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Strength Of Unity; Families and Friends of LGBTIs in Turkey (LİSTAG)

LISTAG (Families and Friends of LGBTIs in Turkey) works to raise social awareness for LGBTI+ persons and build a society where everyone’s accepted as who they are. Volunteers Tülay Savaş and Nilüfer Yeğen told us about the foundation.

The public learned about LISTAG with the documentary My Child, directed by Can Candan. During the time it was released, it was a brave feat to film seven families talking about their children’s sexual orientation, without masking their names or faces. How did LISTAG become organised?

Our story began in 2008 when a couple of LGBTI+ parents came together to show support and solidarity. We saw that the more we shared, the stronger we became, so we started gathering under the awareness that the struggle for the rights of our children was also a struggle for our sake. Over the years, we grew in numbers and had family groups in many cities. In 2019, we officially became a foundation, with the aim of aiding families with children that identify with different sexual orientations and identities. Our goal has been to combat violence and ostracisation against LGBTI+ kids, inform their families, and raise social awareness. Directed by Can Candan, the documentary My Child also turned the attention to what we do. After its release, the documentary reached thousands of families. It’s a meaningful thing for us to see it give inspiration and power to families so that they can embrace them with unconditional love and respect and become their biggest supporters in every aspect of life.

What are LISTAG’s works to inform families?

We know that families go through a challenging time when their children or close ones open up to them about their sexual orientation or identity. During the process, families mostly find themselves dealing with emotions such as surprise, denial, anger, fear, anxiety, and guilt and it may be hard for them to deal with this on their own. LISTAG informs families, with the support of field experts, and shares with them the experience of other families who went through the same thing and offers them support in finding answers to their questions and going through this difficult period. Families can call our Support Line to talk to parents, mostly mothers, who went through the same thing as them. The mothers who respond to the calls made to LISTAG Support Line are volunteers of the foundation who have completed the serious and meticulous mentorship program.

Our goal is to offer support to families who might have a lot of unanswered questions and feel anxious and make sure they come through this experience in a comfortable way. We collaborate with CETAD (Foundation for Sexual Education, Treatment and Research) to improve the way families support LGBTI+ children. Each month, we organise meetings, joined by volunteering expert psychiatrists and psychologists, where we answer the questions from families and share our experiences, which equips other families for the process. Thanks to our collaboration with CETAD, families can develop a more conscious and supportive approach about their children’s sexual orientation and identity. We regularly host online seminars for families and friends of the LGBTİ+ persons, during which we inform them about the problems they might encounter in life (including health, education, professional life, law, and justice), with the attendance of experts in these fields. We believe these seminars are an important source of support and positive contribution in the lives of LGBTI+ persons and their families. Besides, we have regular events such as family gatherings, meals, and camping trips to support them and strengthen the sense of solidarity between us. In such safe spaces, we can accept who we are without being discriminated against and share our experiences with one another. Following each gathering, we feel our mutual support increase and feel motivated and strong enough to continue our cause. Lastly, we publish educational books and brochures for LGBTI+ persons and their close ones. These include “Gökkuşağından Hikayeler” which features real experiences of family members, and “Kendimi Bildim Bileli” which includes the stories of LGBTI+ persons. You can access these publications on our website at listag.org.


What are your thoughts on the criminalisation of queer persons, increasingly caused by certain political statements? Do you think the language of daily politics affects your cause?


We feel troubled and concerned by the criminalisation of our children or them being experiencing racism, homophobia, or transphobia. We always act in the sense that we need to do something right away. The government-supported marches that began in September 2022 have been organised under the name of “Great March for the Families” in a number of cities. These events have put a target on the backs of our children and are a human rights violation, and we’re very troubled by it. But it encouraged us to take action. We put together a public call and voiced our concerns to all political parties at the council. Unfortunately, there was no positive response and we felt let down. If we had received a positive response to our call, we would’ve shown society that we’re just “strong families who love their children unconditionally and wish them to live free and happy.” We were only heard by the masses thanks to alternativemedia. We were able to talk about ourselves and our children and express our reaction on many channels. LISTAG is aware of the violation of rights taking place and is trying to express, on the available platforms, what can be done and said. When you push the matter to a political arena, for whatever reason, you’re also forcing the families and friends of LGBTI+ persons to take up a political stance and become knowledgeable about the law and their rights and responsibilities. This is actually a good thing. We hope that the current events are enough to change the society’s perception of NGOs for the better and result in volunteering efforts.

Do you have quantitative statistics about the superior number of good examples regarding the transformation of families that came to you for help? Or would you define it as a more complex process?

Numerical data is important and statistical analyses can inform us about social tendencies; however, this data is not as strong as our experiences and stories in real life. This is why our personal experiences and stories are essential in raising awareness about an issue and contributing to social change. Our stories can helpothers empathise and gain new perspectives, or can inspire them to take action about an issue. That’s why it’s an important step for social transformation to share our own experiences and stories, and remain open to the experiences of others. Most of the families who reach out to us start feeling better about themselves, even after the first meeting, because it relaxes them to see a mother or a father who has experienced a similar thing and seems to have accepted it. The more they learn about the concepts this way, the better they understand how natural it is for their children to exist as LGBTI+ persons. This helps improve their relationship with their children. In the last few years, we’ve observed a decrease in the age of people coming out to their families and an increase in the level of knowledge families have about the issue thanks to research. LISTAG’s works to this end have surely and greatly contributed to this transformation.

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