Cover Boys: Still battles to fight

Gracing the beautiful cover of this pride issue of Homotropolis are two LGBTQ+ activists with very different backgrounds sharing the same rainbow umbrella. Please welcome Martin Eskerod and Abdurrahman Oskan as they tell their stories about pride.

Cover Boys: Still battles to fight

In the Pride Issue of Homotropolis two LGBTQ+ activists with very different backgrounds share their personal stories about activism and the importance of pride.

Martin Eskerod is Danish and a board member of Copenhagen Pride while Abdurrahman Oskan is Turkish and recently took part in a very hostile Istanbul Pride. What they share is a genuine wish to change things for the better.

33 years old, Copenhagen

“I came out during Copenhagen Pride 2007. My mom and my best friend – a girl – were the first to know. Telling it was a combination of fear and relief. Fear of the reactions, and at the same time a sense of relief because the secret I had been keeping for more than 10 years was finally out. Luckily I have only felt support and love from family and friends. With time I have learned that being gay is simply WHAT I am – but not WHO I am”, says Martin, who grew up on the island of Bornholm but has been living in Copenhagen for the last 12 years.

Still battles to fight
Being an LGBTQ person in Copenhagen is not a big deal at all, and most certainly not compared to many other places around the world.

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Martin Eskerod

“I feel good belonging to the LGBTQ community in Copenhagen. It feels safe and I have never really had any problems besides the occasional derogatory comments flying across the street, but I never let that get to me. I do feel, though, that we still have battles to fight in Denmark. The few times I have felt unsafe or uncomfortable being gay, has been outside of Copenhagen”, Martin explains.

Equality and human rights
Martin is a member of the board at Copenhagen Pride and therefore directly involved in planning and executing
Copenhagen Pride Week.

“When I decided to get involved with Copenhagen Pride it was mostly to fight alongside all of those who are not as privileged as we are in Copenhagen. Lots of people simply see Copenhagen Pride as a big party. I even did that myself prior to joining the board. But it is so much more than that. We fight for equality and human rights not only in Denmark but also globally. We are part of a bigger movement”.

An inclusive festival for everyone
When asked what he mostly looks forward to during this year’s Copenhagen Pride Week, Martin has no doubt in mind:

“I look forward to an inclusive festival where everyone can feel safe. And I can’t wait to see all the happy people, both guests as well as volunteers, and then of course I hope to find time to see Katya on stage for Drag Night. But mostly I have to say, that I feel honoured and proud to be a part of such an amazing festival as Copenhagen Pride Week”.

24 years old, Istanbul

“I didn’t come out till I was around 15. At that time I realized that there was a gay scene in a number of seemingly “normal” cafes in the Taksim area of Istanbul, and I began to go there. I met people, who were also gay, and they were the first people, I opened up to. When I was around 18, I confided in my sister, who tried to explain it to my family for me. They didn’t accept or understand and the following years were pretty bad. For them, it was like a disease, and they were convinced, that there was medication, that could cure me, and they took me to a few doctors”, says Abdurrahman, who comes from a big Turkish family with 9 brothers and sisters.

“Last September I upped and left home one morning. I told everyone, I was going to work, and left the house and everything I owned. I was in the street with only the clothes on my back. Unfortunately I also lost my job as a consequence, because it wasn’t possible to hold on to it, if I was going to manage to stay clear of the family. The good thing is, that my younger brother is also gay, and we found an apartment to share together. Of course the situation hasn’t been the easiest, but I know that leaving was the right thing to do. I have to be true to myself”, Abdurrahman explains.

Turkey vs. Denmark
Turkey and Denmark are worlds apart when it comes to LGBTQ+ equality and the way society looks upon you if you are different from the rest.

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Abdurrahman Oskan

“In Turkey, when you are gay, you feel that you are very different. Here in Denmark, you are just like everybody else, and you can be what you are, without thinking much about it. In Turkey, you always try to keep some things secret – to not allow people to know, that you are gay, but here, you can be open. You can say everything you want, and do what you want, without that impeding your life”, says Abdurrahman and continues:

“Being open in the workplace is virtually impossible in Turkey because you will get fired, if people find out you are gay. In many areas in Turkey, finding a place to live can also be difficult, because many landlords do not want to rent to gay or transgender

Istanbul Pride banned
Back in June Abdurrahman took part in Istanbul Pride along with other LGBTQ+ activists, even though the governor banned the pride from taking place and the police were present with both tear gas and water cannons.

“The police blocked large areas of the Taksim neighbourhood, and if you were assumed to be gay, you were not even allowed to enter. We always tried – throughout the day – to find places, that were safe from the police, and we knew, that if the police caught us, they would take us away directly. It made me really angry towards the police and to our government. Other people were allowed to walk freely, and they made me feel as if I should be ashamed to be gay and not be allowed to walk”,
Abdurrahman explains.

While lots of LGBTQ+ people stayed at home for Istanbul Pride, fearing the consequences of going against the government, Abdurrahman was one of those who decided to show up anyway.

“I joined, because I was angry with my family and with the government, and I tried to simply be part of changing something  in my country. Even if it may seem a lot to take on, I believe it does make a difference, that we are there and that we are open and visible. It also allowed me to meet with new people who think like me, and who do not believe in keeping our lives a secret. That made me feel good. I also learned, that even if you are different, being gay also means being part of a community. And I liked that”.

Looking forward to Copenhagen Pride
Abdurrahman is in town to take part in Copenhagen Pride Week, and this is something that he looks very much forward to:

“Most of all I look forward to the freedom – that the limits, I normally experience to my behavior and public comportement, will be liberated. I think that I will get the feeling, that everything I dream of is possible. That I can be me 100% and enjoy that with others, without having to think about whether it is dangerous or wrong to do or not. I am on the Copenhagen Pride float, and I will be dancing from start till finish in the parade”, says Abdurrahman.

Photos by Sebastián Roblero Arellano

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