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26 Aug 2005

turkish dyke delight

"Don't panic, I am Islamic," read one of her flyers. Fridae speaks to DJ Ipek, who performed her first gig in Berlin sheathed in a Burka, on coming out to her family and getting into DJing. She's scheduled to play at Shanghai's Home&Bar this weekend.

She's Muslim. She's a dyke. And she's hot.

Other than being a resident award-winning DJ for club SO36/Berlin and having toured Europe and now China; Ipek Ipekcioglu, 33, also has a degree in social work and has published papers on identity and homosexuality.
DJ Ipek, German-born and of Turkish extraction is more than out. She wears her sexuality, cultural identity and religion on her sleeve.

She performed her first gig in Berlin sheathed in a Burka; one of her flyers has her sporting a t-shirt pleading "Don't panic, I am Islamic" and her centerpiece is a monthly queer club night in Berlin called Gayhane-HomOriental-Dancefloor.

Gayhane means the house of gays in Turkish.

"It's not a paradox to be Muslim and a lesbian - the religion doesn't have anything to do with your sexuality," she asserts.

This past week she has been dyking up the queer club scene in China with gigs in Beijing, Jinan and Shanghai.

"I wanted to make music for non-German gay people," she adds about her start seven years ago on the music scene in Berlin.

"I wanted to make music for my people. My aim was not to be one of the mainstream DJs."

On her website she describes her music as "a burning mix of oriental-dancefloor-sounds combined with club, house, techno, and queer classics."

She's christened her style as "'Eklektik Arabesk-konFUSION OrAsia'- a groovy, feminine, strong, sensual vibe that incorporates Nu-Oriental Dance, Pop, Desi-Bollywood-Bhangra-Indian-Soundz, Breakbeatz, Tech Buka House, Asian Elektroniks, and Queerdance."

Australian lesbian Ilsa, based in Beijing, describes Ipek's gig last Friday.

"It's cool, Turkish, Islamic, Kazak, mixed up music really sexy and hot. Lots of rhythm.

"I was dancing like a total whore."

In a world with few lesbian role models, Ipek Ipekcioglu, 33, is smart - she has a degree in social work and has published papers on identity and homosexuality; sexy - she has a cute boyish face, dykey piercings, and slips provocatively around in unbuttoned shirts; and successful - she is a resident award-winning DJ for club SO36/Berlin and has toured Europe and New York, and now China.

Considering her background - she was born to Turkish immigrant parents in Germany - coming out as a lesbian to her family was relatively easy.

Her mother, who read a love letter Ipek had written as a teenager to another girl, said: "You are my daughter - just discover what you are. I will accept you."
At 18, Ipek went to London to experiment with music and her sexuality and realised she was a lesbian.

For her first trip to Turkey she took her girlfriend to visit her grandparents.

Once her grandfather realised she was gay he said: "It doesn't fit with our religion. It doesn't fit with our culture. It doesn't fit with our belief. But you are our granddaughter and we love you."

He paused, then added: "But if your brother comes here with another man, we will send him to hell!"

In her early days, Ipek describes herself as a radical, hardcore lesbian. She rented a room in a dyke-only flatshare, where men were banned outright. If a man had to visit, say to repair something in the home, one of the other girls would follow him around with lit incense to purify his trail. She got tired of not being allowed to let her brother visit and moved out.

Perhaps lesbians' biggest problem, she jokes, is that they act too cool. "They don't smile enough; we're not friendly enough."

"Perhaps we are own worst enemies," she muses. "We should flirt more."

While Ipek appears self-assured and comfortable with her out lifestyle, she admits she is lucky. Many other Turkish gay and lesbian immigrants in Germany are pressured to stay hidden, she says. Women keep their sexual orientation a secret and end up getting coerced into marrying, with some having affairs with other women after their marriage.

"In the Turkish community there is a great secret life going on," she said.
"You have drag queens dressed in suits during the day carrying these massive bags full of their costumes and makeup for the night time."

And for those in the Turkish community who are brave enough to come out, the response is often along the lines that it is the fault of the host country.

You will hear, "Germany has seduced you into being a lesbian; lesbians are not a Turkish thing," Ipek says.

For herself, Ipek adds she overcomes discrimination and homophobia from her community by joking with her antagonists. If Turkish men mock her sexuality she replies by smiling and joking with them.

"It's the only way," she says, adding that her opponents do not know how to react.

Ipek describes herself as "engaged" to a German woman she has been with for more than five years.

"It's a very symbiotic relationship," she says, adding that she is allowed to pursue affairs.

Any conquests in China?

"I haven't seen many (girls)," she jokes.

"While Im DJing I'm not concentrating on women!"

But for those interested, she has some words of encouragement.

"I would never say no to an experience!" she smiles.

DJ Ipek is scheduled to play at Shanghai's Home&Bar on Saturday 27 August. See Fridae Agenda for more information.

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