Friday 29 April 2011

Armenian music band VO.X: mutual understanding

VO.X frontrunner Aram Rian has re-edited and replaced the controversial portion of the band’s "I Love Armenia" music video, by removing the reference to homosexuality as “perversion”. We have reached a mutual understanding with the group and consider this matter resolved as dialogue has taken place. We no longer have reason to believe either Aram Rian or VO.X is homophobic, and we wish them success in their future endeavors.

Group of LGBT and human rights activists
Unzipped: Gay Armenia blog

Tuesday 26 April 2011

Queering Yerevan: “Meeting with remarkable women”

Guitar Boy "Love in the Desert"

"Love in the Desert" by Nancy Agabian, Ann Perich and Dan Day. Originally released in "Life History of a Star," Infected Films soundtrack. Produced by Jon Mattox & Guitar Boy. Recorded at Red Room Studios. Copyright 1999 Ampus Music/BMI.

*via Queering Yerevan

Two or Three Things She Knows About Shushanik

"Two or Three Things She Knows About Shushanik" (2005). A video by Tina Bastajian on the translation of Shushanik Kurghinian's (1876-1927) poetry into English (by Shushan Avagyan).

*Thanks to Lara for the link to this video. Reminds me of my Quote of the Moment:

"Do not love me as if I were a flower! I want to live a worthy life, as an atom in a mass of troubles, as a child of street mobs."
Shushanik Kurghinian

Saturday 23 April 2011

Friday 22 April 2011

Armen Ra - US-based Iranian Armenian Theremin virtuoso - Crane, Komitas and more...

Absolutely brilliant!

Crane, Komitas

*via Wikipedia:

Armen Ra is an American artist and performer of Iranian-Armenian descent.

Born in Tehran, Iran, he was raised by his mother, a concert pianist, and his aunt, a renowned opera singer and Ikebana master. He taught himself to play Theremin, and is one of the best known players of the instrument alive today. His music fuses Armenian folk music with modern instrumentation, along with melodic lounge standards and classical arias. His concerts are known for their combination of both visual arts and his music.

Armen Ra has played at The United Nations, Wiener Konzerthaus Mozartsaal Vienna, CBGB's, Knitting Factory, La MaMa E.T.C., Joe's Pub, Boulder Museum of Modern Art, Lincoln Center, The Gershwin Hotel, B.B. King Museum, and Dietch Projects. He has been featured on and appeared in: CNN, HBO, MTV, VH1, Vogue, The New York Times, The New York Post, The Village Voice, Rolling Stone, and Glamour.

Having performed and recorded with various bands and on many projects (including a collaboration with legendary British recording artist Marc Almond, on the song "My Madness & I" from his 2010 release, Varieté), Armen Ra is considered one of the finest Thereminists in the World today. His debut solo CD, Plays The Theremin (released on Bowl & Fork Records in 2010), showcases many Classical Armenian laments and folk songs, representing both Armen's Heritage and his very first musical influence.

He currently resides in Hollywood, California and is openly gay.

Official website

Saturday 16 April 2011

Happy bday, "As You" / "ԻՆՉՊԵՍ ԴՈՒ" e-magazine !!

Happy bday to this new bilingual (Armenian/English) e-magazine "As You" / "ԻՆՉՊԵՍ ԴՈՒ". As promised by PINK Armenia, it was launched today to break the self-imposed silence marking the Day of Silence in Armenia. I look forward to reading challenging and thought-provoking articles on As You.

via As You:
Welcome to the “As you” newborn e-magazine! 
We offer you some interesting articles on various themes to judge upon.The major aim of the e-magazine is to represent the changes and activities occurring in civil society, raise such social issues that are often neglected and unfortunately are not being addressed. In this e-magazine, you may find articles about sexual health, human rights and about gender issues. In “Culture” section, we will present you stories about history outside the history. And the “Traveler” section is dedicated to the histories about Armenia by people through Armenia, their impressions and adventures.The periodical includes information about activities undertaken by various NGOs and services provided by them.
I particularly liked the description of "Diversity" project by PINK Armenia:

"[...] Positive changes, unfortunately, do not come overnight usually; it’s rather a long way to build and to pass and the very civil society has to input efforts and attempts in its turn to make the country more prosperous.

“Public Information and Need of Knowledge” NGO launched “Diversity” project, willing to reach a high level of acceptance of diversity, mutual respect and cultural sensitivity by promoting the ideas of tolerance, respect, and understanding.

Nowadays, sadly, the rise of neo-Nazi movements and ultranationalists is registered. It’s a pity, but often activists of these movements take ultra-nationalist or neo-Nazi ideas for and represent them as nationalism, even worse – as patriotism. Gender based human rights violations, xenophobia, homophobia, neo-Nazism, ignorance and illiteracy will do nothing but flourish, if no serious actions are taken, if these issues remain unaddressed or silenced, or ignored, and the marginalized and discriminated groups will be defamed as ‘good’ as nowadays.

Addressing and fighting the issues of stereotypes, intolerance, xenophobia, homophobia, discrimination based on gender, including LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender)- related issues are highly important for this project, as well as generally are the issues of any kind of discrimination based on age, sex, gender, sexual orientation.

The activities and events organized during “Diversity” project shall lead to the promotion and to better understanding of human rights both as a theory and as a practical tool to use in daily life, realities and situations, as well as in case of abuses, abuse reporting, etc.

This project aims to bring positive changes, nurture and spread the ideas of equality, civil society, as well as to fight the negative taboos, stereotypes and to eliminate discriminative attitudes of the society."

Here is hoping...

“I want to blow you all (a kiss)”: Kiss-in picket in front of John Snow pub, Soho, London

You know you are in trouble when your pub made the front page of The Guardian, and became a headlining news in British media for all the wrong reasons.
Yes, they (pub managers) knew it, and they shut down their pub mid-afternoon on Friday (!) Friday night, anyone?
Gay couple on their first date got asked out from the John Snow pub in London’s Soho district for snogging in public. For details of the story - read here.

This incident generated a lively debate on whether it’s OK to display (and to what extent) affections in public. But the key is in this quote from The Guardian: “The case is intriguing legally. The Licensing Act 2003 gives a landlord the right to eject customers. But the Equality Act 2010 says everyone must be treated equally in the provision of goods and services. For a successful defence against any legal action under the act, the landlord would have to prove he had ejected heterosexual couples for similiarly overt displays of intimacy.”

I doubt they would be able to prove it.

Activists mobilised via Facebook and Twitter to stage a kiss-in picket inside and in front of the pub. As soon as the news of protests and media headlines spread, pub managers shut down the pub. Cowards.

Interestingly, kiss-in protest happened on a day when many (including in Armenia) were marking the Day of Silence. Although not directly related, these two events were similar in spirit.

Here is how the events unfolded, via pictures and a video I took.

Prominent British gay rights activist Peter Tatchell

Raising the Rainbow Flag (video)

“I want to blow you all (a kiss)”
Snogging of the Day ;)
“Love Music Hate Homophobia”
Homophobia. Diverted.

Thursday 14 April 2011

PINK Armenia and activists: "Prejudice and discrimination made us silent today" - Day of Silence 2011

15 April 2011 - Day of Silence

*source: PINK Armenia

The Day of Silence is an event that brings attention to anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying and harassment in schools. Students from middle school to college take some form of a vow of silence in an effort to encourage schools and classmates to address the problem of anti-LGBT behavior. The event is designed to illustrate the silencing effect of this bullying and harassment on LGBT students and those perceived to be LGBT.

As a way of supporting the idea and those that are harassed in Armenia, we will undertake certain actions:

We apologize, but we won’t be available for the world on April 15: we will not respond to emails, phone calls, we will not have any activities and will not provide any direct service. On April 15, we will keep silence for...

Next day silence will be broken by launching our new e-mag “AS YOU”! [ԻՆՉՊԵՍ ԴՈՒ]
[emphasis mine]

Relevant reading: Call to Armenian media. Do the right thing. Write about the Day of Silence - 15 April 2011. Raise your voice against bullying and harassment of LGBT youth

Monday 11 April 2011

Call to Armenian media. Do the right thing. Write about the Day of Silence - 15 April 2011. Raise your voice against bullying and harassment of LGBT youth

The Day of Silence is the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network's (GLSEN) annual day of action to protest the bullying and harassment of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students and their supporters. Students take a day-long vow of silence to symbolically represent the silencing of LGBT students and their supporters. The Day of Silence has been held each year in April since 1996. The 2010 Day of Silence was held on April 16; this year's will be on April 15. (Wikipedia)
"Մեր լրագրողներն էլ կարող են հանգստանալ ու իրոք թեմային հարիր սրտացավ նյութեր գրել, հո միայն սկանդալներով չի՞ կարելի կերակրել հանրությանը, ամենքս մի բարի, սիրուն բան գրենք էդ օրը մեր հասարակության խոցելի մասը կազմող քաղաքացիների նկատմամբ տոլերանտությունը բարձրացնելու համար: Բոլորս էլ մարդ ենք:"

I second Lusine Vayachyan’s call in the article published on the Armenian Version today (AM).

«Լռության օրը» ապրիլի 15-ին է

Անցյալ տարի ապրիլի 16-ը միաժամանակ և ՀՀ ոստիկանի օրն էր, և աշխարհի քաղաքակիրթ հանրության կողմից նշվող այսպես կոչված Լռության օրն է` ընդդեմ սեռական խտրականության և բռնության:

Այդ օրը, որը լողացող է, ֆիքսված օր չի, ամեն տարի մի շարք երկրներում Լռության Համազգային Օր է, այդ օրն ամբողջ երկրով մեկ լռության ծոմ են պահում, լռության երթեր անցկացնում, որպեսզի ուշադրություն հրավիրեն ոչ տրադիցիոն սեռական կողմնորոշվածություն ունեցող մարդկանց դպրոցներում ու համալսարաններում ու ընդհանրապես առօրյա կյանքում վիրավորանքների, ծաղրանքի ենթարկելուն ու հետապնդմանն ու բռնությանը:

«Հարգելի լրագրողներ, ձեր հորդորներից և մի քիչ էլ անիմաստ կասկածներից հետո ես հանձնարարել եմ տարբեր ինտերնետային կայքերը ուսումնասիրել: Մեր ուսումնասիրությունները ցույց տվեցին, որ ապրիլի 16-ը որևէ երկրում որևէ հիշյալ տիպի կազմակերպության հետ երբևէ չի առնչվել: Չգիտեմ՝ դա ում հիվանդ ֆանտազիայի արդյունքն է եղել տարիներ առաջ, ով է որոշել, որ ապրիլի 16-ը կարող է այդպիսի խորհուրդ ունենալ: Ապրիլի 16-ին Ոստիկանության մասին ՀՀ օրենքն է ընդունվել:

Դեռ երեք ամիս առաջ ես նպատակադրվել էի, որ ոստիկանության օրը նշենք ապրիլի 19-ին, նույնիսկ զեկուցել էի նախագահին, խնդրել էի թույլտվություն, որ անցկացվի 19-ին: Բայց նախագահը խնդրեց մեկ անգամ էլ ստուգել: Հերթական ուսումնասիրության արդյունքում էլ մենք նման երևույթ չարձանգրեցինք»,- ասել է երեկ Ալիկ Սարգսյանը (

Ալիկ Սարգսյանի հանձնարարականը կատարելիս ճիշտ են զեկուցել`իրոք, այս տարի Լռության Օրն ամբողջ աշխարհում նշվում է ապրիլի 15-ին, էնպես որ, մեր ոստիկանները կարող են հանգիստ անցկացնել իրենց պառադը ապրիլի 16-ին, նախօրեին լռությամբ միանալով այլաճնշման դեմ պայքարին:

Մեր լրագրողներն էլ կարող են հանգստանալ ու իրոք թեմային հարիր սրտացավ նյութեր գրել, հո միայն սկանդալներով չի՞ կարելի կերակրել հանրությանը, ամենքս մի բարի, սիրուն բան գրենք էդ օրը մեր հասարակության խոցելի մասը կազմող քաղաքացիների նկատմամբ տոլերանտությունը բարձրացնելու համար: Բոլորս էլ մարդ ենք:

Լուսինե Վայաչյան

Saturday 9 April 2011

"Armenians and Gays Together": Armenian Apostolic Church and... LGBT rights (UK Progressive)

Just came across this article on UK Progressive website. A must read, and kind of hilarious in terms of parallels the author is making.

*via UK Progressive
About the author: Carl Matthes is a native of Los Angeles and has lived in Eagle Rock for over 40 years. He is a former president and a current Board member of Uptown Gay and Lesbian Alliance. He is a former columnist and a current advisor to the Lesbian News, the oldest lesbian publication in America. He was editor of the GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) newsletter and a former GLAAD National Board member. He has also been a Board member of AIDS Healthcare Foundation.

Armenians and Gays Together

The Armenian Apostolic Church found itself coupled with gays and lesbians on the pages of the April 2, 2011, LAEXTRA section of the Los Angeles Times. While it wasn’t, necessarily, a match made in heaven, and certainly not Church sanctioned, the juxtaposition of the two articles was logical.

The logic? Both minorities are fighting to have their histories chronicled and recognized.

“For All to See,” an article by Bob Pool, headlined: “Armenians hope freeway markers will lead to wider acknowledgment of the massacre of 1.5 million.” Topping the article was a photo showing Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian of the Armenian Apostolic Church blessing a sign which read,” Armenian Genocide Martyrs Monument Next Exit.” (The signs are along the 60 Freeway in Montebello.)

Nestled next to the picture was a second article “A fight over gays in textbooks,” by Patricia McGreevy. Ms. McGreevy announced that, “A California (Senate) bill (SB 48) to require teaching about the contributions of gay people draws fire.”

The Armenian Apostolic Church, one of the most ancient Christian communities, hasn’t been this close to gay men and lesbians in 2,000 years!

Spotlighting America’s exceptionalism, both communities are flourishing in Los Angeles.

Early in the 20th century, gay men and lesbians began invisibly migrating to Los Angeles seeking human rights coupled with social freedom and acceptance. This phenomenon accelerated after the Second World War. For over a century, but growing exponentially during the last 20 years, Armenians have built vibrant and important communities in California. These newcomers have also sought human rights and the benefits of a free society. The Los Angeles area now claims one of the world’s largest Armenian diaspora communities – second only to Moscow, Russia.

And, both communities have emboldened their State representatives to fight for recognition of their histories.

“This is not just another freeway sign,” stated State Assemblyman Charles Calderon (D-Whittier), who authored legislation to construct the sign. According to Pool, “…Calderon described the tower as ‘a beacon that stands in the night’ for human rights.” The “Martyr’s Monument” freeway marker will direct visitors to the six-legged memorial tower, dedicated in 1968, to commemorate the 1915 massacre of 1.5 million people by the Ottoman Empire, part of which is modern day Turkey.

According to Ms. McGreevy, State Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), who authored SB 48, emotionally pleaded, “In light of the ongoing and ever-threatening phenomenon of bullying…and suicides…the teaching about the contributions of gay, lesbian and transgendered (folk) throughout history…students would better understand that we are talking about a civil rights movement.” Leno had earlier invoked the name of Seth Walsh, a 13 year-old who committed suicide after facing gay-bullying at school.

There is no doubt that these communities deserve recognition of their human rights, an accurate historical record and full illumination of past events. These are tough goals.

For instance, in countries with active Orthodox churches, as in Islamic countries, gay men and lesbians have had to be extremely careful and closeted. In 2002, when Armenia joined the Council of Europe, it’s criminal code had to be amended removing references to gay men and criminality. (Lesbian sex was never banned in Armenia.) In the United States, it wasn’t until 2003, when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down anti-sodomy laws in Lawrence vs. Texas, that homosexual acts were no longer criminal. Hooray for the courts!

I’m struck by the tremendous passion exhibited by Armenians regarding the exclusion of this genocide by political systems and historians. They perceive that this diminishes their stature as a people. If history won’t even recognize this atrocity against the world’s oldest keepers of the Christian faith – what chance does any other human rights struggle have? Armenians want the historical record to be corrected, changed and enlarged – whatever it takes to acknowledge their humanity.

And, so it is with the homosexual community. Biblical records regarding gay men and lesbians need to be deciphered through a loving God, not the vengeful God of 2,000 years ago. The Orthodox Church has been pulled into the 21st century. Their most recent declaration that, “Representing God’s will towards homosexuals requires firm, patient, compassionate, loving and gentle correction…” has moved away from early Old Testament Biblical references to killing homosexuals.

There are three other 21st century markers which show change:

First: Freeway signs. Now used by Armenians but used earlier, by Uptown Gay and Lesbian Alliance (UGLA).

Second: The 1998 establishment of Gay and Lesbian Armenian Society (GALAS) to help lgbt “Armenians who are looking for friendship, support and a sense of belonging in the community.” GALAS held its fifth annual Armenian LGBT Conference titled “Breaking Through: Legally, Politically, Culturally” last year at Plummer Park Community Center in West Hollywood.

Third: Armenian/American female Chastity Bono, writer and activist now known as transgendered male Chaz Bono. Her/his mother, the one and only gay icon, the world-famous Cher, is the daughter of an Armenian truck driver and an Arkansas-born mother. Cher was born in El Centro, California, on May 20, 1946.

And, so it is!

Police chief Alik Sargsyan, national security “hOrinats Yerkir” Arthur Baghdasaryan, and US State Department human rights report on LGBT discrimination in Armenia


Societal Abuses, Discrimination, and Acts of Violence Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

Societal attitudes towards homosexuality remained highly unfavorable, with society generally viewing homosexuality as an affliction.

Persons who were openly gay were exempted from military service, purportedly because of concern they would be abused by fellow servicemen. However, the actual exemption required a medical finding via psychological examination that gays possessed a mental disorder, which was stamped in their documents and could affect their future.

According to human rights activists, lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgender persons experienced some of the most humiliating discrimination in prisons, where they were forced to do some of the most degrading jobs and separated from the rest of the prison population.

Societal discrimination based on sexual orientation continued to be a problem with respect to employment, family relations, and access to education and health care for sexual minorities.

In an interview with the Iravunk biweekly that appeared in the newspaper's December 24 to 27 edition, Artur Baghdasarian, secretary of the National Security Council that advises the president on national security matters, answered a question on homosexuality stating that, "Such conduct does not fit in with our society. Family and Armenian traditions prevail for people who were the first to adopt Christianity. Those unnatural things are unacceptable to us. I am against limitations of human rights in general. However, I consider homosexuality is extremely dangerous for Armenia." [Unzipped: Gay Armenia - read also “Unnatural” national security ‘top’/‘bottom’ Arthur Baghdasaryan says homosexuality “extremely dangerous” for Armenia]

In an interview in the Hraparak daily on December 6, National Police Chief Alik Sargsyan answered a question on the gathering of homosexuals in one of Yerevan's central parks, stating that, "We try to take them to such a place where they won't be seen, but they like to appear in public. We do not practice any violent measures, do not violate human rights, it is their business, but in our city, it is not appropriate for people…I cannot bear them physically." [Unzipped: Gay Armenia - some of my relevant posts re Alik Sargsyan]

Reports on Georgia and Azerbaijan
Relevant post from 2010: US State Department human rights report: "Societal Abuses, Discrimination, and Acts of Violence Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity" in Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan

US State Department human rights report re: discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in Georgia and Azerbaijan


Societal Abuses, Discrimination, and Acts of Violence Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

There are no laws that criminalize sexual orientation, male-to-male sex, or female-to-female sex. However, social prejudices against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) behavior were strong. The Georgian Orthodox Church strongly denounced such behavior. Cases during the year included death threats against an LGBT activist and the use of antihomosexual slogans by a candidate in the municipal elections.

There were a few LGBT organizations. However, they could not work exclusively on LGBT issues or work openly as LGBT organizations because of the extensive societal stigma against homosexuality; instead they promoted tolerance more broadly.

On April 8, threats were made against an LGBT activist by an anonymous administrator of a Georgian language Facebook Web page entitled "Death to Homosexuals." The threats were of sufficient concern that the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Prosecutor's Office opened an investigation. According to the Ministry of Justice, the investigation continued at year's end. Facebook closed the Web page of its own volition.

On May 25, the GYLA filed suit to suspend the candidacy of an opposition candidate in the municipal elections for posting antihomosexual messages on his Facebook Web pages. The NGO claimed that the messages violated the election code which prohibits fostering hatred and enmity. The Tbilisi City Court ruled against GYLA.

In August false rumors of a gay pride parade in Batumi sparked the condemnation of the Georgian Orthodox Church, including a statement from the patriarch on August 20, and led to protests in front of a hotel where organizers were reportedly staying on August 25 and 26.

In December 2009 police searched the office of an NGO that promotes LGBT equality. Reportedly, they used antihomosexual slurs, made unnecessary strip searches, unnecessarily damaged organizational posters, and unnecessarily ransacked offices. The Ministry of Internal Affairs denied that any procedural violations took place and maintained that the profile of the organization was irrelevant in terms of the law. The ministry reported that its General Inspection Office gave one officer a reprimand at the "severe" level in accordance with the police code of ethics, as his actions were determined to be unethical and inappropriate for police officers. Two other officers were also given a reprimand at the "severe" level for not preventing the above-mentioned officer from making the unethical statements.

The public defender stated his priorities included protection of LGBT groups and individuals.


Societal Abuses, Discrimination, and Acts of Violence Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

Numerous incidents of police brutality against individuals based on sexual orientation occurred, according to a local NGO. Authorities did not investigate or punish those responsible for such acts, largely because victims were unwilling to file complaints due to fear of social stigma.

During the year, members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community continued to refuse to lodge formal complaints with law enforcement bodies out of fear of reprisal or retaliatory persecution. Also during the year, the LGBT community held almost monthly gatherings; these were routinely raided.

During 2009 police raided gay bars on four occasions and arrested almost 50 persons. Police reportedly held the individuals and threatened to expose their sexuality publicly unless they paid a bribe. The human rights Ombudsman's Office intervened to resolve the incidents.

There was one NGO that worked on LGBT issues in the country. This NGO worked to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS and provided legal advice, psychological assistance, and outreach activities. The NGO reported no official harassment of its work. There were no attempts to organize gay pride marches during the year; however, there was a small gathering on May 17 to commemorate International Anti-Homophobia Day.

On August 11, police found the bodies of two transgendered individuals, Zamiq Gasimov and Yadigar Kuzmin, in Baku. The police arrested three perpetrators who admitted to killing the two on the basis of hatred toward sexual minorities. A local NGO reported that it was unable to obtain updates on the case, for which the investigation had been closed.

In December the Prosecutor General's office issued a statement regarding a murder investigation that could be interpreted as linking "nontraditional" sexual orientation to criminal behavior.

There was societal prejudice against LGBT persons. While being fired from a job for sexual orientation remained illegal, LGBT individuals reported that employers found other reasons to fire them. Discrimination in access to healthcare was also a problem.
Report on Armenia - Police chief Alik Sargsyan, national security “hOrinats Yerkir” Arthur Baghdasaryan, and US State Department human rights report on LGBT discrimination in Armenia
Relevant post from 2010: US State Department human rights report: "Societal Abuses, Discrimination, and Acts of Violence Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity" in Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan

Friday 8 April 2011

Hot! UK Eurovision entry - Blue, naked on the cover of Attitude magazine

At last, decent entry from the UK at Eurovision - Blue. I’d say the best entry in a decade or so. For the first time, I would actually love to see UK win the contest.

And they are hot. Not that you needed any more proof, but newly released ‘The Naked Issue’ of the Attitude magazine instantly caught my eyes. ‘Euro Boys’ Blue on the cover and inside the magazine. Hot!

'Lesbian corner', Parajanov, British Film Institute, LLGFF

*British Film Institute (BFI), South Bank, London, Lesbian & Gay Film Festival, 2 April 2011

P.S. Btw, I was pleasantly surprised to spot quite a few DVDs of films by Parajanov at BFI store (e.g. see the first picture above)

British Film Institute, LLGFF

*British Film Institute, South Bank, London, Lesbian & Gay Film Festival, 2 April 2011