Saturday, 30 May 2009

Kim Kardashian in support of gay rights and equality: "Shame on You, California!"

Our very own "Armenian Princess" (that's how she describes herself on her Twitter page) Kim Kardashian posted the following entry on her blog (26 May 09):

"Today the California Supreme Court decided to uphold Prop 8, outlawing gay marriage in California. This really makes me sad. I thought we were more forward thinking than this, and I'm disappointed in the Supreme Court for being so closed minded. Everyone.. gay, straight, bisexual, transgendered, EVERYONE should have equal rights to marry who they want to. I have many gay friends and all I want is for them to be happy, yet this is just another obstacle in their way. Now they must continue fighting to be granted a basic civil right that many people take for granted. Shame on you, California! We must all continue to fight the h8!"

Well said, Kim. Respects!

She accompanied her blog entry with this poster:


*photo of Kim Kardashian - via her Twitter page

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Armenian American reporter Lara Setrakian of ABC News about gay scene in Saudi Arabia and across Middle East

Armenian American reporter Lara Setrakian, "a one-woman ABC news bureau in Dubai", posted an extensive report on gay scene in Saudi Arabia and across Middle East:

Saudi Gay Scene: 'Forbidden, but I can't Help It'
Across the Middle East, Many Struggle With the Stigma of Homosexuality

[...] Homosexuality is illegal in Saudi Arabia, but the charge calls for four witnesses to make a case. Arrests by the religious police are far more arbitrary. In a recent case they apprehended one man at a Jeddah shopping mall, suspecting he was gay from his tight jeans and fitted shirt.

"I've been invited to private parties for gay men in Jeddah, but I never go because I know what would happen if we were caught," Samir told ABC News.

"Unless it's a VIP house -- if the party is at the home of one of the princes or one of the sheiks then you're protected."

In Saudi Arabia, where men and women are strictly separated, there is some space for gay life. Gay men can go cruising -- a term for picking up partners -- and socialize in male-only sections of cafes and restaurants. In line with sex-segregated social norms, gay lovers can often spend intimate time together without arousing suspicion.

But gays and lesbians in Saudi Arabia still need to accommodate the pressures of public life, in some cases pairing off to accommodate a freer lifestyle.

"There is a gay group of girls in Saudi looking for gay men to marry. It's the perfect solution," says Samir, adding that he wouldn't mind a lesbian wife of his own. [...]

More...
Online Freedom but With Entrapment Risks
Gay Web Sites Blocked in Many Arab Countries
U.S. Government Has Been Quiet About Gay Crackdown in Iraq
Small Space for Gay Pride

Monday, 25 May 2009

IDAHO in Tbilisi: Orthodox group endorsed by Georgian church disrupts homophobia related discussion insulting participants

*Information is provided by Inclusive Foundation, LGBT NGO in Georgia.

On May 20th 2009, Heinrich Böll Foundation office in Tbilisi hosted the discussion entitled “Homophobia: from private to public space”. Selection of this specific time was connected to the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO) that is marked for the 5th time worldwide. HBS has in the past organized two sessions of debates on similar topics and presentations of its cofounded ME magazine. However, the problems that we have encountered this time were somewhat unexpected to take place.

At about 18:15 discussion has started. The moderator of the discussion has introduced topic and gave floor to the presenters. Started by Head of Inclusive Foundation Paata Sabelashvili, discussion was continued by Women Initiatives’ Supporting Group’s Ekaterine Aghdgomelashvili eventually ending with the last presentation by Nodar Sarjveladze, psychologist, Head of Christian Democratic Institute. Upon the opening floor for discussion we have noticed a group of men of 9 people dispersed in the audience that in total numbered over 50 persons. These 9 persons looked similarly and acted similarly by gathering big number of publications available in the office and by interrupting the speakers and other attendees. They started insulting those participants that were positioning themselves against homophobia and first stage of escalation went within the audience. Representatives of the HBS and the moderator called for order and respect. Perpetrators had returned to their seats several times yet for few minutes until they could provoke next escalation. This has repeated for several times and eventually had grown into verbal insult of the two presenters (not their opponent from Christian Democratic Institute).

The main line of dissatisfaction of the perpetrators had been revealed when they sensed that the audience was not sympathetic to the Christian Democrat Presenter. They identified themselves as members of Orthodox Parents Union, a paralegal group endorsed by Georgian Church that does not admit the affiliation and neither dismisses it. Perpetrators were insulting everyone who tried to call for an order. In this situation representative of HBS Nino Lejava had to revert to the assistance of Patrol Police. Police was greatly delayed and perpetrators after hearing announcement that discussion is finished left the premises of the office leaving behind the life threat in relation to Nino Lejava and moderator Nino Danelia.

Patrol police after noting down the life threat had invited criminal police that eventually recorded the details as an interview, not interrogation. People that gave details were two presenters that were insulted: Paata Sabelashvili, Ekaterine Aghdgomelashvili and those who received life threats: Nino Lejava and Nino Danelia.

We have learned from the friend of us who was in patriarch’s office that perpetrators reported the incident to the patriarch’s office of Georgian Church immediately. It is noteworthy that HBS has not been the only target of their raids. Orthodox Parents Union is the religious organization that enjoys support from the Georgian Orthodox Church and recently had become very active in raiding various gatherings. During last fall they have violently attacked Halloween party, they have also succeeded to terminate theatre play and just recently international theological conference at the Ilia Chavchavadze State University. Their actions are treated with impunity and even the victims do not file official complaints. There are very few institutions that comply with declared liberal values and we think HBS is among these institutions. HBS provides a vital forum for discussing important public topics through its regular debates cycle.

**There is also Russian language post re this incident, based on Georgian blogger's account, on Gay Caucasus blog.

Sunday, 24 May 2009

Borat's actor Ken Davitian in support of LA LGBT Armenian community

GALAS, LA based LGBT Armenian group, reports that Armenian-American actor Ken Davitian, best known for his roles as Azamat Bagatov in Borat (2006), and in Get Smart (2008) will be attending this year's gala with his family as a show of support to the LGBT Armenian community. Well done, Ken!

This year's gala will celabrate the 11th anniversary of GALAS, which is the oldest LGBT Armenian group established in 1998. Last year, The Armenian Reporter published an excellent report to mark group's 10th anniversary, detailing its accomplishments and real life stories of support provided to the local LGBT Armenian community. You may read that report here.

Wikipedia: Kenneth Davitian (born June 19, 1953) is an American actor who is best known for his role as Borat's producer (Azamat Bagatov) in the 2006 comedy film Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, in which he speaks Armenian (the Eastern dialect), throughout the film.

Davitian, an Armenian American, was born in Los Angeles, California. Early in his career, he appeared in the movies American Raspberry, Bikini Summer, Maximum Force, Frogtown II, and Sexual Intent. In 1994, he appeared in the movie The Silence of the Hams, a spoof of The Silence of the Lambs. Davitian has also appeared in television series such as Becker, ER, Arli$$, The Shield, Gilmore Girls, Six Feet Under, Boston Legal, The Closer, and Mind of Mencia. He has also made appearances in music videos, for example in The Smashing Pumpkins' "Stand Inside Your Love" of 2000. He was in the film Meet the Spartans playing as Xerxes, where Leonidas described him as "looking a lot like that fat guy from Borat". His most recent release in 2008, the film "Stone & Ed" in which Davitian portrays a drug lord named Señor Gordo. Ken also was an extra in a background scene of the show According to Jim.

Davitian founded a restaurant in 2003 called The Dip, located in Los Angeles, California and recently opened a second location.

*photo - Getty Images, via Daylife

Queer Pride Armenian Reading, New York


Via Queering Yerevan, Gartal and the Armenian Gay and Lesbian Association of New York (AGLA NY) present "An Evening of Literary Pride" on 20 June 2009, at the LGBT Community Services Center in New York.

Gartal and AGLA NY have asked writers and poets to read selections related to the issue of pride, a loaded term for Armenians and queers alike. Hosted by Arthur Nersesian, famed East Village novelist of such books as The Fuckup, Chinese Takeout, Manhattan Loverboy and his most recent, The Sacrificial Circumcision of The Bronx. Introduced by Nancy Agabian, author of the new memoir Me as her again: True Stories of an Armenian Daughter. Reception to follow.

Readings by:
David Ciminello
Amy Ouzoonian
Aaron Poochigian
Margarita Shalina
Hrag Vartanian

David Ciminello’s fiction has appeared in the literary journal Lumina. His short story "PD XOX" appears in the forthcoming anthology Portland Queer: Tales of the Rose City. His poetry has appeared in Poetry Northwest. His original screenplay Bruno (a finalist in the Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting) was produced and occasionally appears on DVD as something vaguely resembling the original story. David has received his MFA in Fiction from Sarah Lawrence College. He currently lives in New York City where he works as a writer and teaching artist.

Amy Ouzoonian is a writer, performance artist and editor. She is the author of Your Pill (Poems, Foothills Publishing), Editor of In the Arms of Words: Poems for Disaster Relief (Poems, Sherman Asher Press). She is currently a graduate student at The New School and is working on a series of performance pieces that incorporates her work with music and dance called "Waiting Journey." She lives and creates in Queens, NY.

Aaron Poochigian attended Moorhead State University from where he studied under the poets Dave Mason, Alan Sullivan, and Tim Murphy. After traveling and doing research in Greece on fellowship, he earned his Phd in Classics from the University of Minnesota. Forthcoming translations include Sappho’s poems and fragments for Penguin Classics; Aeschylus, Aratus and Apollonius of Rhodes in the Norton Anthology of Greek Literature in Translation; and his edition of Aratus’ astronomical poem, The Phaenomena, from Johns Hopkins University Press. His original poems have appeared in numerous journals, including Arion, The Dark Horse, Poetry Magazine and Smartish Pace. He now lives and writes in Brooklyn, NY.

Margarita Shalina was born in Leningrad and raised on New York’s Lower East Side. Her poetry has appeared in Poems for the Retired Nihilist V. 2 (Fortune Teller Press, UK, 2007), EvergreenReview.com, New York Nights, and as a broadside for Poetry Motel. She has written essays for ZEEK Magazine and Three Percent, the website that accompanies Open Letter Press. She was a contributing translator to Contemporary Russian Poetry (Dalkey Archive Press, 2007) and is the Independent Press Buyer for St. Marks Bookshop. She lives in New York.

Hrag Vartanian is an Armenian-Canadian writer, critic and cultural worker. He lives in New York and his work has appeared in the Art21 blog, AGBU News, the Brooklyn Rail, NYFA's Current, Huffington Post, Modern Painters and contributes a street art column, "Re:Public", to ArtCat Zine. He serves on the board of the Ararat Quarterly and the Triangle Arts Association. He also blogs daily at hragvartanian.com. He is gayly married and hopes that one day his marriage will be legally recognized across America and around the world.

Escape, Soho, London


Saturday, 23 May 2009

Iran: Blogging against homophobia

*via Global Voices Online

A few Iranian bloggers wrote comments on ‘International day against homophobia' on May 17 and shared their concerns about existing discrimination against homosexuals in Iran.

Pesar has published an open letter from Iranian homosexual students to other student activists in the country:

We, homosexual students of Iran, have for years been present in the movements of students and intellectuals. We have been at the heart of their social and political demands, and we have protested the discriminatory situation in Iranian society. Now all freedom advocates and human rights defenders understand that homosexual rights are human rights… In Iran and other countries where social and human freedoms are non-existent, homosexuals are submitted to the worst tortures, persecutions and oppressions.

Ketabkhane has published [fa] a series of books written by and/or about homosexuals. They explain why they decided to make their works available on their blog:

Our existence is not only limited to physical presence in Iran's cities and villages. We live inside in Iranian society. We are influenced by it and we leave our impact. We live in this society. A group of us are writing and creating thoughts but people can not read our words if they have no access to them.

Gameron writes [fa] that homosexuals face problems in Islamic countries where they can be executed. The Islamic regime in Iran denies the existence of homosexuals, instead of helping the population to learn about homosexuality.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

EU - plus Armenia and Georgia, but not Azerbaijan - condemns Burundi for its recent criminalisation of gay sex

PrideSource reports that EU issued a statement condemning Burundi's criminalisation of gay sex. What is becoming a positive pattern and a welcome consequence of closer ties with the EU, Armenia and Georgia aligned themselves with this statement. What is also notable is absence of Azerbaijan from all recent gay rights statement (UN, EU).
***

The European Union, in a declaration issued by its presidency, has criticized the African nation of Burundi for its recent criminalization of gay sex.

"The criminalisation of consensual same-sex relations presents a violation of the rights to privacy, equality and non-discrimination as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights," the EU said May 11. "Adoption of such a norm is contradictory to Burundi's obligations under the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter of Human and People's Rights."

The declaration also says bans on gay sex impede the fight against HIV by driving marginalized communities underground.

In addition to the 27 member nations of the EU, the declaration was supported by Albania, Armenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Georgia, Iceland, Liechtenstein, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Norway, Serbia and Ukraine.

International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia marked in Baku

International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia was marked by the only LGBT NGO in Azerbaijan - “Gender & Development”, at their local office in Baku. The event was attended by more than 50 representatives of other human rights related NGOs, in particular, by members of «Clean World» NGO and youth group «Dalga». LGBT activists distributed badges calling for the fight against homophobia and the spread of AIDS.

*photos - via LGBT.az

Monday, 18 May 2009

Kapan (Armenia): candlelight vigil and march for HIV/AIDS victims

I posted about candlelight vigil and march for HIV/AIDS victims which took place yesterday in Yerevan.

Even more encouraging to learn that on 17 May similar vigil and march were organised by a youth group "Erkyak" (supported by World Vision and Red Cross) in one of Armenian regions - Kapan. They were also distributing educational materials and condoms. Well done, guys.

Report and photos below - via Hetq Online (in Armenian)

Կիրակի` մայիսի 17-ի երեկոյան կապանցիները, տեսնելով մի խումբ երիտասարդների` ձեռքներին վառվող մոմեր, զարմացան: Երիտասարդները քայլելով քաղաքի փողոցներով` անցորդներին տեղեկատվական գրքույկներ ու պահպանակներ էին բաժանում: Նախաձեռնությանը հեղինակը «Երկյակ» երիտասարդական հասարակական կազմակերպությունն էր, իսկ գաղափարը իրականություն դարձավ «Վորլդ Վիժն» կազամկերպության Կապանի զարգացման ծրագրի ու Հայաստանի կարմիր Խաչի Սյունիքի մարզային կառույցի աջակցությամբ:

Մայիսի երրորդ կիրակին ՁԻԱՀ-ից մահացած մարդկանց հիշատակի համաշխարհային օրն է: Առաջին անգամ այդ օրը նշվել է 1983թ. Սան Ֆրանցիսկոյում: Կազմակերպիչներն այն մարդիկ էին, ում կյանք ներխուժել էր ՄԻԱՎ/ՁԻԱՀ-ը: Հենց այդ օրն էլ հիմք դրվեց մոմավառությանը:

«Այս օրը մարդիկ հիշում են ՁԻԱՀ-ի զոհերին, նաեւ արտահայտում իրենց համերաշխությունն ու սատարումը ՄԻԱՎ-ով ապրողներին, ինչպես նաեւ հանրության ուշադրությունը հրավիրում խնդրի վրա»,-Հետքի թղթակցի հետ զրույցում նշեց «Երկյակ» ԵՀԿ փոխնախագահ Նվեր Զելյան: Կազմակերպության անդամները, ԿԽ Սյունիքի կառույցի կամավորները մարդկանց բաժանեցին տեղեկատվական տարբեր գրքույկներ` ՄԻԱՎ-ի փոխանցման ուղիների, կանխարգելման միջոցների, հետազոտման ձևերի մասին, ինչպես նաև պահպանակներ: «Ինչու չէ, պահպանակներ բաժանելով կարևորում ենք անվտանգ սեռական կյանքը, պետք է մեր հասարակությունը արդեն պատրաստ լինի այդ թեմաներով առանց ամաչելու խոսելուն»,-ասում է Ն. Զելյան:

ԿԽ-ի կամավոր 17-ամյա Արմեն Հարությունյանը, լսելով նախաձեռնության մասին, իր ընկերներներին էլ է ներգրավել: «Ընկերներիս հետ արդեն մի երկու ժամ է` նյութերն ենք բաժանում: Մարդիկ հարցնում են, հետաքրքրվում են, մենք էլ ասում ենք օրվա խորհուրդն ու առաջարկում բուկլետները կարդալ»,-ասում է Արմենը:

Իհարկե, երիտասարդների խոսքով, անտարբեր մարդիկ շատ կան: «Բարևում ես, ներողություն խնդրում, ու երբ ասում ես ՄԻԱՎ կամ ՍՊԻԴ, էլ չեն լսում շարունակությունը, ասում են` մենք հիվանդ չենք, չենք զբաղվում տենց բաներով ու թափով հեռանում»,-պատմում է Տիգրանը:

Զրուցակիցներիս համոզմամբ, շատերի մոտ այն թյուր կարծիքը կա, որ ՄԻԱՎ/ՁԻԱՀ-ի խնդիրը իրենց չի վերաբերում: «Սակայն պետք է համախմբել ավելի շատ մարդկանց, ուշադրություն գրավել նման ակցիաներով, բարձրացնել ՄԻԱՎ/ՁԻԱՀ-ի վերաբերյալ իրազեկությունը»,-ասում է ՀՀ սպորտի և երիտասարդության հարցերի նախարարության Սյունիքի երիտասարդական միջոցառումների կազմակերպման կենտրոնի ղեկավար Շուշանիկ Առաքելյանը` համոզված լինելով, որ միայն այդպես հնարավոր կլինի նվազեցնել վարակի տարածման տեմպերը: Կենտրոնի կամավորները նույնպես իրենց մասնակցությունն էին բերել ձեռնարկին:

«Միասին մենք կարող ենք լուծումներ գտնել»,- այս կարգախոսի ներքո անցկացվեց ՁԻԱՀ-ից մահացածների հիշատակի մոմավառությունը, ու կազմակերպիչների խոսքով, ակցիան կարելի է հաջողված համարել:

Ընդհանուր առմամբ, մոտ 2000 մարդու բաշխվեցին նյութերը, ասել է, թե այդքան մարդու ուշադրություն մեկ անգամ ևս հրավիրվեց հրատապ խնդրին:

Կիրակի կեսօրին, Կապանի Սրբ Մեսրոպ Մաշտոց եկեղեցում Կապանի ու Քաջարանի հոգևոր հովիվ Տեր Շիրակը մատուցեց պատարագ` ի հիշատակ ՁԻԱՀ-ի զոհերի: «Երկյակ» ՀԿ-ի պատասխանատուի փոխանցմամբ, կազմակերպության կողմից նմանատիպ ակցիաներ կազմակերպվեցին նաեւ մարզի քաղաքային բոլոր համայնքներում:

Jerusalem - City Of Borders: gay bar as a symbol of unity

Hot Docs 2009 trailer: "In the heart of Jerusalem stands an unusual symbol of unity: a gay bar called Shushan. In this vibrant underground that defies generations of segregation, violence and prejudice, patrons seek peace, love and understanding."



*Thanks to A.M. for the link.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Candlelight vigil and march for HIV/AIDS victims in Armenia

17 May is marked as International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO). Unfortunately, due to various circumstances, local gay activists, such as PINK Armenia, consider it "too early for us to conduct any big event or march against homophobia". However, they joined efforts with the Armenian Red Cross to commemorate victims of HIV/AIDS. The Caucasian Knot covers the march and candlelight vigil, posting photos and video interviews with the Red Cross volunteer and head of PINK Armenia.
According to the organizers of today’s candlelight vigil to commemorate the victims of HIV/AIDS, another event might have also been held had not attitudes in society been as they presently are. Nevertheless, the small rally by about 60 Armenian Red Cross volunteers and members of Pink Armenia to commemorate those killed by HIV/AIDS was largely successful and even went unhindered by police. Not that the authorities have anything against such marches, but rather that they are overly sensitive to any actions, especially by youth, after last year’s presidential election.




*photos - Onnik Krikorian/Oneworld Multimedia 2009 (+ Twitpic)

Armenia and Georgia join EU statement condemning homophobia

Declaration by the Presidency on behalf of the European Union
on the International Day against Homophobia on 17 May

Brussels, 15 May 2009

In the context of the International Day Against Homophobia, the Presidency of the Council on behalf of the European Union reaffirms the principle of non-discrimination which requires that human rights apply equally to every human being regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity.

The European Union rejects and condemns any manifestation of homophobia as this phenomenon is a blatant violation of human dignity. It considers that discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity is incompatible with the basic principles on which the EU is founded, and it is and will remain committed to the prevention and eradication of discrimination based on the six grounds mentioned in Article 13 of the EC Treaty, which include sexual orientation.

We are deeply concerned by violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms based on sexual orientation or gender identity wherever they occur, in particular the use of death penalty on this ground, the practice of torture or other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment, arbitrary arrest or detention, denying the right to peaceful assembly and deprivation of economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to health.

We urge the States to take all necessary measures to ensure that sexual orientation and gender identity may under no circumstances be the basis for criminal penalties and that such human rights violations are investigated and perpetrators held accountable and brought to justice.

The European Union welcomes the ever increasing support to these principles in the world and recalls in this context that 67 States from different regions condemned violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity in the General Assembly Statement on Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity of 18 December 2008.

The Candidate Countries Turkey, Croatia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, and the EFTA countries Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, members of the European Economic Area, as well as Ukraine, Armenia and Georgia align themselves with this declaration.

European Union

*Thanks to Gay Caucasus for the link.

Armenia Public TV about transsexuals

Transgenders in Armenia reports that yesterday Armenia Public TV aired a programme about plastic surgery and devoted 3-4 minutes to transsexuals and gender reassignment surgery. The blog says that it's pleasantly surprised by the objectivity of the journalist. The programme also mentioned that the Ministry of Health pledged to work on legislative changes regulating the issue. Let's hope, it will be sooner, say, matter of year(s), than decades. Of course, as blog indicates, you can't expect changes by just one TV programme, but at least it's a positive step making people exposed to existence and some of the problems faced by transgender people in Armenia.

2 խոսք Տրանսսեքսուալների մասին Հ1-ով
Երեկ` մայիսի 16-ին, ժամը 17:40 Հ1-ով ցույց տվեցին Գոհար Գասպարյանի հեղինակային "21-ի պիգմալիոնները" ֆիլմը: Ֆիլմը ինքնին գրեթե ամբողջովին նվիրված էր գեղագիտական պլաստիկ վիրահատությանը և մեզ մոտ ընդունված հիմնականում քթի վիրահատությանը:
Բայց ֆիլմի մեջ ընդգրկված էր մոտ 3-4րոպեանոց հատված նվիրված սեռի փոփոխման վիրահատությանը և ի զարմանս ինձ բավականին օբյեկտիվ էր: Ինձ դուր եկավ հեղինակի կողմից ասված խոսքերը "նրանք մեր կողքին են" :) Նման կերպ տարբեր վիրաբուժներ պատասխանեցին, որ դա լուրջ խնդիր է, որ անպայման անհրաժեշտ է նման մարդկանց բժշկական միջամտություն, որ պետք է տարբերակել հոմոսեքսուալիզմը, տրանսվիտիզմը և տրանսսեքսուալիզմը: Եվ հաղորդման ընթացքում հեղինակը ավելացրեց, որ մեր առողջապահության նախարարությունը իր կողմից խոստանում է առաջիկա մի քանի տարիների ( պ.ս. երևի մի 30-40 տարուց :-) ) անպայման անդրադառնալ այդ հարցին և համապատասխան օրենքին:
Ավելացնեմ նաև, որ նման մեկ հաղորդումը սարեր շուռ չի տա, բայց գոնե քայլ է, որի միջոցով գոնե մարդկանց ականջը սովորում է տրանսսեքսուալ բառ:

Inga and Anush: Armenia in Eurovision finale – faves, performance, make up, Jonathan Ross...



My favourites were France, Sweden, Moldova and Estonia. I am pretty OK with Norway's win, which was predictable.

To be honest, for me Iceland's entry was unremarkable and a bit boring. I think the most overrated entries this year were Iceland and Azerbaijan.

Interestingly, an acquaintance of mine, a UK music industry expert, who was always extremely critical re Armenia Eurovision entries in past, SMS-ed me saying she was impressed with Inga & Anush...

Anyway, ending in top ten was not that bad considering the choice of music, although potentially, with such a talent, they could have done so much better...
***
Jonathan Ross loves Armenia entry

#eurovision Armenia were my faves, but I hope Jade wins !
http://twitter.com/Wossy/status/1819864068

#eurovision I am going to move to Armenia.
http://twitter.com/Wossy/status/1819194899

#eurovision Love Armenia already. I'll have 2 falafel and extra hoummus to go.
http://twitter.com/Wossy/status/1819184206
***
Different sexy

Either you hate it or love it. There was no middle ground in online discussions re Inga and Anush look and make up. I am among those who think they deserve compliment re their look. Yes, I do think they looked different and sexy.

Here is an opinion expressed on Twitter which I loved:

If all the women in Armenia are a sexy as the one on #eurovision then I am emigrating there tomorrow. ;o)
http://twitter.com/chief1981/status/1820616585
***
Inga and Anush toned down their make up

According to this tweet which refers to Armenian conservatism, after criticism in Armenia of their extensive make up following the 1st semi-final, Inga and Anush toned it down a bit.

they changed the make-up a little bit =) armyanskiy konservatizm@ spanec :) #eurovision
http://twitter.com/mbarseghyan/status/1819222208
***
P.S.

There was a different kind of ‘contest’ going on between Armenia and Azerbaijan during the Eurovision song contest. A propaganda and pretty childish ‘war’ which was apparent only to those 2 countries and may have some consequences. For details:

Ethnic rivalry wins over kitsch in the Caucasus

Karabakh conflict a.k.a. Eurovision contest

Saturday, 16 May 2009

One vote from me to Sweden at Eurovision final. Malena Ernman 'is gay today' in solidarity with Russia gays

My big Respects to Sweden representative at Eurovision Malena Ernman. She is straight, and in solidarity with Russia gays, posted this statement today:

"Regarding the planned gay parade here in Moscow today I think it’s very sad that they won’t allow a tribute to love. I’m not homosexual but today I am happy and proud to call myself gay - to support my friends and fans."

Sweden was among my top favourites after the first semi-final. Now I have even more reasons to vote for her today.

Esctoday reports:

Today, as Moscow prepares to host tonight's Eurovision Song Contest for the first time, police in Moscow, Russia used force to stop a gay rights rally in the city. Swedish Eurovision Song Contest representative, Malena Ernman has become the first artist from tonight's show to speak out about the subject.

Earlier today, Malena Ernman, who is representing Sweden in tonight's Eurovision song Contest sent a strong message of solidarity to the campaigners.This morning, she posted a message on her blog to support the rights of gay and lesbian citizens in Moscow, taking a brave step, she has made the following statement:

"Regarding the planned gay parade here in Moscow today I think it’s very sad that they won’t allow a tribute to love. I’m not homosexual but today I am happy and proud to call myself gay - to support my friends and fans."

Sweden's gay community has been at the forefront of promoting the Eurovision Song Contest in Sweden. The Schalger Pride Eurovision Song Contest party has been a permanent fixture on the Thursday night of Stockholm's Gay Pride celebrations every year, and attracts a large number of international Eurovision fans to the event.

*photo - via Eurovision.tv

Disgrace in Moscow - police violently break up gay rights march, activists detained

They've done it in past. Today was no exception. Even Eurovision finale did not change Moscow authorities' homophobia.

Reports are coming from Moscow that police violently dispersed small march by Russian and Belorussian gay activists, detaining them, as well as other international human rights campaigners, including a prominent British activist Peter Tatchell, who were in Moscow to express their support for local campaigners.

I've been tweeting updates on my Twitter page.

Interestingly, Peter Tatchell breaks the news on his arrest and then release via his Twitter page, which I follow:

Just been released from Moscow police station - http://tinyurl.com/q3nshf
http://twitter.com/PeterTatchell/status/1815483021

Arrested. Shortest march I've ever been on.
http://twitter.com/PeterTatchell/status/1815179309

Well that didn't take long. Within 5mn 20 activists arrested by riot police in front of world's media, including organiser Nikolai Alekseev
http://twitter.com/PeterTatchell/status/1815162056

Not necessarily a boycott (as per below), but I'd like to see some show of solidarity by Eurovision performers and delegations.

Pride organisers call on performers to boycott Eurovision
(via Peter Tatchell human rights campaign Facebook group)

40 arrested as Moscow anti-riot police use violence to break up Slavic Pride march

Moscow – 16th May

Sources from Moscow have reported that police have used violent and oppressive tactics to break up the peaceful Slavic Pride march in the city.

The march had been outlawed by Moscow city authorities, but permission had been given for counter-demonstrations by far right ultra-nationalists.

Between 35 and 40 Russian LGBT activists have been arrested, including British human rights activist Peter Tatchell and Chicago LGBT activist Andy Thayer. Pride organiser Nikolai Alekseev was held down by 5 fully armed riot police and arrested.

European Embassy diplomats witnessed the violence are said to be planning a joint diplomatic action.

Slavic Pride organisers have called on the artists and performers of Eurovision to boycott tonight’s showpiece event in solidarity with the beaten and arrested protesters.

Organiser Nikolai Alekseev said

“I call upon all of the artists who are due to perform at tonight’s Eurovision to boycott tonight’s event and send a message that Russia’s state oppression of human rights is not acceptable.

“The Russian Government is using this years Eurovision in Moscow as a gala showpiece to show the world how far the country has improved since the early 1990’s. However, what was witnessed this afternoon on the streets of Moscow shows the world just how little Russia has travelled when it comes to supporting fundamental human rights.

“The police brutality that we witnessed here this afternoon is shocking. We planned a peaceful march to highlight the dire state of LGBT rights in Russia today. The police, given violent legitimacy by the openly homophobic Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov, did not hold back with their weapons, despite the world’s media watching.

“We were defending the often violated human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Russians. We demand the same legal protection against discrimination and hate crimes that none LGBT people enjoy.

“This episode has shamed the Russian Government and Moscow authorities before the world.”

*photo - by SkyNews, and by AP (via The Independent)

Jan Jan as a "summer smash for European gay disco"

Italian gay news website made this very interesting comment after the first semi-final about Armenian song in this year Eurovision - Jan Jan by Inga and Anush Arshakyan.

Here is a quote, via Google Translate:

"Armenia (the song has all the characteristics to be a summer smash for European gay disco but dances and costumes were just too "folk" for Moscow)."

Last year Armenian entry Sirusho's Qele, Qele became a European club hit, being played at many gay and straight clubs, particularly popular in Greece, as well as at a London Gay Pride.

Dita Von Teese about Armenia entry in Eurovision - Inga and Anush Arshakyan

"At eurovision, The Armenians are killing me with their hair and especially the fierce cateye liner! LOVE! I am part Armenian, in fact."
*twitter.com/DitaVonTeese (photo)

I had no idea that Dita is part Armenian. She is a famous American burlesque artist, model and actress. (Wikipedia) She is well known in London too.

Dita will be appearing on the Eurovision Song Contest with "Alex Sings, Oscar Swings". (http://www.dita.net/)

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Killing of Armenian teenager over online social network insult highlights a "culture of violence" in our society

News that a teenager in Gyumri, Armenia's second largest city, was murdered after online Odnoklassniki (Russian version of Facebook, extremely popular in Armenia and post-Soviet states) insult spread over the Internet via AP, and then Armenian news outlets.

Armenian teenager killed after online clash
YEREVAN, Armenia (AP) — Police say an Armenian teenager was killed after a dispute on a popular social networking Web site. Interior Ministry spokesman Sayat Shirinian said Wednesday that 17-year-old Tigran Tadevosian died in a hospital shortly after being assaulted by four teenagers on April 26. He said Tadevosian was attacked after he insulted a young woman in a chat room on Odnoklassniki.ru, a widely popular Russian version of Facebook. Police have arrested one suspect in the attack in the western city of Gyumri. Odnoklassniki.ru claims to have more than 35 million users in Russia and other former Soviet republics.
Hetq Online, Tert.am and Hraparak provide further details on the incident.

Commenting on the killing of a teenager, Blogian says (and I completely agree with him) that this tragic incident highlighted a "culture of violence, uneven relationship between men and women (where the latter often seek “protection” from other men), and a failed police system":

"It would be unjust to use this story to generalize Armenia, but there is a pattern of violence in the society whether starting online or in real life. Several years ago, for instance, an acquaintance at the time from Gyumri (the city where Tigran was killed) told me about his friends’ online “heroism:” straight men, posing as gay, would find online hookups, make a date with the real gay guy, show up with a gang and assault him. In Armenian chat rooms, men start “fighting” or “defending” a girl and then meet up for fights."

Armenia’s Inga and Anush in Eurovison final (!!) - No. 9

A few friendly remarks

My congrats to Inga and Anush for passing through to the final of Eurovision. They are very talented, they stand out of the mainstream with their ethno-inspired performances and ethno-modern look. They look weird in a nice way, and I love it.

Now briefly my impressions of their performance during the semi-final.

Vocally they were among the best in the first semi-final. I also liked their look and dresses, different, with Caucasian motives and a modern touch.

However, I am disappointed with the choreography and the stage show, in general. It just did not fit the song well, and (along with the song itself) did not allow Inga and Anush to realise fully their potential. There was no sufficient energy, there was no flame there (and I do not mean pyrotechnics here). There were some awkward dance moves by sisters, and not so satisfying dance show by the dancers. Also, it was not the most relaxed performance I’ve seen (they were nervous, I could feel it).

“Everybody move your body” – this is a central line of their song Jan Jan (‘Nor Par’). So come on, sisters, you should have moved your body more. Just do it. Still, compared to many other performances of the day, they stood out by their vocal abilities and weirdness (in a good way). But it would be much tougher for them in the final.

My other favourites were Sweden and Bosnia. Finland and Switzerland were OK too. Turkey’s Hadise was OK as well, but not as good as I expected.

Without doubts, the main highlight of the semi-final for me was t.A.T.u. performance in front of Red Army Choir.

Good luck to Inga and Anush for the final on 16 May. Go No. 9!

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Russian lesbian couple's attempt to marry in Moscow pushes gay rights

Irina Fedotova and Irina Shipitko sought a marriage license, knowing they’d be rejected. They hope their appeal can help pushing gay rights in Russia.

*photo - James Hill for The New York Times. For more photos - see prominent Russian gay activist and Moscow Pride organiser Nikolai Alexeyev's personal blog.

The New York Times
12 May 2009

MOSCOW — They knew they had no chance. But there they were anyway at a marriage registration office in Moscow on Tuesday. Two young women, wearing tuxedos and clutching bouquets, trying to become the first same-sex couple in Russia to legally wed.

“We have love, we have happiness, we want to be together for our whole lives and we want to do this here in Russia,” said Irina Fedotova, who hoped to marry her longtime partner, Irina Shipitko.

In a country where the push for gay rights has materialized only recently — and in fits and starts often met with violence and arrests — their attempt to marry was a bold, if muted, political statement as much as it was an expression of love.

The unsurprising response from the official at the registration office was dry and unequivocal. “According to article 12 of the family codex, for a marriage to be sanctioned it is necessary to have the mutual and voluntary agreement of a man and a woman.”

Both women said they had expected their marriage application to be rejected and said they would appeal the decision.

Their attempt to marry was meant in part to draw attention to gay rights in Russia as thousands of Europeans flood Moscow for the Eurovision song contest.

Gay rights groups plan a demonstration in Moscow Saturday, the day of the Eurovision final. [...]

In the past several years, however, Ms. Fedotova said she had noticed a slight increase in tolerance toward homosexuals in Russia, as more and more of them choose to live openly.

“In Moscow, specifically, gay society has received a minimal level of freedoms,” Ms. Fedotova said. “There are clubs and places to meet where you can find partners, but that is it.”

Ms. Fedotova, 30, and Ms. Shipitko, 32, have decided to marry in Canada, where they can do so legally, but said they would return to Russia and hopefully serve as an example to other gay couples and to Russian society.

My Eurovision semifinal highlight - t.A.T.u.

My highlight from the Eurovision semifinal in Moscow: t.A.T.u. singing about lesbian love story in front of the Russia Army Choir - classic, brilliant!

More impressions re Eurovision, including Armenia performance - here.

Monday, 11 May 2009

Armenian transgender guy starts video blogging to document his physical transition

In what is truly an unprecedented and very brave step, the author of Hye Trent blog, Lebanese-born Armenian and Middle Eastern transmale activist (raised in Cyprus) decided to start a video blogging (vlog) via YouTube to chronicle his physical transformations while undergoing surgery and other procedures. On my behalf, and I am sure on behalf of many readers of this blog, I'd like to pass my greetings to T.J., wish him Good Luck!!, and to assure him that we will be thinking of him, follow his journey of transformation and unreservedly support him.

From his bio:

"T.J. Jourian is a Lebanese-born Armenian and Middle Eastern transmale activist, raised on the Mediterranean island-country of Cyprus, and cast member of the Sundance docu-series TransGeneration (2005). Produced by World of Wonder and aired on the Sundance Channel and LOGO, TransGeneration chronicled an academic year in the lives of 4 trans-identified college students as they grapple with issues of transition, academics, family, relationships, and discrimination."

From his blog post:

"...I am a month away from having top surgery and possibly a couple of weeks away from starting testosterone. And while blogging about it is one option, I wanted to also be able to document the physical changes more visually, and be able to see for myself how things like my voice, my face, my chest and my body change over time. I probably won't be posting "before" pictures of my chest, but you get the idea.

So if you're curious to follow along, my YouTube channel is http://www.youtube.com/trannytrent"



From his first video diary entry:

"This is the first entry of what I'm hoping will be a sort of diary of my physical transition. I have been living as male for about 8-9 years now and at one point was casted for the Sundance and LOGO TV Series "TransGeneration" chronicling an academic year in the lives of 4 transgender college students. I am finally at a point in my life where I am both ready and financially able to start the physical process of my transition.

I may also use this forum to vlog about other things in my life and won't be just focusing on transition, so if you have questions comment on here and maybe I'll incorporate it into a future vlog. It doesn't mean I will address everything, as there are a ton of spaces online for people to be asking Trans 101 type questions, and I will also not spend/waste time on ignorant comments and will probably delete comments that have a negative impact on myself or others on youtube."

Thursday, 7 May 2009

'Gay Ataturk': a year without YouTube for Turkey

Reporters Without Borders marks one year anniversary of blocking the access to YouTube in Turkey.
Reporters Without Borders condemns the fact the video-sharing website YouTube has been inaccessible in Turkey for the past 12 months. Access has not been restored since it was blocked exactly one year ago today as a result of three orders issued by Ankara magistrate courts without any specific reason being given.
UK based The Register provides further details:

"The clip believed to have originally sparked the YouTube controversy in 2007 was a parody news broadcast by Greek football fans taunting their Turkish rivals by declaring "Today's news; Kemal Ataturk was gay!"

Turkish law lets prosecutors seek a court-ordered shutdown of any website deemed liable to incite suicide, paedophilia, drug usage, obscenity, prostitution, or attacking the memory of the republic's founding father.

Critics note the law opens the door to many abuses — such as letting a couple soccer fans effectively shut down an entire country's access to the world's most popular video-sharing website.

After the offending video was taken down by Google and YouTube users, Turkish prosecutors objected to dozens of other videos allegedly insulting Ataturk or other Turkish sensibilities. The latest barring was the result of three Ankara magistrate court orders on the grounds that Google hadn't obtained a license from the Turkish authorities."

The Register then goes on by listing countries which have barred YouTube, mentioning Armenia too: "Turkey is just one of several countries to have barred YouTube, including China, Armenia, Morocco, Pakistan, Thailand, Iran, United Arab Emirates, Saudia Arabia, and Syria."

I have to clarify here that the Armenian authorities have blocked the access to YouTube, along with some other websites, for a short period of few days only during the declared state of emergency following last year falsified presidential election. Before that and since then there have been no other incidents of Internet censorship in Armenia.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Maine becomes 5th US state to allow gay marriage

I liked the way The Cali Garmo reflects the news on his Twitter page: "Legally able to get married in 1/10 of the United States finally thanks to Maine. Now if only California would catch up with the times!"
***
Governor John Baldacci today signed into law a bill making Maine the fifth US state to allow gay marriage. Interestingly, in the past, Baldacci has opposed to the idea of gay marriage, while supporting civil unions. However, in a statement issued today, he says: "I have come to believe that this is a question of fairness and of equal protection under the law, and that a civil union is not equal to civil marriage."

Local media reports that "Tuesday's vote moved New England closer to allowing same-sex marriage throughout the region. New Hampshire legislators were also poised to send a gay marriage bill to their governor, who hasn't indicated whether he'll sign it. If he does, Rhode Island would be the region's sole holdout."
***
It's now five stars for the US marriage equality flag.

Monday, 4 May 2009

Lesbian Armenian: moving and liberating personal account on ‘coming out’ to parents

I highly recommend reading this honest, moving and liberating personal account on ‘coming out’ to parents by a lesbian Armenian “Chicago Girl”. She just came out to her Armenian parents at the turning point in her life, after breaking up with her girlfriend of 5 years and turning forty.

She was out to (almost) everyone except family members, because she always thought that “family was different”. She was afraid of upsetting her parents. However, break up shook the things up in her life, and made her realised that she “allowed the fear of disappointing and potentially losing [her] family rob [her] of [her] own future happiness”.
[...] This break up made me reassess everything in my life. Two weeks after the break up I came out to my best friend from growing up and to my older brother and his wife (who were as supportive, loving and accepting). Then to my father (who said he loves me no matter what and that I am a great daughter). Then I had a nice, adult-like sit down with my mom and dad in their living room where I told them what I think I deserve in life and that they have to work towards acknowledging my sexuality. After that I told my younger brother. This mission could not have been aborted. I was determined, sincere, focused and gentle. And I did it for my future and the happiness of my future family.

The 'break up' also led to a 'shake up' in my soul. Coming clean like this was the closest thing to a religious experience that I ever felt. It was like being re-born; like baptizing my soul and liberating it from the immobilization caused by years of fear and some layers of shame. Today, I am a better, more self-aware version of myself. And, my life has transformed leading up to and after turning 40 in every way possible. As a result of coming out to my entire family, everything has changed. Except...my broken heart remains.
*I disabled comments section for this post here. If you have comments, please do leave them at the original post.

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Pink: "I'm not embarrassed about being bisexual. This is who I am."

UPDATE: Pink now denies reports by a British tabloid that she came out as bisexual. She did it first via her Twitter page, then via her rep telling NYDN that the interview was "entirely fabricated". Oh well, to be honest I do not think Pink would have been afraid of coming out if she is indeed bisexual. So probably she is straight. In any case, she spoke out against homophobia and for gay rights in past.
***

"I'm not embarrassed about being bisexual. This is who I am. Love is pure and I try to keep it that way. This is who I am, what I feel. "I think it's unnecessary to draw the subject out, but I think it even more stupid not to discuss it. It seems as if bisexuality is a trend and I should whip up the masses. Well, I don't believe in trends, I just believe in me."

"My love knows no colour, no gender, no fuss."

"I speak my mind, I sing about everyday stuff such as homosexuality and sadly the homophobia that always comes with it."

Pink, speaking to the News Of The World

Apparently, this is the first time she is speaking out so openly and straightforwardly about her sexuality. I love Pink! She is an inspiring singer. A singer who is great both on-stage and off-stage.

*source of photo - Pink's website

Inga and Anush Arshakyan: first rehearsal in Moscow for Eurovision 2009



Here are my first impressions.

Although audio on this video does not seem good, I do not think Inga & Anush will have problems with the vocals. I liked blue coloured theme on the stage. However, I am not convinced with the dance routines during the performance. I know, this is only the first rehearsal, but they have to get their act better in future rehearsals. Anyway, I expected something more weird (in a good way) and alternative from sisters’ performance. Still, as far as I understand from reports coming from Moscow, there may be some surprises towards the final performances. Here is hoping.

"Gay Armenia" (lesbian) mug

*from here

"Only Sex Will Save Armenia" tank top

*from here

Boris Moiseev - Tango-cocaine

Saturday, 2 May 2009

Boris Moiseev - Tattoo

French Armenian singer Charles Aznavour says he wrote "the first song about homosexuality" - WOW!

Speaking to The New York Times, French Armenian singer Charles Aznavour says he wrote "the first song about homosexuality":

"Mr. Aznavour’s work might be described as a European bourgeois edifice resistant to outside influences. But within that structure no subject is off limits. Mr. Aznavour mentioned writing “the first song about homosexuality,” “Comme Ils Disent” (known here as “What Makes a Man a Man”). In the age of gay marriage, it may seem quaint but it is still affecting. All kinds of awful things happen to the couples in his psychological eviscerations of long-term relationships. Nasty games are played, lovers come and go, and eventually desire itself evaporates."

Below is a video of English version of the song, as well as lyrics.



My mum and I we live alone
A great apartment is our home
In Fairhome Towers
I have to keep me company
Two dogs, a cat, a parakeet
Some plants and flowers
I help my mother with the chores
I wash, she dries, I do the floors
We work together
I shop and cook and sow a bit
Though mum does too I must admit
I do it better
At night I work in a strange bar
Impersonating every star
I'm quite deceiving
The customers come in with doubt
And wonder what I'm all about
But leave believing
I do a very special show
Where I am nude from head to toe
After stripteasing
Each night the men look so surprised
I change my sex before their eyes
Tell me if you can
What makes a man a man

At 3 o'clock or so I meet
With friends to have a bite to eat
And conversation
We love to empty out our hearts
With every subject from the arts
To liberation
We love to pull apart someone
And spread some gossip just for fun
Or start a rumour
We let our hair down, so to speak
And mock ourselves with tongue-in-cheek
And inside humour
So many times we have to pay
For having fun and being gay
It's not amusing
There's always those that spoil our games
By finding fault and calling names
Always accusing
They draw attention to themselves
At the expense of someone else
It's so confusing
Yet they make fun of how I talk
And imitate the way I walk
Tell me if you can
What makes a man a man

My masquerade comes to an end
And I go home to bed again
Alone and friendless
I close my eyes, I think of him
I fantasise what might have been
My dreams are endless
We love each other but it seems
The love is only in my dreams
It's so one sided
But in this life I must confess
The search for love and hapiness
Is unrequited
I ask myself what I have got
Of what I am and what I'm not
What have I given
The answers come from those who make
The rules that some of us must break
Just to keep living
I know my life is not a crime
I'm just a victim of my time
I stand defenceless
Nobody has the right to be
The judge of what is right for me
Tell me if you can
What makes a man a man

*Thanks to A.W. for the link to NYT article.

'Women rights' at Yerevan mayor election

Having a woman candidate for the post, Armenia pro-government Orinats Erkir party decided to exploit women rights & gender equality in its Yerevan mayor election campaign which formally launched today. Clever move, perhaps, but unfortunately this will not serve to promote women rights in Armenia, as this party is extremely discredited in the eyes of Yerevan residents. Or so I believe, and hope that they won't be able to fool people again, as they have done during the last presidential election acting as an 'opposition' party. They have never been known for their defense of human rights.