To better understand how different Istanbul is...

To better understand how different Istanbul is from international gay code, I suggest a walk through gay Istanbul by night.  Despite the prevailing homophobic attitude, seduction though discreet is everywhere.

A city where East meets West, Istanbul offers a change of scenery like no other. The sounds of
rolling dice and slamming game pawns are so loud they nearly cover the hubub of a city that is slow to fall asleep. 

The large street Istiklal Caddesi is the central artery of Beyoglu, on the European side of Istanbul, is a kind of Turkish Ramblas, full of pedestrians. A living city, people are constantly in motion, day and night. In Kafeka, it is common to see people sitting on low stools and tables palying backgammon and drinking adacaye, an island tea flavored with thyme and smoking hookahs. 

Suddenly a man, not very big with beautiful brown hair and clear eyes invites me to play a game. Serkan, my acquaintance laughs and leans over to offer me some advice on how to play. These street games are similar to a night of clubbing and bar hopping, for example the bar Cihangir to the Tunnel to the Ortaköy, these games can stretch throughout the night with one game leading into the next. 

 Next, Serkan takes me with two friends into the vortex of gay nightlife. Though not necessarily underground, it is very festive and flirtatious, sometimes hip and other times creepy but all out in the open as it should be. It is the last weekend of August and the bar hopping continues in Barbahçe. The Obe and TekYön are overflowing. Being the gay world traveler that I am, from Paris to Miami or San Francisco to Buenos Ai
ries, full of the same music, decor and gay codes, the "culture" shock here is BIG!

From the gay bars to the former princely steam room, from an "almost" bourgeois apartment to a Greek style house, from a Smokey and dark ambiance to the boardwalk along the Bosphorus, everywhere I went that night was filled 100% by Turkish pop with little to no house, trance, or dance music. 

The guys here have a style very natural, a look that will work for almost anywhere, which can sometimes be very sexy. 

On Saturdays, I love going down to the Kurdish area where, 9 years ago a friend of mine had said to never go. I always go to the same club which is100% Kurd. The location is very dark and you have to know the streets well. When I arrive there, there are still the same kind of nervous look from the locals; curious threatening and provocative like a perfume of danger floating through the air. 
 Fortunately for me, there were also a few looks that seemed more compassionate and protective when I entered the area. 

There are several Kurdish neighborhoods full of Iraqi refugees stuck in Istanbul waiting for their big day,...the day that will be the first day of the rest of their new life. They will be smuggled into Europe through Germany, France or England...Anyway, some of these beautiful Anatolian and Kurdish specimen are dancing, provocatively without restraint or shame to the latest in local pop. 

It is impossible to not meet a beautiful guy in this scene and to be frank, they are all beautiful guys who pump iron or are straight out body builders. Perhaps they are hoping to join a UFC club in London or the French Legion in Perpignan or perhaps even just a bouncer in a nightclub. 

The code of seduction is always the same. Seduction is easy fast and efficient. One look is enough to get the tongues mixing but don't ever try it in a public space because there is a culture of respect. To break the ice, I just say a few words in Kurdish or Turkish and the guys understand quickly that I am not lost. I always say in Turkish that I have argued with my boyfriend and girlfriend in the same day and it almost always works,..Kurds love this kind of drama. It's amazing the number of guys who respond, "and which do you prefer, guys or girls?" and of course I always respond, "the guy" and voila, the deal is sealed.