, marriage-like intimate relations; homeownership—in both investment and place making senses, is significant; and they are nationalist, secular, anti-Kurdish, and republicanist with a loyal tone of European enlightenment and democracy. In this sense, their political homonormativity simultaneously overlap and contradict with the authoritarian regime in Turkey. Furthermore, they tacitly position themselves against two kinds of public representations of sexual dissidents: Politically engaged, radical leftist queer activists who enact subversive performances in public and stand against the state hegemony by using their bodies as well as the promiscuous, “crazy,” gender-bending, and the performatively effeminate individuals who can go wild on social media. This group of men, their predilections and life choices, and their symbolic yet articulate oppositions give us a chance to observe and probe into the dynamics of privilege and norm formation, the everyday and multifaceted impacts of hegemonic masculinity, and the intimate relation between heteronormativity and homonormativity.