The situation of members of the LGBT community in Armenia is dramatic. And many of them, not to suffer the social stigma and sometimes even physical violence, choose not to reveal their sexual identity
LGBT individuals are definitely not accepted in Armenia. Some of them, already stigmatised by society, are even subject to physical violence if they do not hide their sexual orientation; others live in secret, choosing to keep their private life strictly confidential.
When I realised I was “different”
Levon (the name has been changed), 33, has been living in Yerevan for five years now, but is from Lori region. He says that he left when he realised his true self.
“When I turned 25, my parents began to try and convince me that it was time to get married. I was living in a village. 25 is indeed a mature age in our village, and according to the unwritten law I should already be a father of the family at that age. They started looking for a bride for me. At that time I did not yet realise that I'm not interested in girls at all, that I have another inner world. Without understanding myself, I rejected every proposal. Finally, it seemed to me I could like a girl from our neighbouring village. We organised the wedding, took the bride to our house, and we lived for about a year 'under one roof'. Every day of our joint life was a hell for both of us”, recalls Levon.
At the age of 27, under the pretense of financial problems, Levon left to work in Russia. In fact, he says, he wanted to escape his life of misunderstandings.
“No girl attracted me. I have lived most of my life lying to myself. I tried to convince myself that I didn't like any girl because I was too much of a perfectionist; that I was disgusted by them because I hadn’t found the perfect one. I convinced myself that in Moscow I would find a beautiful girl with Slavic appearance, who would give meaning to my life. But nothing like this happened. I saved money for half a year, went to a psychologist, asked him to help me love girls. But the psychologist showed me another way. He made me be honest with myself. I wasn't stupid, it's not like I did not understand that I was attracted in men. I have just always been afraid to talk about it. I even convinced myself that I was not like that. With the psychologist's help I learned to be sincere, to talk about sexual desires. I stayed there for about six months, returned to our village, and divorced from my wife”, says Levon, who thinks the greatest mistake of his life was to get married.
“I stole 2 years of my wife’s life. I hurt her for 2 years, as I was afraid of being different, of being condemned”, he says.
After speaking frankly with his ex-wife, it was the turn of his parents. Levon describes coming out to a traditional Armenian family as a horror movie. In the end, it was agreed that no one would speak out about Levon's real sexual orientation, and he left home.
“Now I'm happy. I live in Yerevan. I have a partner who has just left home like me. Unfortunately, I rarely see my parents. They have forbidden me to have any contact with them. Once a year I go to the village, it's their request, so that the villagers think I am just too busy, but I can't forget my parents”, says Levon.
I just want to love
Anush (the name has been changed), 29, left Armenia 10 years ago. She says she realised at a very early age that she did not need a boy, but she would have only a girl by her side.
“I consider myself a happy woman. When I was a teenager, I read some literature and I recognised myself, I realised that I could never wear girly dresses, makeup, and date boys. I wanted to be a boy, wanted to hug a girl… When I fully realised what I wanted, I told my parents. I thank God that they just gave birth to me. They listened calmly. Of course I know that I was hurting them with that news, but they tried to help. Sex change in Armenia is banned. They helped me to collect money and I came to Europe. I received a higher education here, now I have a good job and collect money to fulfill my dream- to have surgery”, says Anush.
According to Anush, being an LGBT person in Armenia is a serious problem. They are not accepted, they are stigmatised, and nobody gives them a job.
“I have friends in Armenia who become protagonists of various painful stories, when they try to tell about their sexual desires, protect their rights. Maybe I'm wrong, but I think, in fact you do not have to be so loud about being different. A person's sexual life should not be so advertised. When someone complains to me that he was beaten by some men who learned that he was gay, I say: 'You are responsible for this; if you see that the person will not understand you, don't communicate with him, don't try to explain anything, it's pointless anyway. Live for yourself quietly'”, she says.
Anush feels like a simple human being, who dreams of loving and being loved. At the moment she has no partner, she is still searching. She wants to find someone like her, who just dreams about love and a peaceful life. “I have never participated in LGBT parades in Armenia, it's pointless for me. I know I will be criticised for these words, but I will try to explain: the traditional family model in Armenia is so rooted that I think it’s impossible to struggle against it. I always recommend my friends to either move to Europe or live silently, otherwise their life will turn into chaos”.
Violence towards “the different”
According to the report on “The Human Rights Situation of LGBT Persons in Armenia, 2017”, presented by the “Pink Armenia” NGO, 30 cases of offenses based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity were registered in 2017.
8 of these cases went to trial, while for 14 no legal proceedings were initiated due to several circumstances. In 4 cases, charges were dropped following an agreement between parties; in other 4, because the victim was absent or wanted to remain anonymous and did not file a complaint. 8 out of the dropped cases involved domestic violence, and victims did not want to file charges against their own family members.
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