Modern Turkish culture has had an ambivalent relationship with the LGBTQ community. Despite the ever-growing presence of LGBTQ groups who engage in crowded public activities, same-sex relationships and queer lifestyles are still seen as taboo subjects by a large percentage of the population, and often lead to life threatening situations. On the other hand, two of the most respected singers the country has seen, Zeki Müren and Bülent Ersoy, are a drag queen and a trans woman respectively. Comics and cartoons have long engaged with LGBTQ themes in Turkey, particularly in the pages of weekly humour magazines. While these publications – a significant presence in print media in the country – are often discussed as bearing a progressive, subversive and left-wing attitude, their portrayal of LGBTQ figures have been, for the most part, resonant with common public discourses of prejudice and ridicule.
This paper presents a survey of common trends towards the LGBTQ community in cartoons and comics in Turkey since the 1950s, during which time male politicians were caricaturised as women to be emasculated and stripped of their political power in the public eye. Works that ridicule gay men and trans women in stereotypical depictions in the 1980s and 1990s will be under critical scrutiny. A few comics series, which present alternative perspectives to LGBTQ themes, and issues of gender and sexuality will be highlighted. These include Travesti Sevgilim (My Transvestite Lover) by Nuri Kurtcebe, and Eylül by Rewhat, both of which feature trans women as their protagonists. The paper will emphasise the lack of self-representation and autobiographical works by LGBTQ artists in Turkey, and argue that even the most seemingly progressive comics with LGBTQ lead characters betray homophobic tendencies upon close reading.