Reading LGBT Movement through its Spatiality in Istanbul, Turkey

  • Ozlem Atalay Urban and Regional Planning, Florida State University, Tallahassee, United States
  • Petra L. Doan Urban and Regional Planning, Florida State University, Tallahassee, United States
Keywords: LGBT movement, LGBT activism, LGBT spaces, spatiality of the LGBT movement, Turkey, gentrification, displacement, resistance


This article reviews the development of the LGBT movement in Turkey and argues that the existing literature provides an incomplete analysis of the relationship between this movement and the urban spaces that enabled it. We approach the LGBT movement literature with the questions of ‘What is the relation between neighborhoods changing under the neoliberal policies and the LGBT movement? How has the LGBT movement responded to such spatial changes?’ To answer these questions, we divide our article into two main sections. In the first part, we review the existing studies that focus on the LGBT movement in Turkey to briefly present the evolution of the movement. This review demonstrates the lack of spatial consideration of the struggles between the movement and state and society, particularly in Istanbul, where neoliberal policies have enabled significant urban redevelopment. In the second section we develop our central argument, and then discuss the importance of spatiality to understand 1) The role and power of space in the LGBT activism and movement as an enabler of organizing, and 2) How the community has found ways to not only survive and live but also to create spaces of resistance against the exclusionary and displacing processes of neo-liberal structuring of the city. To these ends, we focus on Beyoglu, Istanbul where the LGBT community reached a critical mass and formed the movement. We focus on the subdistricts of Cihangir in 1990s before its gentrification, Tarlabasi in 2000 through its state-led gentrification process and Gezi Park Movement in 2013 to understand the enabling role of these spaces and their transformation into spaces of resistance.