Sunday, 11 October 2015

Gay Armenian man from Boston: “What would happen if people of Yerevan knew I was gay?”

On this “National coming out day” I would like to share the thoughts of one gay Armenian man from Boston who came to study in Yerevan and was an intern with PINK Armenia.

And using this occasions, few pics I made of the Arlington Street Church in Boston. [On May 17, 2004, the Arlington Street Church was the site of the first state-sanctioned same-sex marriage in the United States - Wiki]

“Love Is Stronger”. It certainly is.

*Selected extracts below. Re-posted from PINK Armenia (for Armenian version: here).
21 years old Karl Afrikian was born and raised just outside of Boston, Massachusetts, USA to an Armenian father and an American mother. He is a student at Sewanee: The University of the South studying Economics and Russian culture. He first came to Armenia in 2014 to study at the American University of Armenia for a semester, when he was introduced to PINK. He returned to Armenia for summer 2015 to intern with PINK Armenia to help the fight for gay rights.

“[…] I came in to the office [office of PINK Armenia in Yerevan] and remember being in the safest place for LGBT people in the country, which was comforting for a recently out person in a land known for its homophobia. Being from Boston, a hugely gay city, I have experienced very little discrimination firsthand; yet, in Armenia, I was again afraid in this new land, yet my time studying there and meeting fellow queer Armenians reinforced my hope for the community.”

“Right next to my apartment, I saw graffiti on a wall “vomank gay en, tetev tarek” (some people are gay, take it easy) which helped ignite my passion early on for helping the cause. ”
[Read: Armenian version of “Some People Are Gay. Get Over It!” in Yerevan to mark IDAHOT]

“I was shocked to hear of the police ignoring the rights of gay victims of assault, the horrible things Armenians would do to their LGBT brothers, and how public opinion promotes rampant hostility towards gay individuals.”

“I would spend nights sometimes walking on Northern Avenue or at Hraparak at the Dancing Fountains thinking about what would happen had these people knew I was gay. Would they beat me up? Would they kill me? How would my cousins in Armenia react to such a thing?  Being gay is not always something written on your sleeve, thus there was no way they could truly verify any of these possibilities without having me tell them. Although I did not fear being publicly outed at any point, I still had this uneasiness in my heart knowing that these people who could be so nice and friendly to me could possibly become hostile towards me all due to who I love.”

“I was really unsure why this bothered me so much – I was only in Armenia for about two months, my friends queer and straight were all very supportive, and it was not as if I was being persecuted on the streets personally. […] This time, I was aware of the graveness of the situation. Eventually, I came to several realizations about how I was feeling. In Armenia today, my gayness stands against the “traditional values” held so dearly to many of our people. The traditional gender roles in Armenia prescribe that a man must marry a woman and produce children to continue our people.

Even as I came out to my father in America this tradition has held strong, and his major concern was of course having grandchildren, even though today he has learned to accept that I am gay.

Many closeted-gay men in Armenia from what I observed married women to keep their public identity secure and to appease society […]”

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