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OCCUPATION: Singer, Actress
Bulent began her career as a male singer , in the genre of Turkish Classical Music , and became an actor early on.
Already one of Turkey 's most popular male singers and actors, Bulent Ersoy gained international notoriety in 1981 when she travelled to Great Britain for a sex change operation , a procedure unavailable in her native country. In a further defiance of convention, Ersoy kept the traditionally male name of "Bulent," rather than exchanging it for a female one, as is usual with male-to-female transsexuals .
Returning to Turkey, Bulent found herself in opposition to the extremely 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. This move actually went against a centuries-old tradition of tolerance for the transgendered in Turkish society, dating back to the days when the Ottoman sultans kept young male concubines, or celtikci , who were often dressed as women. Performances by male entertainers in drag are also a time-honored and cherished tradition in Turkish culture.
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 of 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 Later that same year, Evren left office and many of his policies were rescinded.
Because she was banned in Turkey, Ersoy continued her career mostly in Germany. Along with her musical career, she made several movies in Germany. During that time she also started having a relationship with Birol Gurkanli.
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, quickly becoming even 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, Bulent Ersoy has continued to court controversy. Critics noted that in a film in which Bulent 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, Alaturka , she sang the adhan as part of the piece, "Aziz Istanbul," an act which, because of her transsexual status, angered many Muslim clerics. In 1998 , a further storm of controversy was created when Bulent married her companion, Cem Adler. Interestingly, the public outrage that resulted had nothing to do with Bulent's transsexual status and everything to do with the fact her husband was over twenty years younger than she was.
Bulent Ersoy was badly injured in January of 1999 in an auto accident 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.
The attention for Ersoy's transsexual status often distracts one from the fact that she is an extraordinarily talented singer with an unequaled control of her voice.