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Turkey Transsexual Beauty Contest

Photographer: Sedat Suna


The first ever transsexual beauty contest was staged in Turkey recently – a bold move given that Lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender (LBGT) persons in the country face continual legal challenges and discrimination not experienced by non-LGBT residents, even though homosexuality is legal in the country.


Photographer Sedat Suna was there to capture the competive atmosphere behind the scenes and the on-stage performances . The ‘pageant’ formed part of a week-long celebration of LGBT events held against a background of violence towards transgender sex workers.


Behind the overtly keen competitive feverish atmosphere, backstage the half naked transsexuals helped their rivals with hair styling, make up and arranging the costumes to ensure everyone looked their best. Watched by a crowd of around 500 of mixed sexual orientation, a jury of eight veteran transsexuals were responsible for awarding points to the 13 competitors who appeared first in bikinis and later in a full dress show.


Some of the participants were afraid of their family who don’t know their sexual choice or because they work for governmental institutions so there was a high-level risk of being ‘exposed’ and therefore a potential for violent attacks. The fear is real because, according to LGBT Turkey 70 transsexuals have been killed since 2002 making Turkey the country with the highest tally of transgender types. Many of them are pushed into the sex worker industry after their sexuality is exposed in traditional employment. Some are abandoned by their families when their sexual choice is exposed.


This recent ‘pageant’ brought them some light relief, albeit with a competitive edge, notwithstanding the backdrop of fear and foreboding.