Tuesday 29 April 2014

"Inside Out" - preview of Liana Aghajanian's feature story in Los Angeles magazine about gay Middle Eastern Club Nur

Look so much forward to reading this new feature story "Inside Out" about L.A's gay Middle Eastern club Club Nur by one of my favourite journalists Liana Aghajanian.

Here is a preview picture and description, via Liana's Instagram (lianaagh). Btw, this club is run and frequented by Armenians too.

"In the greater Middle East, being gay means anything from harassment to jail, violence and murder. At L.A's Club Nur, Middle Eastern patrons can be themselves in more ways than one. My first feature for Los Angeles magazine on a one of a kind club and safe haven for LGBT Middle Easterners where there is no distinction between sexuality and culture. Check it out in the May 2014 issue on stands now #journalism #losangeles #lgbt #middleeast"

Sunday 27 April 2014

LGBT-themed book stores, London

*Waterstones, Piccadilly, London

Along with the Gay's The Word bookshop on Marchmont street, London (Facebook page) that specialises on LGBT-themed books [I highly recommend!], as well as some specialised stores in Soho, there is also a special LGBT books section in the Waterstones bookshop chain on Piccadilly.

Mannequin, Soho, London

*Prowler store, Soho, London

Saturday 19 April 2014

Powerful posters against sexual violence in Armenia and South Caucasus

These bold and powerful posters prepared by the Armenian group of the Young Women’s Network of the South Caucasus (see their Facebook page).

There are stereotypes and prejudices that contribute to the rooting within the society of an idea that the victim is to be blamed for sexual violence, rape or sexual harassment. Young Women’s Network of the South Caucasus aimed at exposing such common stereotypes by encouraging the public to fight against them. “There is no justification for sexual violence” - say Young Women’s Network members.

“Ապրիլ. Սեռական բռնության իրազեկման ամիս. 
Մեր իրականությունում կան կարծրատիպեր և նախապաշարմունքներ, որ նպաստում են հասարակության մեջ այն մտքի արմատավորմանը, որ սեռական բռնության զոհն է մեղավոր՝ բռնաբարության կամ սեռական բնույթի ոտնձգությունների ենթարկվելու համար: Երիտասարդ կանանց ցանցի անդամները բարձրաձայնում են Հայաստնում, Վրաստանում Աբխազիայում և Ադրբեջանում տարածված նմանատիպ կարծրատիպերի մասին՝ հորդորելու հասարակությանը պայքարել դրանց դեմ: 
Չկա արդարացում սեռական բռնության համար՝ բարձրաձայնում են Երիտասարդ կանանց ցանցի անդամները:”

Saturday 12 April 2014

Sona Avedian: Former US Marine of Armenian origin chronicles coming out as a trans woman on YouTube

Via BuzzFeed, this personal story of former US Marine of Armenian origin - Sona Avedian, who chronicles her coming out as a trans woman on YouTube.

“I was born in 1982, in a boy’s body,” recalls Sona Avedian. “Ashamed of myself, I hid behind the mask of a U.S. Marine”, trying to “man up”, then marry and start a family [“I met my bride while visiting family in Armenia…"], to live “normal life”…

Feeling isolated and alone, Sona requested to be stationed in Japan for 4 years. It wasn’t until 2001 that Sona stumbled upon the term “transgender” on the internet. Although the discovery was an immense relief, the urge to live a “normal” life was even stronger. “I was taking it to my grave,” Sona recalls.

Finishing up with the U.S. Marine Corps in 2005, Sona worked as a contractor overseas and even started a family. “I thought getting married would help me cope.” […]

In November of 2012 Sona finally came out to her friends and family, making the decision to begin transitioning.
Sona’s parting message: “This is not about passing, it never was. It’s about being YOU, no matter what society thinks – and that is beautiful.”

*Sona Avedian’s Facebook page; YouTube channel
**thanks to Katy for the link.

Thursday 10 April 2014

PINK Armenia: Human rights situation of LGBT people (Annual Review 2013, Armenia)

PINK Armenia released their annual review of “Human Rights Situation of LGBT People” reflecting
developments in 2013.

It’s pretty good, albeit depressing, reference guide highlighting some of the main cases of human rights violations of LGBT people in Armenia, with (unfortunately!) only very few positive examples.
Issues regarding sexual orientation and gender identity are usually approached from a negative point of view, defenders of LGBT rights are considered as “traitors of the State”, and LGBT people are presented as enemies of society. As a result, any sphere of social life is becoming a place for discrimination, degradation, and ill treatment and violence.
Main topics covered in the report include the following:
  • General overview of human rights situation of LGBT people 
  • Elections (presidential; local Yerevan) 
  • Litigation of DIY pub 
  • Legislation (propaganda bill; draft law on anti-discrimination) 
  • Media 
  • Engagement of Diaspora 
  • Response of international institutions 
  • Human Rights Ombudsman 
  • Gender Equality law 
  • Transphobia 
  • Conference on Combating Racism, Xenophobia and Intolerance 
  • Rainbow flag
In conclusion, report states that “in 2013 Armenia has clearly slid backwards as intolerant views were voiced extensively, and indeed prevailed, during a national debate around gender equality. Government officials condone violent attacks against LGBT people, characterizing the violence as an expression of “traditional values.”
"Armenian youth will bring more benefit to the people, if they fight against sexual minorities instead of fighting against transportation fare rise."
– Galust Sahakyan, vice-president of the [ruling] Republican Party of Armenia (RPA), the head of RPA parliamentary fraction.
Report is available in Armenian and English.

Tuesday 8 April 2014

Armenian trans guy T.J. Jourian named in the Trans 100 (2014)

The Trans 100 is an annual listing of 100 trans individuals from all over the US who are currently alive and active in the work of making the lives of trans people better. It is a curated listing, with nominations from the general public. [FB page
The Advocate: The Trans 100 is compiled through a year-long process, which begins with a call for nominations that may be submitted by anyone. This list of nominations is then narrowed by a team of curators, who research the accomplishments of the proposed names and hold them to a list of standards. This criteria entails that a candidate must identify as transgender and work to positively affect the trans community.

The final selectees […] are announced […] on the International Transgender Day of Visibility [31 March], which celebrates the worldwide transgender population and raises awareness of issues related to discrimination.
Included in the 2014 list of Trance 100 is T.J. Jourian, Lebanese-born Armenian and Middle Eastern transmale activist (raised in Cyprus).

He is the author of Hye Trent blog (invited readers only), cast member of the Sundance docu-series TransGeneration (2005)  [Wikipedia page]. “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.”

There were lots of congratulatory tweets for T.J. Jourian.
@TheChrisMosier: Congrats to @tjjourian on being named to #trans100 to HUGE applause. Proud to work with you! #famousfriends pic.twitter.com/Td0BCfk9iB

It was very touching when T.J. Jourian tweeted about his mother:
@tjjourian: My amazing Armenian Lebanese mother just called me to congratulate me for the #trans100!! This project is changing lives.
Big congrats !! Well deserved, indeed.

Saturday 5 April 2014

Armenia Eurovision representative Aram MP3: “I reject homophobia”

Finally, a statement from Armenia Eurovision representative Aram MP3 that his fans and friends were expecting. [for background story: 1, 2, 3]

He made this statement in an interview with Eurovision portal esctoday.com on his birthday and hours before performing in Amsterdam’s Eurovision party tonight:
"Music and humor are inseparable parts of my life; I made some remarks recently in a humorous manner, which instead may have hurt the dear friends and fans. I really regret this and want to state clearly that I reject homophobia.”
Interestingly enough, on a second look and after his statement, his song could be taken as a message of all inclusive love ;))

Happy bday, Aram !!

Below is an extract from Aram MP3 interview with esctoday:

Your song gives the clear message that nobody should feel alone. Do you think that sexual orientation or different skin color should be a reason for people to be or feel alone?

Even though people are used to my jokes regarding everything that surrounds me, my Eurovision song opens the other side of Aram Mp3 which is not very humoristic but rather emotional and sincere. This song expresses my feelings and thoughts. I really do think that one of the most wonderful things that can happen to humans is love. Love definitely doesn’t recognize religion, country, age or sex.

Due to an alleged joke you made regarding the Austrian Eurovision representative Conchita Wurst, which was reported in the European press, has stirred a mediatic storm across the continent. Could you please clarify this issue and share with us your views and opinion regarding this matter.

My song reminds everyone that they’re not alone. That’s my main message; I want everyone to know they’re not alone in the world, regardless of what country they come from, their religion or who they love. That is the most important idea I want to deliver to my audience. In my personal life and in my work, the respect for others is my guiding principle. Apart from being a musician, I’m also a comedian. Music and humor are inseparable parts of my life; I made some remarks recently in a humorous manner, which instead may have hurt the dear friends and fans. I really regret this and want to state clearly that I reject homophobia.

Wednesday 2 April 2014

From homophobia to posting ‘Hitler’ picture: Armenia Eurovision representative Aram MP3 fails the ‘funny’ test

UPDATE 5 April 2014Armenia Eurovision representative Aram MP3: “I reject homophobia”
As of now, he didn’t have guts or perhaps didn’t feel like saying “sorry” for his homophobic and transphobic remarks, and for his disrespect towards fellow Eurovision contestant.

[read: Fail: Armenia representative in Eurovision Aram MP3 makes homophobic and transphobic remarks
Conchita Wurst responds to Armenia’s Eurovision representative Aram MP3 homophobic and transphobic remarks]

Some of his fans tried justifying his behaviour by "freedom of speech" and him being a comedian, as if being a comedian somehow justifies bigotry.

Yesterday Aram MP3 put his ‘funny’ side to yet another test and failed it spectacularly.

Aram wrote on his Facebook page that he would have preferred playing “a negative role” if offered to star in a film. And he posted a picture of himself posing as Hitler. Perhaps, he thought that his fans would be amused and entertained by such picture. However, he quickly deleted the picture, following storm of criticism from Facebook users who ‘liked’ his FB page.

*screenshot of Aram MP3 (now deleted) Facebook post

Many expressed their outrage and shock that after scandal over his homophobic, transphobic remarks, Aram would resort to such bad taste amateur behaviour, further antagonising a proportion of his fans.

As one FB user commented under this picture: how would Aram MP3 feel if another Eurovision contestant posted a ‘funny’ picture of his/her-self posing as Talaat pasha, one of the main perpetrators of the Armenian Genocide?

Yes, Aram MP3 quickly deleted this picture. But it left a sense of unease even among his loyal fans.

Seriously, Aram, after being exposed for making homophobic and transphobic remarks, this is all you came up with?

This was a classic face-palm moment when words fail to express how stupid that was.

Georgia PM’s EU trick: ‘OK for LGBT inclusive anti-discrimination bill, but only if we discriminate more, constitutionally’

Georgia's PM offers setting constitutional ban on same-sex marriage as a trade-off for passing LGBT inclusive anti-discrimination bill. Basically, on one hand, the authorities in Tbilisi are showing-off with anti-discrimination bill to tick all the EU check boxes, on the other hand, in practice, constitutionally reinforcing the very discrimination they (supposedly) committed to tackle.
In parallel to endorsing an anti-discrimination bill, which will now be submitted to Parliament for confirmation, the Georgian government has also proposed to define marriage in the constitution as a “union of man and woman.” The proposal, as PM Irakli Garibashvili put it, aims at avoiding “speculation” over the planned anti-discrimination legislation, which will provide protection against discrimination on the ground of, among others, sexual orientation. Adoption of this legislation is among requirements set in Georgia’s Visa Liberalisation Action Plan with the EU. Article 36 of the Georgian constitution currently reads: “Marriage shall be based upon equality of rights and free will of spouses.” Same-sex marriage is already banned in Georgia’s civil code, which defines marriage as “voluntary union of man and woman.”
For the European Union to accept the proposed ‘solution’ would make a mockery of the very idea of anti-discrimination legislation they are trying to enforce. This would be a dangerous precedent, indeed. What is a point of anti-discrimination bill if as a result of its approval you are getting discrimination constitutionally reinforced?! I’d say better not have such legislation at all.

If Georgia is not ready yet to move closer towards the EU, then it's not ready. The EU should never agree with such artificial and unacceptable trade-off, which is nothing less than throwing dust in the eyes.

As Georgian gay rights group Identoba noted, the country is on a “dangerous path” with proposed homophobic amendment in the constitution.
[…] Campaigning on  xenophobic and recently, on homophobic grounds has been a strategy of choice for most political players in the country, since it gained independence in the 1990s. The initiative came as  shock to many, since the issue of same-sex marriage has never come to the agenda of LGBT movement in Georgia which has struggled to exercise basic rights to security and protection. In 2012 and in 2013, under UNM and GD parties being in power, respectively, Georgia has consistently failed to ensure the freedom of assembly for Georgian LGBT activists. Georgia has not been able to persecute a single person for the horrific attacks against LGBT activists and supporters on  May 17th, IDAHO day. Therefore, constitutionally banning the prospect of marriage equality, already banned by Georgia’s Civil Code, can only be seen as a homophobic move. It further deteriorates already feeble state of LGBT human rights in Georgia. If the amendment is successfully initiated, it will directly violate universal equality of single parents, LGBT community and many others who do not live nuclear families. Alarmingly, this homophobic and cynical move ultimately kills the very spirit of equality protection of incoming Anti-Discrimination Law. 
Identoba, Georgia’s largest LGBT and gender equality protection NGO calls on all parties to speak up against proposed changes in Georgia’s Constitution.