I met Ruth during a visit she made to Yerevan in the fall of 2022. Now we meet again in the beginning of 2024, but this time our meeting is online. We speak about our initial meeting in Yerevan. We were hanging out with a mutual friend. You know how it goes. Our mutual friend is fond of the both of us and so she wanted us to meet and become fond of each other as well. So we met. We had an interesting conversation that I felt like could be continued, but there is only so much time during such short visits of friends from abroad. This time I brought another friend who I am fond of and who I wanted to meet Ruth so the circle of mutual friends who are fond of each other grows. You know how it goes. And we got to talking about relationships, friendships, attractions and living abroad.

Lus – I wanted to continue our conversation about the topic of relationships that we started back then when we met. How does one go about building relationships? What is interesting in relationships? Why do we need relationships? I actually have several questions for you. Do you want to answer these questions or would you rather we have a conversation about it or about something else that’s on your mind?

Ruth – Usually I am not very talkative so maybe it’s easier to answer some questions?

Lus – Do you need relationships in general? Any kind of relationships like friendships, connections, etc.?

Ruth – First of all I see relationships as an essential part of any individual existence — human beings cannot survive without them. However, some of us are more or less okay with loneliness, while others would prefer to be among people most of the time, to have many friends, to stay in contact with others. Personally, I am not very social, meaning that I am okay when I am left alone. I am not tired of being alone. At the same time, meaningful relationships are something very precious to me. It’s a complicated topic because since my childhood I never had many friends. I have always had this feeling of being somewhat disconnected from the social environment, maybe because I never went to kindergarten as a child.

Lus – Me neither.

Naka – You didn’t go?

Lus – No.

Naka – I did.

Ruth – I was a home kid. And I have always suspected that other kids were gathering together, being in each other’s company, and I was at home mostly reading, doing something on my own. I am more used to that, that’s what I am trying to say. I am not very demanding in terms of friends. I am not very fond of social events or noisy parties, although I like certain kinds of parties a lot (laughs). It’s strange. But as I already said, I am not very sociable, at the same time I value close time-tested relationships very much. 

I probably have to add that it wasn’t like this before, when I lived in Almaty, in Kazakhstan. It was a bit strange because I felt that a lot of people were expressing interest in contacting me, in becoming acquainted. Maybe they saw me as something unusual and they wanted to get to know me better. Some kind of curiosity. 

Lus – Their curiosity?

Ruth – Their curiosity, yes, which I don’t like much. Because I can feel that people often see me as something curious, something that they would like to quickly familiarize themselves with. And then they ask questions like: How do you identify? How did you discover that you are trans? When did you come out? What did your parents say? All kinds of stuff. Who do you like more — men or women? This is what I mean by ‘curiosity’. I still don’t have many friends and I don’t think that many people are ready to be close friends with me anyways. 

Lus – What do you mean? 

Ruth – I mean that we all like to be friends with people like us, with someone who is similar to us. Normally none of us observe many people around who we could potentially be close with. In Almaty I was sure I would scare people. And if there was an interest, it was an interest on a very superficial level. I rarely meet anyone who would be ready to go out with me, show up in public places as my companion, introduce me to their circles, or otherwise openly befriend a poorly-passing trans woman like myself.

Naka – But do you feel this way now, after you left Kazakhstan?  

Ruth – It may not be as pronounced here in Europe, but it is still very present. I had many chances to observe that among straight men there is a sharp interest towards trans women when it comes to a one-night stand. A sexual interest which never extends to openly accepting me as their girlfriend, for instance. This can also be the case among friends, to a lower degree. Many are happy to meet me occasionally at parties, to have nice small talks and to count me among their social milieu, but it’s not something that would connect us in any meaningful way. But there must be nothing wrong with that. I think it’s always difficult to be friends with somebody who differs from us significantly. Most of the trans girls I knew had their small community of other trans girls, they stick together and there is a reason for that. For us it can be tricky to build a close relationship with cis people.

Lus – Is there some element of queering in this? You were saying that there are people who maybe are okay to be acquainted with you but they are not ready to be like you. Do you mean that they are not ready to queer things?

Ruth – Yes, that’s what I mean. Getting close to a queer makes you queer as well. But I don’t know how to answer — some people are ready for that, some are not. I believe everybody is queer, it’s just a matter of how ready you are to accept your own queerness. 

I can say that there are very few people with whom I am close. These are people that I consider my family: my partner, her daughter, my younger brother, and some of their own loved ones. Everything I could accomplish and everything that I am now is due to those supportive relationships. It’s crucial for me to have them really close so that I could have the strength to come out and to go on, to do things despite overall hostility, and to have courage. Alone I wouldn’t be able to do what I did (what I did though?). 

Lus – What attracts you to people? What do you gravitate towards in people? 

Ruth – I am attracted to those whom I see similar to myself (laughs). I like different things in people. I can not make a generalization here. Sometimes you can have an interesting conversation. And sometimes you try, but cannot make a conversation interesting. Sometimes it just seems like too much effort to stay honest, to pose relevant questions, to talk about things that really mean something instead of having small talks. But maybe it’s not only that. Maybe it’s something else — like ‘chemistry’, or ‘vibing’, or ‘a spark between us’, I don’t know. 

Lus – Do you gravitate towards beautiful people, for example?

Naka  – You mean physically? 

Me – Yes, I mean physically.

Ruth – Yeah, absolutely! I am very attracted to physically beautiful people, although I never show it. And I am also very attracted to people who appear smart or who are not afraid of anything. I usually say: “Wow! She is so brave, she is so beautiful, she is so educated, she speaks 5 languages, she wrote 3 books already…”. But it’s mostly like an enchantment that can go away. Because especially when you are attracted to physical features, it can slowly disappear and you can find yourself not attracted anymore. It’s rare when this enchantment stays and you keep staying attracted for a long period. 

And sometimes you can intuitively find a distance that is optimal between the two of you. You keep a person close but not too close, so that it is satisfactory for both. It’s like with friends. You may feel physical attraction, but still don’t act on that, because you decide that a friendship without a sexual component is worth more, or just less complicated. Such distance keeping is a kind of a skill that we need to somehow learn in order to keep relations smooth and avoid both being too dispassionate and falling in love too easily.

Naka – Why should there be distance when you are in love? You have to merge when you are in love. Kill each other (laughs).

Ruth – Maybe I am not that kind of person. I don’t know. Maybe I am just not a risk taker. I don’t like risks. I like to be on the safe side. Actually, I am particularly not good at relationships, that’s why that distance keeping may be a kind of a defense mechanism for me. I am trying to protect myself. 

Naka – When I am hearing you speaking about distances I am seeing it as very poetic. It’s also very attractive because it’s almost like you leave room for this gravity, for play, for teasing. This distance to me is not about “you are there and I am here and we are not touching each other”. No. You are talking about a kind of distance when connected, which is very sexy. What I was trying to ask is “how do you do that?” because my understanding is to go deep down, dive and merge into each other. In other words, when you say distance, what do you mean by that?  For me, it’s something new. And it’s very interesting. When you speak about it I am thinking: “Oh, it’s possible!”. And it’s attractive for me to try. 

Ruth – For me, it’s kind of natural and easier to have this. I think I might not seem very approachable to others, as if one needs to make an effort to get close to me. Can be. Although I don’t feel that, in my own eyes I’m quite uncomplicated and easy going. What I am trying to say is that since my childhood I have preferred to have those distances and I learned to manage those distances because I knew that too much proximity can hurt. Too much devotedness can hurt. It’s also because I am about fifty now and I feel that when you are younger it’s easier and maybe it’s more important to have many friends, to have a lot of attractions and to make mistakes, to get close to people you should actually avoid, to have this experience of being rejected, the experience of undemanded love. But now in this period of life when I mostly broke up with the circles of friends that I was part of in Almaty and I am now here in some other country, being quite isolated because I don’t speak Austrian or whatever language they have here. So you see, it’s also a matter of language skills which become unattainable at my age. 

In terms of relationships it’s a very strange situation for me: I know a lot of people from different countries and many of those people are really attractive to me, but I rarely meet them. People like you Lusine, like Zara. So I have friends, but I don’t see them, I don’t talk to them and I basically live alone. And I do not suffer from this loneliness because I’ve always been like that. 

Lus – Do you have a feeling that you can reach out to these friends that live abroad if you need them?

Ruth – Not really. On the one hand, yes, but in general I have this very deep feeling that at the end of the day you are always alone. When you are facing a kind of a real problem you cannot count on anyone, no matter if you have many friends or not. You are left to your own devices when you have serious problems. Always. Like, existential problems. When it comes to your very existence, you cannot count on anyone. People will support you in small things, but they can’t support you in essential things. 

Lus – What are those?

Ruth – I don’t know. It’s just a strange feeling. It’s like when your existence is under threat. If you are facing something like an illness, poverty, homelessness, something like not being able to pay your rent, for example. Something really important. Or when you are losing someone you love. And a problem that is shared is not that much of a problem (laughs).

Naka – Yes. No one can be in your body. It’s happening to you. For me, it’s like if I am going through something difficult and no one is there, I am still going to be alone. But if someone is there, somehow the heaviness is easier to deal with. It’s easier to breathe. 

Ruth – Yeah. I am still learning that. It’s not easy for me to ask for support. It’s true that if somebody is on your side in a difficult time it makes a huge difference. But still, for me, it’s kind of awkward to ask other people to help me or to carry some of the weight that I have to carry… I don’t know. I think that this is something I still have to learn: how to do difficult things together, how to be ready to help other people and at the same time to be ready to ask for help. This is something that I would like to practice more. It must be something like practicing communication (laughs). I am not good at that. Really. I know that some people can get a lot of energy from it, but I usually have a feeling that I have just spent my energy and then I have to replenish, recover, to have the time for myself. 

Naka – Have you ever had an interaction where you felt replenished from it so much that you didn’t need to rest after? 

Ruth – I think yes. At least I know that it can be like that. I think that from time to time I get to have such experiences — interactions that do not drain energy but in contrast, inspire.  Sometimes my attempts to socialize indeed result in this wonderful feeling that I am restored and full of energy. But it’s a rare thing. Usually I just find myself trying to communicate nicely and properly, to be a proper social person, which requires little effort and doesn’t pay back much.

Lus – I have more questions that I prepared for today’s meeting, but I sense that you might be tired. Maybe we can continue another time?

Ruth – Yes, let’s have another call soon and then we can continue.

Apr 12, 2024 Armenia Yerevan

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