Sexual Citizenship and Sexual Dissidence: Queering Motherhood in Turkey
This dissertation examines the ties of kinship and affinity in the lives of sex or gender non-complying individuals, or sexual dissidents, in Muslim contexts in an era globally marked by the racialization of Islam, the rise of neoliberalism, and queer liberalism. Starting from a transnational perspective, it maps the field of queer globalizations and takes Turkey, a Muslim majority and secular nation state grappling with the influences of neoliberalism and the rise of authoritarianism, as a case study. At the local level, the project analyses the heteropatriarchal sex/gender system as one of the pillars of the nation state as opposed to the struggles of a young but vivid LGBT movement. Within this context, the dissertation specifically looks into the ties of ‘familial’ belongings among the community of sexual dissidents in Turkey, as well as how sexual dissidents who are involved in the practice of mothering among them situate themselves at the nexus of the hegemonic discourse on motherhood and their sense of belonging to this imagined ‘queer’ community. Following a queer ethnographic methodology, the analysis engages with the findings from fieldwork based on participant observation, focus group interviews with LGBT activists, and in depth interviews with sexual dissidents with children. An engaged analysis of the LGBT movement in Turkey reveals that the activists are in a constant process of negotiation with the neoliberal policies imposed on them by the local governance and the international agencies that provide funding to their projects regularly. While NGOization stirred the activist scene in the country, the legal recognition was contingent on restructuring the groups in line with this rigid model and there has been a proliferation of LGBT associations. Only time will tell if these organizations will turn to single-issue oriented, rights based approaches in line with the rise of queer liberalism in Western locations. While the activists find feelings of family and kinship within their organizations, in their larger community, the camia, life has a different pace. The sexual dissident parents engage in a bargain with the sex/gender system in place and thread the heteropatriarchy strategically in different moments of their lives.