I’m From Turkey.

by Zee Bdr

I’m From Turkey.

My high school years were the pitch black period of my life. Public humiliation, name calling and laughing at my face were part of my routine. Kids at school were brutal. Forget about their gossips behind my back, they said whatever they wanted to my face.

One of them was extra brutal. For some reason he always came up with the most insulting jokes. Not to mention he was one of the most popular boys in the school. His name was Fatih. Fatih had a big fan group. He always turned his crowd against me. Fatih referred to me neither he nor she. He called me he-mish. Those years I hated him so much.

I vividly remember I locked myself in my room and cried hours and hours after school. I prayed God would give me someone to talk to. I was helpless, lonely and vulnerable. I was a little kid who was stuck in a skinny body with flamboyish manners. I constantly questioned myself why I was so weird. I thought I was a freak of nature.

GOD! I was so naive back then. I should have seen the signs of my gayness. When my mother decided to renovate our apartment, she asked me which color I wanted to have my room painted. I said lilac. My fashion guru was Boy George. I had pictures of George Michael by my bed. Wasn’t I so stupid not to see the signs?

By the time I got to college I learned how to respond to public humiliation. It was like tribal mentality. I developed a snappy sense of humor. They got hesitant to make jokes in front of my face. After college I served at the military which was mandatory. I was 20 years old, and never had a girlfriend or sex. I was on my tough men’s world. I was in depression. I did realize I was attracted to boys. I was so scared to admit even to myself. I wish we had had internet back then. My life would have been totally different. Years went on. Still I was clueless about my sexuality.

One of my college friends told me about a bar I had never heard of before. He and I decided to go there on a Saturday night. It was in an old townhouse. As we stepped up through the wooden stairway, my heartbeat accelerated. We got by the bar to order drinks.

I said, “Something is bizarrely wrong with this bar.”

“What do you mean?”

“Everyone is either a man or a drag queen?”

“Look! I hate to break this to you but you are gay and these are your people”

That was it! I went every weekend to that bar. All those years I didn’t know there were people like me. I thought I was the only one in the entire world. After multiple nervous breakdowns I was finally out to myself. I wasn’t a freak of nature. I was a simple gay guy who went through all of that by himself. I thought my loneliness was over, but it wasn’t.

Even if I came out to myself, it was really hard to maintain regular life as a gay man in Turkey. I had to be in the darkest closet forever. It was impossible to have a boyfriend. I wanted to love someone and be loved by someone.

When I turned 30 years old, I realized I couldn’t continue to live in Turkey. I was at the age I had to be married. My parents started looking for a nice girl to match me up with.

With an impulse decision I moved to NYC. It wasn’t as easy as it sounded. I didn’t speak one word of English. I had some Turkish friends. Two of them helped me a lot. Some of them back-stabbed me delicately. As I collected knives on my back quietly, I worked harder. It was really hard to survive for me in this city, but I was determined to stay. My tribal mentality kicked in once again. I knew that was the only place for me to be accepted the way I looked, acted and talked.

The most important thing was for me to learn English as fast as I could. I went to school every morning and went out every night. I took advantage of fun NYC nights.

One of those nights I decided to go to G Lounge in Chelsea. I went in and ordered vodka soda. When I turned back, saw a guy was seating on the couch by himself. He was very familiar. I looked at him closely. I couldn’t believe my eyes. He was Fatih. Was I hallucinating?

I ran back to the bar. I was trembling. I didn’t want him to see me. I finished my drink so fast, ordered another one. I was finally tipsy. I was ready to face him.

“Hi Fatih!” He turned his head up slowly
. “Hi?!” He seemed puzzled.

“I’m Zee. We went to the same high school.”

“Oh my God! What are you doing here?”

“First! What are you doing here? You know this is a gay bar?”

“I know…”

We started talking. It wasn’t easy for either of us. I mentioned my miserable high school years. We both got very emotional. I couldn’t keep myself from crying. We both suffered in different ways to accept our sexualities. He was little luckier than me because he looked the way a Turkish man was supposed to look. He apologized the entire night. I didn’t hate him anymore. It wasn’t his fault. It wasn’t my fault either. We were just kids who got caught up by society’s conservative taboos. I realized no matter how horrifying my memories were, in the end everything worked out.

These days I’m a proud gay man. I got married with my long term boyfriend last January in Connecticut. I call NYC home. I would like to believe my darkest days are over and I have a brilliant future in front of me. That’s all I can do: Hope, Believe and Breathe.

Zee Bdr has worked in every aspect of fashion for 17 years. He is the founder and writer of the blog Zreveals. He writes personal stories on his blog. Since last year he has been working on his Blue Flower Project. So far he has photographed almost 400 guys with the blue flower. The project was featured on examiner.com. His recent passion is photography. Z keeps his digital photography diary on Zcaptures. This is his second collaboration with IFD. Previously he did a Video Story about his father.

Sharing your story can change someone's life. Interested in learning more?