Set soon after Turkey’s February 28th ‘postmodern coup’ of 1997, when religion and secularism clashed setting off tremors that continue to this day in Turkey and elsewhere, Hilal, Feza and Other Planets follows the unlikely friendship between devout female Muslim student Hilal and Feza, a male prostitute who wants to become a woman. With their diametrically opposed cultural and social backgrounds, Muslim Hilal and secular Feza find a connection through their separate struggles against state oppression and rejection by society. Though not always smooth or free of conflict, their relationship survives despite ingrained prejudices, and we see their mutual respect and understanding for each other grow each time they meet. Hilal’s acute sense of justice and Feza’s unforgiving humour become the weapons that help them survive the religious, moral and political injustices that surround them.
These are dynamic, confusing times. Islamophobia, religious extremism and populist politics thrive. Leaders use fear to unsettle and scare us. Turkey is in upheaval as society strains against outdated assumptions about Islamic identity, and tries to understand the nature of democratic dissent, including sexual dissent. The oppressed find scapegoats to pin their personal tragedies onto, by pointing at each other, trading accusations and blame, but neither is the other’s true nemesis. My story highlights the fact that everyone suffers from state control, pious Muslim women and transsexual secular prostitutes alike. The clash of religion and sexuality is a classic cliché. Based on true events, my story shows that conflict is not the sole option for us and that there is hope for genuine understanding and mutual appreciation.