Friday, 31 July 2009

Report on violations of LGBT rights in Azerbaijan presented at UN Human Rights Committee

Via Friends of Azerbaijan, Gender and Development local LGBT NGO, in partnership with Global Rights and ILGA-Europe, presented a report on The Violations of the Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people in Azerbaijan at the 96th session of the UN Human Rights Committee in Geneva. It's not clear what was the outcome of that meeting, or whether any practical actions will follow, but the precedent was set as LGBT rights were specifically discussed as part of the overall state of human rights in Azerbaijan at the highest international level. However, when it comes to human rights, UN mechanisms are slow and frequently inefficient.

Earlier Reuters reported that the decision is to be expected on 31 July.
The committee session was held as a top-level delegation from the European Union, with which Azerbaijan is seeking to boost economic relations especially in the energy sector, was expressing alarm in Baku about rights.

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, who headed the EU team, told reporters there on Monday that he had expressed concern to President Ilham Aliyev over the arrest of two opposition bloggers who were accused of hooliganism.

At the same time, ambassadors of the 27 EU member states voiced disquiet "about the condition of human rights and freedoms" in the country where Aliyev and his late father have held power almost uninterrupted for nearly three decades.

But at a Geneva news conference, NGOs said they feared the EU was unlikely to go beyond words in its criticism of Azerbaijan, a key supplier of oil and gas from Caspian Sea fields offering an alternative to energy from Russia.

"In our experience, the countries most likely to take a strong stance are the United States and (non-EU member) Norway -- they have their own oil," said Florian Irminger of the Geneva-based Human Rights House Foundation.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Georgia opposition - from ridiculous to more ridiculous: Ombudsman nominee calls for criminalisation of homosexuality

Yes, it's true, I cannot stand Georgian president Saakashvili. However, this is a perfect example (see below) why I think Georgian opposition is a joke, a dangerous joke.


MP Dimitri Lortkipanidze, who was nominated for the post of Public Defender by parliamentary minority in which Christian-Democratic Movement is a leading party, said on July 30, that he believed homosexuality should be criminalized again.

“I think that homosexuality should be punishable in this country, because it is punishable by our [Orthodox Christian] act of faith. I think that one of the best means to fight against homosexuality will be if this act becomes punishable under the criminal code,” MP Lortkipanidze said.

He was speaking at a meeting of two candidates for the Public Defender’s post with a group of civil society representatives.

MP Lortkipanidze’s response triggered boos among some of the participants of the meeting. “That’s what I think about this matter and I do not know why it triggered such a reaction among you, but I can’t give a kind of an answer which may be favorable for you, but disastrous for me,” MP Lortkipanidze added.

He made the remarks after the both of the candidates were asked what they thought about the case, when a young gay man was expelled from the Georgian TV show after he made an on-air candour about his sexual orientation less than two years ago.

Another candidate, Giorgi Tugushi, who is most likely to be confirmed by the Parliament on the post as he is nominated by the ruling party, said discrimination against on the basis of sexual orientation was totally unacceptable for him.

Homosexuality, which was decriminalized in Georgia in 2000, is generally regarded as “immoral” and remains a taboo topic and closeted in Georgia.

One of the most recent case when the issue was publicly discussed on TV was in January, when then deputy head of the public broadcaster, Gia Chanturia, who is now an acting general director, used a disparaging term when referring to a male homosexual.
Gay Caucasus also have a relevant post (in Russian).

Round-table on intolerance and homophobia in Armenia

For the first time, round-table on intolerance, xenophobia and homophobia in Armenia was organised by The National Citizens’ Initiative (NCI) affiliated with the parliamentary opposition Heritage party. I welcome the initiative. Hopefully, this discussion will continue, eventually evolving a broader spectrum of the society, media and political representatives. As coordinator of the NCI Hovsep Khurshudyan rightly pointed out, Armenia, facing so many challenges, simply cannot afford xenophobia, homophobia and intolerance towards others' political or religious views.

Below is press release by the organisation in English and Armenian. Armenian version is better, English version is not perfect but you'll get the idea.

July 30, 2009

NCI Examines Xenophobia in Armenia

Yerevan—Today, the National Citizens’ Initiative (NCI) convened a roundtable discussion on the topic of “Xenophobia in Armenia.” The meeting brought together NGO officials, human rights advocates, analysts, members of international organizations, and several others.

Welcoming the audience with opening remarks, NCI coordinator Hovsep Khurshudian pointed to those dangers that xenophobia includes, and specifically to homophobia as well as intolerance toward others’ political views and freedom of religion. “Countries like Armenia, which faces numerous foreign challenges, cannot allow the entrenchment of phenomena like xenophobia, which imperils social unity,” Khurshudian said. “Sadly, however, this awareness is virtually absent particularly among the ruling political circles, and, with their actions and especially through the electronic media, the authorities contribute to this troubling phenomenon’s entrenchment among social awareness.”

The day’s first speaker, director Artur Sakunts of the Vanadzor office of the Helsinki Civil Assembly, spoke about intolerance toward other political views. Presenting the roots of political intolerance in Armenia, he drew attention to the recent centuries, when Armenia was under the domination of foreign empires and states, and, in result, the open development of the political culture was hindered. According to Sakunts, however, “in the case when people are fired from their jobs for their political convictions, and when the entrepreneurs’ private properties are confiscated because of their political positions, the aforesaid history cannot justify the work method of the Armenian authorities.” Sakunts also underscored the imperative of institutional reforms.

In his intervention, Mamikon Hovsepian of the “Public Information and Need For Knowledge” NGO discussed the alarming extent of homophobia in Armenia. According to Hovsepian, this phenomenon is widespread in the army and the media, and high-level officials and leading representatives of the ruling political party are encouraging homophobia. And all this, as maintained by Hovsepian, is taking place against the backdrop of the incumbent Armenian authorities’ periodical assumption, from various international bodies, of commitments to carry out measures against homophobia. In Hovsepian’s view, the assumption of these commitments is “a mere formality and solely steps toward deceiving the European structures, and this does not affect, whatsoever, the authorities’ true steps taken in that direction.” Hovsepian also noted that, parallel to the growing reduction in the level of education and the deepening lack of knowledge, homophobia was becoming more widespread in the country.

The next speaker, chairman Stepan Danielian of the Cooperation for Democracy Center, presented the amendments which the ruling political party had proposed for the law on the freedom of conscience and religious organizations, and also pointed to the dangers these amendments can bring forth. He remarked that the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe, the OSCE/ODIHR, and the Council of Europe’s General Department on Human Rights jointly had expressed a negative view with respect to these amendments. “This bill, which passed through the Armenian National Assembly floor, in the first reading, will greatly curtail the freedom of religion, and this conflicts with the Armenian Constitution and the international agreements,” Danielian maintained.

In the shared view of the roundtable participants, xenophobia is truly perilous for the Armenian society and comprehensive counter measures are indispensable, but, to that end, no hope can be placed on the authorities in office. According to the panel discussants, it is impossible to resolve this problem exclusively by way of institutional reforms, because the laws simply are not executed and their mechanisms for execution are either lacking or flawed.

In his closing remarks, NCI coordinator Hovsep Khurshudian argued that, unfortunately, the logic of the political developments is paving the way for one-party rule, with the alternative of Soviet totalitarianism, and, parallel to this, by violating the constitutionally-protected separation of the state and the Church, and freedom of conscience of the citizens, the very same attempt also is being made in the sphere of religion. “In order to disallow such developments, the body politic must unite and work more effectively and in a more coordinated fashion,” Khurshudian concluded.

30 հուլիսի 2009թ.

ՔԱՆ-ում քննարկվեց Հայաստանում այլատյացության (քսենոֆոբիայի) խորացման վտանգը

Երեւան: Այսօր Քաղաքացիական ազգային նախաձեռնությունը (ՔԱՆ) անցկացրեց §Այլատյացությունը Հայաստանում թեմայով քննարկում, որին մասնակցեցին հասարակական կազմակերպությունների ներկայացուցիչներ, փորձագետներ, իրավապաշտպաններ, միջազգային կազմակերպությունների ներկայացուցիչներ, շահագրգիռ այլ շրջանակներ:

Բացելով քննարկումը ՔԱՆ համակարգող Հովսեփ Խուրշուդյանը մատնանշեց այն վտանգները, որոնք պարունակում են իրենց մեջ այլատյացության տարատեսակ դրսեւորումները, եւ, մասնավորապես, անհանդուրժողականությունը այլոց քաղաքական հայացքների հանդեպ, հոմոֆոբիան եւ անհանդուրժողականությունը այլոց հավատքի իրավոնքի հանդեպ: Հատկապես Հայաստանի պես երկիրը, որը ունի վտանգներով լեցուն արտաքին մարտահրավերներ, չի կարող իրեն թույլ տալ ներհասարակական համախմբմանը խոչընդոտող այնպիսի երեւույթների խորացում, ինչպիսին է այլատյացությունը: Ցավոք, դրա գիտակցումը հատկապես իշխող քաղաքական շրջանակներում գրեթե բացակայում է եւ իշխանությունները իրենց գործողություններով` հատկապես էլեկտրոնային ԶԼՄ-ների ներգրավմամբ, նպաստում են այս մտահոգիչ երեւույթի արմատավորմանը հասարակական գիտակցության մեջ:

Քննարկման առաջին բանախոսը Հելսինկյան քաղաքացիական ասամբլեայի Վանաձորի գրասենյակի ղեկավար Արթուր Սաքունցն էր, որը ներկայացրեց անհանդուրժողականության դրսեւորումները քաղաքական այլակարծության հանդեպ: Դիտարկելով քաղաքական անհանդուրժողականության արմատները Հայաստանում` նա մատնանշեց վերջին դարերի պատմությունը, երբ Հայաստանը գտնվել է օտար տերությունների լծի տակ, ինչի արդյունքում խոչընդոտվել է քաղաքական մշակույթի ազատ զարգացումը: Սակայն ըստ բանախոսի դա չի կարող լինել Հայաստանի իշխանություննրի գործելաճի արդարացում, երբ քաղաքական հայացքների համար մարդիկ ազատազրկվում են` համալրելով քաղբանտարկյալների շարքերը, երբ քաղաքական դիրքորոշման համար շատերն ազատվում են իրենց աշխատանքից, իսկ գործարարներից խլում են իրենց սեփականությունը: Բանախոսը մեծապես կարեւորեց խնդրի կարգավորման ուղղությամբ հանրակարգային (ինստիտուցիոնալ) բարեփոխումները:

Այնուհետեւ "Հանրային տեղեկատվություն և գիտելիքի կարիք" հասարակական կազմակերպության ներկայացուցիչ Մամիկոն Հովսեփյանը ներկայացրեց հոմոֆոբիայի ահագնացող չափերը Հայաստանում: Հոմոֆոբիայի դրսեւորումները բազմաթիվ են բանակում, ԶԼՄ-ներում, դրանք խրախուսվում են բարձրաստիճան պաշտոնյաների եւ իշխող կուսակցության առաջատար ներկայացուցիչների կողմից: Եւ այս ամենը տեղի է ունենում հոմոֆոբիայի դեմ քայլեր իրականացնելու` Հայաստանի գործող իշխանությունների կողմից միջազգային տարբեր ատյաններում պարտավորությունների պարբերաբար ստանձնման ֆոնի վրա: Նման պարտավորությունների ստանձնումը բանախոսն անվանեց ձեւական եւ միմիայն եվրոպական կառույցների աչքերին թոզ փչելու նկատառմամբ արվող քայլեր, որոնք որեւէ ազդեցություն չեն ունենում երկրի ներսում այս ուղղությամբ իշխանությունների իրական քայլերի վրա եւ բերեց մի շարք օրինակներ: Նա նաեւ նշեց, որ հոմոֆոբիայի ծավալները ավելանում են հասարակության մեջ կրթական մակարդակի հետզհետե նվազմանը եւ տգիտության խորացմանը զուգընթաց:

Երրորդ զեկուցող, "Համագործակցություն հանուն ժողովրդավարության" կենտրոնի նախագահ Ստեփան Դանիելյանը ներկայացրեց Խղճի ազատության և կրոնական կազմակերպությունների մասին օրենքում իշխող կուսակցության կողմից առաջարկված փոփոխությունների նախագիծը եւ դրանում առկա վտանգները: Նա նշեց, որ այս նախագծի վերաբերյալ Եվրախորհրդի Վենետիկի հանձնաժողովը, OSCE/ODIHR և Եվրախորհրդի Մարդու իրավունքների Գլխավոր դեպարտամենտի համատեղ կարծիքը բացասական է եղել: Ըստ զեկուցողի` ՀՀ ԱԺ-ում առաջին ընթերցմամբ անցած օրենքի նախագիծը ուղղված է կրոնական ազատությունների խիստ սահմանափակմանը, ինչը հակասում է ՀՀ Սահմանադրությանը եւ միջազգային համաձայնագրերին:

Ծավալված քննարկման ընթացքում ելույթ ունեցողները հիմնականում միակարծիք էին այն հարցում, որ քսենոֆոբիան իրապես վտանգավոր է մեր հասարակության համար, եւ որ դրա դեմ համալիր միջոցառումների կարիք կա, ինչի վերաբերյալ, սակայն հույս կապել գործող իշխանությունների հետ որեւէ հիմք չկա: Իսկ բացառապես ինստիտուցիոնալ բարեփոխումների միջոցով խնդրի լուծումը գնահատվեց անհնարին, քանի որ օրենքները պարզապես չեն գործում, դրանց կիրարկման մեխանիզմները կամ բացակայում են կամ անկատար են:

Հմչեց նաեւ կարծիք, որ երբեմն շփոթում են անհանդուրժողականություն եւ հաշտվողականություն եզրույթները: Այսպես, իշխանությունների կողմից կատարվող ապօրինությունների հետ հասարակությունը երբեւէ չպետք է հաշտվի, այլ պետք է դրանց դեմ մշտապես պայքարի, եւ այս հարցում կարեւորվեց քաղաքացիական հասարակության բոլոր դերակատարների, հատկապես ԶԼՄ-ների եւ ՀԿ-ների դերակատարությունը:

Իր ամփոփիչ խոսքում ՔԱՆ համակարգող Հովսեփ Խուրշուդյանը կարծիք հայտնեց, որ քաղաքական զարգացումների տրամաբանությունը ցավալիորեն տանում է քաղաքական համակարգի միակուսակցականացմանը` սովետական ամբողջատիրության նմանությամբ, դրան զուգահեռ նույնը փորձ է արվում իրականացնել կրոնական ոլորտում` խախտելով պետության եւ եկեղեցու ՀՀ սահմանադրությամբ ամրագրված տարանջատումը եւ քաղաքացիների խղճի ազատությունը: Նման զարգացումներ թույլ չտալու համար քաղաքացիական հասարակությունը պետք է համախմբվի եւ առավել համակարգված ու արդյունավետ գործի:

Saturday, 25 July 2009

PINK Armenia: Distributing leaflets in Yerevan

KIN - International Women's Film Festival in Yerevan, Armenia (1-5 Dec 09)

I can't believe I've never heard of this festival before. And it's on the 6th year run now. (thanks to the links posted by friends on Facebook)

The organisers have to publicise it more. Programming, scope, aims... everything with this festival sounds pretty exciting and groundbreaking for the South Caucasus and the broader region. Apparently, it was the first of its kind in Caucasus when launched in 2004.
First International Film Festival "KIN" (kin means “a woman” in Armenian) was held in Yerevan on 8-12 December 2004. It was going to be the first event of the kind to be held in the Caucasus. The purpose of the festival is to address through films issues of violence, inequality, discrimination and other problems related to women’s rights and gender problems. The festival’s goal is promote women's creativity, establish a network between women filmmakers from different parts of the world and give hand to a better understanding of different cultures and each other.
International Women's Film Festival "KIN", 6-th edition, 1-5 December 2009

The 6-th International Film Festival «KIN» (kin means "a woman" in Armenian), will be held in Yerevan on 1-5 December 2009. The festival's goal is promote women's creativity, establish a network between women filmmakers from different parts of the world and give hand to a better understanding of different cultures and each other. The purpose of the festival is to address through films issues of violence, inequality, discrimination and other problems related to women's rights and gender problems.

The deadline for submissions - 1 September 2009.

Fashion (bridal) show in Chechnya

“Space is still a man’s world”, says first woman to walk in space

Russia Today: "Twenty-five years ago Russian cosmonaut Svetlana Savitskaya became the second woman to travel into orbit, the first also Russian, but she was the first woman to walk in space."

Friday, 24 July 2009

Gay Armenian erotic/softcore short stories & chats

Via, I found links to these 2 erotic/softcore short stories about or involving gay Armenians (in Russian):

Once upon a time in Armenia (Однажды в Армении)

Rafik and Aram (Рафик и Арам)

But my favourite ones are those hilarious "microchats" (mixture of Armenian and Russian translit) regularly posted by recently launched Gay Armenian Lounge Room blog.

Vardavar-inspired photo exhibit at Lovers' park, Yerevan

By Ara Aslanyan, Vardavar series.
This particular project began with Armenia's Marriott Hotel summer season magazine; Ara worked as a consultant, helping create the aesthetic strategy for the magazine. "It would be cool to feature an Armenian holiday from the season, which is Vardavar," thought Ara. "Let's not do what everyone has already done. Everyone photographs kids in the streets with buckets and plastic bottles; no one has done a portrait photo series capturing the moment when a person is splashed."

The idea attracted a lot of people. "It's cool how so many people reacted," says Ara. The Internet had a viral effect, and Lovers' Park Project Coordinator Sarhat Petrossian, Ara's client, saw sample photos on Ara's Facebook page, and the initial idea for a magazine spread turned into a "happening" (an event in which art is integrated in everyday life) at Lovers' Park.

With the green light from Sarhat, Ara rallied his friends in the courtyard of his apartment in the Yerrord Mas district of Yerevan, and let the splashing begin. Along with photographers Vahan and Arman, Ara invited his friends via Facebook to stand in as models. "It interested me to capture what they felt: pleasure, fear, how people stood still, and how their expressions changed the instant they were splashed," says Ara.

Ara attributes the results to the entire process. "Each photo is unique," says Ara. "I couldn't plan anything. A lot of the creation came from the subjects and how each reacted differently."

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Green fashion: Italian designer Guillermo Mariotto's tribute to protesters in Iran


Italian designer Guillermo Mariotto appears with a T-shirt bearing "Neda Alive", while models wear a green ribbon and raise their hand with V signs, in honor of protesters killed in Iran.

*Thanks to A.P. for the link

Friday, 17 July 2009

P.S. Re: that homophobic game in Georgia

The Observer, run by France 24, reflects my earlier blog post on homophobic game which appeared on Georgian website popular among children: Hunting the homo – the game infuriating gay rights activists. The article states that the game was created by a Frenchman and it’s banned in France.

A video game hosted by a Georgian website is causing outrage in the gay rights community. The idea of the online game - to shoot nudists, before they b**ger you, was created by a Frenchman. It's banned in France... but not in Georgia.

The game (
available here), was initially picked up and slated by the Gay Caucasus blog, shortly followed by Gay Armenia. Global Voices quoted the latter as being "completely disgusted", finding it particularly shocking that the concept was adopted by "those religious-minded people in Tbilisi, Georgia, who swear in the name of Georgian patriarchy and constantly cite Bible to ‘justify' their homophobia and hatred. Is this their (un-)‘orthodox' way of bringing up children by creating an image of an enemy (= gays) and teaching how to deal with it (= kill them)?" [...]

However the owner (Jean Christophe Calvet) of website which originally launched this game in 2002, tries to justify it as a “juvenile humour”.

"We launched this game a long time ago [2002] and it worked very well. It was only a few years after it came out that a gay rights association took legal action against us. So we withdrew the game. It's no longer available on French sites, but it's impossible to wipe it from all foreign sites too.
I have to say that at the beginning, we really didn't understand why the association was attacking us. The guy who came up with the game, Stéphane Aguie, wanted to mock hunters and red-necks, not gay men.
Our games are not politically correct. They're aimed at teenagers (12-18) and it's true that they're of a juvenile humour. I realise now that this one in particularly could be found shocking, but I believe that you should be able to make this kind of joke in the name of freedom of speech. Incidentally, not everyone in the gay community was supportive of banning the game.
It's not the first game we've been attacked over. Jean-Marie Le Pen [far right French party leader] took us to court over a game in which users could throw axes at his face. He was
not the only celebrity featured in the game, but in his case it was a swastika rather than an axe... We were also criticised by the Americans for our ‘New York Defender' game. Launched in 2001, the aim of the game was to protect the Twin Towers from plane attacks."
I completely reject such ‘justification’. There is nothing “juvenile” and not a bit “humorous” in something which promotes hatred and killing. Even worse, if this is aimed at children and teenagers. Will Mr. Jean Christophe Calvet be as light-hearted in relation, for example, a game which depicts white people hunting and killing black people? Will he describe it as a “juvenile” and “humorous” concept, or a “joke in the name of freedom of speech”? I doubt very much. This has nothing to do with the freedom of speech. This has everything to do with promotion of hatred and homophobia.

You may read the piece by The Observer (France 24) here.

My original blog post is here.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Graffiti resurgence in Yerevan



Street art is experiencing its resurgence in Yerevan. A special 'graffiti community' was set up by enthusiasts covering mainly Armenian capital. There are also entries from Karabakh, Tbilisi, and related news there.
also covers "Art in Yerevan streets" in this short video below.

Filipino-Armenian model Miguel Chico

Who would have thought that this guy may have Armenian origin?!

Meet Filipino-Armenian model Miguel Chico. He has been featured on a number of gay and local fashion sites. Thanks to V.H. for the link.

*source: Armenian Miguel - Manila Male Models (also - here)

*source: Manila Gay Guy


No, it's not what you think. It's a mineral.

Photo and info - Wikipedia.
*Thanks to V.H. for the link.

Monday, 13 July 2009

‘Kill the faggots’ - new online game for children (!!) in Georgia

Gay Caucasus reports on extremely disturbing, utterly homophobic and hateful game which appeared on Georgian online game site, popular among children and teenagers. ‘Kill the faggots’ game involves a hunter shooting naked men who jump out of bushes. If hunter is unsuccessful, the men rape the hunter.

This is totally disgusting. The website has to be shut down unless they take this game out of their server. This is even more unacceptable considering that the site aims mainly at children and teenagers. Children as young as six are familiar with the site and regularly play online games there. In fact, the author of Gay Caucasus found out about the game via children of close people. I wonder, where are the voices of those religious-minded people in Tbilisi, Georgia, who swear in the name of Georgian patriarch and constantly cite Bible to ‘justify’ their homophobia and hatred. Is this their (un-)‘orthodox’ way of bringing up children by creating an image of enemy (=gays) and teaching how to deal with it (=kill them)?
Теперь хочется задать вопрос как хозяевам этого игрового сайта, так и всем, кому «надоели» разговоры о гомофобию и геи, пытающиеся защитить свои права. Господа, что может значить такая игра на детском игровом сервере? Чему мы учим своих детей – что гомосексуалы враги и их нужно убивать? Понятно, что для взрослых гомофодов такая игра может быть вполне забавной, но когда ее размещают на детском сервере, чему мы учим тем самым детей? «Убивать пидоров»? Есть во всем этом какая-либо логика или рационализм? Что может сотворить этот ребенок, когда повзрослеет, если все свое детство будет играть в эту игру, «убивая пидоров», бегающих за охотником с одной целью, чтобы его изнасиловть...

*picture - via Gay Caucasus blog

Blue's Duncan comes out as bisexual

WOW! I thought in past that he might be gay, but then again they were playing a Kazanova, lads' image in Blue boy band quite successfully, and I was never quite sure re their sexuality. Most popular among gays were Duncan James and Lee Ryan.

And now, ahead of their 're-union tour', such a revelation would be quite something especially among millions of his female fans. What can I say, welcome on board, Duncan ;)

Read the full story.

*photo - via News Of The World

'Fighting' public toilet sex in Yerevan

Very 'creative' way of fighting cruising and sex in public toilets by administration of cinema Moscow in downtown Yerevan. Their public toilets have been a popular place for cruising and gay sex from way back Soviet times. According to Kamoblog, they now decided the most 'effective' way of fighting against such practice - by putting 'windows' over the upper half of toilet doors. Only in Yerevan. Bizarre beyond words :)

Japan-themed theatre play in Yerevan (Picture of the Day)

*via (Yerevan Puppet Theatre)

Deputy director of special school in Yerevan detained with charges of child rape and trafficking

A1+ reports, citing Yerevan police statement, that a deputy director of special school where children with anti-social (‘difficult’) background study, has been detained with charges of male rape and trafficking. According to reports, not only he allegedly raped at least one 12 years old male student but was also accused in physical violence towards pupils and forcing them to become beggars.

*Full A1+ report - under the comments section below (in Armenian)

Chaz Bono makes first public appearance with girlfriend Jennifer Elia

* reports

Chaz Bono made his first public appearance last night since announcing his female to male gender transition. [read my earlier post - Cher's daughter Chastiti Bono comes out as transgender person]

Here’s Chaz and girlfriend Jennifer Elia at 2009 Outfest’s Opening Night Gala of “La Mission” at the Orpheum in Los Angeles.

Chaz is so likeable - and I think it’s great that the transgender community has another public face. The Daily News did a surprisingly warm story about his appearance last night, which is another good sign.

(photo - via

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Madonna's first naked photos on show in London

These are reportedly the first naked photos of Madonna made when she was 20 years old. They were later appeared in Playboy.

Not the most arty photos I've seen. Some other exhibits on display (as per below) were more interesting to me. These photos are on show (sale) at Impure Art gallery, 19 Earlham Street, Seven Dials, Covent Garden, London WC2, till 19 July.

Friday, 10 July 2009

Georgia Today: Georgian gays face upward battle in fight for acceptance

*Georgia Today

“My worst experience was not long ago, 2004, when a straight man made me give him a blow job and then threw me down the stairs, and beat me terribly.

Then he told me that if he ever sees me in this part of the city again he will beat me up the same way,” Babi said.

Babi B is a 50-year-old artist from Azerbaijan who has been attracted to men from a young age. Life at home taught him to keep his sexual orientation secret.

When his parents found out he was gay, his brother said he would purify the family’s name and slay him in an honor killing. The incessant aggression in Azerbaijan made him seek asylum abroad.

Although Georgia has bested its neighbor in many respects, homophobia and xenophobia are still deeply rooted in society.

Fighting a collective, Soviet mentality, Georgians are still lured into radical action fueled by politicians’ slush nationalistic messages.

Many things have changed in the world since Stonewall and Castro street, India decriminalized recently gay sex, but Georgians have veered little from their traditionalism. On Oct. 14, 2007, an incident on the reality show “Bar-4” that aired on Rustavi-2, a private television channel, stirred a controversy that revealed Georgia’s skeletons in the closet. One of the participants, Pako Tabaladze, made the jaw-dropping confession that he is gay and the whole nation was appalled. After his brazen deed, Pako was expelled from the show.

According to some media sources the decision was taken by the Georgian Orthodox Patriarchate, which often imposes its views on history, morality and sex on others.

It is no surprise that it does so successfully, when about 84 percent of the population is fervent believers. The Georgian Ombudsman, Sozar Subari, who is the country’s public defender, dismissed outright the case and decided to drop it from his report to parliament. Some politicians have made a career of restless hectoring of “the other.” During last year’s elections Nika Laliashvili, political secretary of the opposition Christian-Democratic Party said, “When I say the word ‘we,’ I mean the dominant culture, the moral majority in Georgia today.”

In 2006, on a mission to empower the community through free counseling and advocacy, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) NGO was registered. The organization offers free medical consulting and work with a psychologist. Though LGBT has received many threats, without breaking stride, the number of people visiting group sessions is three times higher today than in 2007. The NGO helps people overcome prejudices, their own, and those of others.

The organization’s president, Paata Sabelashvili, admits that “almost all have had bad experiences.” Although a member of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Georgia does not recognize “hate crimes” – a crime committed against someone because of his/her belonging to a certain group. Sabelashvili said that raising awareness in schools is unlikely since the Education Ministry does not show any enthusiasm to co-operate.

According to Sabelashvili, because of the patriarchal nature of society aggression against men is more tangible, while women are victimized mostly at work or at home. He added that the strong influence of the church, which often derides homosexuality, contributes to society’s intolerance of gays. While the LGBT president avowed that the level of homophobia in the country is “very strong,” he admitted that having a dialogue with young people is possible. This was proved after a lecture on “LGBT Rights” at Ilia Chavchavadze University received a positive response. However, the community is not ready to embrace gays yet, said Sabelashvili in a slightly regretful tone.

The Georgian Constitution says that “Everyone has the right to free development of his/her personality,” but a poll by the Caucasus Research Resource Center on, “What is your attitude towards different people?” begs to differ.

To the question whether you would be on friendly terms with gays, 81.4 percent replied “No.” The question, “Would you work with a homosexual?” received a 71.4 percent negative response. Interestingly, though, statistics about the distribution of HIV/AIDS cases, according to transmission route, show that 59.5 percent of Georgians are infected through intravenous drug use, 33.4 percent through heterosexual contact, and 2.7 percent through homosexual contact.

Nino Gvedashvili, a development officer with the Human Rights Center, said laughing that Georgian society is “very, very homophobic.” She said little has been done to raise awareness of the issue and conceded that some civil society organizations are also homophobic.

A recent media campaign for equality fell apart after the journalists who were supposed to participate and discuss minority issues did not show up or were silenced by their editors.  Gvedashvili said that their organization has received threatening calls from the government in the past. Although she has gay friends, she said she does not support this lifestyle and prefers the union between a man and a woman.

On the streets opinions vary.

A philosophy student, Levan Shatberashvili, thinks that Georgian society is as homophobic as any other. He does not think that this problem is widespread, but said he does not agree with the idea of gay marriage. On the other hand, 78-year-old Georgian Professor Inesa Kiknadze said “Georgian society is not ready.” Gesticulating passionately, she said gays cannot be accepted because of strong traditions strengthened by religion. She personally does not care because she thinks that people are free. However, she admitted that reproduction is important and the gay lifestyle does not allow it.

Living in the shadow of a seemingly omnipotent church may not bode well for Georgians. Unable to escape from a traditionalist, communist mentality, society fails to recognize people’s right to live their own lifestyle. If Georgia is to integrate into Europe and become a fully-fledged democracy, fingers need to be wagged and wrists slapped.

Martin Tsekov

*photo - via Georgia Today

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Dorian Gray by Matthew Bourne

Matthew Bourne is one of my favourite contemporary British choreographers. I make sure not to miss his productions. So far, my top favourite among his works is the all-male Swan Lake.

And here is another treat: Matthew's interpretation of Oscar Wildes story of Dorian Gray . It's on Sadler's Wells in London 7-19 July. I've already booked my tickets. A must see, in my opinion. Below is a preview video clip of Dorian Gray.