It’s rare to meet fellow Armenians, let alone fellow Queer Armenians (I call us Quarmos). Although I’m proud of my culture and sexual orientation, it’s been a journey learning to intersect the two identities and get to a place of embracing both unapologetically. It’s difficult growing up trying to navigate and understand who you are when you feel like you don’t fit in with either group.
Growing up going to everyday Armenian school, I was made fun of for being feminine. The first time someone called me gay, I was in the first grade. I had no idea what it meant, but from the derogatory tone it was said in, it sounded ‘bad’ and carried so much shame with it. Even outside of school, at Armenian functions, to this day, I notice people staring and from the look on their faces, I know what they’re thinking.
After a lifetime of excitement, learning, and seeing pictures, I finally got to visit the motherland two years ago. Oddly enough, out of all of the countries I’ve traveled to, I felt the most uncomfortable and unsafe in Armenia. In broad daylight, I was followed. I had people take nonconsensual photos and videos of me on their phones. Strangers came up to my face, clicking their tongues and grilling me with their eyes. People said rude things as I walked by, believing that I didn’t speak our language. Everyone stared — aggressively or humorously, pointing while laughing with friends. Usually, this kind of stuff doesn’t bother me, but being in my homeland hit me hard. They didn’t see me as one of them. They didn’t even see me as a human, because I’m different in their eyes. I came back from Armenia angry at our people and feeling less proud to be Armenian. I can’t imagine the struggles our LGBTQ+ community living in Armenia faces every day.
For me, there is something incredibly powerful in living my truth—out, proud and Armenian.
All this being said, I don’t allow these experiences to dim my shine. Although coming out is different for each individual, for me, there is something incredibly powerful in living my truth—out, proud and Armenian—being able to express myself, live proudly, and break the barriers of shame that coexist in both identities. I don’t think it’s fair to generalize all Armenians as homophobic. However, homophobia is very prevalent within our community. I know many people who have experienced homophobia and have decided to distance themselves from the community. Fortunately, for me, the Armenians I surround myself with are open-minded and hearted and do not have any issues with my sexuality.
Does the community have heavy learning and accepting to do? Absolutely. We all do, to varying degrees. Growth never ceases and we can continue to learn through dialogues just like this. At the end of the day, regardless of what language we speak, our ethnic origins, religious beliefs, the colours of our skin, or our sexual orientations and identities, we are all human and aspire to live the same fulfilling life. We must allow the voices of Armenians, whose identities intersect in many ways, a platform to share a glimpse of our stories.