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(We Are Not Alone… with Ekin K & Emrullah T from Istanbul)

I’m always embarrassed by how long it took me to feel OK about my sexuality. When I was a kid, I just wanted to be normal, and whether you want to blame it on a different time or a different place, I didn’t know of any way to be gay and happy. I had no role-models. The gays on TV were the punchlines of jokes and I’d never met an actual gay person, apart from one summer when I volunteered at a hospice as part of the ‘community service’ requirement set by my Catholic high school. In that hospice were a few gay men in the final stages of AIDS… gentle, kind and interesting men whom the teachers at my school had no sympathy for since their contraction of AIDS was ‘their fault’, owing to a ‘sinful lifestyle’. 

But nothing anyone said could scare my physical urges away, which I gave into from time to time, though I always felt incredibly guilty each time I came with another man. But then there was a change, sometime right after I turned eighteen. 

I met a guy called Jeremy. We were just friends but one night after drinking a bit too much and watching too many movies, I stayed over at his place. We even shared the same bed, because, well there just wasn’t any room for me anywhere else. At some point in the night I realised that he was sleeping naked, and without trying to wake him I got naked too. In the morning we kissed and touched a little, but nothing more. 

I went home but the next night I couldn’t sleep. Or the next. It was like I was no longer able to sleep without him lying there next to me. And suddenly it was obvious. The way he made me feel was more important than anything else in the world. I no longer cared about being ‘normal’. What I felt was all I needed. And from that point on I was gay. There was no other way, no argument.

Still, even though this was some years ago and not in a place as homofriendly as London, it wasn’t Turkey. It was Chicago. I can only imagine what guys like Ekin K and Emrullah T had to deal with in their journey toward self-discovery and self-acceptance. But what I do know is that they found each other, and this bond must be a great means of mutual support.

As the first gay couple ever to marry in Turkey, including the level of public spectacle that this event created, there’s a pressure to set an example for other gays in the country. When for most of us just being gay and accepting it takes courage, being an example in the midst of a rather conservative society takes a whole other level of courageousness. But I know that if I knew these guys when I was a teenager, I’d have probably had a more painless time accepting my own sexuality. We need role-models. And we need to know that we are not alone.

Read and see more about these lads in Elska Magazine issue (06) Istanbul

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