Sunday, June 26, 2011

On Gay Pride Parades and Why Yerevan Needs One

Even the most well-intentioned people, those who are tolerant of gays — you know the type: they have friends who are gay or they know people who are gay, they say they don't have a problem with gay people, etc. etc. — can be really frustrating to deal with.

In Yerevan, I have met straight people who hang out with queers, who are tolerant (as much as I hate this word), who support equal rights for all peoples. These people would stand out against injustice in any form and if someone attempted to physically hurt another person because he was gay, they would be up in arms in a second to defend him.

But too often I find that this "tolerance" has a limit, a boundary which cannot be crossed. Sometimes this limit has to do with queers raising or adopting kids, sometimes it has to do with gay marriage and sometimes it's just simply being out as queer. And then there's the disparity when it comes to men and women (and let's not even talk about the disparity when it comes to acceptance of sexual preference vs. acceptance of gender identity): Too often in Yerevan (as I have no doubt elsewhere) I have come across straight guys who say they have no problems with lesbians but thinking about two men having sex is just disgusting (զզվելի) and unnatural (բնական չի).

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Not All Queer Bloggers are Hoaxes

Last week I (as well as my friend Kara Leva, it seems) was contacted by Elif Kayi for a story on the opinions and experiences of real queer bloggers following the cases of a Gay Girl in Damascus and — both instances where straight men were masquerading as queer woman online. I’m republishing Elif’s article (originally published online at EMAJ magazine) in full below:

Everybody has heard about “her.” For a few days, “she” had become the most famous queer woman in the Middle East, maybe even in the whole world. Amidst other worrying news, such as the violent repression carried out by the Syrian regime against segments of the population, the abduction of “queer blogger” Amina Abdallah Araf al Omari, presumbably by a group of armed men supposedly members the Baath Party security services or a militia, provoked a massive outcry amongst the international gay community. Support pages were immediatly created in mainstream social media such as Facebook, with slogans such as “Free Syrian Blogger Amina Abdallah a.k.a “Gay Girl in Damascus”.

Bloggers and journalists active in social media closely followed the story, which once again reminded us of the vulnerability of bloggers in some countries, when they try to inform about their situation in those places. In this case, the blogger was said to be a young lesbian woman, describing her everyday life. Some people thought that her story would bring to light a reality often hidden: the everyday life of gay people. And despite the turmoil surrounding the “abduction,” the story was in fact  revealing an issue to the general public, including readers who might normally be hostile, or at least indifferent to such stories. At least, it was news.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

When We Don't Speak the Same Language

At the roundtable on sexual violence against women in Armenia yesterday, listening to co-founder and executive director of the Women’s Resource Center of Armenia (WRCA) Lara Aharonian talk, followed by remarks by deputy head of the Department for Crimes Against the Individual of the RA General Prosecutor’s Office Artur Davtyan and finally, deputy head of the Armenian Police Department of Juvenile Affairs Artur Vardanyan, I came to a very simple conclusion — we don't speak the same language.

We all seem to be talking about the same thing and sorta-kinda saying the same things, but not really. While Lara was speaking about public perception of sexual violence, gender stereotypes and lack of resources in Armenia to support survivors of all kinds of abuse (and waiting till the end of her remarks to start throwing around some numbers), the two Arturs were, understandably on their guard, praising the work that their respective state agencies have done and apparently continue to do.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

My Life Revolves Around Nikol Pashinyan (She Says with a Sigh)

(I started writing this post on May 25, 2011, on the threshold of the release of journalist and opposition activist Nikol Pashinyan, who had been imprisoned in Armenia since 2008 under questionable charges related to his involvement in the events of Mar. 1–2, 2008, in Yerevan. Bear with me as this post goes in a direction you might not have expected, considering the title!)

These days my life revolves around Nikol Pashinyan: what he says, what he writes, who he talks to. Pashinyan is revered like a god by some people while, as I mentioned in a previous post, I’d rather hang on every word that my yoga teacher says rather than any politician — be it from the ruling party, an opposition member or one with no official party affiliation — or opposition activist says (and these days, they seem to be saying a lot, while saying very little — how convenient).