While lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons in Turkey face legal challenges not experienced by non-LGBT people, there is a strong community fighting for their rights every day. Instead of „punishing“ the Turkish travel industry for not respecting “our“ democratic rights, let’s go east and flirt with the gayest city in the Middle East. DJ Serkan is a key player on the Istanbul gay scene when it comes to bringing life to the party …
How would you describe gay life in Turkey?
We are a country who welcomes people from all ethnicities, religions and sexual preferences. But Turkey has two faces. The Western more European and modern side with an open mentality. Then there is the Eastern side which is more attached to its traditions. This has to do with geography as Turkey connects the East with the West and this situation can be seen in every field of our lives. Like most Turkish gay people, we prefer to live in the modern part of our country, in cities like Istanbul, Izmir, Ankara, Antalya, Bursa. There our lives are very similar to those of our friends who live in Europe. But still there are many attitudes that are not welcomed in public. You keep our gay life private.
Is Turkey Gay Friendly?
Yes, it is. Istanbul is the preferred Gay City in the whole Middle East. We welcome a lot of friends from Lebanon, UAE, Syria, Kuwait and many other countries from Middle East to all around the world.
How has your work as a Gay DJ been in the last years? Is it getting more difficult?
I started my career out playing in both straight and gay dance clubs. The fact is that the straight dance music scene is much more developed and open compared to the gay dance music scene. For the first eight years in my career I played much more in the straight Electronic Music Dance clubs. After moving to Istanbul I got involved with Love Dance Point, a gay dance club in town more than 15 years old. We believe that with LOVE DP we brought a new flavour in the gay nightlife. In 2014 we launched a new project, Hip Sultan, the very first 100% Turk Gay Party Production where I was a resident DJ. Hip Sultan started a new episode in Istanbul and my own life. I started traveling abroad and played in cities like Amsterdam and Dubai. I had the chance to be the first Turk Gay DJ to play in Ibiza. Again, thanks to the Hip Sultan Project, I started promoting more my country on the Gay Party scene and invited many Gay DJ’s to Istanbul in the last two years. Unfortunately gay clubs in Turkey are very conservative and not very open to try “new things”. It is very hard to organize and cooperate with the venues. There is no real “Party Festival Culture” in gay nightlife.
Is it safe at a gay party?
Yes, it is safe no doubt. In the clubs or at private parties it is your privacy. Our regulations and laws protect everybody’s private life. But note that we don’t have dark rooms at our clubs. It’s punishable by law to have sex in public places no matter if you are gay, straight, bisexual or transsexual.
Can you describe the difference between German and Turkish Gay parties? Here the main attraction at gay parties is to share the joy altogether with your gay friends. We are a Mediterranean country and this is how we enjoy things. We like drinking, having a laugh, gossip, toast your glass with the next cute boy and dancing till the first light of day. In terms of music style: Turkish gay people love Turkish pop music. The majority of gay clubs rather play commercial, pop world dance music and a bit of mainstream house. I try to bring different DJs with different styles together to enrich the musical experience. We are a country of freedom. Laws forbid all kind of drugs but as long as you are not doing evidently in the clubs, you are free to dance on drugs or with alcohol. We have also after clubs too in Istanbul. Please remember that we are laic in laws but still a Muslim country majorly. Sex is your privacy and we believe that it must be kept at your home. We don’t have dark rooms and we don’t welcome sexual interactions in gay clubs. You can surely kiss your loved one, touch and play softly while dancing but this is the limit.
How can we support the gay community in Turkey especially in Istanbul?
Unfortunately, I think that the Gay community in Turkey, are not well organized. Organizations like LGBT do not reflect the majority’s visions and expectations. They are mainly focussed on “social problems” but they are not making enough effort to improve the social life quality and happiness of the community. They are not supporting any commercial events like festivals and gay parties. On the other hand we have some other special projects where we can have a better support and interest. I just joined the Pink Istanbul/Amsterdam Project where we exchange cultures, parties DJs and much more with the Amsterdam Gay community. This is a very special project supported by the Amsterdam Municipality and the Dutch cultural office. I wish to create and develop a similar project with Berlin and Köln where we have a lot of Turkish gay people and German friends that we can exchange culture, music, DJ’s, life experiences with. Gay people are united all around the world as a single body, a body of freedom and real democracy. This is something that I have already started to develop with Revolver Party, Berlin. We welcomed them twice last season to Istanbul and now trying to extend this corporation. I would be very glad to develop this project with new corporations between Berlin, Köln and Istanbul.