Vancouver Turkish Film Festival 2015: Parents stand by their LGBT children in My Child

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      A documentary by Can Candan. In Turkish with English subtitles.

      Pinar pressured her son, who was being ridiculed at school, to act more like a male. Nilgül's daughter refused to wear dresses and wanted to play with boys. Ömer noticed his son didn't have any interest in having girlfriends.

      These are just a few of the stories from seven Istanbul parents in five homes who noticed that their children differed from the norm—and how they learned to not only accept but support and even advocate for their children.

      Although the first half of the documentary My Child (Benim Çocugum) consists of talking heads, some artfully paced editing intertwines intimate anecdotes from parents who discovered their children were transgender, lesbian, gay, or bisexual. While the film covers what may be familiar territory to many LGBT viewers, the stories remains no less affecting. There are the suspicions, the heartbreaks and shattered dreams, the worries—along with the occasional amusing comments, as there always are in families.

      Yet there are also the encouraging, inspiring stories of parents, and grandparents, who embraced their children, knowing what difficulties and discrimination lay ahead of them. What becomes evident is that these parents refused to let their bonds with their children break, in the face of overwhelming societal and traditional pressures in a Muslim-majority country. Although same-sex sexual activity is legal in Turkey, no law exists yet in Turkey to protect LGBT people from discrimination and same-sex marriage or civil unions are not recognized.

      The film loses some of its momentum, however, as it shifts from personal stories to documenting the parents and activists gathering at LGBT advocacy and support-group meetings and marching in a Pride parade.

      Yet what these parents demonstrate (as well as signs of intra-European support for LGBT rights in Turkey, and taking Turkey's desire to join the European Union into consideration), the uphill battle for the LGBT movement look hopeful in spite of its challenges. It's a reminder of what bravery and integrity individuals are capable of when they focus on the true meaning of unconditional love—and the ripple effect they can have on society at large.   

      My Child screens as part of the Vancouver Turkish Film Festival on Saturday (January 24) at 9:30 a.m. at Vancity Theatre.

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