LGBTI/ENRight To Shelter

No flats for queers!

Zeynep Saravin

There are no flats for girls who are not “ladylike.” There are no flats for those who look like girls but are not girls, for those who are neither boys nor girls, for those who look like both boys and girls, for polite boys or tomboys. So where will these queers live?

“Where will I live next month?” question has been my most significant source of anxiety for the last month. I lived in a house close to Boğaziçi University, where I studied. Over the past year, landlords have told me and nearly all of my friends that we had to evacuate. Even though they gave different excuses, such as “I will move in” or “I will renovate the house,” we were aware that they all had the same motivation. They all knew that they could rent their houses at much higher prices with the new term.

I had a similar experience. Actually, I knew that he couldn’t evacuate me this way; however, I gave up using my legal rights because I was subjected to all kinds of harassment from the landlord and his relatives during the two years I lived in that house. I started hunting for a new place. My priority was the rooms and houses in the same neighborhood. That is Rumeli Hisarı Neighborhood, where students are in the majority and LGBTI+ people can live relatively comfortably. However, just as I was starting to look, a dormitory crisis broke out at the school. The school left approximately two thousand students homeless. Of course, as soon as this was announced, rental prices, which were already high, suddenly jumped much higher. The rental house listings I saw were around 30-35 thousand Turkish liras. They were asking 7-8 thousand Turkish liras for rooms. For this reason, I decided to look for a house in another neighborhood.

So, which neighborhoods should I look at? It had to be a place that was both inexpensive and where I could live safely as a woman and LGBTI+. I knew I didn’t have much of a choice. There are certain districts where the LGBTI+ community cumulates: Şişli, Beşiktaş, Kadıköy. But the rents were costly here too. I would live comfortably in a house for which I paid a lot of money, or I would rent a cheap place and risk being harassed or attacked by hate while walking on the street.

In my opinion, this is where our difficulty differs from other students. We cannot live in affordable and partially secure places. We have to live in districts where other LGBTI+ people live, eat, shop, and have fun because even if it is a district where only students live, this may not provide security. We may be exposed to stares and mean comments from other students. Finding a house in these neighborhoods is not guaranteed.

Let’s say we found a beautiful, livable house in a neighborhood we really like, and the price fits our budget. Unfortunately, the difficult process does not end here. After that, we have to meet the host and make him like us. Landlords have some pretty ridiculous expectations and criteria according to their own norms. For example, many do not want a man and a woman to live together. It doesn’t matter if those two are a couple or just friends. If two women would live together, they are expected to be “decent girls.”

A few days ago, my friend and I liked a house very much and wanted to hold it immediately. The real estate agent said the landlord wanted to see us first. When we met him the next day, the landlord looked at us for a long time and asked questions about our school and work. For him, like almost all homeowners, privacy was not a boundary he could not cross but a space in which he could intervene. For example, saying, “This is a family apartment; no men should come to the house,” was something he could easily demand. When we are about to become homeless, these demands are not something we can object to.

We talked in a conciliatory way and were able to make him like us. The reason he accepted us was because we were “ladylike girls.” Because there are no flats for girls who are not “ladylike.” There are no flats for those who look like girls but are not girls, for those who are neither boys nor girls, for those who look like both boys and girls, for polite boys or tomboys.

So where will these queers live? Almost every week on X, some trans people can’t find housing or are kicked out. These people experience this not because they misuse the house, make noise, or are students. The only reason is because they are trans. Schools do not give trans students many options either. They are expected to stay in the dormitory according to their assigned gender. In addition to the psychological discomfort it brings, this situation creates a constant feeling of anxiety if someone says something. But of course, many trans students choose this path out of a lack of options.

Almost everyone living in Istanbul suffers from the housing crisis. The fact that this is a very distressing situation for students is constantly brought to the fore with the prices of dormitories and houses near the university. What happens to LGBTI+ people is not discussed in this issue, as in any other. This group, which experienced the housing crisis the most severely, is once again ignored.

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