Istanbul gay life


Turkey is a Muslim country with old traditions, but it does not mean that gay people should be afraid of its biggest city for being too conservative/ Istanbul is very interesting and modern. Although Turkey is undergoing a rapid change, certain things are still very traditional and peculiar in this country. The gay culture is a good sample of this. Taking immigration from all over the country, Istanbul is a summary of the whole Turkey.

Turkey has got a traditional bisexual or hetero-flexible culture taking its root from the history. The classic gay relationship is between real gay men and bi-curios men. In this culture the bisexual men would never consider themselves as gay – or even bisexual, and the gay-partners are mostly expected to be more feminine/queer. Hetero-flexible/bisexual guys are supposedly top (aktif = active is the common word in local culture) and do not have sex with each other. This culture can better be defined as buggery or sodomy in the western meaning. As a reflection of this bisexual culture, there is a big transvestite & transgender society in Istanbul and in other big cities of Turkey. In the last 20 years gay culture has been westernized rapidly, and the interactions between gays themselves have become more common. In fact there is still not a sharp distinction among the sexual orientations. The border-line is very transitional between straight, bisexual, gay, queer, transvestite and transgender people.

The gay activities have become more and more visible during the last 20 years. The number of the gay venues has increased rapidly especially during the last 15 years. Taksim district of Beyoglu town on the European side of Istanbul is the center of almost all major gay venues. In fact, this district is the center of local night life. There are many modern or traditional gay clubs, bars, saunas and hamams near the Taksim/Beyoglu area. This neighborhood is also frequented by many (mostly bisexual) rent-boys. Some of these boys can really be as handsome as models indeed, but caution is advised . There are also many clubs for transvestites and transsexuals in Taksim district. Indeed, the gay life of Istanbul is very colorful and vibrant. Istanbul is hosting gay pride parade every year since early 2000’s, which is one of the biggest LGBT gathering in Eastern Europe. There are several LGBT solidarity groups in Istanbul, including Lambda Istanbul, SPoD and Istanbul LGBTT. Lambda Istanbul is the first gay and lesbian organization of Turkey.


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