Monday, 27 August 2007
Many LGBT Armenians will associate themselves with the story of that young boy expressed in this letter. I just hope that at last we will be able to hear courageous voices of parents of gay Armenians who are sick of continuous ignorance and abuse they and their children suffer in everyday life. They should exist somewhere (!), although the examples of contrary are sadly much more evident. OK, if not open voices, at least PROVIDE SUPPORT TO YOUR CHILD, TALK TO HER/HIM, ACCEPT YOUR CHILD FOR WHO S/HE IS! I know quite a few examples of Armenian parents who usually after a short period of confusion and mixed feelings accept their gay children and support enormously. But sadly, in many cases, we evidence ignorance, intolerance and abuse from parents themselves... I know, many would argue that silence may be a safer option in the cirsumstances but there is only one step (half step? no step?) from silence to tragedy. It is essential to break the SILENCE!
This letter needs to be read by everyone:
"Many letters have been sent to the Valley News concerning the homosexual menace in Vermont. I am the mother of a gay son and I’ve taken enough from you good people. I’m tired of your foolish rhetoric about the “homosexual agenda” and your allegations that accepting homosexuality is the same thing as advocating sex with children. You are cruel and ignorant. You have been robbing me of the joys of motherhood ever since my children were tiny.
My firstborn son started suffering at the hands of the moral little thugs from your moral, upright families from the time he was in the first grade. He was physically and verbally abused from first grade straight through high school because he was perceived to be gay.
He never professed to be gay or had any association with anything gay, but he had the misfortune not to walk or have gestures like the other boys. He was called “fag” incessantly, starting when he was 6.
In high school, while your children were doing what kids that age should be doing, mine labored over a suicide note, drafting and redrafting it to be sure his family knew how much he loved them. My sobbing 17-year-old tore the heart out of me as he choked out that he just couldn’t bear to continue living any longer, that he didn’t want to be gay and that he couldn’t face a life without dignity.
You have the audacity to talk about protecting families and children from the homosexual menace, while you yourselves tear apart families and drive children to despair. I don’t know why my son is gay, but I do know that God didn’t put him, and millions like him, on this Earth to give you someone to abuse. God gave you brains so that you could think, and it’s about time you started doing that.
At the core of all your misguided beliefs is the belief that this could never happen to you, that there is some kind of subculture out there that people have chosen to join. The fact is that if it can happen to my family, it can happen to yours, and you won’t get to choose. Whether it is genetic or whether something occurs during a critical time of fetal development, I don’t know. I can only tell you with an absolute certainty that it is inborn.
If you want to tout your own morality, you’d best come up with something more substantive than your heterosexuality. You did nothing to earn it; it was given to you. If you disagree, I would be interested in hearing your story, because my own heterosexuality was a blessing I received with no effort whatsoever on my part. It is so woven into the very soul of me that nothing could ever change it. For those of you who reduce sexual orientation to a simple choice, a character issue, a bad habit or something that can be changed by a 10-step program, I’m puzzled. Are you saying that your own sexual orientation is nothing more than something you have chosen, that you could change it at will? If that’s not the case, then why would you suggest that someone else can?
A popular theme in your letters is that Vermont has been infiltrated by outsiders. Both sides of my family have lived in Vermont for generations. I am heart and soul a Vermonter, so I’ll thank you to stop saying that you are speaking for “true Vermonters.”
You invoke the memory of the brave people who have fought on the battlefield for this great country, saying that they didn’t give their lives so that the “homosexual agenda” could tear down the principles they died defending. My 83-year-old father fought in some of the most horrific battles of World War II, was wounded and awarded the Purple Heart.
He shakes his head in sadness at the life his grandson has had to live. He says he fought alongside homosexuals in those battles, that they did their part and bothered no one. One of his best friends in the service was gay, and he never knew it until the end, and when he did find out, it mattered not at all. That wasn’t the measure of the man.
You religious folk just can’t bear the thought that as my son emerges from the hell that was his childhood he might like to find a lifelong companion and have a measure of happiness. It offends your sensibilities that he should request the right to visit that companion in the hospital, to make medical decisions for him or to benefit from tax laws governing inheritance.
How dare he? you say. These outrageous requests would threaten the very existence of your family, would undermine the sanctity of marriage. You use religion to abdicate your responsibility to be thinking human beings. There are vast numbers of religious people who find your attitudes repugnant. God is not for the privileged majority, and God knows my son has committed no sin.
The deep-thinking author of a letter to the April 12 ‘05 Valley News who lectures about homosexual sin and tells us about “those of us who have been blessed with the benefits of a religious upbringing” asks: “What ever happened to the idea of striving . . . to be better human beings than we are?”
Indeed, sir, what ever happened to that?"
*via Queerty; Russian version of this letter is published today in gay.ru
Wednesday, 22 August 2007
In June, I posted Bad News that the first and the only Yerevan gay bar - Meline's bar, was closed down for unknown reason.
Now it's time for Good News: I've just learnt (thanks to I.!) that the owner of Meline's bar decided to re-open it, and Meline's has already started working from this Monday!
Truly, the great news for gay community in Yerevan and Armenia. However, the future of this bar is dependent on demolition projects currently undertaken by Armenian Government to pave the way for Northern Avenue. I wonder how many more destructions are on the menu to make sure that we have our own 'Fifth Avenue'?...
Till then, lets enjoy the moment and hope that Meline's old good spirit will be re-established again to re-attract regulars and new customers alike.
There are some further news too - I am aware of at least one new gay-friendly venue in Yerevan, will provide more info as soon as finalise details.
Monday, 20 August 2007
Soho Pride differs from London Pride - its main aim is partying, while London Pride, along with parade and fun, delivers also serious political messages. However, Sunday weather - very gloomy, rainy, was a spoiler. It was less touristy, less diverse, and more of a Londoners' affair. I did not particularly enjoy it this time (to be honest, I was not in a mood), but some people managed to have fun.
Pink coloured England flags are becaming increasingly popular during Pride events.
The area at Candy Bar - the main lesbian hangout in Soho, was very popular, lively and quite mixed.
Many used the occasion for various promotional activities. This couple was promoting dating site.
Preparations for another promotional activity - in costumes...
'Objects of desire' - there was lots of beer-drinking going on and long queues throughout the day for "simply loos" (I find this label amusing :)
Friday, 17 August 2007
It's kind of historic, well, at least for US - first same-sex teenage kiss in daytime history of US TV. Luke & Noah's storyline in As the World Turns soap drama has been building up to this moment.
Van Hansis, who plays Luke Snyder, was nominated for a daytime Emmy for "Outstanding Younger Actor" earlier this year.
There is even Wikipedia page devoted to the storyline.
Sunday, 12 August 2007
Sebastian Cordoba’s documentary "Through Thick and Thin" received prestigious Freedom Award at last month’s Outfest Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Film Festival. According to GayWired, "the film depicts the cruel and heartbreaking scenarios gay and lesbian Americans in love with a foreign partner must endure and struggle to overcome due to discriminatory US immigration laws."
Cordoba, who is originally from Argentina, has first-hand experience of this injustice. His own relationship with an American broke up in part because of constant stress over the uncertainty of his visa issues.
Unlike a heterosexual spouse, a gay U.S. citizen cannot sponsor his or her noncitizen partner for a green card
Teresa Watanabe from LA Times reports about this issue and brings about real life examples of broken hearts and struggle for happiness under the target of US discriminatory immigration rules. Among others, there is also a story of lesbian couple - a story of Armenian American Rita Boyadjian:
"Rita Boyadjian, a Los Angeles entertainment marketing executive, is also facing hard choices. Her partner, who is seven months pregnant and asked for anonymity for fear of reprisals by immigration officials, is studying to be a chef in Santa Monica. But her student visa expires next year; unless she can get a work visa after that, the pair will have to move.
Boyadjian said she researched, at considerable expense, different legal ways for her partner to stay in the United States. None panned out. An investor visa requires her partner to put up her own money, not Boyadjian's. An H1-B work visa is difficult to obtain. Boyadjian's partner has turned down offers by men to fake a marriage because they don't want to skirt the law.
The pair has reluctantly decided to relocate to Canada, if necessary, with Boyadjian commuting weekly between there and Los Angeles. But Boyadjian said she resented the specter of having to spend so much time away from her family, possibly missing her baby's first steps and words. It will be costly, too, to pay for weekly flights and maintain two households and offices, she said.
"I'm angry that I'm a U.S. citizen, born in L.A., and I may have to leave my own country as a refugee," Boyadjian said, adding that her parents emigrated from Egypt in 1969 to escape persecution as Armenian Christians. The whole thing has been a nightmare, quite honestly."
According to Human Rights Watch , only 19 countries currently recognise same-sex relationships for the purpose of immigration. The forms of recognition and its particulars vary. Here is the list of these countries:
*source of picture: Out4Immigration
The stars of Oscar-nominated film Y Tu Mama Tambien ('And Your Mother Too') [one of my favourite films] have said they will use cinema [via making documentaries] to highlight "injustices" in their native Mexico. Diego Luna and Gael Garcia Bernal held a gala dinner as a way of raising money to support human rights causes.
"Each day it's harder to live in this country," said Luna. And Garcia Bernal described how "documentaries show us the injustices in the country where we live, that this problem exists". He added: "We can't escape it."
Proceeds will go to Mexico's Commission for the Defence and Promotion of Human Rights and to Witness, an organisation founded by singer Peter Gabriel which promotes the use of video and film to document human rights abuses.
The actors have vocally backed other social and political causes such as Mexico City's new law legalizing gay civil unions.
(news and picture via BBC)
Thumbs up to you, guys!
Thursday, 9 August 2007
Attention seeking bigots say “Thanks” for withdrawal of Hoagland’s nomination as US envoy to Armenia
Interestingly, in a response to my post on White House withdrawal of Hoagland’s nomination, I received a comment from ‘anonymous’ who believes that “the reason that Hoagland was not allowed to be ambassador has nothing to do with the genocide and everything to do with the fact that he is gay”. I still think that the main reason for Hoagland’s eventual withdrawal is the genocide issue, and protests by such light-weight and non-influential figures related to Hoagland’s sexuality would have had no impact whatsoever on White House decision: even though Bush administration is known for its bigotry, Hoagland's sexuality is pretty much known and open fact, and did not prevent his nomination or e.g. his latest appointment as ambassador in Tajikistan, not the most gay friendly country in the world...
I believe that this is just a good occasion for that group of Armenian bigots to turn into their favourite subject, since they are lacking substance otherwise, to make noise and remind others that there is such group in Armenia, and to make it sound that they somehow influenced the whole ambassador saga.
Their ‘fame’ came in 2004 with the ‘outing’ of Armenian MP and threats to make public an imaginary ‘gay list’ which allegedly contained names of gay members of Armenian government, 'supported' by video evidence and other documents. “Our nation can reconcile itself to a life of poverty but it will never allow itself to be ruled by a group of sexual perverts.” – Avetisyan, their leader said back then. According to him, Armenia “is being run by Masons who blackmail homosexual politicians into making laws that suit the Masons’ purposes.” In fact, he had been detained briefly in 2005 for anti-Jewish propaganda. Confronted in ArmeniaNow with whether his actions violate human rights, Avetisyan said national rights are above everything else. Sounds familiar, eh? It does not matter where this kind lives, be it France, Russia, Britain, or Armenia, actions and rhetoric are identical.
However, there was another important aspect of that story from our recent past. As rightly pointed out by Micha Meroujean, President of AGLA France (Association of Gay and Lesbian Armenians of France), it was “revolting that not a single politician, humanitarian activist, intellectual or media outlet has condemned Avetisyan's announcement.” Well, except for ArmeniaNow and Karen Babayan, Chief Physician of Dermatology and Veneral Disease of the Republic of Armenia.
“I don't care what any minister, deputy or any other high-ranking official does after his work,” said Babayan. “If he is a professional in his field but at the same time he is a homosexual then I don't care.
“Why don't they want to publish a list of high-ranking officials, who are straight but they spend their whole day with prostitutes? And who said that it is something better and more moral?”
Or, as Micha Meroujean suggested, what about publishing the list of "Most Corrupted Politicians in Armenia"?
“Avetisyan generally seen by society as a dilettante politician of marginal influence” (ArmeniaNow). I am sure (well, at least hope!) , the overwhelming majority from influential Armenian circles or foreign nationals who campaigned against Hoagland’s appointment and effectively forced White House to give in, would not like to be associated with groups like Armenian Aryan Order and they would certainly not be receptive of their “thank you” note.
I titled this post “Attention seeking bigots…”, and now I realised that at least partly they 'succeeded', they got my attention. However, while ignoring them may be one of the options, exposing hate groups is important in dealing with the problem of hate in a society.
Tuesday, 7 August 2007
As I promised in my previous post (now updated), as soon as English version of Hetq article is available, I will re-post it in my blog.
As frequently happened in translated versions of original Armenian articles, they are slightly flawed. However, overall, it reads OK. In few cases I put my commentary within .
Here we are, as published by Hetq (plus some commentary):
[August 6, 2007]
20-year old Ruben (the names of our interviewees have been changed to protect their privacy) is a bartender at the only gay bar in Yerevan and also one of only three men employed as strip dancers in the capital's nightclubs. Ruben has not told his family about the nature of his work, only a few of his friends know. And those few friends are also aware of the fact that Ruben is in love with a boy.
“My parents were suspicious of my sexual orientation during my last years of school, and we had many fights about it at home. Now we don't talk about it anymore; they think I've changed. As for my work, they know that I'm a bartender in a club, but they don't know that it's for gays. The mere mention of the striptease job is out of the question,” said Ruben.
Ruben is a student and future economist. He said that he hardly made any money dancing, because male strip shows were organized very rarely. But he also said that making money was not the biggest problem he faced. His greatest problem has been to overcome the period of dispute with his parents and resigning himself to his current situation.
“When my parents found out, they isolated me. They wouldn't talk to me, kept being hard on me and I was in a very bad state psychologically. I was aggressive and behaved badly – imagine what you would do if the world you lived in did not accept you,” Ruben said.
Mistreatment and intolerance of homosexuals, which often then turns into animosity, are typical in Armenian society. A survey we conducted among 100 people of different ages in the center of Yerevan offered further support to this fact.
According to the results, 53 percent of the respondents felt animosity towards homosexuals, 40 percent were tolerant, 4 percent treated them well, and 3 percent were undecided. When asked, “What would you do if your child were a homosexual?” 73of the respondents said that they would disown the child.
Psychologist Davit Amiryan believes that this attitude in Armenian society is actually typical of all former Soviet countries. “Ignorance and misperceptions about homosexual relations have led to its association in people's minds with perversion, which is why many people don't consider that it has a place in Armenian society,” said the psychologist. He also said that homosexual tendencies could arise at different ages and that it was necessary to have correct information about homosexuality in general in order to understand the homosexual population.
The Armenian Apostolic Church has a categorical position on homosexuality. According to Deacon Suren Nersisyan, the Church views homosexuals as people with an illness and does not allow them to partake of the Communion during mass because they are considered to be in sin. Even if they confess, they are considered to be in a period of repentance and are not given Communion then either (all this, of course, “if the church knows about their homosexual tendencies”). “These people are not unclean, but there is an impurity in them, perhaps even from birth [So we are not "unclean", but there is "impurity" in us, we've been sort of 'contaminated' from birth - I think modern science call it "genetics", which determine 'contamination' with 'being born straight' or 'being born gay'. Apparently, we have very progressive clergy in Armenia, who 'support' 'being born' theory.]. We recently wrote an email to a homosexual and asked him to bring himself closer to God and repent,” said Deacon Suren.
As Deacon Suren Nersisyan explained it, the whole Christian world has a similar position regarding homosexuals. The only exception is the Methodist Church in the USA, which performs same-sex marriages and where 40% of the community, gathered at an assembly held in 2000, had expressed approval for the ordainment of homosexuals.
51-year old Gevorg is a successful businessman. He said that now, in a relationship with a 17-year-old boy, he has had the same feelings that he once had for his wife. Gevorg discovered these tendencies within himself years ago, after living with his wife and children for many years.
“I think gay love is more natural, because we are both of the same sex, we understand each other better and act more naturally. I hope the girls who read this will forgive me for saying so, but they are never completely honest in a relationship,” said Gevorg. [Here is another extreme - I re-read several times both Armenian and English versions of the article and could not get it why would anyone consider gay love as being "more natural" than straight one; or what does it mean that "[girls] are never completely honest in a relationship"? - the only explanation I may suggest is that this is the reflection of the influence of traditional, 'macho' mentality and male superiority in our society which affects gay people too.] He agreed to an interview with us in his apartment where I was, he said, according to him, the first “straight” person to set foot.
He explained that he had always had homosexual tendencies but it all came to the surface when he grew tired of family quarrels and sexual dissatisfaction. Gevorg has not had a legal divorce from his wife, but they no longer live together. He sees his children every week. He said that his youngest probably remained oblivious, but the elder children were beginning to have suspicions about his sexual orientation, because they were close and spent a lot of time together.
“I would like to declare all this openly, because I don't think I am doing anything unusual. But there are issues of family, friends and work - I don't want to lose all that I've gained in business, and I can't confide in my old friends,” said Gevorg, adding that he often had parties at his apartment where they would gather together in small numbers and it would remain their secret.
Just five years ago, homosexuality was considered a criminal offense in Armenia and homosexuals were constantly targeted by the police, who made frequent arrests and demanded large sums of money. The police today no longer arrest homosexuals, but they continue to meet in secret and prefer to conceal their homosexuality.
Gevorg said that there were a few clubs where they can feel free, and that many gays got together outside, but in his opinion, these gatherings were not well-organized, so he and his friends preferred to stay away.
“Many are afraid to even go to clubs, they think they will be recognized as homosexuals. But I say that they can go and see the others for themselves. We have no problems in the clubs. We are also on good terms with lesbians,” said Gevorg.
Gay club bartender Ruben said that there would be 10-15 people in the club on a usual day. When there were parties or other special occasions, there would be 50 or more – there would sometimes not even be standing room. Interestingly, there are no officially registered gay clubs in the country, according to the State Registration Agency. They are not registered separately and usually serve a small clientele.
All the gay people who spoke with us said that the best means they had to interact was the Internet, where many of them had first established relationships. There are 1,764 homosexuals registered on a social network for Armenian gays – 1,306 of them are homosexuals, 342 are bisexual, 94 are lesbians and 22 are transvestites. They usually post notices looking for someone interested in sexual relations and often mention secrecy as a necessary condition.
We tried to contact a few of them through the posts and wrote them emails. They all replied, and an Armenian from the Diaspora, visiting Yerevan for two weeks, agreed to meet. He told us that his friend had been brutally beaten a few years ago while serving in the army, and then moved out of Armenia and in with him after completing his military service.
“I was called a bad word in the street the other day and pretended not to understand Armenian; it was a very unpleasant moment,” said Daron and added that military service was most difficult for Armenian gay men.
Gevorg also spoke about his friends in the army. He talked about how the problems his friend was facing came to an end when he openly declared his homosexuality and everyone, starting with the commanders, was then very careful to avoid any incidents with him so that they would not be held responsible. “The insulting thing was that they had separated his plate and cup from the rest and would not touch it, but would come to him when they wanted to satisfy their sexual urges,” said Gevorg. He also had friends who have not had problems in the army because nobody has known about their homosexuality.
Our interviewees gave different answers to the question “When will our society become tolerant towards homosexuals?”
“The problems faced by homosexuals will not be solved in Armenia anytime soon, because the authorities prefer the attitude currently held by most people,” thought Gevorg.
Ruben said that Armenia was more or less under the influence of Russia, and if Russia – relatively more developed than Armenia – still continued to be intolerant towards homosexuals and prohibit gay parades, then it was much too soon to think about a solution in Armenia. Daron said that the animosity he faced from his peers was very painful, but he did not care much about the intolerance shown by older people.
Psychologist Davit Amiryan thinks that negative feelings towards homosexuals will change years down the line. Meanwhile, he presented the results of a survey, wherein 86.5% of young Armenians said that they refused to live near or work with homosexuals. [Interestingly, according to gay.ru, recent survey showed that 87% of young Azerbaijanis do not consider homosexuality as sin; while 64% of them regarded themselves as religious. However, I was not able to locate the original source of that survey and I am not sure about its methodology and representativeness]
Deacon Suren Nersisyan quoted the Bible to remind us that God punished the Romans for worshipping the created, instead of the Creator. He condemned them to vile passions –those vile passions were their unnatural sexual needs.
Monday, 6 August 2007
"A Finnish friend of mine who works for a gay and lesbian organisation was in town for a seminar and she asked if I would like to join one of the boats of the Dutch gay and lesbian organisation COC [COC is known for its support of LGBT organisations in post-Soviet countries, including Menk-WFCE in Armenia]. I instantly decided to give it a go and did not regret that for a second. It was fun with people mostly from the international projects of COC so the boat was filled with people from Poland, Armenia, Azerbaidjan, Kirgistan, Moldova and a bunch of other countries where being gay is still a risk and a struggle. It was nice to witness how much they enjoyed the boat ride in the sun through a cheering Amsterdam.
I heard from my friend that Amsterdam's Gay Pride is turning again slightly more political without losing its jolly tone. Fantastic event altogether."
Pictures via Geoff Coupe
Saturday, 4 August 2007
It was 24th June 2007 – the participation of Q-Hye – San Francisco’s Armenian gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender organisation, in San Francisco Pride. It became an important regular event for a number of gay Armenians in the area. In fact, it was the 7th year since they first started participating in San Francisco Pride in 2001. Luckily, there are places where gay Armenians can celebrate their Pride and live their lives openly, although based on pictures and video I've seen, very few Armenians have actually marched during the Pride.
As indicated in Q-Hye statement, “all too often Armenian LGBT grow up in communities that are unable to understand and support them. In many cases Armenian LGBT leave their communities to find more supportive environments thus separating themselves from their Armenian heritage and roots. Our goal is to provide a comfortable and safe space where Armenian LGBT, their families and friends can freely express their thoughts, opinions and integrate the two identities.”
According to their website, “Q-Hye’s first meeting took place in a restaurant in San-Francisco in November 2000. Since then we have continued to meet on a monthly basis, generally on the first weekend of the month.” They participate in a wide range of activities, from Armenian community events and the annual commemoration of Armenian Genocide anniversary to meeting up at each other’s homes, restaurants, going on hiking and so on.
To contact Q-Hye and for more details about the organisation, visit here
Krikor, President of Q-Hye, in his statement made before this year Pride, mentioned that their last year placard "Hummusexulality is not Tabooli" definitely got the crowd's attention and they loved it.” Unfortunately, there were no similar placards for this year Pride (the only one is pictured above).
As Q-Hye pointed out, they “consider Pride the highlight of our year when we get to dance Shourchbar (Armenian circle dancing) down Market Street.” You can see more dancing in this year pictures.
A gallery of pictures of Q-Hye in San-Francisco Pride 2007 is now available here. They have more archive pictures on their main site.
*source of picture: Q-Hye