(posted in Unzipped on 3 May 2007)
Armenian media continues to stigmatise gay community
Blogrel posted a letter of a member of Association of Gay and Lesbian Armenians (AGLA) in France in response to the article Homosexuals are Hidden in Armenia published recently in one of the popular Armenian newspapers – Aravot daily. Here is the link to the original article (in Armenian only). In his open letter, AGLA member asks Aravot “to be more critical on articles that can endanger and stigmatise any group of our society”. And rightly so.
I honestly believe that the subject of sexual minorities is not a concern of a minority group. It is about tolerance for the society as a unity of all people, who can be minorities and majorities in many relations.
Grigor, AGLA France member
Yesterday I tried to leave a comment in Blogrel but it was not possible to post it (it remained unpublished), possibly for technical reasons. Since the issues raised in that article and following comments are important in terms of understanding Armenian reality in relation to (lack of) gay rights and equality, I decided to post my comment here, with some additions:
Thanks for bringing up this article to the attention. Actually, I am not surprised re Aravot daily. I can recall TV comments made by Aravot’s editor-in-chief Abrahamyan years ago. He could not hide his “disgust” towards gay people and, although stating that he is against violence and discrimination, suggested that gay men and women should remain in ‘closet’. And this is one of supposedly ‘liberal’ Armenian newspapers – a newspaper, which played an important role in promoting free speech in Armenia!
To hear these sorts of comments from ordinary people who live in Armenia would not surprise me; there is a huge lack in education on sexuality, homosexuality and related issues in Armenia. But here we are: ‘liberal’ newspaper, journalist and an ‘expert’ sexopathologist. There is either absolute silence in Armenian media on gay issues or incredible ignorance, like in case of this article in Aravot.
The only rightly made point in this article was that gay men and women hide themselves in Armenia, forced to get married which result in unhappy families (to say the least!). However, instead of developing this issue (which is reflected in the title itself), the article reinforces existing clichés on gays working as hairdressers and so on. It made ludicrous statements and inferences, widespread in Armenian society and ‘supported’ by ‘specialist’ sexopathologist, that being gay is a matter of choice, a pathological condition or that gay people need pity since they ‘become gays’ because of ‘childhood trauma’ or ‘horrific upbringing by father’ (?!).
It goes on further to suggest that lesbians ‘recover’ from homosexuality and “forget” their female lovers after being pregnant and after sleeping with the “real” man - the most ridiculous statement I read in years!
While I agree that it is important to start discussing gay issues in Armenia, to actually acknowledging the existence of gay community in Armenia (and in this context I am pleased that there is some sort of discussion going on in one of Armenian blogs), I strongly disagree with the suggestion that we should “applaud Aravot for finding the space… to address a social problem, which is definitely not popular, doesn’t bring any money in election days”. I do not think that addressing important social problem mean (again and again) miseducating people about the very essence of the problem, reinforcing existing clichés and leading to further stigmatisation of gay community in Armenia.
This type of articles is one of the reasons why gay men and women in Armenia prefer to hide themselves, remain in ‘closet’. It’s time to break this vicious circle!
P.S. I will certainly comment further on the issues raised in this article and related issues in my blog very soon.