Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Arman’s Armenian storyline at the heart of documentary on gay Russia at London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival

EAST/WEST – Sex & Politics (director Jochen Hick, 2008)

3 years ago... Fresh from Berlin Film Festival… 3 years... That’s how long it took me to write this post, adding and amending bits over this period.

Arman realised he is gay at around 12-13 when he’s got a crush on his PE teacher (“учитель физкультуры”). The realisation that he is gay was like a torture to him, as he knew very well that it was not “accepted”, it was not “normal” in Armenia.

He came to Moscow around 4 years ago (early 2000s) seeking a freer society. Despite all the state level homophobia and violence towards gays, Russian society remained more open re gays, sexuality and sex compared to other post-Soviet states [This was the case during the Soviet Union too.]

[There was another Armenian guy, Sasha – Armenian from Georgia - who was briefly featured in the film too. He came to Russia for the same reasons.]

In fact, it was in Moscow that for the first time Arman came out as gay. But not to all, and surely not to his parents.

I have to say, he is a brave guy by deciding so openly to participate in this film and become one of its main heroes. While watching the film I couldn’t help myself but wonder what would happen if Arman’s parents see the film. Of course, no one expects that this kind of films would go on broad release in Russia and Armenia, but still… Now, 3 years on after the first screening of EAST/WEST – Sex & Politics, I wonder if he is still afraid of telling his parents that he is gay... I wonder if these years (from the time of shooting the film to present days) brought about changes in his life. There surely must be changes. But what kind of changes? I hope for better. Brave guy, in any case…

He is handsome, politically and socially conscious, regular at gym.

He said there is no such term as “homophobia” in Armenian language as this problem is “nonexistent” for Armenian society. However, he mentioned that ironically, if you visit Yerevan, you might get an impression that everyone around is gay, as men walk holding hands in public.

He was once got severely beaten when Russian neo-nazi skinheads made a real bloodshed in front of a gay club in Moscow. They were attacking, beating everyone whom they perceive as gay. Arman said that only a miracle made him stay alive. He also mentioned that in his case the perception of being gay perhaps did not play an important role, but rather his dark, Caucasian looks.

Despite ‘being himself’ in Moscow, he did not seem very happy, complaining that all his encounters end up to be one night stands, or flings... But he did not give up his dream of finding THE man.

On the day of attempts at staging a Gay Pride event in Moscow, which was disrupted by a violence from extreme orthodox religious fanatics and neo-nazi, he got a call from someone inviting him to a party. He was kind of dismayed by this invitation. He said, on one hand, there are people trying to fight for their and our rights and got attacked, on the other hand – that very night, another group of gay people keep partying. I know, it could be an ethical dilemma. I suppose one can’t expect from everyone to fight for rights etc. There are people who just want to enjoy their life, and it is perfectly acceptable and OK for me. But no guesses needed that I would associate myself more with Arman in this case, than with party goers, although - don’t get me wrong - I do like partying too.

Guys like Arman could be good role models for gay Armenian teenagers, and this film should be screened among them. OK, OK. I hear myself. What I just wrote sounds very old fashioned. “Role model”... Still, I use it in its broader sense. Basically, what I wanted to say, I sympathise with guys like Arman.

Russian gays are divided into cliques, Arman said. Well, this is evident in Armenia (and other countries) too, and not just for gays. There are lots of cliques within and across the layers of our society. However, Arman said that he does not belong to any, he is kind of a loner. In this context, good for you, Arman.

‘The worst thing for Russian gays is being ugly and poor.’ [The whole auditorium, myself including, burst into laughing.]

1 comment:

artmika said...

The author of Armenian Trends blog translated this post of mine in French: