Thursday, May 24, 2012

A New Name: Making Connections

(I just realized that this post follows one titled “Not in My Name”. The name theme is purely a coincidence as I’ve been planning to change the name of this blog for quite some time now!)

Like many others, I began a blog to record my travels for family and friends back home. I named this blog “Le Retour in 3 Parts” because I was returning to 3 cities close to my heart — Amsterdam, Paris and Yerevan — in the summer of 2008. Since then, the blog has undergone transformations in style and content to reflect the changes in my life and my purpose for continuing to blog. I am currently living in Armenia, though I have plans to leave the country in the coming months (onto bigger and better things!).

Monday, May 21, 2012

Not In My Name

I have learned so much from living here in Armenia. For one thing, everything is not as it seems. And everything is not black and white. Because I am against something doesn’t mean I’m for that which is perceived as being the opposite of the former. Because I stand by you doesn’t mean we agree on the same things.

And yet, in many ways I am still very much naive. For instance, I did not honestly believe that such a crowd could gather as they did today to protest the Diversity March — widely interpreted and misrepresented as being a parade and a gay parade at that but which was organized to mark the UN World Day for Cultural Diversity — organized by PINK Armenia. The number of counter-demonstrators seemed to be at least four times as many as came out to march. Right away I sensed their aggression, their penchance for violence and ignorant, bigoted rhetoric. Right away I sense we should cancel the march — at least for our safety. 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Armenia State Officials, Public Figures Should Speak Up, Condemn Hate Crime

Regardless of whether you think I’m perverted, mentally ill or should be burned at the stake (some of the terms I’ve heard applied to LGBT people — for example: see comments in this article), you have no right to take the law into your hands. The crime that was committed was a hate crime because it was committed against an establishment viewed as being frequented by members of a specific community and because the accused said one of their motives was that one of the owners of the bar had participated in the gay pride festivities in Istanbul the previous year. These motives, which I was told the brothers named in their confession only to retract them later, amount to hate against a particular individual and a particular group of people — hence, hate crime.

How timely then for ILGA Europe (the European branch of the International LGBT Association) to launch its first annual review of the human rights situation of LGBTI people in Europe and the European neighborhood on May 15, two days before the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, a week after DIY was firebombed and the same day the bar was targeted a second time. Needless to say, ILGA Europe ranked Armenia among 10 countries in the negative zone (!) — countries which do not meet even the basic requirements of human rights standards.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Queer-Friendly Yerevan Bar Bombed: What Happens Next?

For the first time since moving to Armenia, I am afraid. Queer women are in the spotlight — an unfamiliar and not at all good place to be in. We perhaps have become used to being invisible here: we can hold hands in public and generally be more affectionate than men without experiencing stares and suspicious glances from passers-by. But now more than ever, it seems, we elicit the same contempt that has traditionally been reserved for gay men (see earlier post).