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This trans woman could make history in Turkey

This trans woman could make history in Turkey

The Turkish parliament could soon be home to the country’s first transgender MP.

Deva Özenen, the candidate for the recently founded progressive nationalist party, could be making history if she wins the election on 7 June; she is running as one of four LGBTI candidates standing for election in the whole of Turkey.

Her goal is to fight the growing discrimination the Turkish LGBTI community face amidst the country’s growing conservatism and wants to give her voice to the growing equal rights movement.

‘If we are waiting for Turkish society to get ready for us, we’ll wait a long time,’ she told the Independent.

‘We are trying to get our rights and we don’t care if society is ready for us or not.’

Özenen said people often laugh at her when she gives speeches and she receives threats on her voice mail and email on a daily basis; she will not back down, but says she is very aware of the safety Izmir, a fairly liberal town, offers.

‘In Kayseri, in eastern Turkey, I would be shot in the first week of my political career. Even walking on the street there, I would be killed,’ she said.

In Izmir, where a trans woman was killed two weeks ago, Özenen says she only faced threats and harassment on the street.

Turkey hosts the biggest Pride events in the Muslim world, but despite its active and lively LGBTI community, trans people often end up working in the sex industry because there are no laws protecting them against discrimination.

Özenen, who ended up a sex worker herself when she slipped into poverty a few years ago, hopes to introduce a law banning hate crimes and discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.