The “Right Side” Human Rights Defender NGO organized the seventh Trans camp for Transgender LGBIQ activists, their allies and parents.

The aim of the training was to foster the capacity building of the Transgender community, to improve the level of involvement of the transgender community in the socio-cultural and civic life, to promote their safety both in the family and in society, and to raise the level of awareness of transgender people by providing them new knowledge that will improve their prosperous and secure life.

During the camp the following topics were discussed:

  • Human rights and fundamental freedoms;
  • Stigma and discrimination against transgender sex workers;
  • The situation of transgender people in Armenia;
  • Hate crimes and hate speech;
  • Creating a safe and secure environment in the family;
  • Mechanisms for protecting the interests of family members;
  • Legal gaps in hormone therapy and gender reassignment in the Republic of Armenia;
  • The situation of trans activism in the Republic of Armenia;
  • The situation of sex workers in Armenia.

On the first day of the camp, Lilit Martirosyan, President of the “Right Side” Human Rights Defender NGO, made an opening speech, presenting the organization’s mission, goals and objectives, current projects and services. She thanked all the participants for their interest to the camp, then added that “education is very important for us to build a prosperous and secure future for all of us together. By gaining new knowledge we will be able to break all the stereotypes about TRANS LGBIQ people in the society. Yes, we are discriminated against in schools, universities, all the places where we can get knowledge, but we must continue to fight; meetings in such a format give us enough knowledge to protect us and other representatives of our community.”

During the first day of the training, the topics of sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression were touched upon, which were new and interesting for all the participants. L. Martirosyan presented all the wrong stereotypes about Trans LGBIQ people, the differences between sexual orientation and gender identity, the unsuccessful experiments in the treatment of homosexuality. The trainer then talked about how to use and introduce the right terms concerning to LGBTIQ people to the public, which are often misused in the media field, targeting and discriminating against Trans LGBIQ people and sex workers. A separate reference was made to gender identity and self-expression.

At the end of the day, the course was continued by Transgender activist Maria Atabekyan, a student at the Yerevan State Medical University, who told the participants about the difficulties she went through at the university based on her gender identity, but continued her education to help the members of the community who did not have access to education due to the continuous discrimination. “This course is very important for all the transgender sex workers because the community members live alone, abandoned by their family, relatives, and do sex work on the streets. Too often, medical institutions do not serve them and discriminate on the basis of their gender identity, that is why it is necessary to have the knowledge of first aid to help and why not to save one another”, added M. Atabekyan. The trainer gave the participants detailed knowledge about first aid, how to provide immediate assistance in case of accidents, injuries, sudden illnesses before the arrival of the medical staff, transfer of the patient to the medical institution. “Any emergency situation is a great stress in itself. We must be able to be oriented correctly, not to panic. Due to the state of emergency, people often lose their self-control and may become inadequate. This can lead to disruptive first aid, often due to the lack of knowledge, fear of making a mistake, mistrust, uncertainty, the nature of the victim’s injury, and so on. Disruptive circumstances can be eliminated if the person is prepared and has relevant information. In any emergency situation, certain steps must be taken, which will contribute to the improvement of the injured person’s condition and will prevent further dangers,” said Maria. During the training, the trainer showed through practical examples how to help the injured person and bring them to a conscious state, provide psychological help, how to perform artificial respiration, heart massage, how to prevent bleeding, etc. At the end of the training, the participants thanked M. Atabekyan for the detailed knowledge which they did not receive at school and they highlighted the role of information in their lives.

During the second day the honorary guests of the Trans camp were Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the Republic of Armenia Nico Schermers and an employee of the Embassy. Lilit Martirosyan thanked the honorable Ambassador for accepting the invitation, for being present and listening to the needs of the Trans LGBIQ community and sex workers in Armenia, noting that it was a great honor for the community to have the opportunity to talk to the Ambassador about their needs. Ambassador Nico Schermers thanked for the invitation, then added that he was very happy to be in the Camp and hear about the needs of the participants, as well as he added that through joint efforts Trans LGBIQ people and their parents would feel stronger and protected in Armenia.

After the speech of the Honorable Ambassador, a panel discussion with the topic of “The Parents of TRANS LGBIQ People Speak” started, in which the parents of LGBTIQ people from different regions of Armenia and from Yerevan participated. During the discussion, parents told personal stories, shared about difficult relationships with their children, talked about how they could involve parents who, lacking sufficient knowledge, continued to discriminate against their children and even kick them out of the house for fear of negative reactions from relatives and neighbors. The parents expressed readiness to organize informational meetings with LGBTIQ people and their parents in the safe space of the ​​”Right Side” NGO to educate them and involve them in various educational and social events that would reduce violence and stigma in families. The participants asked questions to the parents, received exhaustive answers, then some of the participants hugged their parents by getting warmth and a positive energy.

The next panel discussion was dedicated to sex workers. This type of discussion has been taking place within the framework of the Trans camps for six years already. The sex workers spoke about the growing violence in Armenia, stigma and discrimination by the society, as well as the lack of laws.

The sex workers shared their personal stories, noting the difficulties they had encountered while doing sex work. “Sex work in Armenia is considered illegal, sex workers are regularly fined by the police, they are not accepted and receive a negative attitude by the society, transgender people and sex workers are not provided with other jobs in the RA, they are discriminated against, ridiculed and humiliated at every step. I have to do sex work to buy hormonal medicines, to pay my flat rent and just to live,” said one of the transgender sex worker participants during the discussion. The discussion was very emotional, based on personal stories.

After the panel discussions, the participants watched the short film “My Right is Also Important”, having a heated discussion about the issue presented in the film. Then, summing up the panel discussions, L. Martirosyan gave the floor to the Honorable Ambassador Niko Schermers to express his impressions, then all the participants were given the opportunity to ask their questions to the Honorable Ambassador. Ambassador Nico Schermers noted that it was very important that all the members of the community were aware of their rights to participate in the process of building a democratic and equal state. The participants thanked the Ambassador with the expectation of meeting again.

It should be noted that the camp was unique in that Yelena Konovalenko, a Ukrainian endocrinologist-nutritionist, was invited to conduct a course on hormone therapy. Yelena explained to the participants in detail the international experience of hormone therapy, gave new knowledge to all the transsexual people who were undergoing hormone therapy or were about to start. For the first time, the participants gained sufficient knowledge about their health, gained information that would help them to take the right hormonal medication in the future, be under the supervision of a doctor, regularly undergo appropriate laboratory tests and follow their health. The trainer answered a number of important questions of the participants, and the participants thanked the doctor for the new knowledge and information that was not available to them, then Yelena Konovalenko expressed a desire to stand by the side of the participants who needed her help.

On the third day of the camp L. Martirosyan conducted a course on “Leadership”, during which they spoke about advocacy, methods of conducting advocacy and organizing campaigns. The trainer presented how to involve community initiatives, professionals and other groups in advocacy processes.

It was also talked about the life of famous leaders, their activities, how they had changed the life of an entire society, nation, humanity for the better with their words and actions. At the end of the course L. Martirosyan instructed to be divided into groups, to do practical work on the previous topics, the participants, presenting the works they had prepared, reinforced the knowledge they had received.

Then, all the participants presented individual stories, which would later be included in the book “TRANSGENDER People Talk about their Lives”.

At the end of the training, the participants thanked the entire RS HRD NGO team and funding organizations for the opportunity of being provided with new knowledge that was not available due to discrimination in schools or universities, they added that such camps played a very important role in their lives and that they would like it to be continuous.

The official closing of the camp was implemented by L. Martirosyan who thanked all the participants for their participation in the educational initiative taking with them new knowledge that would help them throughout their lives. Then all the participants received certificates of participation and letters of gratitude.

Quotes by the participants:

“This is my first time participating in such an event. I had no idea where I was going to participate, I was scared. Now, I can say that you have given me so much new knowledge, I have made so many new friends that I cannot find words, thank you for your existence, for your NGO’s existence.”

“This is my first time participating in the camp, I have always avoided being photographed and making my face public, but now I can freely say that you introduce me with an open face, I’m not afraid of anything else.”

“You gave me a lot of knowledge, Lilit. I never thought I was born the way I was; I always blamed my parents. But now I’ll go and apologize.”

“You have given me new opportunities to make my life better, for which I am grateful.”

“The topics of sexual orientation and gender identity have revealed to me to know who I am. You have given me things I have not got from anywhere.”

“Please, involve me in the next camp again, give me the opportunity to participate in the camp, it has played a very important role in my life.”

For almost seven years now, the Trans Camp has provided and continues to provide TRANSGENDER LGBIQ people, their PARENTS and ALLIES new knowledge and achievements, it has created links of solidarity between TRANS LGBIQ people and their parents by strengthening the bonds between children and parents, creating healthy, strong and safe family relationships.

Hundreds of Transgender LGBIQ people continue to gain new knowledge on human rights, security, self-care, self-defense, leadership, advocacy, self-awareness, hormone therapy, full exercise of rights, rights protection in the judiciary and police systems, on a number of other topics.

Apr 26, 2021 Armenia Yerevan


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