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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

And You Thought DADT Was Nuts? Turkey Asks for Gay Sex Photos

By Kilian Melloy -

The Turkish military: asking, telling... and demanding explicit photos?

The Turkish military: asking, telling... and demanding explicit photos?  
Gay and lesbian American patriots who have long been barred from serving openly say that they resent the 1993 law--now in the process of being repealed--that requires GLBTs in uniform to compromise their personal integrity by lying about who they are, or face ejection from the ranks. But it could be worse--and according to an article from Foreign Policy, in Turkey it is.

Turkey requires all men to complete at least a half-year of military service, with just a few exceptions: men with physical or mental handicaps, and gays. But it’s not enough for gays simply to admit to their homosexuality; according to the Foreign Policy article, they must provide evidence in the form of graphic photos of themselves having sex with another man, a policy the article characterized as "humiliation and abuse."

Moreover, because a top is not considered to be gay even if he has sex with another man, the individual seeking deferment on the grounds of homosexuality must be depicted in the photos as being the recipient. As one source for the article put it, "The man should be in the passive position, receiving from behind, and looking at the camera. Preferably while smiling."

The photos are only part of the process, the article notes. Prospective inductees admitting to homosexuality are also required to submit to psychological tests such as drawing pictures with crayons. The drawings are then examined and the individuals asked to account for why they chose the subjects they did. Men might also be asked about their childhoods or whether they are cross-dressers.

Turkish laws do not punish homosexuality, but Turkish society frowns on it. In some cases, children have been taken from gay parents; in one 2008 tragedy, a young gay man was shot and killed, according to a Wikipedia article. His murder was seen as an "honor killing," a practice by which the "stain" of an individual’s conduct or sexuality can be removed from a family’s honor. Many Turkish gays simply conceal their true sexual identities in all aspects of their lives, including military service.

But when it comes to time in uniform, there are additional incentives for gays to lie; the article noted that Turkish men applying for jobs are routinely asked about their military service, and if they did not serve they are required to account for the reason. Disclosing one’s homosexuality is tantamount to disqualifying oneself from a job in many cases. Another source explained. "[T]he decision to get an exemption brands you for life."

The prospect of having to present photos of themselves in the midst of a sexual act is in itself a powerful motive for many gay men to lie, the article said, and adds one more layer of stigma. The effect is a more psychologically abusive form of "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell," because, as the second source explained, the military is less concerned with whether a prospective inductee is gay than whether he will be able to act "straight." "You have to prove that your homosexuality prevents you from being a soldier, from holding a gun, that it makes you effeminate, that it might affect your safety and make you vulnerable, and that it might endanger the unity of the military," the source said.

Another man told the publication that although he was not required to submit explicit photos of himself, he still endured years of stress during which he was repeatedly interviewed about his sexuality, before a military medical officials reached a decision. "At the first hospital, despite the fact I told them I was gay, I was declared eligible for service," the man said. "At the second, I was declared ineligible. At the third, the psychiatrist in charge acknowledged I was gay, but ’not effeminate enough’ to receive an ineligibility report. Still, to help me out, he gave me a report that said I was neurotic."

The process included a rectal exam at one point. "The guy put his finger in my ass to check for any deformations," the man recounted. " ’Ooh, it’s very tight,’ he joked. ’You’ll be a very good soldier.’ His finger was still inside."

In the wake of the article, Turkey has denied that it requires gays to submit explicit photos of themselves having sex with other men, reported the Hurriyet Daily News. "The TSK (Turkish Armed Forces) absolutely does not ask for photo or video footage from those who say they are gay," a statement from the country’s military declared. "Even if a person brings photos or video footage, they are not considered during the process. The claim that TSK archives those kinds of photos is absolutely false," the statement added. A German magazine had claimed that the Turkish military maintained "the world’s greatest porno archive" thanks to having collected explicit materials from gay prospective inductees.

But the article also notes that for two years in a row, European Union reports on Turkey said that gays had been required to provide photos or even videos of themselves having gay sex to prove their status as homosexuals. A lawyer with LAMBDA Istanbul, Fırat Söyle, also told the media that it was commonplace for men seeking military exemptions on the basis of homosexuality to be asked for explicit photographic evidence.

A gay man who was exempted from military service told Foreign Policy that he was ordered to provide explicit photos, however, and said that he had to get a friend to take pictures of him and his lover having sexual relations. The man said that he’s not the only one.

"The first time I went for a medical examination, I told the psychiatrist in charge I was gay, but he claimed that I was pretending," said the young man, going on to recount that a second doctor demanded photographic evidence of his sexual orientation. "I know of many other gays who have been asked for photos," the source told Foreign Policy.

One of the article’s informants offered an explanation for the extremity of the evidence required. "These doctors are afraid that some people who desperately want to avoid military service will lie to them," the source said. "If you give some guy a report saying that he has a psychosexual disorder and then he gets married, you will be in trouble" for having granted the exemption. The photos are, therefore, a valuable means for military doctors to cover themselves.

Kilian Melloy reviews media, conducts interviews, and writes commentary for EDGEBoston, where he also serves as Assistant Arts Editor.

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