Even though Turkey is the only Muslim country, where prostitution and gender change is legal, transvestites can’t lead a normal life. Their human rights are being violated and they’re are being treated like second-class citizens.
Transgender women and men are often targeted and even killed. Many Turkish families consider that a transvestite is a disgrace for the family and a male member of the family is chosen to hunt her down and kill her.
But the streets are also dangerous. Denise, one of the transvestites I followed and photographed, was later murdered in 2011 by a man that she had met on Facebook and had agreed to have paid sex with. After finding out Denise was a transvestite, the man murdered her. The man told the police he didn’t know she was a transvestite when he first met her, but found out about it when they were having oral sex.
In Turkey, according to unofficial statistics, there are more than 6000 transvestites, from which almost 4000 in Istanbul and 2000 in other big cities like Ankara and Izmir. The transvestites and transexuals leave the rural areas in order to blend in the masses of the city.
But, even the official state doesn’t protect them. The Turkish Minister for Women and Family affairs, Aliye Kavaf, said in an interview with the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet: "I believe homosexuality is a biological disorder, an illness, and should be treated."
The laws are also very harsh for those that are caught crossdressing. Transvestites in Turkey have to live as outcasts, chased by their families and the state. The laws are very harsh for those that are caught crossdressing and fines may range from a couple of hundred dollars to $7000.
Many transvestites are forced to work as prostitutes, because no one will hire them. Those that do work, when they’re caught crossdressing they’re fired. The average price for a session with a client in Turkey is between $8 to $15, so little that they’re unable to cover their living costs.