I was one of the luckiest ones, yet I had no idea how lucky I was. Growing up in Istanbul, Turkey, a predominantly patriarchal, conservative and homophobic society, my luck was being born into an open-minded, secular and loving family.
In this bubble, I was isolated from the struggles of the majority of my people. I was not bullied at school by my peers, I was not forced into being someone else by my family. Yet I still had that voice in my head. As soon as I realized something could be different with me, I became my own bully and forcefully adopted a fictional persona: ‘exceptionally normal’.
Coming out was hard, but coming out to myself was harder. Although I was perfectly aware of my sexual identity, I could not come to terms with the possibility of being ‘abnormal’. Cue cinema. Watching films was a way of escape for high-school Emre—it still is—and it was inevitable that I would come across some LGBTQ+ films. I was not consciously in search of a ‘truth’ about myself but I started seeing my reflection in them, as they slowly disarmed the bully I involuntarily created.
Twenty years later, now, as a 34-year-old gay man professionally writing on cinema and television, I see it as my duty to never shut up about how representation matters. Streaming LGBTQ+ shows on various platforms, seeing widely released, mainstream LGBTQ+ films, listening to the music of openly LGBTQ+ stars, and hearing words of wisdom like “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?”, I am confident that the personal, inner bully that I created twenty years ago would not survive a week in today’s world.