by Ahmet Degirmenci
I was born in Istanbul, Turkey, on January 1, 1988, into a conservative Muslim family. I have known that I was gay since I was a young boy. I knew that I was gay because I was attracted to other boys and I preferred to play with girls instead of being involved in sports and playing with boys. Although I was very feminine I was not open about being gay to anybody, including my family. I had many problems however with neighbors and schoolmates with harassment and teasing on account of being gay from the time I was a boy until I came to the U.S. While I was walking down the street people would constantly call me names, cuss at me and say offensive and homophobic things. I went out to a gay bar called Gabile (the same name as the website) twice in 2008 although I don’t remember the exact dates. I was going to go there on two other occasions but when I got there I saw police cars outside, so I was afraid to go in. I did not go out more because at that time I was very young and I was scared that somebody I knew would see me go in or out of the gay bar.
My neighbors in Turkey used to insult me all the time especially. Many times these neighbors would stop me on the street and say that they did not want faggots living in the neighborhood, that I had to get out of there, that my family did not raise me properly and that my father was a faggot also. I was afraid to report these guys or do anything about it, partly because I was afraid of additional problems, and also because I was afraid to reveal to anybody else that I was being harassed because of being gay. I also had problems with money being extorted from on three occasions, I was singled out for this extortion because I was perceived as being gay. In early 2010 I came out to my family on the phone, because they were pressuring me into returning to Turkey and entering into an arranged marriage. I told my mother, and she became very upset, crying and saying that I was bringing a shame on the whole family. I asked her not to tell my father but she did, and he told me that I had to return to Turkey and get married, and that he could not have anyone find this out about the family. That was their only concern – that someone would find this out about the family. I believe that they would force me into an arranged marriage, because they did the same to my sister in 2005. I have not spoken with my parents since that time, almost a year now. I occasionally speak with my sisters, but they are very cold and distant with me.
After I came to the US in 2009, I began to meet other gay people and to come out more. My first roommate was a gay man. Here, I can be myself and I know that I do not have to hide my sexual orientation from others because people in this country respect me for who I am, and I also know that the police can protect me if any one tries to attack or put me in danger. Now, I am living an open gay life and I could not imagine being back in the closet. In the event of being returned back to Turkey, I would be picked up as an easy target for harassment and discrimination. Somebody who is openly gay in Turkey would be most likely murdered by homophobes or by the police.
I honestly feel if I would be given an opportunity to live permanently in the United States I would be a very happy and productive member of the society.
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