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The Right Side Human Rights Defender NGO initiated this series of interviews with the aim of valuing Trans and LGBIQ activists, sharing their stories, raising awareness of cases of violence, and highlighting the current issues in Armenia. Our first interlocutor, who chose to remain anonymous, is a 21-year-old trans person who studies at Yerevan State Medical University after Mkhitar Heratsi and, witnessing the limited access to medical services for trans people in Armenia and the lack of specialists, aims to specialize in endocrinology.
What is your relationship with your family members?
My father died when I was two years old, I live with my mother. Certain changes in my behavior were noticeable even from a young age, and there came an age when I realized that I can’t just live like this and told my mother straight away the whole situation, about my gender identity. Of course, it was a bit difficult in the beginning, but now she accepts me the way I am. In general, my relatives and I rarely communicate, and as far as I know, it is mostly related to my orientation. I keep in touch only with my sisters, I am very close to them.
What is the difference between members of the LGBTIQ community living in Yerevan and the regions?
Hrazdan is a small town, people are noticeable and know each other by face. It is natural that every time they see me they are not indifferent, they are interested. At one point, that interest turns into discrimination and violence. And there were fewer cases in Yerevan, the main difference is that there is relatively little discrimination in Yerevan.
Where do you study? What education did you receive?
I had quite good progress in school, and I was considered a kind of educational standard. Discrimination became more noticeable in the last years, because most of our class were boys, and they constantly singled me out, and I self-harmed and it was publicized at school. When I was young, the children of our class, together with the children of other classes, were waiting for me to come out of the class so that they would hit and beat me. And every time I turned to my class teacher, I got a negative answer. I had two close girlfriends, and my teacher convinced and encouraged them and the other girls not to communicate with me so that I could integrate into the circle of boys.
Now I am studying at a Medical University and from the very first day I realized that people are completely different here, they are indifferent to me, and in some cases, they even treat me positively. The same with the teaching staff, I went to class with piercings, and they always told me that I am very beautiful.
Were you able to find a job in your profession?
In the beginning, I worked as a sex worker, but later I worked as a consultant in a body care store, at first I was very scared, but the director was quite adequate, he even gifted me earrings for Christmas. But now the shop is closed and I am not working. Trans people, if we compare them with other LGBIQ people, are more visible, other people can work and hide their gender identity, and sexual orientation and avoid problems.
Have you ever been subjected to violence?
The biggest incident of violence, which was a turning point for me, happened on June 24 last year. In Hrazdan, a group of teenagers attacked me with sticks, clubs, and knives, and surrounded me from all sides. I don’t know what heavenly power was at that moment that I saw a kindergarten, went in, and asked for help. The police did not respond at all, I waited for more than an hour for the police to arrive, they did not arrive, I went to the police. The application was not processed, because my complaint was mainly against one of those participants, who was their leader. But since he was not yet 16 years old, and despite the fact that he was already registered for various crimes, he was not subjected to any legal responsibility. After that, I have been visiting a psychologist for a year.
The other incident happened on August 13, 2020. I worked as a sex worker in Yerevan for some time, and I met with a man in his car. It all started when he asked me for my phone to call his friend, and then he just pulled out a knife and threatened to hurt me if I didn’t give him the phone. Regarding the case, I applied to the Arabkir Police Department, and the attitude of the investigator was disgraceful: there was no psychological support, no empathy, no help, and even somewhere he was protecting that man. I even wanted to change the investigator, but I was not given that opportunity. And so the case was closed.
As a future doctor, what do you think, are the necessary medical services provided for trans people in Armenia?
First of all, for me, as a future doctor, it is important the way the patient presents themselves, representatives of the LGBTIQ community should know where they are going, how they should present themselves, and what problems may arise. Regarding the reforms, I would say that doctors should definitely undergo training on communicating with LGBTIQ people. I don’t go to the doctor quite often, but recently I went to our local polyclinic, I was treated very terribly, that even after listing the symptoms, the doctor says some diseases, without tests, or analysis, based on stereotypes due to my gender identity. And there is a concept of medical deontology, that is, attitude, and communication with the patient, and that all was missing in them. One of the doctors even wanted to prescribe me male hormone medication, considering that I have a deviation. And that is of course still a narrow part of the problem. There is a problem with the lack of a specific specialist in Armenia because when an endocrinologist is trained and becomes a doctor, his education does not include the transformation of trans persons, hormone therapy, or the specifics of working with the LGBTIQ community. Therefore, if the educational part is included in university education, it seems to me that the issue will be resolved quickly. In the current situation, besides that, one of the biggest problems is the lack of medication, some kind of contraceptives for women or menstrual cycle-regulating medicines are used by trans people as hormone therapy, which is simply absurd, especially since specific dosages are also not defined for each one individually. I want to stay in Armenia, of course, and from time to time go abroad for training, but I want to become an endocrinologist in the future, and I think that there is a great need for that specialist in Armenia.
Jun 26, 2023 Armenia, Yerevan