The Right Side Human Rights Defender NGO initiated this series of interviews to value Trans and LGBIQ activists, sharing their stories, raising awareness of cases of violence, and highlighting the current issues in Armenia. This time, our interlocutor is a 21-year-old LGBTIQ activist who shares what problems he faced in educational institutions, during military service, and in the family and mentions what changes he would like to see in RA laws that can improve the lives of LGBTIQ people and sex workers.

What kind of relationship do you have with family members?

I have a very good relationship with my mother, I also have a good relationship with my sister and younger brother, they know about me. We don’t talk about it with my mother, but it seems to me that she understands. I only exchange “hello-goodbye” with my dad, if we meet, even though we live in the same house.

Tell us about your school years, were they aware of your sexual orientation at school?

They didn’t know about my sexual orientation at school, but years after I graduated, I found out that 70 percent of my classmates were either lesbian, gay, or bisexual, even one person was trans, it was a bit of a shock to me, because in those years we didn’t talk about it, those who knew about each other, they talked about it secretly. We didn’t talk because we were afraid of a bad reaction, especially because there was an emo boy in our class, and the teacher of Armenian church history said that it was a disease, he needed to be treated, and when I defended him, the teacher also told me that I am also sick, I am perverse. There was a Jehovah’s Witness in the class, and they treated him very badly. It was clear that if someone’s sexual orientation was known, they would be targeted much more, so everyone in our class kept it a secret, but there was one student at school who openly talked about his orientation, and he was treated terribly.

Have you received a higher education, if not, what is the reason why you did not enter the university?

I studied in college and graduated, but every day there were fights, if one of the boys was gentler, they were hurt a lot. In college, I started to get complex about my voice, I started smoking, drinking, and my voice changed. Before that, I sang in the church choir, and my voice was very thin. In college, when I was answering a lesson, they made fun of me, and I started not even answering the lessons, when they called me, I would say “I didn’t study”. I stopped singing, I tried to never hear my voice recorded, if I suddenly heard it, I would become hysterical. Now all that has passed a little, because I worked on myself for a long time. I did not apply to the university because I thought that the same thing would continue in the university, the same fights. 

Have you ever experienced discrimination in medical facilities?

No, I didn’t go there and say I’m bisexual so I was not discriminated against or rejected, but there were times when I went with my friends because they didn’t want to go alone, and I witnessed terrible discrimination, especially towards trans people, they didn’t even examine them, they gave unreasonable reasons, for example, there was a female doctor who said: I will not examine you because I do not understand if you are a boy man or a woman girl, I don’t know what to open and look.

Have you been discharged from military service due to your sexual orientation?

I was released, but before that, I had done military service, I went to “Patani Erkapah” camp of ECM together with the college, and when I turned 18, I signed up as a volunteer for the RA volunteering organization, and I did military service for 6 months. The attitude towards me was good, although some people still made fun of me, and I was still getting complex because of my voice. Then, when I already went to the military commissariats for the army, they treated me normally, only at the end, when I went to the head of the commissariat, who had to sign the deferment paper, it turned out that he was my military education teacher. And he said, “You are making it up, lying that you are an LGBT person so that you don’t go to the army”. When I went to the military commissariat for the first time at the age of 18, the reason for my release was written nervous problems, and after the law was changed, when I went the second time, they wrote irritability.

Have you been subjected to domestic violence: psychological, physical, sexual, or economic?

I was subjected to violence many times by my father, my uncles, my cousin, my grandmother. One of the most serious cases was when I was 14 years old, they once sent me to the store, while crossing the street, a car hit me, threw me aside, and at that moment one of my classmates, who was there, called my class teacher, and my teacher called our house. When I came back home, my dad and my cousin attacked me, shouting about why I get hit and so on. And dad tried to hit me, and I hit him back. And it was very terrible for me, because I was still in pain from the accident, and they attacked me instead of taking care of me. And there have been a lot of similar fights and psychological pressures, one of my uncles was a drug addict and very often used to inject in our house right in front of my eyes. My other uncle is from the circle of thieves by law, he has mental disorders, and he and his son live with us, the son also has a mental problem – schizophrenia. They are not aware that I am an LGBT person, but they know that I am friends with LGBT people. Once I posted a story with trans people and titled it “My angels”, and one of our relatives saw it and showed it to my father, he called me and said, “I’m coming to slaughter you.”

How safe is Armenia for sex workers?

I did sex work, but for a very short time, and I was not discriminated against or abused during that time. From a general safety point of view, I think the conditions for gays are relatively bad, and if it’s known, it’s a big shame, even if heteronormative men do sex work with women, they’re still stigmatized, and gays face much more stigma. In the case of trans people, there is a lot of violence, in the case of cis women, they are fined, and taken to police stations, where the police treat them very badly, especially if they work on the street. I think that if sex work is legalized, they will pay taxes and their old age will be more secure, they will have insurance, they will have a pension. It would also be good if there was a separate clause in the anti-discrimination law for both LGBT people and sex workers.

Read Also, A Series of Interviews with LGBTQ People Part 1

August 2, 2023 Armenia, Yerevan

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