This month ERA is highlighting Rainbow families, and we can not but hear a little bit from the parents, families and friends of LGBTI persons. The second interview is with Hasan Metehan Özkan, from Turkish organization LISTAG. Can you share a light on what does your life look like these days? What are your recommendations for the parents, families and friends of LGBTI persons and the LGBTI community in our region?
LISTAG parents keep on holding regular weekly meetings and discuss the operational issues/activities that can be performed remotely. These meetings are specifically good to keep the bonding of the LISTAG members. Since we are like a family it really feels good to see each other and to chat especially these days. We also have WhatsApp groups where we share info, latest news, fun, concerns etc. Being off-site did not impacted our operations. Technically we learned to set up remote meetings via internet. e.g. usage of Google Hangouts for meetings up to 10 participants, ZOOM meetings for larger groups, Google Classroom for English language lessons, Skype meetings, WhatsApp video meetings up to 4 participants, etc.
LISTSG work is recognized on local, national, regional and international level, but for those have not had a chance, could you tell as what are the focuses of your work? How is LISTAG organized now and how are you helping the new parents, families and friends of LGBTI persons and LGBTI community?
Storytelling Project has just been released where the celebrities read the real life stories of the LISTAG parents. We have already received the signs that it will be another success story after the “My Child” documentary. Especially nowdays that we avoid going out due Corona virus, we hope these videos will reach even wider audience. We highly appreciate the good organization of this initiative and the celebrities’ voluntary participation.
LISTAG Helpline is active 24/7 where LISTAG parents rotate to support the callers. The on-duty parent receives calls both from LGBTI+s having a difficulty with their relatives during or after coming out process and parents who had recently found out that their children are LGBTI+.
We keep on doing analysis for applying currently available and future projects e.g. ILGA, ENP. For the already signed up projects we follow up the actions and if any deviation is foreseen due to this current situation we contact to the sponsors and discuss the modifications and updates of the timeframe. There are also some outstanding classroom trainings from the ongoing projects and we do participate on the trainings organized by the other NGOs. We are planning to finalize these classroom trainings by replacing them with online trainings.
Internally, we are having English language lessons once a week via ZOOM to improve the language skills of the LISTAG parents. We are working on a story book for parents and kids where it will emphasize that “Another Family is Possible”. We keep on doing the official (paper)work required to keep the association up and running.
As you can see above, we keep ourselves busy and motivated.
We can see that the movement has covered the majority of the issues that the LGBTI community is facing, we can se online spaces for psychological counseling and support, but the question is how we can help parents, families and friends of LGBTI persons in this moment?
Just recently we participated an online event organized by the Psychology Department of one of the universities in Istanbul. The topic was “being a LGBTİ+ Parent”. There were 48 participants, remotely joined where LISTAG parents shared their experiences with their children’s coming out process and so forth. Even distances could not prevent the emotions to pass through the participants and we received excellent feedback from the organizer, the students and the professor. We also supported different university students’ MSc or PhD theses by joining remote interviews and/or filling out their questionnaires.
We are planning to have ZOOM meetings with the other family groups in other cities of Turkey. We suggest regular online meetings where people can see each other, share daily routines, discuss family issues, etc. We believe these keep us closer. We also need to organize events which the experience sharing is the easiest. We can initiate meetings with local NGO (e.g. women support organizations) to introduce our associations/family groups and what we do.
It would be great if we can extend these meetings with the parents in other countries. What about starting these? At least we can know each other and shortly describe what we are doing, share our best practices.