Monday 26 December 2016

Personal: growing up with George Michael

I woke up this morning hoping that the immense sadness and tears on my face last night were some kind of a bad-bad dream. If only…

During my teenage years and beyond George Michael and his music helped me feel connected. Among few other global LGBT personalities, he helped me feel part of the bigger community while I was growing-up in Armenia. Even at a time when he was not publicly out yet. My gaydar worked instantly since the very first time I saw him on TV.

I remember seeing his face on pics and posters and hearing his music in so many places in Yerevan, from shops to hairdressing salons, to restaurants and TV. His music was an essential part of any house party in Yerevan. I remember how pleased I was that after he was outed as a gay man, people’s attitude did not change towards him, his music and image were still as prevalent in Yerevan as before. This was THE hopeful sign for me.

And I had a crush on him, although years later when I moved to London, it was not me but an Armenian friend of mine who for a short while was his occasional lover. How pleased and intrigued we were that a friend of ours scored with this great guy we all admired…

His music, the lyrics, and the music videos… So many faves that I am unable to choose one for this post.

You will be immensely missed, George Michael. THANK YOU for being there and for being a light at the end of the tunnel for me and millions others.


*picture via George Michael FB page

Saturday 23 July 2016

2nd Rainbow Armenia LGBT rights forum underway - Picture of the Day

Amid all the disturbing, disheartening news coming out from Armenia these days, there is light at the end of the tunnel.

2nd Rainbow Armenia forum is underway. Follow live updates on Twitter via #RainbowArmenia hashtag.

And here is a Picture of the Day from the forum, greetings from these awesome people. Love *heart*

Tuesday 5 July 2016

NEFUIL: new initiative by Armenian LGBT activist

NEFUIL is an initiative by one of Armenia's well known LGBT activists, Sevak Kirakosyan. It's an acronym that stands for "Nest For Understanding And Improving Life".

Unzipped: Gay Armenia asked Sevak to describe the initiative:
"It all started with struggling to understand my own sexuality. Later I felt like as if I transcended many borders along the way and it all culminates with the foundation of NEFUIL."
For the past 5+ years Sevak has volunteered for LGBT rights and other causes. He used to work and still volunteering with PINK Armenia, the country's leading LGBT rights group, being targeted, along with fellow activists, by various conservative, homophobic elements. Currently he is part of a new NGO to address rights of transgender people in Armenia - Right Side NGO.

The website of NEFUIL (very basic, as of now) has only three offerings so far, and two of them LGBT related.

A short oeuvre, in Armenian, entitled "Holy and Filthy: Homosexuality and Transgenderness in World Religions” reflects how various religions treat homosexuality and gender identity across time and cultures. Sevak stresses that 50% of the income from this sale will be invested back into a new initiative to support LGBT movement and empower LGBT+ individuals in Armenia: ”Most probably we'll make a new fund for supporting LGBT+ individuals thrive".

The other bilingual article (available in English and Armenian) is entitled "LGBT in USSR, ASSR & III RA” [“ԼԳԲՏ Պատմություն. ԽՍՀՄ և Հայաստան”] and “unearths unique stories from USSR, Soviet and modern Armenia, some of which were never told before.”

Says Sevak: ”We hope to establish physical "nests" around Armenia and later in the region to help transform Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict and bring more peace and harmony into the region and the world."

If you find this initiative interesting and wish to support, here is their website: You can contact Sevak on Facebook.

Tuesday 28 June 2016

Pope Francis in Armenia presented with the “gift of the Armenian people” created by openly gay American-Armenian designer Michael Aram

During Pope Francis visit to the country, Armenian social networks were full of praise and admiration of Pope. Thousands and thousands took to the streets across the country to greet him. Most comments, whether by ordinary people or state officials, were of superlative nature and pretty much idolised the Pope and the fact of him visiting Armenia.

Towards the end of his visit, Pope was presented with the “gift of the Armenian people” on the occasion of his visit to Armenia.

This “Noah’s Ark” sculpture was created by renown metalware, homeware and fine jewellery designer, openly gay American-Armenian Michael Aram.

Michael Aram’s Twitter wall is pretty much incredible on this occasion, as his tweet greeting New York’s Gay Pride follows by picture of his “Noah’s Ark” sculpture for Pope Francis which was gifted to him by the Armenian people”.

Michael Aram’s husband Aret Tikiryan reflected this on his Instagram too.

Btw, his Instagram headline reads: “2 dads with 2 amazing kids”.

Here is their beautiful family picture.

No wonder, en route from Armenia, Pope Francis made this remarkable statement, that church ‘should apologise and ask forgiveness from gays for their past treatment’. Truly, a miraculous gift, one may speculate :))

And this picture with accompanied headline is pretty much incredible for all the right and wrong reasons. Here you see Armenian president & his wife, head of Armenian church, Pope Francis and the headline: Pope Francis: Catholic Church Should Seek Forgiveness from Gay People, Women

Michael Aram posted more details on background of this sculpture on his Facebook page.

Sunday 26 June 2016

Istanbul Gay Pride: my diary of a powerful LGBT civil rights march

Last year Istanbul Pride was violently dispersed. This year it was banned altogether.

I dedicate this post to all the activists who struggle for human rights in Turkey. In solidarity with LGBT people in Istanbul.

I was lucky enough to be in Istanbul on 29 June 2014, with my Armenian friends. We witnessed and participated in perhaps the biggest and unfortunately the last peaceful Pride event happened there.

It was a great inspirational Pride event, a powerful civil rights march. Very political. Very colourful. Very diverse. Like in previous years, there was an abundance of posters in Armenian too.

There was police presence there too, but in contrast to last two years, police was there to protect, not to attack.

Participants of the march were quite critical against increasingly autocratic Erdogan rule. I witnessed quite a few anti-Erdogan messages, slogans and anti-Erdogan mocking during the march. No surprises that Turkey president Erdogan could not bear such displays of freedom, and started crackdown on Istanbul Pride using the full force of his repressive regime.

Below is my photo story from June 2014. I highly recommend Adrineh’s blog post reflecting the event too: A World of Pride or More Like Hüzün?
[...] I was lucky this year to be in Istanbul for gay pride. It was my first time in the city that is so close to Yerevan and yet so far. My girlfriend and I, along with a couple of our gay Armenian friends, planned a short, four-day visit not only to see the city, but also to be there for the pride march. Because unlike other cities where I’ve been that celebrate Pride (Toronto, Montréal, New York, Reykjavik, Dublin), it wasn’t a parade but a march. And there’s a clear difference between the two.

It reminded me of the origins of Pride, of what was fought for and what was gained. And it reminded me of how far we still have to go. […]

Just thousands and thousands of people of all stripes marching, holding signs in Armenian and Turkish (probably in Kurdish too) and so many rainbow flags. […]

And the music that stayed with me the most was the beat of the drums. Men and woman playing various types of drums at different points in the march. This is the sound of a struggle, and this is how you know that what we saw, what we were swept up in (my gay Armenian friends and I) was a march for human rights. [...]

It is therefore with great sadness I note how quickly and to what a devastating effect the situation with human rights has been deteriorated in Turkey, with each passing day under the Erdogan rule.

And after-party:

See also Rainbow Istanbul, with Armenian touch

Saturday 25 June 2016

London Pride 2016 (photo story)

 "We'll miss EU" - reflection on EU referendum #Brexit
 Queer Strike

“No bigots. No borders. Tories out. Refugees in.”
Solidarity with Orlando
Trafalgar square
Leicester square
Cafe Nero, Soho
Oxford street