Hey Armenia, We Need to Talk

Thoughts on the recent LGBT-targeted attacks

Gay Pride Parade in the City of Hull, UK (Photo: Tony Webster/Wikimedia)

Last week, I visited Armenia for the first time as an adult, to attend my nephew’s baptism. I decided to take the opportunity to write a travel article on tourism in Armenia. I want to help promote our magical homeland to non-Armenian masses. My trip was a life-altering experience, seeing Mer Hayrenik, its raw beauty including the warm and hospitable people and re-connect with my roots.

My timing was perfect as the nation was still rejoicing and celebrating Armenia’s Velvet Revolution in May 2018, when the people peacefully drove-out the old regime and elected Nikol Pashinyan as the new Prime Minister.

There was and still is high hope amongst the citizens that Pashinyan would lead the nation to a better future. Unfortunately, despite shared optimism for Armenia’s outlook regarding economy, justice system, administration and standard of living, Armenia’s LGBT community is not hopeful about their fate and future. In fact, it was heartbreaking to witness the despair among queer Armenians for their living situation and general role in society.

I spoke at length to dozens of LGBT Armenians; they were businessmen, artists, blue-collar workers, an architect, an activist and a very famous entertainer. Sadly, despite confidence in their new leader, all were pessimistic about their own future. None expressed hope that the situation would get better regarding hate crimes against LGBT— harassment, gay-bashing, abuse, homophobia and transphobia. Terrified for their safety, all expressed a desire to migrate to freer and more progressive countries.

According to several studies, a conservative estimate of ten percent of the world’s population is LGBT, and Armenia is no exception. Make no mistake: the only difference between Armenia and the Western world is that its queer community is, for the most part, still in the closet, due to institutionalized and widespread homophobia.

The LGBT rights movement is simply this: The right to be average. Period.

There have been several high-profile gay-bashings and assaults in Armenia recently. In February, a trans woman was beaten and set on fire in her own apartment. In May, while in Armenia on a humanitarian mission, Elton John was subjected to homophobic slurs and hurled with eggs. On Friday, August 3, the day I left Armenia, a group of thirty villagers broke into a house and attacked nine LGBT Armenians in the southernmost Syunik region. One of the attackers, Hakob Arshakyan, is the former Mayor of the village. Gevorg Petrosyan, an Armenian parliament member with the Prosperous Armenia Party, made the following statement, “I don’t know who will incriminate me and to what extent, but we should have already driven out (I’m stating this lightly) homosexuals, religious minorities, and their protectors from our Holy land with joint efforts.” All of the aforementioned devastating incidents have been reported in mainstream, international media.

I strongly believe that it should be up to the people of every nation and community to decide their own fate; but there are always exceptions. In this case, save for a few activists, LGBT Armenians have few people who are willing to speak out on their behalf. I would implore Nikol Pashinyan to take action against systematic homophobia in Armenia and send a message that we are all equal, whether native-born or diasporan, straight and cisgender or LGBT, living in Armenia or abroad, rich or poor, connected or otherwise. Our people have been massacred, slaughtered and prosecuted for centuries in the hands of our enemies, so why are we doing it to ourselves now?

Some may argue that Mr. Pashinyan has bigger priorities to tackle before combating homophobia, including national security, corruption, economy, unemployment, under-employment and immigration. Queer Armenians are confidently looking forward to his upcoming State of the Nation address and roll-out of his agenda, but unfortunately, their optimism is not extended to the LGBT community.

The destiny of Armenia and its people can be adversely affected by the future of its queer community. If hate-crimes against people’s family members are ignored and continue to go unpunished, how can they maintain faith in a functioning justice system? And if talented, innovative and educated Armenian citizens are forced to flee to Western Europe or the United States because their homeland does not accept them, how can the country develop?

Our people have been massacred, slaughtered and prosecuted for centuries in the hands of our enemies, so why are we doing it to ourselves now?

Following May’s Velvet Revolution, the world was awed to witness how a nation practiced non-violent resistance against an oppressive regime and demand change. Armenia received a great deal of positive press and global attention. But the international headlines about the recent gay-bashings have worked to contradict this image of peace.

We cannot afford to ignore this matter any longer. It will not simply go away, and we cannot sit passively as the rest of the world watches in outrage.

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” But what does it say about a nation, when its people are treated like animals for being LGBT?

The LGBT rights movement is simply this: The right to be average. Period. LGBT Armenians do not wish for better or special treatment. They only want a life in a country where they can live a free, honest and authentic life, without fear of prosecution, violence or hate due to their sexual orientation or gender identity

Vic Gerami
Vic Gerami is journalist, media contributor and the Editor & Publisher of The Blunt Post. He spent six years at Frontiers Magazine, followed by LA Weekly and Voice Media Group. His syndicated celebrity Q&A column, 10 Questions with Vic, was a finalist for LA Press Club’s National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Award in 2017. He is a contributor for Los Angeles Blade, WeHo Times, GoWeHo, Asbarez, California Courier, Desert Daily Guide and OUT Traveler.
Vic Gerami

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28 Comments

  1. Hey you Vic;
    Say what you want to say about Armenia and its society. With all your knowledge and sophistication, writing skills you haven’t perfected yourself to address a Nation. It is rude and degrading to address our HOMELAND by saying “Hey Armenia, We need to talk”. Needless to say, “Hey you” is used when someone has forgotten the name of the person he wants to address. Second of all, your title implies a treat; “You listen what I am telling you to do, or ELSE … “. You go and talk to your friends and those of same feather; don’t address my Armenian Homeland in that vulgar style.

    Regards;

    VM

    • Dear Varouj,

      Thank you for your comment. The titles of articles posted to the Armenian Weekly are often not designated by the author of the article. Instead, titles are often left to the copy editors and the editorial board. That was the case for this particular article, and the Weekly’s editorial staff accepts full responsibility for any of the consequences. Titles we choose are often exaggerated for dramatic effect.

      Thanks, and hope that clears things up,

      The Armenian Weekly Editorial Board

    • The tile I submitted to the newspaper was changed by Armenian Weekly. However, I find it interesting that you won’t address the content of my piece, rather criticize the tile, something I did not write. Perhaps you should re-read my article and not take things personally.

  2. It is good to write about contentious issues but I am afraid this article too, like many other LGBT related ones lacks real arguments. It is a bunch of beautiful words and quotes and a desperate attempt to paint an extremely bleak picture of LGBT life in Armenia. Now, I have to admit that I don’t really know any LGBT people in Armenia and I am sure that their life is far from perfect considering the level of homophobia in the country. Nevertheless, Armenia is not Iran or Saudi Arabia and there is no need to exaggerate things. If I am not mistaken the incident with the trans woman is the same one I read about a few months ago on another Armenian website. The offender claims that he was lured to her apartment for sex only to find out that she is not a biological woman. That does not justify the crime but gives it a totally different context. As for Elton John, I saw videos of him and his husband walking in downtown Yerevan, meeting the president and dinning with the PM and his wife.
    No, I a not trying to sweep things under the rug or justify homophobia. But LGBT people really need to stop playing this victim game if they want to solve their problems. The problem is so multilayer. It is directly related to culture, religion, science, human rights and so many other things. First, you need to educate people about who are LGBT people. Then, you need to think about their role in a conservative society where family values are rightly cherished. I doubt the kind of half-naked gay parades that we see in London or NY will work in Yerevan and what is even more important question is do we even need those parades? Do we really want to replace our culture with a Western one and in a few decades start importing people since there are no families left to have children. There are so many questions that need to addressed.

  3. Yeah because promoting LGBT, let a lone shoving it down to younger generations throat, and if you can’t accept it as a norm now a days, you will be called homophobic. Loll, good for Armenia with this “revolution”, brainwashing kids into thinking its OKAY to be gay at a predeveloped mind. Besides harrasment of homosexuality, which occurs in a constant bases all over the world, please explain how its okay for the LGBT now spreading its agenda into different cultures, yet still call everyone a homophobe because they don’t think its wrong to cross dress kids. Why don’t you tackle on that issue you “journalist”

    • Well said. Have you seen an LGBT parade? It is disgusting, not only nudity but sex scenes. Would you let your five year old son let alone your five years old daughter see that. While bashing and violence is wrong for any reason, but provocative behavior is invitation for violence. Let’s first feed our people before thinking of LGBT parades. When people have more than they need, they get confused of their identity and sexuality. We are far away from Sodom and Gomorrah.

  4. The entire Armenian Nation should have one thing in common, corrupt free Armenia, where every Armenian should be able to live happily without discrimination!

  5. Change your rhetoric !!

    The word queer is disgusting, so stop using it….

    I am proud of my Armenian ancestry,
    but ashamed of the racist attitudes of Armenians everywhere.

    Need I remind you that the Armenian people were once considered to be of the black race.

    The fact is, we ,all evolved from the blac k race and many of us ,if not most have Turkish blood running through our veins !!

    Imagine that.

    I am but of one race, and only one.

    It’s called the human race.

  6. Armenia does not have any policies to mistreat LGBT people, so it should not be addressed that way. If you are LGBT in Armenia, you are safe. But if you go around parading your lifestyles and trying to shove it down the throats of our youth, you will have problems, and for good reason. Your lifestyle should be tolerated because it is not your fault you are LGBT, but it should not be celebrated or promoted in Armenian society as well.

    • LGBT lifestyle should not be promoted any more than brown hair should be promoted. People are born gay. They just want to get along without being burned to death, stoned, beaten, or knifed just because they happened to be passing through a cruisy park–all of which happened within the past year.

  7. I question LGBT movement and their intentions.

    We have seen what has become of California, what is happening around the globe and what extreme pretense of so called liberal societies have brought to those very societies that allowed such liberty to run in their veins. Just as democracy is now being used by lesser nations against those host nations.

    Collapse of family values, destruction of identity, destruction of history and past, planting the seed of identity politics and confusion in the minds of young children. Indoctrination, weakness, attempted killing the potential of a proud and strong mind of a growing individual, instilling doubt on every corner on every aspect of ones life. Fear. Eventually open borders, globalism and chaos. The future of such ideologies is clear. It happened to Rome before it collapsed, it happened at the peak of renaissance before its collapse, it happened to the Greeks before their collapse, and it is happening yet again.

    I say you want to be gay, trans, feminist, they, it, be so at your own private space no one would bother you or ask about it. Just don’t ask a nation built by strong proud mothers and sacrificing fathers to embrace an idea that so easily manipulates its way into politics and education that could present the risk of ruining entire generations raised by nature’s intended family structured parenthood. The future today is very clear of those nations who have granted a free card to such ideological movements as these LGBT movements.

    Being gay in Armenia is one thing, being an active member of group identity politics to impose an agenda upon a populace in an attempt whether knowingly or unknowingly to weaken its only fundamental structure that keeps any nation alive with hope and pride in the face of life’s suffering and ever growing challenges is another.

  8. Gays cannot be Armenian. It’s simple, nobody is born gay, and if these people choose to be gay, then they can’t be part of the Armenian culture. Armenian culture simply is not for gays.

  9. LGBT claim they are oppressed minority in Armenia yet they attacked a police station and caused one cop to go to hospital two weeks ago, I’ve never seen an oppressed that goes to police station and beat the cops, they want to destroy our values and nation from within, not justice, that’s why they want to impose their way of life on us, otherwise homosexuals never get beaten or harassed in Armenia if they do what they want without imposing their way of life on other, they did everything to provoke the villagers and anger them in that small town in syunik, they started to make horny noises ,have sex with each other in the middle of the town in front of children, if a group of heterosexuals have done that they would get beaten too.

    • Claim? It’s a fact unless you’re blind and brain damaged or extremely ignorant as you appear to be. What could those cops have done to deserve such retaliation? Are cops without fault, prejudice and always for the people? If you answer yes, then how do you explain the corruption that’s only recently being addressed in Armenia? Your points only showcase your ignorance and lack of common sense. How can you condemn one side without knowing both sides of the story? Just as Armenians are outraged at the Turks for the Genocide, can you imagine in a similar vein, LGBT Armenians being outraged at their own people for scapegoating and beating them when they’re doing nothing but expressing their inborn identity? You’re just repeating the same behaviors and patterns that were enacted on your own people not so long ago. Things don’t just happen without cause or reason. Human beings do not retaliate without first being provoked and if you choose to ignore the culmination of reasons that lead to acting out behaviors and look at only the consequences you will eternally be walking in the shadow of ignorance refusing to see the full spectrum of human behaviors that lead to a particular outcome.

    • No LGBT in our ancestral homeland. George Soros, you’re guilty of spreading Dark culture in the Christian West. It’s a backwards culture to destroy Christian spiritual values, anti family and anti kids. No Soros NGO’s in Armenia. Like what prime minister Orban in Hungary did with Soros NGOs; Soros affiliated NGO’s must be declared anti government and anti people and must be closed for good.

    • There is no degeneracy to import into our beloved homeland. They are already there; born of our Armenian parents, our own blood and in our beloved homeland. So what are you going to do about it? Annihilate, kill and desecrate them, the way the Turks did to us?
      As long as there is mankind on this earth, your so-called ‘degenerates’ will be there and everywhere.
      Think before you speak!

  10. Hi Vic:
    Lovely and important piece.
    Joseph you and the 90% of human beings– heterosexuals — parade your sexuality and shove it in our faces for thousands of years 24/7–if by “parading around” you mean being happy and proud of who you are–what do you call marriage, preferential taxation for married (straight couples) , boys and girls holding hands and kissing in public. If we can tolerate your unfortunate lifestyles then you can tolerate ours. It is always nice to read such unadulterated bigotry–and anyway don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. Meaning the “lifestyle.” By the way no one calls it a “lifestyle” anymore–that went out with Anita Bryant and the KKK–Armenian culture–beautiful and creative in so many ways–also suffers from a historically has a toxic mix of patriarchical tribalism (women who were forced to silence for a year after marriage and routinely abused by their mothers – in – law is one lovely example; religious ignorance and bufoonry (the type that pretends to know what God thinks and whom he hates or loves etc), and Ottoman and Soviet authoritarianism. You should really go hand out with a few conservative gay professors and then some drag queens one night and you might finally understand that homosexuality is neither a culture nor a lifestyle though it encompasses both and much more.
    Any btw I know several LGBTQ poeple in Armenia who were raped and blackmailed routinely by police as young boys as well as others thrown out into the street when famnily found out and viciously attacked and beaten –this from a nation that rants and obsesses about the Genocide 24/7.

  11. I salute you Christopher Atamian as well as Vic who wrote this article. It’s about time someone spoke out. And, as for the title heading of the article goes, ‘hey’ is not a derogatory way of addressing someone, at least not in the English language in which this article was written.

    What religion, what culture, what values? You all talk as though these so-called values are the (menashnorh) prerogative of the Armenian people only? Why do you put yourselves above all other nations? Don’t other nations have values, religious beliefs and their own culture? But this has nothing to do with religion, culture and family values! Why do you sanctify the Armenians as though they are immaculate and have no inborn identities, desires and tendencies – considered for them to be NATURAL? Or, should they have the ‘right’ kind of tendencies, as society expects them to be? Bullshit! Or, do you prefer LGBT people to conform to the straight society by getting married, because the land does not allow them to live their own life, produce children because there aren’t enough people in Armenia, and then go secretly and have encounters with other men?

    No one is shoving down the idea of LGBT into the children’s brains and forcefully converting them into something which they are not! You’d better believe me: if that child is not gay, then no shoving or pushing LGBT ideas will make him/her gay. Similarly, no LGBT man or woman will be suddenly converted into being straight even if the Catholicos himself and all the bishops and archbishops altogether pray on him or her. But beware, you, all ‘normal’ parents: if your son or daughter is born gay, you would not want them to be persecuted, beaten up and treated as outcasts in your own Armenian society. Would you want them to grow up with the fear of being ‘found out’ and then attacked in the streets or, at worse, forced to marry and live an utterly miserable life thus not only destroying their own life, but the life of an innocent woman (or a man) because sooner or later, Nature will win…!

    LGBT has got nothing to with our religion – and the fact that we were the first nation to accept Christianity is neither here nor there. Please don’t make that some sort of a divine justification that applies to Armenians and Armenians only. Before we became the first Christian nation, we were human beings and still are. We are born in different shapes, sizes, colour of skin and, indeed, sexual persuasion.
    Do us all a favour: if you disagree, at least do not condemn and keep your silence because you never know who in your family will be the next LGBT person. What will you do then? Kill and disown that child?

    I love my people and my country as much as the next straight or LGBT person. The love of a straight person towards their country and its people has no premium over that of an LGBT person’s.

    During a recent visit to Yerevan, I noticed so many LGBT people in the streets (yes, we do understand the radar communication) and met some to have a chat with them. Some were too scared to speak in Armenian and they chose to speak in a foreign language. They chose to walk in less crowded streets lest someone overheard our conversation and who knows what would have happened to them if they were found out to be LGBT. If they could, they would leave their country to 1) be able to live their life into which they were born 2) to avoid persecution by society 3) not to shame their families and friends. Is this our Christian love for a nation who boasts to be the first Christian nation? The Christ that I have been taught about does not discriminate on colour, love and, indeed, sexuality. Iam a firm believer in that.

    And who the hell you think you are to condemn those who are different than you?

  12. “Terrified for their safety, all expressed a desire to migrate to freer and more progressive countries.” Dear LGBT people – yes, please DO migrate. You are not welcome in Armenia. I prefer patriarchal tribalism, and am proud of my choice.

    • Sergei Org, you have no right in any form or shape or whatever your patriarchal tribialsim belief stands for, to ban LGBT Armenians from staying in their own country!! With a name such as yours, I wonder who gives you the right to speak that way about Armenians- whatever their colour, gender, belief or sexuality is! Even if you are a born and bred Armenian, as a human being, you have no fucking right to ban anyone from their birthplace. Enough people have left the country and we don’t want the likes of you to dictate who can stay and who can leave. If you don’t like the existence of LGBT people, just coccoon yourself in your own home and live within your own patriarchal tribialistic bubble.

  13. Armenians are afraid to accept the LGBT movement, as watching California and Canada became a place where gender and sexuality is now a “choice.” Countries or areas that started to accept the LGBT movement transformed the dynamic of families in a worse way. People have the right to choose which bathroom to use or even worse, parents could be prosecuted in Canada for forcing their child to be a gender. This was all started by the LGBT movement. As for Gay Armenians being beaten, I’m against that and many other Armenians are, but the LGBT movement is against all our cultural traditions and norms, therefore the movement should not be encouraged

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