Situation of LGBTI+ Employees in the Private and Public Sector in Turkey


Kaos GL Association has conducted this research for the private sector since 2015 and for the public sector since 2017. The focus of the research are the hiring processes, general working conditions and personal experiences of discrimination of the LGBTI+ employees of different sectors. Since 2018, Kadir Has University Gender and Women’s Studies Research Center has also been part of the team.

In 2019, there were 228 public sector and 772 private sector participants.

In line with the findings of previous years, very few employees completely disclose their gender identity, sexual orientation or intersex situation in their workplaces. In previous research, we found that public sector LGBTI+ employees were less open compared to the private sector, but the results this year suggest that the ratios are quite similar. The fact that these employees are forced to hide their gender identity, sexual orientation or intersex situation in their workplaces is not only a violation of basic human rights but causes these individuals to hide their identity outside the office as well. The experiences both private and public sector shared relate the fact that these individuals cannot be open and this affects their productivity, creates a constant source of stress and negatively impacts their relationship with other employees.

Another experience of discrimination common for both public and private sector LGBTI+ employees is their inability to resist innuendos and “jokes” that force them to reveal their identities. They are also unable to seek justice though legal or executive channels. Even though very few establishments in the private sector have protective regulations, we lack national legislation that would prevent discrimination and regulate the work environment for LGBTI+ employees.

Our participants who are open regarding their LGBTI+ existence shared different situations of prejudiced attitudes and discriminatory behavior. Unfortunately, the research reveals that the majority of both public and private institutions in Turkey do not have adequate procedures and practices that meet the health and other needs of LGBTI+ individuals or protect them from the negative results of discrimination.

The fact that we do not have sexual orientation, gender identity and sex characteristics within the prohibited categories of discrimination in the Constitution and Labor Law creates the primary obstacle and the primary legal gap for LGBTI+ on the way to an equal citizenship. Most of our participants stated the need for legal and constitutional changes to prevent discrimination, which means it is only then they can feel comfortable and protected. Results also show that working conditions also negatively affect the performance of the LGBTI+ employees, their peace in the workplace and their productivity. Even though discrimination based on gender identity or intersex status for those who disclose their identity is more obvious, even in closed cases comments, prejudices and innuendos prevent these employees from completely participate in labor and victimizes them.

Both public and private sector employees stated they often experience hate speech. Even though legally there is a distinction between hate speech and hate crimes, considering the results of hate speech in the workplace one can argue that it is also a hate crime. The answers given to open-ended questions by the LGBTI+ employees and their shared experiences of discrimination reveal that in most cases discrimination is based on behavior. The relationship between hate speech and hate crime is the fact that hate speech can easily be observed in one’s behavior.

"The fact that these employees are forced to hide their gender identity, sexual orientation or intersex situation in their workplaces is not only a violation of basic human rights but causes these individuals to hide their identity outside the office as well."

Prof. Dr. Melek Göregenli

Homosexuality as a stigmatized category, discrimination against sexual orientations other that heterosexuality and heteronormativity are social problems that were ignored by both government and in academic circles. Many studies, both in US and in Europe, consider the relationship between discrimination and violence within the definition of the concept of hate crime. This special form of discrimination is underlined. In Turkey, considering the high level of discriminatory violence towards LGBTI+ individuals, we need to deal with homophobia as a special form of violence. Hate crimes experienced in the workplace by LGBTI+ employees have direct negative impact, according to our results.

Hate crimes based on discrimination against sexual orientation, gender identity and sex characteristics should be separated from hate crimes towards other group identities. According to the studies in this area, victims of such crimes face or would face this kind of attacks all their lives just because they are LGBTI+. These attacks do not necessarily happen predictively, as a consequence of other incidents, as is the case for hate crimes towards other groups. They are also not limited to the

actual time of the attack, they also cover the period before and after the incident.

Victims are generally harassed and threatened in advance, in most cases there are witnesses and most do not react or intervene. The personal experiences of our participants regarding discriminatory behavior at work supports these findings, showing us that hate crimes and discrimination experienced in everyday life continues at the workplace.

The results show us clearly the destructive nature of the problem that is mentioned above with its more important aspects. As employees from various sectors have pointed out, the most immediate solutions are “to prevent discrimination and hate crimes toward LGBTI+ by legal and constitutional changes” and “to organize awareness campaigns that aim a social transformation”. To be able to ban discrimination in work life we should fight discrimination at a societal level so that the whole society reaches a mental and ideological understanding to condemn discrimination and to build a democratic and legal system that would support it.

This understanding would only be possible by making discrimination and hate crimes visible, by having a mental and behavioral determination to recognize and demonstrate them as a violation of human rights and as crimes and by having an appropriate legal system. As public and private sector LGBTI+ employees put it, this target can be received only through organization and awakening of all the employees and the society as a whole.