Thursday, 24 January 2008

Gay Armenians in Diaspora: still a taboo

For anyone who wants to get some inside on how it is to be gay Armenian in LA, a home to the one of the largest Armenian communities in Diaspora, I would recommend reading this brief paper by Ani Garibyan (2005), which was prepared as part of her student term project at UCLA.

It is not an in-depth study but rather descriptive one, involving several interviews with LGBT people, members of community and church. However, it’s well written and gives general picture of and some of the challenges faced by Armenian LGBT people in fighting prejudice and discrimination in their local communities, in this case Southern California (US).

It’s not a secret that Armenian society (inside and outside Armenia) is feeling pretty uncomfortable and at times hostile towards the fact that there are gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people among us. One of the reactions when they are confronted with the reality is homophobia, another possibility is confusion, minority would be pretty accepting and welcoming. But one of the commonest reactions is… silence.

Very convenient attitude, isn’t it? We frequently think that if we ignore an issue around us, if we ignore existence of something or someone which does not fit into the ‘picture’, we would end up with that ‘picture’, as if it is for real. It may be very convenient but what we would end up with actually, as we do in many other cases too, is mixing the real reality with the reality which suites us.

As Ani Garibyan writes in her brief student paper, which, by the way, one of the rarest works on the state of LGBT Armenians in Diaspora, when confronted with the fact that there are gay and lesbian Armenians in Southern California… you guessed it right: “The community does not speak about it.” So Ani decided to explore the subject further, to see what are the obstacles on the way of acceptance and tolerance towards LGBT people within the Armenian community in California.

There are hundreds of openly gay Armenians in California, there are much more who hide their sexual identity and remain ‘in closet’ because of intolerance. “They are mostly well educated, successful and well rounded people,” as the author notes. One of the main reasons of intolerance towards them is coming from Armenian churches which have strong influence especially in local communities in Diaspora.


Ani Garibyan, “The Unspoken Words: Gay, Lesbian,” Term project for History 111C, UCLA, 2005. <>, accessed [24 January 2008].

Other useful related links:

GALAS - Gay and Lesbian Armenian Society of LA, established in 1998, the biggest and the oldest Armenian LGBT organisation in Diaspora.

Club Nur – gay Middle Eastern Nights in LA, Armenian friendly.


hr_g said...

I hope in 2008 we can say that this has somewhat changed...and I think it has...somewhat.

artmika said...

Yes, Hrag, I hope that will be the case, and yes, agree, it has somewhat changed, and not only in Diaspora but in Armenia too, although many issues raised still out there.

As soon as possible will write my notes from Yerevan, where gay visibility is increasing too and situation is slowly but changing.

Anonymous said...

Hi artmika,
I was trying to read the article but the link that you have is no longer working... =( but from what i got form your summery on the subject i got a sense of the article and more or less its true no one talks about it at all and the funny thing is i was at a gay friend's birthday and he is in the closet much like i am. So his brother brings up the issue of gays and this guy had no idea what homosexuality was nor did he even know there was such a thing for get the fact that his brother and i were sitting there looking at each other and wondering how sad is it that people dont even have a clue as to what it means to be gay. Then he went on and on and on about why he hats gay gusy sooo much when not one of them has done anything wrong to him...

Anyway to cut it short homosexuality is a total taboo for far to many armenains and its just the lack of understanding and the ones that know about it are to afraid to talk about it like its going to hurt them... I hope that things begin to change also.


artmika said...

Thanks for sharing your story, LostArmenian! You proved that the issues I pointed out in this post,related to that published paper, sadly, did not change much since 2005, and remain as relevant as ever.

Re links: it's strange that they stopped working. Anyway, email me and I will send you a pdf version of that paper.