Turkey's first Queer Olympix - Moments of deliberate joy and solidarity

I recently came back to, from Istanbul, what I still have difficulty calling home-my residence for the past two years: Berlin. After a long time away from my routine, the last couple of days have been intense reunions with friends. Good, old-ish friends.

It was interesting, these reunions. In my mind, I have friends with whom I can be my full self and others where the interactions dance around covert manifestations of power and privilege. And usually the latter is just not organic or fluid. Or as a good Peruvian friend puts it “Lacks aji”. If you are a white person reading this blog and already offended, fight the urge to hashtag NotAllWhitePeople. Just stop. Take a deep breath, remember not everything, and definitely not this blog post, is about you; and that oppression is real.

Just to illustrate: Many of my white friends from the Global North have greeted me with an almost condescending frownish look followed by questions like “Are you ok?”, “Has it been too difficult?” It is always confusing for me to respond to such questions from a certain type of agency because I never feel sure if it comes from a place of genuine care, or racialized ways of socialization that exotizes opression and glorifies pain. And I am not really into glorifying my pain. To hell with it. Gimme joy!

Friends from the global south and people of color, on the other hand, met me with “Oh my God!! Who did you meet? What did you eat? Tell me everything!” And that led to hours long joyous conversations about some of my favourite moments at home.

Now I know it's not all roses in Turkey since what feels like forever. But that doesn’t mean people are not doing good work. That doesn’t mean careful efforts are not going into creating safe spaces and deliberating joy. Mainstream media will tell you who’s arrested and who’s tortured, however very few of those outlets will take a moment to reflect on the resilience of those “who stayed”, despite everything. I didn’t stay. I prioritized my safety and wellbeing, and had the privilege to leave and did accordingly. This is why I will use my privileges today to elevate and highlight work by fierce and bold people who are generous and kind enough to keep going.

Yes back to talking about joy. In fact, a particular joyous weekend: Turkey’s first Queer Olympix which took place between 25-27th August in Istanbul. A space where real, uplifting, life giving, liberating joy was deliberated.

Atletik Dildoa, a queer identified football team, said in their official press release the rationale behind the event was to “re-create the crowds we yearn for” to be able to say “We do exist in public sphere!”

But this was no ordinary Olympix. It wasn’t a space where the emphasis was on the very exclusionary able-bodied discourse of “excellence” or “endurance”. It was a space to liberate minds and bodies through creating a safe environment where queer and gender non-conforming people could bring their full selves, see friendly faces, meet new ones and have fun. This is why one of the workshops were very carefully designed to talk about “The Ideal Body and Healthy Community at Nazi Germany” while others tackled sign language, body positivity and feminist self defense. I was sad to miss, because Istanbul traffic takes forever, the long jump where some couples apparently took part hand in hand, rather than on their own to de-emphasize competitiveness.

Melis Nots, the fierce force of nature who is a member of Atletik Dildoa, and the person responsible from Press Relations said “Although Atletik Dildoa is not the first formal queer sports initiative, the initiative to create a wide space for different manifestations of queer sports in Turkey is new.” She adds “We actually wanted to have a larger event and also bring more participants from outside Turkey. Next year we hope to receive more funding support to have a widely attended, bigger Queer Olympix”.

Therefore this blog post is to thank Atletik Dildoa for being bold, for creating a safe joyous space to celebrate resilience and build solidarity. It is a moral obligation on the part of the international community, whether NGOs or funders to recognize that effort, celebrate and support it. So next year are we having a bigger and bolder Queer Olympix? With support, yes.

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