Saturday, 28 February 2009

Gay kiss music video from ex-Libertines Peter Doherty

Kiss of The Day

Via Towleroad, this music video for the new single from ex-Libertines (my favourite band back then) Peter Doherty's debut solo album Grace/Wastelands, called "Last of the English Roses". 'Kiss of The Day' - at the end of the video. Check it out ;)

Gay Azeri artist Babi B now seeks asylum in France

I wrote extensively about the case of gay Azeri artist Babi B. He fled his native Azerbaijan due to homophobia, seeking for asylum in the UK. Despite an international campaign in support of his pledge, Babi's asylum bid in the UK has failed, and he got deported back to Baku. He was then moved to St. Petersburg. However, growing nationalism and intolerance in Russia made his stay there unsafe too.

Recent reports indicate that "Babi is now in France and has tried once again a request for asylum, supported by some close relations and associations."

Below is Babi's latest interview (from France) where he details his story and how it is to be gay in Azerbaijan.

Friday, 27 February 2009

Sex-change operations on the rise in Azerbaijan

1news.az reports on some personal, social, financial and legal challenges Azeri transsexuals face when seeking sex-change surgery. The report contains an interview with the first Azeri surgeon who conducted such operations – 11 so far, mainly Russian citizens, as the surgery is far more expensive there than in Azerbaijan.

Unconfirmed reports suggest that numbers of people who seek sex-change operation in Azerbaijan are on the rise. According to one unofficial statistics, as of now, more than 100 people underwent such operations in Azerbaijan.

'Beckham condoms' in China

The Sun reports: “A Chinese firm is using David Beckham’s name to help sell its condoms. The Beckham contraceptive – not endorsed by him – claims the user will score in the bedroom like David does on the pitch.

The condoms now sell more than any other brand in China which has a population of 1.3billion. But Chinese fans of the LA Galaxy soccer star want them banned. One said: “We do not want Beckham to think the Chinese people are disrespecting him. We love him here.” Beckham’s agent Simon Oliveira said: “It’s not an official brand.”

*source of photo

It’s Bible time for Eva & friends

Our ‘love affair’ with Eva Hakobyan continues. In response to our posts and following the meeting with the head of PINK Armenia, she now reveals the source of her (& co) knowledge on homosexuality. Now we know what kind of books they read and where the entertainment chief of Armenian secular newspaper gets the information and knowledge from on various aspects of social life and on being gay and lesbian. No surprises here. It’s Bible, and one obscure Armenian church related website which no one would have heard of before, well, except Eva & friends, that is.

This photo (below) and this cover story by Newsweek - from me, especially for Eva Hakobyan & friends. Enjoy! ;)


(…at least in a title to her report, below, she uses the most acceptable Armenian version of “Միասեռական” to refer to gays.)

Միասեռականությունն անհարիր է քրիստոնյաներին
Aravot daily, 27 February 2009

Տարածված երեւույթի՝ միասեռականության մասին խոսվում է հաճախ, եւ վերջինիս վերաբերյալ տարբեր կարծիքներ են հայտնում բժիշկներ, հոգեբաններ, քաղաքական գործիչներ եւ այլք:

WWW.qahana.am կայքի «Հարցադարան» էջում, որտեղ կայքի այցելուների կողմից հնչեցված բոլոր հարցերին պատասխանում են հոգեւոր սպասավորները, բարձրացվել էր հարց, թե ինչպիսի՞ն է Հայ առաքելական եկեղեցու տեսակետը միասեռականության հարցում: Մայր աթոռ Ս. Էջմիածնի միաբան Տիգրան սրկ. Բաղումյանն էլ պատասխանել էր, որ ինչպես առաքելահաստատ եւ ուղղափառ մյուս եկեղեցիների, այնպես էլ Հայ առաքելական եկեղեցու տեսակետն այս հարցում բացասական է. «Այն հոգեւոր ախտ է եւ մեղք: Ասածիս ապացույցն է, որ թե՛ արվամոլությունը եւ թե՛ իգամոլությունը որպես մեղք առկա են մեր եկեղեցու ծիսակարգում, ի մասնավորի՝ մեղքերի ընդհանրական խոստովանության բանաձեւում: Աստվածաշունչ մատյանը տղամարդու եւ կնոջ արարման վերաբերյալ ճանաչում եւ ընդունում է մեկ հիմնական սեռային տարբերակում, որ է՝ արուինը եւ էգինը: Քրիստոս նույնպես հաստատում է վերոգրյալ կարծիքը՝ ասելով. «Դուք չե՞ք կարդացել, թե նա, ով սկզբից ստեղծեց, արու եւ էգ արեց նրանց եւ ասաց. դրա համար տղամարդը պիտի թողնի հորը եւ մորը ու գնա իր կնոջ հետեւից եւ երկուսը մեկ մարմին պիտի լինեն: Երկրորդ մասում Հիսուս նկատի ունի Աստծուց մարդուն շնորհված պսակի բնական խորհուրդը, երբ տղամարդը եւ կինն աստվածային օրհնությամբ ամուսնության դաշն են կնքում: Հետեւաբար, արարչագործության ծիրից ներս ցանկացած հոմոսեքսուալ հարաբերություն դառնում է հակաբնական եւ արժանի՝ դատապարտության»:

Ընդհանրապես արվամոլությունը նողկալի երեւույթ եւ մեղք է համարվում ինչպես Հին, այնպես էլ Նոր Կտակարաններում: Ս. Գիրքը շատ հստակ պատվիրում է. «Եթե որեւէ տղամարդ մի այլ տղամարդու հետ պառկի, ինչպես կնոջ հետ, նրանք պղծություն գործած կլինեն: Երկուսն էլ մահվան թող դատապարտվեն: Նոր Կտակարանում կան Պողոս առաքյալի դատողություններն ընդհանրապես սեռական այլասերությունների մասին, որոնցում Տիրոջ աշակերտը խստորեն դատապարտում է արվամոլությունն ու իգամոլությունը: Երեւույթներ, որոնք անհարիր են քրիստոնյաներին եւ մեղքի արդյունք»:

Ե. Հ.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Entertainment chief of popular Armenian daily ‘defends’ her homophobia and ignorance

She got her ‘fame’ for all the wrong reasons.

'Shocking revelation’ by Aravot daily: there are lesbians at odnoklassniki.ru, and they are Armenian

This article, along with other recent publications and statements, was one of the reasons for preparing an Open Letter Against Intolerance.

There was hope that Eva Hakobyan will recognise her mistakes, to put it mildly. Vain hopes, apparently. Head of PINK Armenia now reports that he had a meeting with Eva Hakobyan to discuss the issues.

She could not provide any proof that she used the photos of Armenian lesbians from odnoklassniki.ru social networking site with the permission of those concerned.

Then she went on saying that she “didn’t write her opinion” but rather that of “Armenian society” when stating about “99.9% negative attitude” of heterosexual men towards lesbians (?!).

PINK Armenia: “Then I asked about that 99.9% Armenian men who don't accept lesbians, how she found that percentage? She answered that it was result of simple survey among 100 Armenian men, and here is another question, how she counted 99.9% from 100 replies? This is a simple mathematics!”

This kind of “simple surveys” are becoming increasingly common in Armenian media to ‘justify’ opinion of journalists re various issues covered.

Eva Hakobyan then went a step further, reportedly saying that “homosexuality is a disease”, but that this is her personal opinion and not that of Aravot daily.

I am afraid, Eva, this is not a good enough excuse. Not even close. You are heading an entertainment section of a popular Armenian daily, and you cannot ‘excuse’ spreading ignorance and hate by your “personal opinion”.

Perhaps, it’s a time to file a complaint to the newly appointed internal Ombudsman of Aravot daily Mesrop Harutyunyan.

But this is not all. Another journalist from Aravot daily joined the conversation.

Welcome to the world of Nelly Grigoryan who was insisting that “homosexuality is not only disease but it is sexual perversion.” Any evidence? "Yes I read many books," - she replied.

I have a suspicion that Soviet era Criminal Code is part of her bibliography.

Sexual Assault Crisis Center of Yerevan (SACC)

SACC is a community resource for victims of sexual assault.

Hotline: 0 800 01 280 (Armenia)
Working hours: 11-18:00 Monday to Saturday

SACC can tell you about resources available in Yerevan and help you get through the aftermath of a recent or past sexual assault and regain control of your life.

Services available at the SACC:
- Hotline / phone counselling
- individual counselling
- refferals

SACC can accompany you in any proceedings you decide to undertake (medical, legal or other).

"Sexual assault is an act of a sexual nature, whether or not it involves physical contact, carried out by an individual without the consent of the person to whom it is addressed or, in some cases, notably those involving children, by manipulation of feelings or blackmail".

Sexual violence is a crime that continues as a result of our silence.
Let’s break that silence!

*Facebook group

Monday, 23 February 2009

Sean Penn and Dustin Lance Black - Men of The Day

Gay rights night at Oscars

Needless to say how happy I am to see Sean Penn winning the Best Actor at the Oscars for his portrayal of gay rights champion Harvey Milk, America’s first openly gay politician in San Francisco, in Gus Van Sant’s Milk. Not only his performance in Milk was excellent and inspirational, but so was his speech at the awards ceremony - my RESPECTS:

"... for those who saw the signs of hatred as our cars drove in tonight, I think that it is a good time for those who voted for the ban against gay marriage to sit and reflect and anticipate their great shame and the shame in their grandchildren's eyes if they continue that way of support. We've got to have equal rights for everyone. And there are, and there are, these last two things. I'm very, very proud to live in a country that is willing to elect an elegant man president and a country who, for all its toughness, creates courageous artists. [...]" (video)


Press room - Sean Penn

Also, my big RESPECTS to Dustin Lance Black who received the award for the Best Original Screenplay for Milk. What a moving acceptance speech:

"...When I was 13 years old, my beautiful mother and my father moved me from a conservative Mormon home in San Antonio, Texas to California, and I heard the story of Harvey Milk. And it gave me hope. It gave me the hope to live my life. It gave me the hope one day I could live my life openly as who I am and then maybe even I could even fall in love and one day get married. [...]

I wanna thank my mom, who has always loved me for who I am even when there was pressure not to. But most of all, if Harvey had not been taken from us 30 years ago, I think he'd want me to say to all of the gay and lesbian kids out there tonight who have been told that they are less than by their churches, by the government or by their families, that you are beautiful, wonderful creatures of value and that no matter what anyone tells you, God does love you and that very soon, I promise you, you will have equal rights federally, across this great nation of ours. Thank you. Thank you. And thank you, God, for giving us Harvey Milk." (video)


Press room - Dustin Lance Black

*photos - via Oscar.com

G.Grigori - Տղամարդ շինել (contemporary Armenian poetry)

Writing under the pseudonym, “G. Grigori” had composed and published explicit homoerotic poetry in Yerevan-based Bnagir literary magazine (Bnagir No. 7, Yerevan 2003), and short stories in a successor of Bnagir – Inqnagir literary magazine (Inqnagir No. 2, Yerevan 2007). Back then, this created a stir in literary circles or so, with threats and hate towards the publication and the author. There were few supportive messages too, praising the bravery of G. Grigori. You may read his published works (in Armenian) using the links above. Below is one of his short poems Տղամարդ շինել.

Տղամարդ շինել

Մեծ եղբայրս ասում էր.
"Կգնաս բանակ, տղամարդ կդառնաս:
Քեզ տղամարդ կշինեն ընդեղ":
Եղբորս ի՞նչ կա:
Ինքը մամայի կողմին է քաշել` սեւ ու մազոտ:
Նա ծառայեց սովետական ալ ու ալվան բանակում,
Ռուսական ստեպներում,
Որտեղ ամեն օր տանցի կար,
Ու ինքն էլ չգիտի քանի չուվ է ռազտամոշկա արել:
Իսկ ես պապայի կողմին եմ քաշել` բելի ի պուշիստի:
Ու ես ծառայեցի մեր ազգային բանակում,
Հայրենի լեռնաշխարհի չոլերում,
Շրջապատում իգական սեռի ոչ մի մարդ կամ անասուն չկար,
Ու ես համով պատառ էի մեր սեքսասոված, սեքսածարավ ոհմակի համար
Իմ կարմիր շրթունքներով
Ու չորս անմազ թուշերովս:
Եվ շինեցին, եղբայր ջան, տղամարդ շինեցին ինձ:
Տղա էի, դարձա տղամարդ:
Դու շատ ճիշտ էիր:
Ինձ(նից) շինեցին տղամարդ մեր բանակում:

*source: Bnagir No. 7, Yerevan 2003

Sunday, 22 February 2009

French-Armenian designer Charles Anastase at London Fashion Week

BBC: An eclectic show by London-based French-Armenian designer Charles Anastase ranged from rock-star leather to Pierrot-style make-up, with painted tattoos somewhere in between. (picture above - AP, via BBC)

Guardian (AP): "Anastase's autumn/winter collection was one of the day's hottest tickets. The French/Armenian designer who is based in London, showed eclectic ideas which included leather jackets, soft pastel draping and a top with drawn-on lips and the slogan "I'm in training don't kiss me". One model wore Pierrot-style make-up with a whitened face, another was painted with tattoos while some had bare faces except for a smudge of silver lipstick."

Grazia London writes about Charles Anastase's punk fashion statement: "Il Bottacio was heavy with fashion heavy-weights and hipsters to see what Charles Anastase, the French Armenian who decamped to London from Paris last season, would do next. Turns out he really arrived. Daisy Lowe, Pixie Geldof and an assortment of hip Parisian girls with almost chic dark circles under their eyes lined the runway. From the moment the first model stomped out in Marc Bolan T-Rex (or if you were born post 1985) platform boots, skinny legs encased in purple denim, you knew this was gonna be cool. And so it came to pass.

The collection was inspired by the idea that a bunch of cool, rebellious (French) teenagers had broken into a crumbling French Chateau and squatted it. While there they mixed their purple jeans, striped leggings, defaced biker jackets, cardigans and said muddied platform boots and trend-blended it with the contents of the Chateau’s wardrobes, as well as with curtains and blankets from the various bed-chambers. The result was a crazy clash of styles. [...]"

July stars provides some interesting bio details: "London born Charles Anastase was schooled at the French Lycée in South Kensington and is of French/Armenian roots. He credits his family for the success he has achieved and has stated that they are the most important thing in his life. Family and friends are apparently involved in everything he does. [...] He began his career as an illustrator despite having studied political science. [...] His army of fans include Alexa Chung, Yasmin Sewell, Beth Ditto and Kylie Minogue among many others. [...]"

*photo of Charles Anastase - via London Fashion Week

A Girl's War: An Armenian-Azeri Love Story (theatre play)

Long before Artush and Zaur, there was this fascinating (based on description, see below) award winning theatre play by Armenian-American playwright Joyce Van Dyke. This is a taboo breaking heterosexual love story between Armenian and Azerbaijani against the backdrop of Karabakh war. I wish I could see the play. May be they could submit it for the annual HayFest international theatre festival in Yerevan which is known for alternative, thought-provoking plays (to be held on 1-10 October this year).

Golden Thread Productions is proud to present the West Coast premiere of Armenian-American playwright Joyce Van Dyke's award-winning play, A Girl's War. This love story of opposite sides was first produced at Boston Playwrights' Theatre in 2001. Named one of the "top ten" plays of the year by the Boston Globe, A Girl's War won the John Gassner Playwriting and the Provincetown Theatre Company Playwriting Awards.


Written by Joyce Van Dyke, directed by Torange Yeghiazarian, featuring Ana Bayat, Adrian Mejia, Zarif Sadiqi, Simon Vance and Bella Warda (artists bios)

Date: February 14 - March 8, 2009
Venue: Thick House, 1695 18th St, San Francisco

During a stormy fashion shoot, Anna Sarkisian, a New York fashion model, learns that her younger brother has been killed by enemy soldiers in her native Karabakh in the Caucasus Mountains. In the Armenian enclave of Karabakh, formerly part of the Soviet Union, an unresolved civil war still smolders between Armenians and Azerbaijanis. The war has already killed Anna's older brother and driven her mother into the army. Anna decides to return home to her village for the first time in 15 years. Living with her fiercely partisan Armenian mother in the bombed ruin of her childhood home, Anna defiantly refuses to identify herself with the Armenian cause. Tensions ignite when Ilyas, a young Azeri deserter shows up, claiming to be a former neighbor. Anna and Ilyas, powerfully drawn to one another, become lovers in secret. The competing desires of love and vengeance, fueled by jealousy, propel the characters toward an explosive climax with tragic consequences.

*Thanks to Q-Hye (San Franicsco LGBT Armenian group) for the info

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Anna Eshoo: US congresswoman of Armenian origin, supporter of gay rights movement

IANYAN writes about Ten People You Didn’t Know Were Armenian. Among them is Anna Eshoo:

"A Democratic member of the United States House of Representatives for 14 years, Anna Eshoo is of Assyrian and Armenian heritage and represents California’s 14th congressional district, otherwise known as the “heart of Silicon Valley,” which includes Redwood City, Cupertino, Sunnyvale and Palo Alto. A strong supporter of the gay rights movement, Eshoo has also endorsed an amendment to the Foreign Relations Authorization Act to protect indigenous Assyrian Christians in Iraq from religious persecution. You might also be interested to know that she introduced legislation to help combat the problem of spam. The CAN-SPAM Act was passed in 2003 and authorized a “Do Not Spam” list and also imposes fine on spammers. Most recently, Eshoo endorsed Senator Barack Obama for President."

Wikipedia provides more details:

"She is the only Member of Congress of Assyrian descent but shares her Armenian heritage with Congresswoman Jackie Speier who is of Armenian and German Jewish heritage."

"Anna Eshoo was born in New Britain, Connecticut of Assyrian and Armenian heritage. [2] Her father, Fred Georges, was a jeweler and watchmaker. She is a Chaldean Catholic and is the oldest of three children. She has a brother, Frederick Kenneth Georges, and a sister, Veronica May Georges. Her sister is married to Lawrence Patrick Purcell and they have two children, Celine and Alexander Purcell.

She was married to attorney George Eshoo and is now divorced, with two children, Karen and Paul. She now resides in Atherton, California."

"Anna Eshoo is a strong supporter of the gay rights movement. In 1992 when a gay bashing mailer was directed at Supervisor Tom Nolan (the first openly gay supervisor in San Mateo and her opponent for her congressional seat) Anna Eshoo stood fast in defending him, his record and years of service. She opposed the Marriage Protection Amendment and the Marriage Protection Act. Her website says the bill is "discriminatory, singling out for the first time a minority to prevent their interests from being considered by the highest courts in the land."

*photo - via Wikipedia

A History of Armenian Women's Writing 1880-1922 (new book)

Thanks to the reader of my blog AW, I received the info on this new book by Victoria Rowe "A History of Armenian Women's Writing 1880-1922". Seems very interesting. It's now available to pre-order via Amazon, with the release date (paperback) indicated as 4 March 2009.

Below are details via Amazon and Google Book. A preview of 2003 edition of (as far as I understand) the same book (or her PhD thesis) is available on Google Book.

Product Description (Amazon)
This classic, path-breaking volume restores the pioneering generation of 19th and 20th century Armenian women writers to their rightful place in the histories of modern Armenian and Ottoman literatures. The author reconstructs the biographies and bibliographies and analyzes the texts of six Armenian women writers and contextualizes their works in the intellectual and cultural milieus of the late Ottoman and Russian Empires.

(Google Book) The volume focuses on six Armenian women writers-Srpouhi Dussap, Sibyl, Mariam Khatisian, Marie Beylerian, Shushanik Kurghinian and Zabel Yesayian and these authors' novels, short stories, poems and essays. The study contends that Western and Eastern Armenian women writers, while not displaying a uniformity of opinion and vision, nevertheless found inspiration in the activism, writings and arguments of one another and form a literary genealogy of women's writing in Armenian.The study has several objectives. For general readers and those interested primarily in the historical account it provides a chronological description of the formative period of modern Armenian women's writing beginning in 1880 with the publication of a series of articles on women's education and employment by Srpouhi Dussap and concludes with the physical dislocations and psychological traumas of the Armenian Genocide in 1915 and the fall of the first independent Republic of Armenia in 1921.On another level the book concentrates on disentangling the contemporaneous intellectual debates about Armenian women's proper sphere. The author argues that the role of the Armenian woman was central to debates about national identity, education, the family and society by Armenian writers and women writers sought to participate in and guide this discourse through literary texts.

About the Author (Amazon)
Victoria Rowe specializes in Armenian literary history and gender studies. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Toronto, Canada upon completion of her doctoral thesis: The New Armenian Woman : Armenian Women's Writing in the Ottoman Empire, 1880-1915. Her articles on Armenian literary history and gender have appeared in numerous academic journals. She is the editor of translations of the works of Shushanik Kurghinian and Zabel Yesayian and has translated Inga Nalbandian's Your Brother s Blood Cries Out, (Gomidas Institute, 2007). She has taught Armenian literature at universities in Canada and Japan and is currently co-editor of Journal of Armenian History and Literature.

Friday, 20 February 2009

Quote of The Day (re "Artush and Zaur")

One shopkeeper said the controversial novel had been “selling like hot cakes”

*Gay Novel Shocks Azeris (IWPR: "Book about love affair between Azeri and Armenian sells well, despite uproar over its publication.")

**re "Artush and Zaur" - gay love story between Armenian and Azerbaijani published in Baku

Like Everyday...


Shadi Ghadirian
Like Everyday Series 2000 - 2001
Unveiled: New Art From The Middle East
The Saatchi Gallery, London

"Challenging the international preconceptions of women's roles within and Islamic state, Tehran-based artist Shadi Ghadirian's photographs draw from her own experiences as a modern woman living within the ancient codes of Shariah law. Her images describe a positive and holistic female identity, humorously taking issue with the traditional roles by which women - both in the Middle East and universally - have been defined."

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

"We don't wanna Put in" - controversial Georgian entry for Eurovision 2009

This may prove to be the most controversial entry for this year's Eurovision. Georgia decided to send Stephane & 3G with "We don't wanna Put in". Clever and funny 'playing with words' :) While the song itself is pretty typical, it's quite catchy and funny. And it's possible to sing along, unlike Armenia's entry.

This song, if approved by Eurovision officials, will get a very tough reception in Moscow, with likely boo-ing in the auditorium. No chances for 12 points from Russia to Georgia (this was alleged by many as a possible political gesture from Russia's side.) However, all these PR and scandals surrounding the song may play well in developing a fan base and a Europe-wide support, especially in Western Europe and some post-Soviet states. On the other hand, there is always risk that this type of songs may backfire.

There have been regular attempts at protest songs at Eurovision in past: some - successful, others - not. Perhaps, the most successful recent attempt, which Georgians want to repeat, was that of Ukraine two years ago with Verka Serduchka 'playing with words' while singing 'Lusha Tumbai' (='Russia Good Bye'). It cased outrage in Russia back then and an excellent PR advantage for Ukrainian entry. Let's see how this new Georgia-Russia 'war' will develop. There were comments on Eurovision related sites that "Due to the somewhat political connotations of the song, it is likely that the EBU may force some lyrics from the Georgian song to be changed." In any case, in my opinion, as of now, this is the best entry for Eurovision 2009 from the South Caucasus.

“Yerevan is Hip”

…or so they say

Let’s hope that our city will live up to these expectations…

Obama and the Pope on dancers' naked bodies



ITN: US President Barack Obama and Pope Benedict have appeared in a dance show at the Acropolis in Greece - painted on the naked bodies of the performers.

It is the work of a Swiss artist who goes by the name of Dave, who said he chose the Pope and Mr Obama because they provoke conversation.

The work was inspired by fusionism which is an art form that combines abstract painting and choreographed performances.

It is part of an art marathon. The plan is that one artist will be sent to a different country every year for the next 42 years to exhibit their work and create discussion on how art can make the world a better place.

But it has not been easy for Dave. He said it took several days to create and plan the performance particularly the choreography, to make sure the picture fitted together properly. There was also a fair bit of re-touching when his art work got smudged.

Dave said: "This is really hard. Then it's the performance you have to plan and the painting... So I start at 8am and I'm still here."

Monday, 16 February 2009

“Be Free”: Armenian pop star Shprot delivers the most original gender bending performance during Eurovision show on Public TV

Well done, Shprot!!!

The best show of the evening during the national selection for Eurovision 2009 in Armenia came from the most original, scandalous, always unique Shprot. She is a kind of singer who I’d always prefer to watch, instead of listening to via my ipod or cd. Her voice is not her strongest feature. But her performance, her shows became the most talked about in Yerevan. Her last show was not an exception. It was the first of its kind in Armenia. Everyone whom I discussed with the national Eurovision selection on Public TV of Armenia mentioned Shprot’s performance as something which stands out. Not her voice or song per se, but performance (!).

Watch Shprot’s gender bending, Victor/Victoria style, ‘half man / half woman’ performance (along with her dancers) below. You won’t regret it.




One of her most popular recent songs is Positive with Aram MP3.

I would highly recommend watching her song Be Free (see below). It contains so much needed message to Armenians to be free, to liberate themselves, to quit being scared of desires and dreams.



As one of the comments to the video states: “Her song is about being free regardless of who you are, your gender, sexual orientation, religion, nationality, etc...whatever you are don't be afraid of it but rather embrace it that's her message..”

I propose this song as a hymn to sexual and social liberation in Armenia. Well, until someone else propose the better one.

I love you, Shprot!

Sunday, 15 February 2009

International Women's Music Festival in Yerevan

"Dear folks,

Utopiana and our soundlaboratory invite all-female music bands and individual musicians to take part in a music project called International Women’s Sound which includes a music festival, music workshops and seminars.

We are seeking artists who produce and perform primarily in the following contemporary genres: alternative, experimental, avant-garde, sound performance, rock, and punk, as well as contemporary classical music.

Preference will be given to female musicians who are not currently recognized in their communities due to their gender and genre of music. Our aim is to promote and support the work of artists (either bands or solo musicians) in contemporary music who have not had a great deal of exposure in their countries.
.
Application Deadline: April 1 , 2009

Project Dates: September 18 - 25, 2009
Festival Dates: September 20 - 21, 2009"

*For full details - see Queering Yerevan

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Inga and Anush Arshakyan will represent Armenia in Eurovision 2009 with this poor choice of song

I did support Inga and Anush Arshakyan's bid to represent Armenia in Eurovision 2009. Why on earth did they change the initially advertised song Gutan - which was pretty good - instead sticking with this unsatisfying Jan Jan? Unless they stage a great show, this song is not a winner, not even close. Disappointed.

Naked men in downtown Yerevan… to mark Valentine’s day

Picture of the Day


For details - see Unzipped

*photo - Photolur, via A1+

Friday, 13 February 2009

Book review: "Me as her again" by Nancy Agabian

Me as Her Again: An utterly queer memoir
Reviewed by Shushan Avagyan

* The Armenian Reporter

I met Nancy Agabian for the first time in April 2001, after I read her book Princess Freak (Beyond Baroque, 2000), which greatly impressed me for its audacity. Her small, bold book, which fused poetry, creative nonfiction, and texts from performance art, was controversial for Armenian society because it explored the polymorphous and elusive nature of identity and dared to openly speak about sexuality - something that rarely surfaced in a literary tradition that was overwhelmingly dominated by male and heterosexual discourses.

Released in October, Agabian's new book, Me as Her Again: True Stories of an Armenian Daughter, was eagerly awaited by her fans in America, Europe, and Armenia. It is a memoir about identity and family history that Agabian worked on for over six years. It is also, perhaps in the vein of David Sedaris, a brazen examination of queerness - a deviation from the expected, the norm, and the conventional - through a discovery of a queer self, the hilarious attempt to deny it through self-banishment, and, finally, the recognition and acceptance of that "odd" self. [...]

Agabian's prose is playful, as it shifts from extremely serious to almost farcical. One of the strongest aspects of this book is the author's ability to take something as outrageous as, for example, being confronted by someone in the audience who has completely missed your art, and narrate it in such a way that is at once comical and ironic. Here is a classic Agabian, wearing a costume of thin white cotton pajamas, facing a packed house of Armenians in the tiny back room of a café in Pasadena: "They were close enough to hear my heart beating. Attempting to manufacture an emotional distance, I looked into the back row and announced in a stage voice, ‘This performance is called The Crochet Penis.' A woman in her late 40s, sitting to my right, our knees almost touching, said with an accent, ‘Ugh, why they have to call it that?' to no one in particular." Later in the performance the woman stands up and demonstratively leaves the room.

A few days later the same woman disrupts another performance titled WANT at the Glendale Public Library: "It was not serious poetry, it was more of a low-class comedy act... I am a literature professor!" she yells. "I know what I am talking about. I could have told you in private, but I wanted everyone to hear my opinion." As Agabian confesses, the woman's reaction is her "worst nightmare come true." Ironically, this outbreak is followed by an earnest discussion about taboos and the audience engages in an insightful conversation about silences surrounding sexuality in Armenian society. This all-too-familiar scene implicitly alludes to similar occasions when lectures or panels about the Armenian Genocide are disrupted by deniers in the audience and demonstrates the importance of a supportive community.

Lesbian superhero - Batwoman

A lesbian superhero named Batwoman is the successor to Batman's deceased alter-ego, Bruce Wayne, it has been announced.

In a surprise move, the publisher of Detective Comics revealed this week that future editions of the comic book will star Batman's long-standing female counterpart, Kathy Kane, for at least 12 issues.

Described as "a lesbian socialite by night and a crime-fighter by later in the night", her new status will be the most high-profile appearance by a gay superhero in any book published by the brand. [...]

*Pink Paper

Thursday, 12 February 2009

LGBT Georgia: gay group demands dismissal of Public TV official; new issue of Me magazine

Inclusive Foundation, LGBT group in Georgia has appealed to the Public Broadcaster's board of supervisors to dismiss the deputy director-general of the Public TV Giorgi Chanturia for his homophobic rhetoric. In its January issue, the popular Georgian magazine Hot Chocolate featured an extensive discussion on the new programming of the Georgian Public TV. When asked by one of participants “whether Public TV had prepared any single programme devoted to minorities”, Chanturia responded with a question: "For pederasts?" (a derogative term to refer to gays). Reportedly, he made also other xenophobic remarks. Georgian LGBT group argues that Chanturia's statements are “out of line with the Public Broadcaster's code of conduct.” Inclusive Foundation reports that “the board has yet to respond.” Apparently, number of media outlets in Georgia dismissed Chanturia’s remarks, a “welcomed” development, as indicated by Georgian LGBT group. They promise to provide more details in the next issue of their bi-lingual LGBT magazine “Me”.

In the meantime, the 9th issue of the magazine is out now. Notions of sexuality and gender identity/roles, including those reflected in Georgian culture and language, are the main focus of the current issue.
Editorial
Like “non–traditional” sexual orientation, gender balance or equality has become a fashionable topic in the Georgian media. Aside from radically divergent assessments and distorted terminology, the thing that most stands out while reading these materials is author’s superficial knowledge of fundamental issues. Yet the media plays one of the most important roles in the formation and dissemination of social stereotypes within society.
As for gender issues in general, it should be pointed out that, thanks to years of efforts on the part of women’s organizations, at least some journalists have provided thoughtful and qualified coverage of relevant events. This cannot be said, however, about topics concerning sexuality and sexual orientation.
This can be explained on the one hand by the divergent views held by professionals working in the fields of sexology and psychology and on the other hand by the scarcity of academic materials on the topic in the Georgian language.
The main focus of this issue was selected, to a certain extent, because of this information vacuum. We hope that Me’s ninth issue – which is devoted to issues concerning the nature and interplay of sexuality, sexual orientation, gender identity – will be of interest to people working in the media, as well as others concerned about such topics.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

“Artush and Zaur” – gay love story between Armenian and Azerbaijani published in Baku


Alekper Aliyev, editor-in-chief of kultura.az, has published, as he put it, his “most scandalous” novel “Artush and Zaur” in Baku. It’s a gay love story between an Azeri and Armenian, a sort of partial deconstruction of Ali and Nino (a heterosexual love story of Azeri Ali and Georgian Nino) having instead Azeri and Armenian male lovers against the backdrop of the emerging Karabakh conflict.

The main characters, Artush and Zaur were born and raised in Baku, went to the same school, shared desks in the classroom. At some point boys became sexually attracted to each other… These were the early years of the Karabakh conflict.

The war separates them. Artush moved to Armenia, Zaur remained in Baku. Already adults they meet again - in Tbilisi. They indulge in memories, fall in love and even get married with the help of a Dutch pastor, a confidant of the wife of Georgian president Mikhail Saakashvili ...

In his interview, the author argues that Azeris and Armenians share similar kitchen, music and mentality. “Armenians are closer to us than, say, Georgians” due to the influence of the Persian culture.

Alekperov says that one of the reasons of writing this novel was to expose the absurdity of all wars in the South Caucasus a la Kusturica. He believes he has the full right to do so as he lost his older brother during the Karabakh war in 1994.

“We are now engaged in information wars with Armenians over the dolma and balaban, even though all our efforts should be aimed at addressing global challenges. Our people must find the wisdom, courage and determination to put an end once and for all of the frozen conflict. We need joint efforts to create all necessary conditions for peaceful coexistence between the two neighbours on this small plot of land, in this God-cursed region called “The South Caucasus”. Frankly, it’s a bit hard to believe that this would happen”.

“During the World War II in Moscow there were concerts of German classical music; works of German composers were heard on the radio; even studies on German philosophers were carried out... Can you imagine for Kara Karaev to be performed in Armenia, or Khachatryan – in Azerbaijan? This is completely impossible! And this has a simple explanation – the more primitive the man, the more aggressive he is.”

Predictably, this book caused a stir and shock in Azeri forums and blogs, with plenty of hateful and homophobic comments. Some accused the author in treason and betrayal of national interests. Others claimed (with irony) that Azerbaijan now has its very own Salman Rushdie and Orhan Pamuk.

“Who f**ked who?” – this is one of the first and apparently principal questions being discussed in forums and blogs (both Azeri and Armenian), each side wishing for ‘his guy’ to f**k ‘the enemy’. I got an impression that this question worried them more than even the fact of the main characters being gay. They are kind of ready to ‘forgive’ and ‘forget’ gay part of the story, as long as ‘their guy’ is ‘the man’ meaning he is ‘doing the enemy’. For them, it’s only black or white. What if they are “versatile” (which allegedly the case in the novel)? This would crush the ‘hopes’ from both sides :) Anyways...

There is only one bookstore in Baku which sells this book. Guess, what the name of that bookstore?.. “Ali and Nino”. Some in Azeri forums even suggested buying all the copies of the book and burning it in front of the bookstore. There were even rare voices advocating for the application of the “Shariat law” towards the author.

The topic itself proved to be so controversial that quite a few discussion forums and reports about the book got removed or self-censored from some Azeri forums and web sites, including day.az and kultura.az.

If you discount the nationalities and sexuality of the main characters, the plot may seem pretty routine and unremarkable. However, against the backdrop of nationalism and intolerance in the region, the very fact of the novel that tells about the love story between an Armenian and Azeri, a gay love story between an Armenian and Azeri, makes it a double taboo breaking.

Look forward to reading the book in Russian when it gets published there (as far as I understand, it's being negotiated with the Russian publishers). Only then I would be able to properly review it. Till then... Hopefully, these displays of hate and intolerance won’t evolve into something more dangerous and physical towards the author. Only the bravest among us are ready to break taboos. Alekper Aliyev is one of them.


*Thanks to the readers of my blog for passing the info about the novel.

Below are selected relevant links of blogs and forums which were used to prepare this post.

Azeri forums:
1; 2; 3; 4; 5.

Azeri blogs:
1; 2.

Armenian blog:
1.

Other blogs/sites:
admarginem; GV.

Interview with the author:
Novosti-Azerbaijan

Friday, 6 February 2009

First LGBT Azerbaijani web site launched

http://www.lgbt.az/

The first website for local LGBT community was launched by the only LGBT-related NGO in Azerbaijan - “Gender & Development”. This NGO was founded on 15 March 2007 with the support of the Netherlands government and the Dutch gay group COC.

The aim of this web site is to provide local LGBT community with the LGBT-related news, educational materials, fight homophobia in Azeri society including media, and serve as a forum for LGBT Azerbaijani people.

Among upcoming plans of the “Gender & Development” NGO is to publish LGBT magazine.

Web site will be available in three languages - Azeri, Russian, and English.

Very welcome and long-awaited addition to LGBT-related resources in the South Caucasus. Will keep an eye on it.

Thanks to Tert.am (and 1st News Azerbaijan) for disseminating this info. Btw, Tert.am is one of my favourite Armenian web sites. Highly recommend it.

Jude Law and Simon Abkarian in Sally Potter’s new ‘gender-bending’ film Rage

Sally Potter’s new film Rage debuts at the Berlin Film Festival this weekend.

Look at this photo below. Yes, this is Jude Law who plays the role of a cross-dressing supermodel Minx in Rage. Incredible transformation!


Film director Sally Potter writes on her blog:

Jude, whose beauty has sometimes been held against him as an actor, made the courageous decision to accept the role of Minx - a “celebrity super-model” and took on a kind of hyper-beauty for this persona… a 'female' beauty which gradually unravels as the story unfolds.

Strangely, the more he became a 'she', coiffed and made-up, the more naked was his performance. There was great strength in his willingness to make himself vulnerable. It was an extraordinary part of the shoot.

AP provides more details about this film which involves a young blogger Michelangelo, and fashion designer played by one of my favourite actors Simon Abkarian (French Armenian actor who stars in Atom Egoyan’s Ararat; Robert Guediguian’s Le Voyage en Arménie; Sally Potter’s Yes; Casino Royale; also voice acting as Father in the original French version of the excellent animated film Persepolis):


The film is set over seven days in which a young blogger Michelangelo shoots behind-the-scenes interviews on his mobile phone at a New York fashion house while Merlin, a designer of Middle-Eastern origin, played by Simon Abkarian, prepares to show his latest collection.

But when a model dies on the runway and a murder investigation begins, Michelangelo's mobile phone footage becomes evidence.

*source of photos - Sally Potter's blog; IMDB

Inga and Anush Arshakyan revealed their Eurovision 2009 song for Armenia - "Gutan"

Inga and Anush Arshakyan revealed that they will perform song "Gutan" as Armenia entry in Eurovision 2009. Of course, if they are chosen to do so during the final selection on 14 February. Being familiar with the potential of current main contestants to represent Armenia in Eurovision - Inga and Anush Arshakyan, Mher, and Arame - I favour Inga and Anush (already mentioned about it under the comments section here). They are talented, have good voice and performance skills. They are not boring, and different in a nice way. And I quite liked their song "Gutan" - mixed folk song. Not bad. Not bad at all. Quite good, actually. Go Inga and Anush!

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Host of Armenian Public TV “2 Stars” music show Felix Khachatryan makes homophobic remarks

Apparently, there were some 'blue-coloured' references made by Felix Khachatryan, host of “2 Stars” (“2 Astgh” – “Stars on the Stage”) music show on Armenian Public TV. (“blue” is a mainly derogatory reference to gays in ex-Soviet countries).
The participating couples consist of one famous singer and another famous person, belonging to a different sphere (sport, politics, theatre, etc.). The judge and the TV-viewers during each live program assess the couples’ singing and artistic skills.
I do not watch that show, therefore asked around to confirm whether these incidents happened. Sadly, I got confirmations. Kind of routine homophobia, derogatory references and use of language by host Felix. Particularly, these remarks were made in reference to a duet performing I Will Survive (Anna Khachatryan & Mkhitar Avetisyan). I’ve heard also about one instance of offensive reference re “maleness” by singer-judge Shushan Petrosyan in reference to a male duo Aram MP3 & Garik Papoyan.

This is one of the rare but welcome occasions that I have to praise Aravot daily’s gay related publication denouncing music show host Felix’s use of homophobic references on Public TV. The author G. Hovsepyan makes some valid points implying that normally people who are insecure in their sexuality, or in closet, try to show off by using routine homophobia, listing similar other examples too. The author states that just because one defends human rights of blacks, women or “blues” does not mean that s/he is black, woman or “blue”, reminding that Public TV of Armenia is for “blues” too.

See, it’s this kind of Aravot I’d like to read more if not always. Aravot which exposes hypocrisy and fights prejudices, not the one which multiplies them.

«ԵՐԿՈՒ ԱՍՏՂ»-Ի ԿԱԶՄԱԿԵՐՊԻՉՆԵՐԻՆ ԵՎ ՀԱՂՈՐԴԱՎԱՐ ՖԵԼԻՔՍԻՆ

[...] Լավ, կարճ կապեմ, վերջում ուզում եմ ուղղակի դիմել «տաղանդավոր» հաղորդավար Ֆելիքսին. Ֆելիքս ջան, ո՞ր «կապույտ»-ից ես այդքան վառված, որ Հանրային եւ ոչ հատվածային հեռուստաալիքով ոչ մի առիթ բաց չես թողնում նրանց փնովելու: Լսե՞լ ես, որ ասում են. ինչքան շատ ես խոսում անկեղծությունից, այնքան կեղծ ես, ինչքան շատ ես խոսում քո երջանկությունից, այնքան դժբախտ ես, ինչքան ասում ես «սիրում եմ», այնքան քիչ ես սիրում եւ այլն...

Վերջում մեկ անգամ եւս ուզում եմ հիշեցնել, որ «Հ1»-ը հանրային հեռուստաալիք է, ուստի ոչ ոք իրավունք չունի ասելու՝ «չես հավանում՝ ալիքը փոխի»: Երկու դիտողություն եւս՝ սեւամորթների, կանանց, «կապույտների» իրավունքների մասին արտահայտվողը պարտադիր չէ, որ լինի սեւամորթ, կին, կամ «կապույտ»: Երկրորդ՝ Հայաստանի հանրային հեռուստատեսությունը դիտում են նաեւ «կապույտները»:
Գ. ՀՈՎՍԵՓՅԱՆ

Aram MP3 & Garik Papoyan


Anna Khachatryan & Mkhitar Avetisyan - I Will Survive


Lilit Hovhannisyan & Vahram Petrosyan - Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Amazing social ad by group of students at Yerevan State University... and more

"This world is for everybody"

PINK Armenia reports that group of students at Yerevan State University prepared this amazing equality and tolerance related social ad, as part of their final term works. PINK Armenia also participated there.

Brave, tastefully made, right to the point. Well done, guys! Congratulations for this excellent work!! As far as I am concerned, you passed your tests with honors.



*English text of the video

- Being homosexual is not a choice.

- Being infected with HIV, doesn't stop me being your friend.

- By denying me, you don't help me to leave drugs.

- I am a sex worker...
- My mother is the best mother in the world.

- We all are equal, this world is for everybody


Another impressive example of social activism is by lesbian Armenians and their partners/friends. These photos below, via Queering Yerevan, entitled "Censored".

Queer

Միասեռական (in Armenian)

Tbilisi: church protest at male striptease

Church congregation and local residents held a protest action at Tbilisi striptease-club "Diva" demanding "prohibition" of the announced male striptease show. "This is an insult towards orthodoxy, people of both sexes, and children". Children??? How on earth this could be an insult towards children??? (I do not expect children hanging out at striptease clubs) Why did I even bother finding logic in their actions?! Reportedly, they received assurances from club managers that "future shows won't be of striptease nature". If striptease shows continue, protesters threatened "more serious and widespread actions". I wonder how church congregation is going to check it? Are they ready to enter the club? Wouldn't this mean committing an ultimate sin? :)

News via Tert.am (original source - Blagovest-info)

Тбилисские православные провели акцию протеста у стриптиз-клуба

Тбилиси, 2 февраля, Благовест-инфо. Большинство участников акции протеста, прошедшей 1 февраля у здания стриптиз-клуба «Дива», составляли прихожане различных храмов Тбилиси и жители окрестных домов, сообщает Интерпрессньюс.

Митингующие выступили с требованием запрещения анонсированного в клубе мужского стриптиз-шоу. «Это оскорбление православия, оскорбление людей обоих полов, оскорбление детей»,- заявили участники акции. В случае невыполнения их требований участники акции угрожали переместиться к зданию парламента. Примыкающая к «Диве» территория находилась под охраной патрульной полиции.

Переговоры духовных лиц с представителями руководства клуба завершились заверениями последних в том, что в будущем представления в «Диве» не будут носить характера стриптиз-шоу. Об этом по окончании встречи сообщил участникам акции протоиерей Давид Исакадзе.

«Нас заверили, что из сегодняшнего представления будут изъяты особо вульгарные моменты, а в дальнейшем, возможно, «Дива» обретёт характер ночного клуба. Если стриптиз-представления продолжатся, наши акции примут более серьёзный и масштабный характер»,- заявил отец Давид.

*photo - via Tert.am

Local TV programme discusses gay Armenian issues in the aftermath of UN gay rights statement

I think, there were some genuine attempts in this TV report (“Epikentron” programme) to understand the issue, to view it from various sides, inviting also gay Armenians.

However, they did not describe what exactly that UN statement says. Only brief fragments of the interviews with gay Armenians were presented, and the main accent then was shifted towards sociologist Aharon Adibekyan who is apparently considered as some kind of ‘universal expert' in Armenia on any subject matter. Here in this interview Adibekyan shares his views that homosexuality is developing due to upbringing by parents, increased rates of divorces, lack of traditional gender roles in society (he is very sad about it) and so on. He is also saying that there are no sufficient numbers of openly gay Armenians to stand up for their rights, therefore we can’t consider their problems. He does not, however, ask himself a question – why gay Armenians prefer remaining in the closet?

Journalists tried to find out data on numbers of LGBT Armenians from the national statistics centre, but obviously there were no such data available.

They also briefly reflected that infamous press conference by Karine Danielyan & co.

Still, at least more neutral reporting, attempt to understand the subject matter they are talking about, and welcome use by the journalists of “miaserakan”(the most acceptable Armenian version for “gay”).



*video via PINK Armenia

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

“Wo/Men in Politics” award: ArmeniaNow’s Vahan Ishkhanyan placed 3rd for his article on lesbian Armenians

Wo/Men in Politics is a “two-year project implemented by the British Council and funded by the British Embassy Yerevan. The project is aimed at increasing the effectiveness of women in politics by developing necessary political skills, creating new networks, breaking the stereotypes and changing the public perception about female leadership.”

ArmeniaNow reporter Sara Khojoyan has won First Place in a British Council-sponsored journalism competition on “Wo/Men in Politics”. Sara’s article “Woman’s Work” was voted the best among 40 entries in the category of “Online Articles”.

ArmeniaNow’s Vahan Ishkhanyan placed third, with his article about lesbian Armenians "Coming out: Armenian lesbians raise the curtain".

In 2006, he wrote an article about gay Armenian men “Love and Loyalty”: Marriage in secret, in an environment of fear

In December 2008, writing for his blog on Tert.am, Vahan Ishkhanyan discussed hypocrisy in Armenian literary circles posting an extract from never before published in Armenia gay-themed poem by prominent gay Armenian poet Yeghishe Charents.

My congratulations to ArmeniaNow reporters.

"Coming out: Armenian lesbians raise the curtain"

Armenian version

Russian version


When Shushan first told her parents she is a homosexual, she felt all at once she is no more part of their family. Destroying the wall of double life in the family meant destroying also the perceptions of closeness according to traditional understanding of family, and building another wall estranging her from the parents.

A year later she declared of her being a homosexual all across Yerevan, when she, along with eight homosexual artist women friends, opened “Coming to you not to be with you” exhibition- video art, installation, fine arts, reading- at Utopiana NGO on 34 Zaroubyan street. The group members became the first female citizens of Armenia (two are Diaspora Armenians), which publicly revealed their homosexuality. (See about homosexual men at http://www.armenianow.com/?action=viewArticle&CID=1733)։

The statements unprecedentedly ‘shameful’ for the Yerevan society made during the exhibition of August 3 were stuck on the walls of buildings in Yerevan streets. “You are invited to a group exhibition of works by un(usual) homosexual women ‘Coming to you to not be with you’.” The name of the exhibition is born by the insult a homosexual experiences, when one confesses his or her sexual orientation to the parents and is estranged.

They are all united by being homosexual women of Armenian descent.

Shushan, who is the only writer in the group, read an exeprt from her “Women of Zaroubyan” novel (published in Inknagir, #4, www.inknagir.org), where strange women are in search of space in a society that gives them no place.

Shushan, 32, was born in Yerevan, but her sexual orientation pushed her to the US. She first felt appeal to a woman at 14. “I was in love with Silva – a married woman 10 years odler than I. I had written ‘Silva’ over my walls.”

The desire and love for her female classmate while studying at Cyprus’s Melkonian Educational Institute led her to a breakdown.

Her education half finished, she was brought home and treated for several months.

Back home, she tried to drown her “unnatural” desire by having sex with men. She calls her lesbian attraction her “dark side” and left to the US to fulfill it, where she first had a relationship with a woman.

The last step to get rid of the double life was to confess to her parents – a moment she repeatedly put off, anticipating the consequence of alienation.

She confessed one morning when in Yerevan on vacation. Her father said he would expect anything from her – becoming a drug addict, even – except for her announcing that she was lesbian.

Learning the news, her parents said they were going for a walk. Shushan asked fearfully if she could go with them, as if using the chance to ask: “You don’t deny me, right?” The parents agreed but Shushan felt she was no more a member of her family.

Where are others who don’t enjoy Shushan’s fate, of being able to live openly in another country but live the burden of a double life? Aquaintance with Lusine, an artist from Utopiana organization in Yerevan becomes the beginning for unification of the group of lesbian women and realization of a joint project.

Lusine, 30, says she identified her homosexuality at the age of 20 and that her family knows her orientation but keeps silent. Her mother’s suggestion that she should leave Armenia has been the ony hint of knowing.

The fear to come out has accompanied the “Women of Zaroubyan” for six months, from the day the idea of doing a joint project appeared.

It is like in the video installation by Lyusia, 26, where a woman speaks whispering so that nothing is heard but dares to speak out several words ‘to hurt’ from time to time.

Astghik, 30 drew the stencil and two love making women made of flour appeared on the floor. The exhibition gave opportunity to visualize what she has been concealing all her life. Her mother does not know of her orientation. She has opened herself to her sister, whose response was ‘Ugh!’

The step is made but Astghik is afraid: yes, she has revealed herself, but she would not like her mother to know: “I am afraid first of all that my mother may learn. The city is small and there will be lots of unpleasant talks.”

Arpi, 22 says had she a good job and was able to live separately she would open up; but now she leaves too much responsibility on her parents that have to provide for her and carry the burden of shame for their daughter’s orientation before the relatives and neighbors. She was supposed to inform Lusine’s mother in a performance about her daughter’s orientation by phone, but did not because of fear.

Two women from Toronto also face the conservatism of the Armenian community denying homosexuality, but as Alina (all subjects asked that we only use first names) says she has a chance to distance herself from the comminty unlike women in Armenia, who have no place to escape.

Alina, 47, was born in Tehran, moving to Toronto with her family in 1980. At 30, she told her husband she was lesbian. After leading an active lesbian life for 12 years, she and her girlfriend Melanie rejoined with her former husband and made a new family: “I don’t want the title of a homosexual; it limits me. I fell in love with my husband again after years.”

When she told her mother, a member of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation Party, the mother yelled at her: “Alina, you want me to suffer!!!” She never told the father. Her younger brother is also a homosexual, but none of the family knows about it.

Alina says that although she has a “shameful” reputation in the Canadian-Armenian community, she and her girlfriends have started attending commemoration of Armenian religious holidays.

“They would not even say hello to me as if I did not exist,” she says.

She says that listening to the other Armenian women’s stories is “like déjà vu”, reminding her of her own experience.

(See also the blog of exhibition initiators’ http://queeringyerevan.blogspot.com/)

*photo - Photolur, via ArmeniaNow

Jonathan Rhys Meyers - The Tudors


*Towleroad: Jonathan Rhys Meyers Sits on a Throne of Naked Men - "This is apparently a print ad for the new season of The Tudors in which Jonathan Rhys Meyers conquers a gay bathhouse." (photo - Broadway's Nick Adams)

Looking forward to the new season of The Tudors. In the meantime, I can't believe I missed this TV drama; already ordered DVDs of previous 2 seasons to catch up ;)

Johanna Sigurdardottir: modern world’s first openly gay prime minister appointed in Iceland


1 February 2009

BBC reports that “Iceland has announced a new government that will be headed by the modern world's first openly gay leader.”

“The 66-year-old's appointment as interim leader - until elections in May - is seen by many as a milestone for the gay and lesbian movement, correspondents say.”

Here is the most important point I’d like to pay your attention to.

According to Ingo Sigfusson of Iceland's public broadcaster, RUV, Ms Sigurdardottir's emergence as the world's first openly gay leader has barely rated a mention among his countrymen and women.

"It's by no means a big deal. It's been reported, but it's not something the public is focusing on," he told the BBC.

BBC also reports that “she has even been nicknamed "Saint Johanna" in praise of her work for the rights of the handicapped, elderly and disadvantaged.”

NYT provides comprehensive background info:

"She began her political career as a union organizer with the national airline, now known as Icelandair, where she had worked more than 30 years ago as a flight attendant. She has two sons with her former husband, a banker, and six grandchildren. Ms. Sigurdardottir established a civil partnership in 2002 with Jonina Leosdottir, 54, an author, playwright and journalist. She, too, is a divorced mother.

Although Ms. Sigurdardottir’s rise has drawn widespread attention on Web sites for gay men and lesbians outside Iceland, her relationship is considered unremarkable at home. In 1940, while still a dependency of Denmark, Iceland decriminalized gay sex. It approved civil partnerships for gay and lesbian couples in 1996, one of the first countries to do so.

“Iceland is a small society, and the public knows what Sigurdardottir stands for as a politician, and that’s the only thing that is important,” said Frosti Jonsson, a spokesman for Iceland’s National Association of Queers. “Nowadays, not only does Iceland have one of the most progressive legal environments for gay people, there have also been changes in public attitudes towards gay people. It simply isn’t an issue anymore.”

The Advocate reminds of only one other instance of openly gay politician serving a prime-minister position (not appointed, but “acting prime minister”): Norway finance minister Per-Kristian Foss, who is gay, was that country’s acting prime minister for a brief period in 2002 while both the prime minister and foreign minister were traveling abroad.

*photo - via The Advocate

Monday, 2 February 2009

Amusing report on HIV/AIDS law amendments discussed in Armenian parliament

A1+ reports:

REPUBLICANS CAME TO COMBAT AIDS

[...] The NA [Armenian parliament] hall filled during the discussion of the draft law on “the combat against illnesses caused by human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).” Republican MPs rushed to the hall elbowing each other, “Let’s go and see what they say about AIDS,” they said to each other.

*photo - Photolur, via A1+

Open Letter Against Intolerance sent to Armenia's human rights Ombudsman (2 February 2009)

Open Letter Against Intolerance

The Undersigned,

WOW – Women-Oriented Women (queeringyerevan.blogspot.com)
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Women's Resource Center
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Anna Barseghian, director of Utopiana Association, cultural practitioner, mother of two children
-
Stefan Kristensen, PhD in Philosophy, father of two children
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Unzipped: Gay Armenia (gayarmenia.blogspot.com), (unzipped.blogspot.com)
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PINK Armenia (pinkarmenia.blogspot.com)
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Transgenders in Armenia (trans-armenia.blogspot.com)
-
Onnik Krikorian, journalist/photojournalist (oneworld.am)
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Robyn Pirckens, art curator
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Myrthe Korf, human rights activist & human being (armenianodar.blogspot.com)
-
ILGA-Europe (ilga-europe.org)
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Edgar H. Manukyan, MD, MS, Assistant Professor
Department of Dermatology, STIs and Cosmetology
Yerevan State Medical University
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The Cali Garmo (thecaligarmo.com)
-
Tatevik Tuniyants, lunguist, Area Studier, MD
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Sergey Gabrielyan, New Generation NGO Armenia
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Guarantee NGO Armenia
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Jirair Ratevosian, MPH, United States field coordinator for the Health Action AIDS Campaign of Physicians for Human Rights (physiciansforhumanrights.org/hiv-aids)
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Queers United (queersunited.blogspot.com)
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David Hayrapetyan, executive director, "New Vision to Democracy" NGO, Ijevan
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Micha Meroujean, founder of Yesoudo.com
-
Mikael Danielyan, Helsinki Association
***

UPDATE - More signatures:

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Paata Sabelashvili, President, Inclusive Foundation, Republic of Georgia
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ILGA (www.ilga.org)
-
Dikran Safarian

Introducing yet another bigot – Armenian doctor MP Karen Avagyan

Armenian doctor MP from the ruling Republican party, member of the parliamentary Health Care Committee Karen Avagyan's interview with Aravot daily:

"It’s true, the existence of sexual minorities is not accepted by our society although there are such people in this very society. Regardless of whatever documents our country signs, whatever actions are conducted, acceptance will not get materialised, and thanks God that it won't. This conservatism is very necessary for us. I may well have acquaintances with such people too without knowing that they are such people, but if I knew, I won’t have any relations/contacts with them."

Մերժում է սեռական փոքրամասնություններին
Սեռական փոքրամասնությունների գոյությունը իրոք մեր հասարակության կողմից չի ընկալվում, չնայած նույն հասարակության մեջ կան այդպիսի մարդիկ: Մեր երկիրը ինչ փաստաթուղթ էլ ստորագրի, ինչ միջոցառումներ էլ անցկացվեն, միեւնույն է, հասարակական ընկալում չի ձեւավորվում եւ փառք Աստծո, որ չի ձեւավորվում: Այս պահպանողականությունը մեզ շատ է պետք: Միգուցե ես էլ եմ նման մարդկանց հետ շփվում ու չգիտեմ, որ նրանք այդ մարդիկ են, բայց եթե այդ մասին իմանամ՝ այլեւս նրանց հետ չեմ շփվի:
He is MP. He is doctor MP. Still, no much surprises here as the same doctor MP mentions during the interview, somehow proudly, that he would never marry non-virgin woman.

«Երբեք չէի ամուսնանա մի կնոջ հետ, ով մինչ ամուսնությունը սեռական հարաբերություն է ունեցել այլ տղամարդու հետ»

From his bio on parliament.am:

He was born on December 6, 1974 in Yerevan.

In 1999 he graduated from the general medicine faculty of Yerevan State Medical University/YSMU, In 2001 he graduated from the residency training of forensic medicine of YSMU. 2001 –2004 he was a post-graduate in YSMU, 2003-2004 he was a post-graduate in A. Humboldt University. He is a forensic doctor, candidate of medical sciences, docent.

2003-2005 he was a President of YSMU Students’ Parliament.

2002-2004 he worked at the chair of forensic medicine of YSMU as a senior laboratory assistant, 2004-2006 - an assistant, since 2006 – docent, 2005-2007 he was aide to the Prime Minister.

In 2006 he was awarded a medal of Prime Minister. He is a Chairman of the RPA Youth organization.

On May 12, 2007 he was elected a deputy by the proportional electoral system from the Republican Party of Armenia. He is a member of the RPA board.

He is married, has a child.