Letter: Accepting Who I Am

Dear Editor,

After New Year’s last year, I decided to come out to my parents as a lesbian. I had already revealed my preferences to a few friends both in and out of my AYF chapter; however, it was still a subject that I needed to discuss with my parents. Envisioning my parents’ refusal to accept me for who I am was the main obstacle in figuring out how to talk to them. But immediately after telling them, they assured me that they would fully support who I am, and that, regardless of anything else, they would always be there for me.

While I am lucky to have accepting parents, for most Armenian teenagers the pressures of being lesbian, gay, bi, or transgender are awfully intimidating. Affirming my identity as a lesbian Armenian teenager was not easy. You might assume that being born in Armenia, growing up in an Armenian family, and molding to the strict customs of our people would have affected my decision to openly express my sexuality, but it didn’t. The bonds that Armenians share with each other are like no other. We should remember that these bonds create life-long friendships with those who are willing to help us through anything. For me, many of these connections were made through my AYF chapter. Having amazing family and friends who support me are what has helped me the most. I have finally accepted who I am and no longer try to portray someone that I am not.

Being a lesbian Armenian teenager is definitely a challenge, and is something that is not fully supported by enough Armenians. The bombing of the LGBT-friendly bar and subsequent protests in Armenia showed the lack of support towards the LGBT community among Armenians. But just because there is a lack of support in Armenia doesn’t mean we have to be influenced by that, and not support them in our own AYF chapters.

I was born in Armenia, and I think about the fact that if I went back and openly expressed my sexuality, my actions would be frowned upon and discouraged. More importantly, I would feel like I didn’t belong in the one place that I’m supposed to feel at home. Our motherland should be a place where all Armenians are welcome, regardless of sexual preference. Just because I am a lesbian and am open about it doesn’t mean I am different than anyone else here in the U.S. or in Armenia.

Alana Wyatt
Worcester, Mass.

Guest Contributor

Guest Contributor

Guest contributions to the Armenian Weekly are informative articles or press releases written and submitted by members of the community.


  1. Bravo, Alana, for having the strength and conviction to come out in a big way. The Armenian community is better for this act of bravery.

    I hope all parents and family members are able to accept the LGBT-identified individuals in their lives. To do anything less is a crime all its own. Cheers to equality.

  2. Most people have no earthly idea of the level of bravery you have just displayed, Alana. And most probably, many of them could never hope to reach that level. Congratulations! You are well on your way to living life on your own terms without artifice and with the certainty that those who want to love you and become your friend do so with full knowledge of who you are. What a relief!

    It will still not be easy but it will be rewarding. Where you are is where some of us have long worked to reach. Where the next generations will be will result from your own activities and successes.

    If only most Armenians would allow themselves to realize how proud they should be of you! The strength of our ancestors is clearly in you.

  3. Bravo! Overcoming the fear that your identity might make your parents not love you is a tremendous achievement. Կը շնորհաւորէմ, ընկերուհի ճան:

  4. I am very happy for you, Alana, that you had such an uneventful coming out. Unfortunately, as you say, not all Armenians have the same happy experience.

    Some time ago, I was shocked to learn that an Armenian teenager, here in our fair city of Glendale, was thrown out by his parents after they found out that he was gay. Never in my worst nightmares would I have imagined that an Armenian parent would behave in this way towards his son. In our families, we fight (a lot), shout (even more), but at the end of the day, I thought we loved each other regardless.

    Regrettably, I found out that this was not an isolated incident. In Yerevan, where homelessness is still a relatively rare event, there are homeless gay, lesbian, and transgender youth. This is a national shame. Whatever their nature, disagreements should be addressed through dialog. You may think that your son/daughter is sinning by being gay, but do you seriously believe that he or she would cause you so much pain if there was a choice?

    We need better education within the Armenian community on this issue. And, ultimately, we need better acceptance of our differences–whether they are related to sexuality, religious beliefs, or country of birth.

  5. Thank you everyone, I never believed I would have the courage to write this. I have received so much support from so many people. It is a topic that is not discussed as much as it should be. I wanted it to be moving and I hope that it was enjoyable to read. Thank you again everyone.

  6. What a great letter! Alana’s point about homophobia in Armenia is a very important one and one that is not given nearly enough attention. Disgrace has been heaped upon Russia for its homophobic laws, policies, and culture, especially lately as the Sochi Olympics draw near. Many prominent groups have called for boycotting these Games for just this reason. Armenia needs to wake up and realize that it has reached the fork in the road; it can follow in the bigoted path that much of the ex-Soviet cohort has taken, or it can choose a more enlightened way. It is a sad hypocrisy if Yerevan protests Putin but fails to reject all of the poison he peddles.

  7. Brava Alana! I applaud you for your strength and your parents for their acceptance and true love, you should all be proud of yourselves. It breaks my heart when I hear stories such as the one Ara said above. How embarrassing for us as Armenians who are supposed to be family oriented and loving, how could anyone kick their child out because they are different then what some think is the norm. (I won’t get into what norm is here).

    What I’m also very proud of is your honesty about your AYF experience. I honestly think the only way to change thought patterns and old fashioned beliefs is through our grass root organizations. Changing people’s minds has to come from trustworthy sources. Most of the time parents are more embarrassed about what their neighbor or relatives will say more than their own feelings. Organizations and academia should take on the responsibility of educating the young with the right information. I was shocked to learn that 70% of Armenians think being gay is a choice, most of these people are educated!

    Sorry for my lengthy response, you got me going and I truly appreciate your strength! There’s no stopping you now!

  8. Thank you Alana for writing this. Hopefully your candor will inspire more Armenian youth that they don’t have to live in fear or embarrassment of their sexual identity, and will help parents open their minds. You should be very proud of yourself!

  9. Alana, i am so proud of you. Your conviction and strength is remarkable. Never forget that incredible power that lies within you. You can move mountains, and I think you already have!!!

  10. I commend you for your bravery, Alana. Կեցցես (good job).

    As with many other problems, the homophobia in Armenia is a result of lack of democracy, and that is where we, Armenians, should concentrate our efforts. Armenians are not born bigots, it’s a result of ignorance. And Armenia’s government maintains that ignorance to serve its interests, i.e. to keep its illegitimate power. Pro-government forces fuel homophobia to scare the population away from the very idea of democracy. Free debate of the issue is prevented by the fact that the regime controls the television. This way, much of the population is forced to be afraid of the phantom “threat of gay rights,” instead of focusing on removing the illegitimate regime. It all works for the regime’s interests.

    The solution is that we, Diasporan Armenians, whether gay or straight, need to do everything to help our compatriots in Armenia establish democracy. Accepting our gay brothers and sisters will only make our nation stronger and richer. Gay Armenians will love their country as much as straight ones. They will fight just as hard as straight soldiers. They work just as hard as straight Armenians (in some occupations, even harder).

    • Perfectly put! I hadn’t thought of the issue in this light, very illuminating. It’s true; all of these issues are indeed connected. What baffles me is the number of Diasporan Armenians who, even with the democracy and freedoms they have, still cling to these toxic hatreds.

    • Katie, the clinging to toxic hatreds in Diaspora has to do with being new to the U.S., language barriers, and the malicious meddling from Armenia itself. These hatreds are usually among first generation Armenian-Americans. As they and their children are integrated more into the American society, they become more enlightened and tolerant. Due to the language barrier, many of the recent immigrants are limited to watching Armenian cable shows. The problem is that the most popular of these networks, such as US Armenia, are controlled by Armenia’s government and act as its propaganda outlet. This way, the Armenian government takes advantage of the language barrier of the recent immigrants, again for its purposes. Popular celebrities from Armenia (who obviously get their income from the government) become the tools of the propaganda.

      Recently, in October of 2013, Lilit Hovhannisyan, a singer from Armenia, held concert in Pasadena. The young female hostess brought up the issue that “homosexuality was recently legalized in the United States.” What was interesting is how she termed the word “homosexuality.” She said “համասեռամոլություն,” the “մոլություն” part meaning “mania” and “obsession,” terms to scare people.

      We Diasporan Armenians need to be alert to the insidious ideological and political invasion from the state of Armenia, a state where even its citizens do not have a voice in their government.

    • Thank you for the further explanation. I hope it really is a question of freedom of information and influence. But then of course there are homophobic people in the US of many origins, some of whom have been here for generations, so there are unfortunately plenty of people lined up to validate and perpetuate these prejudices.

  11. Am so pleased that you loved your parents enough to come out to them. They’re your parents and should love you unconditionally, regardless of your preferences. It’s sad that the Armenians in Armenia are so regressive in their attitudes, when I would expect more from true Christians. They’ve obviously forgotten that, we were all created by God and only God has the right to pass judgment on anyone. Pray for their souls, that they eventually become more educated on the subject.

  12. Congrats! This is wonderful and I wish more Armenians in Armenia could be okay with the queer community. There are not many queer Armenians out there because many of us are afraid to speak up. Be proud of who you are. Hopefully Armenia will realize the evils of the homophobia many people have expressed and things will change.

  13. This is a wonderful letter for so many reasons, but I am also struck by the fact that the supportive comments that follow it really prove the great point you make about the bonds among Armenians — and how they outlast whatever shame people latch onto out of ignorance or fear. You told your story perfectly. Thank you! I hope your clear message that LGBT Armenians aren’t different from anyone else will be heard by all those who need it.

  14. Since it looks like everybody commenting appears to be enlightened, it might help HyeAghcheg to know that use of the word “preference” is misleading and not encouraged, since it implies that there is a choice. We cannot choose our orientation, it is what we are born with (like eye color).

    I agree that as true Christians, we should be accepting of all God’s children.

  15. Finally some news on an armenian lesbian! I’m surely not the only hayaser armenian lesbian on this planet who’s very much involved in the armenian community in the diaspora. Good to hear… and ur story is touching :) I’m glad more of us are opening up and accepting our sexuality… especially the guys and gals in yerevan (and in the Diaspora of course). You should check up on the website I recently discovered called queeringyerevan.org. It’s incredible, and has allowed me to believe that I’m really not the “only one.” The writers on the site are also phenomenal. I wish you the best in life and am happy of your parents’ acceptance with your orientation.

    – Cheers from LA

  16. It’s almost as hard to be a non-Christian Armenian, as I am. Narrowing the criteria for being accepted as an Armenian to being straight and Apostolic is counter-productive to the well being of our nationality, we have such small numbers as it is. The 19th century novelist Raffi said it best, we could change our religion a thousand times and we would still be Armenian. I would widen that to include different sexual preferences as well. No one else has the right to dictate how you define yourself. If you’re truly Armenian at heart, then that is what you are, it’s not about blood, religion or sexual preference.

  17. Alana,

    Gee, I never expected that Armenians will react to this post in this optimistic and kind way. This maks me feel very proud and hopeful for our nation. At least some of Armenians can understand what Armenian values are connected with. I am also proud to have a countrymate like you. And… hmm… on more thing, I guess the reason why people did not commented badly and homophobicly to this post is because those who are armenians and homophobic do not understand English :D. Whatever… Although I still think that sexual orientation is a choice, I as well strongly believe that we have to respect others’ choices. So good luck to you and to all of us, who are going to come out. :)

  18. Thank you Alana for your bravery!! I went to Armenia with my 2 gay friends to show them the beauty of our motherland, however when my Armenian friends in Armenia met them, alot of them showed disgust!! Later on, they loved my friends because of who they are but Homophobia is still there…. I hope one day Homophobic Armenians will realize that we are all equal, we are all humans and we are all God’s children, regardless of our sexual orientations.

  19. This article just reminded me of a story that’s been in my family for some years. Sometime in probably the 80s or 90s, a much older relative of mine, Satenig, (who lived into her 100s) was being taken for a walk in her wheelchair by one of my aunts. She still lived in the city and during the walk the pair passed a gay pride parade. Satenig asked her younger relative, Christine, what the parade was for. “Oh, it’s a parade for gay people, Aunt Satenig.” Satenig replied, “Oh, how wonderful! I’ve always been gay!” Obviously she had no idea what she’d said in modern parlance, but the parade brightened her day and we still laugh to pieces when this story is told at family gatherings.

  20. Alana, I’m very proud to be your neighbor and fellow Armenian. I’ve always known you as a beautiful soul!
    With Love
    P.S. It’s funny because my sister was very impressed with your article and put it on her Facebook page – we had no idea that it was you!

  21. You are a warm, wonderful, family oriented, sweet person Alana! That is what I know about you. We should all be judged by the quality of character, nothing else. I am glad you are proud of who you are!!!

  22. Alana,

    First of all let me commend you on your wonderful writing! As your teach it makes me proud to see that you have become a true writer! Your words here are very profound and you never know how they will affect someone. You may have helped even one Armenian (or any) teenager come out to their friends and family. This article you have written may help people accept themselves and be accepted by others. Often times it is the hardest to be true to yourself because of fear of being judged by others so we live a “fake” life. You, however, are showing the LGBT community that it is best to be who you are and not pretend. Awareness is key here and you have done a great job of putting the voice the Armenian LGBT community into words.

    Having met your mother, I know you have the best support system! You two are lucky to have each other. She will be there for you always and you for her. You have a wonderful life ahead of you so keep up the good work and continue to be the voice that the LGBT community needs to hear!

    Miss Mac

  23. There are other LGBT Armenians out there, and I am surprised over the reactions here. I’ve seen so many horribly negative, nasty and LGBT-phobic comments on Armenian forums. So much so, that as a transgender Armenian, I’ve avoided any Armenian events for fear of a negative reaction. To be honest, I grew up culturally Armenian, but lived outside of the church, and felt “Odar” just because of this fact.

    Maybe things are improving. You’d hope that a population that knows first hand about violence, discrimination and genocide would be more tolerant of other oppressed minorities.

    Congrats on coming out. It’s a difficult road, but a closet is no place to live life for any human being.

  24. Thank you very much for your story! You are very brave and smart and I am glad you have understanding and accepting family.

    I am a lesbian born and raised in Armenia. I’ve gone through quite hard times accepting who I am and being real to myself. As i have reached the stage where I’m not fighting against my true self now, Ilately I’ve been considering coming out to my parents. It still doesn’t seem realistic in near future but your story truly inspired me and eventually i will gain the courage to do what you’ve already done.

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