From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Bülent Ersoy (born 1952) is a Turkish celebrity. She is a popular singer of Ottoman classical music. Over the years, Ersoy has become a symbol for the increased tolerance to LGBT figures in Turkish media.
Already one of Turkey's most popular male singers and actors, Bülent Ersoy gained international notoriety in 1981 for a sex change operation by Dr. Mındıkoğlu in her native country. Ersoy kept the name "Bülent" even though it is more common among males.
After the operation, Bülent found herself in opposition to the homophobic and transphobic regime of Kenan Evren. In a crackdown on "social deviance," Ersoy's public performances were banned along with those of other transsexual and transgendered people.
From Ersoy's standpoint, the ban should not have even applied to her, as she was an actual woman and not simply a man dressed as one. To circumvent the ban, she petitioned the Turkish courts to legally recognize her as a woman. The petition was rejected in January 1982. Days later, Ersoy attempted suicide. In 1983 she left the entertainment industry in protest of the Evren regime's repressive policies. Later that same year, Evren left office and many of his policies were rescinded.
Ersoy continued her career mostly in Germany in addition to Turkey. Along with her musical career, she made several Turkish movies in Germany. During that time she also started having a relationship with Birol Gürkanlı.
Finally, in 1988, the Turkish Civil Code was revised so that those who completed sex reassignment surgery could apply for a pink or blue (pink for female, blue for male) identity card by which they were legally recognized in their new sex. Ersoy soon returned to singing and acting, becoming more popular as a woman than she had been as a man. Her public even took to calling her "Abla," or "elder sister," an affectionate sign of their total acceptance of her gender.
Despite her personal victory and the love and acceptance of her fans, Bülent Ersoy has continued to court controversy. Critics noted that in a film in which Bülent plays a cancer patient who falls in love, she never kisses her leading man, though this probably had to do with her being highly germ phobic. On her 1995 album, Alatürka, she sang the adhan as part of the piece, "Aziz İstanbul," an act which, because of her transsexual status, angered many Muslim clerics. In 1998, a further storm of controversy was created when Bülent married her companion, Cem Adler. Interestingly, the public outrage that resulted had nothing to do with Bülent's transsexual status and everything to do with the fact her husband was over twenty years younger than she was.
Bülent Ersoy was badly injured in January of 1999 while driving with her husband, but recovered after surgery. Later that year, she divorced Adler after learning of his tryst with a call girl. Now semi-retired, she continues to enjoy the love and adoration of her many fans and she is still performing in many TV shows and competitions as jury member on one of Turkey's most popular television show called Popstar Alaturka.
She married Popstar Alaturka contestant Armağan Uzun in July 2007, however filed for divorce in January 2008. She also made a show in July 2007 and is making new series of Popstars Alaturka which is expected to start in September 2007. There are also rumors of a new album produced by Erol Kose.
Ersoy sparked major controversy in February 2008 when she publicly criticised Turkey's incursion into Northern Iraq and said she "would not send her sons to war" if she were a mother.