24 Sep 2009

A group of gay activists calling themselves ‘SHORTBUS’ and living in the Northern territory of Cyprus recently attended Manchester Pride in the hope of being inspired by the city and the event, to support LGBT people in their home country.

Cyprus is still a socially conservative country when it comes to homosexuality, as gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans-gendered people are seen as engaging in ‘immoral’ conduct.

In the Northern territory, discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity has not been embodied into law as yet.

In Turkish ruled Northern Cyprus, State-sponsored homophobic laws punish consenting adults with imprisonment. The punishments for the ‘crime’ of being gay can be up to 5 years of imprisonment.

Homosexual acts are still criminalized despite the fact that the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) and the International Convention Civil and Political Rights Convention (ICCPR) are legally binding according to the constitution and high court decision, the domestic laws are not consistent with the standards of ECHR and ICCPR.

Besides being faced with problems in their social life, the protection of LGBT rights by law is very limited in northern Cyprus and LGBT people are deprived of the basic human rights.

Those who express themselves as LGBT’s or those who are known as being gay can never be government officers and private companies refuse to employ them.

A SHORTBUS representative told lgf online: “At this point, what we believe is nothing can ever change within the country unless gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans-gendered people come together and take a place in a mass movement.”

Members of the SHORTBUS group have recently paid visits to The International Lesbian & Gay Association, Amnesty International and The Lesbian & Gay Foundation in the hope of gathering support to prepare the basis for a gay movement to support LGBT’s in Northern Cyprus.

The group have already secured financial support from European Commission Taskforce for their project entitled ‘SHORTBUS MOVEMENT: Empowerment of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Community of Turkish Society of Cyprus’.

Anyone wishing to find out more, to get involved or to simply support this group should contact: shortbus_movement@windowslive.com

And if you really want to know what a difference you can make, please read these reactions to Manchester Pride from the SHORTBUS group members who took part in the Lesbian & Gay Foundation’s parade entry at Manchester Pride, and those who watched with thousands of others as the city celebrated its LGBT community.

Manchester Pride seen through the eyes of a gay man visting from Cyprus
“We woke up early in the morning for Manchester Pride’s Big Parade the big event on that day. We went to the Lesbian & Gay Foundation a lady opened the door and welcomed us with a big smile.

I really don’t know what else happened at that moment. I felt stressed and a restless feeling came over me as if I was walking in the North Pole wearing only a swimsuit.

Then we were given a T-shirt to wear which had ‘Homo Hero’ written on it and guess what colour it is. Pink! I thought are you sure that you want to wear this shirt?

Then I thought why not? I am in Manchester and nobody from North Cyprus can see me now. No one knows me here.

What about if I am going to be arrested? I suddenly panicked. I felt cold. Suddenly I made up my mind and I thought this is the time to wear a pink shirt and make some noise with my whistle .The pink looked good and the shirt fitted me well.

After a while the group I was with started to distribute some big cards with ‘Homo Hero’ written on them and pictures of famous people on it. I thought do you want to carry one of those? No, maybe I should do something else. Then a lady told us that we could take some collection buckets for fundraising on the parade. I thought, yes this is the thing that I want. I can do something to help and support gay people and really feel what is written on my pink shirt.

We got ready for the start of the big parade. My first ever gay pride event. What I saw was amazing, a thousand people wearing different costumes and different vehicles carrying all those people.

Shortly a man in a dress with pink long hair was holding a card written ‘I see gay people.’ This is what I was seeing also. Gay people are everywhere on that street and already starting to have fun on the first day of the Big Weekend of Manchester Pride. I was happy and happy and happy!

As soon as we start to walk I feel like I had sex for the first time. My friend starts to shout at me to go nearer to the people so they can give money for the collection bucket. I look forward, I look behind, and I look at the thousands and thousands of people watching us standing on the two sides of the road. I go nearer to people and smile at them. While I was walking most of the people were putting coins into my bucket.

As we keep walking my bucket is getting heavier and the smile on my face is getting bigger. Children, families, young people, old people, gay people are watching us and smiling. İt seems that they are having a good time. At the end of the walk my bucket is full of coins that put some muscle onto my biceps!

I did something good at pride, I felt like a hero at the end of it.”

And the female Shortbus perpective of Manchester Pride
“Since we have been living in an introverted conservative small island, I don’t know how I can express the feeling of seeing so many gay people on the streets – expressing what they think and feel about themselves!

I live in a small town unlike Manchester and my home town is a ruin of plentifully spent hopes. Not one, but millions of millions of suicides’ shadows fall at doors. The doors have no lock or bolt… but you cannot open them easily. Traffic has never been heavy in my town, so you can even catch your funeral! Unlike the hundreds of colourful people walking in Manchester Pride 2009.

Before I came to Manchester, not long, only a few months ago, I was thinking that I was missing my childhood; the old times when I was putting my hands – with ignorant courage – into the fire. However, for so long, when somebody lights a match, I have been taking away my hands – I got scared. I got scared of many things.

But at Pride, I felt that the fear I have been carrying with myself from my own home-land, had gone with the synergy coming from those beautiful people walking in the parade.

In the island that I am living, people don’t stay as they are, changing their masks, changing their narratives; but none of them dare to say “LOVE IS A HUMAN RIGHT!”. None of them dare to walk as a ‘HOMO HERO’.

People in my town can never accept the truth that life can never be without the colors. So do humans! They still cannot accept the truth of ‘LOVE KNOWS NO GENDER, COLOR, OR RACE!’ I wish they could see those parents proud to be gay. I wish those police officers who are harassing gay people in my country, could see the UK police walking at Pride!

I could never think that one walk could change my life and I won’t feel the same again. Now I have more energy and motivation to carry on our Shortbus project than ever. Thank you very much LGF – I have learned a lot from your passion, power and support.”

Source: THE LESBIAN AND GAY FOUNDATION (LGF/Manchester/UK)

About shortbusmovement

SHORTBUS MOVEMENT is a civil society initiative consists of Human Rights activists whose roles and positions change during each activity. SHORTBUS is a team of dedicated volunteer individuals who believe that all people are equal, irrespective of sexual orientation, gender identity, sex or any other status. The group’s center is located in northern part of Cyprus and they aimed to support all the individual or organizational activities of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex (LGBTI) people of Turkish Community of Cyprus.

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