Beyoglu Queens

"Transvestites are the real guerrillas of the gender wars'" writes Suzanne Brogger in her book 'Save Us from Love'. In Beyoglu, the night-life hub of Istanbul, the 'guerrillas' are out every night defying the traditionalist perceptions of the Turkish society by simply being who they are. Unable to find regular work, nearly all of them are sex workers. Openly gay or cross-dressing entertainers are a staple of mainstream Turkish television, while Islamic machismo and an indulgence of exotic sexual tastes have existed side by side for centuries. After the military coup of 1980, this tolerance went down till the nineties, when transsexuals and transvestites were subject to police persecution, beatings, torture, stabbings and even the slicing off of false breasts. Even though today's Istanbul is more tolerant of them, they are hardly accepted as citizens who have rights. Living on the very fringe of society, transvestites share apartments and go around in groups but they are hardly organized as a community. There is a need to stick together against possible abuses while competing against each other in the nightly market."