A few days ago, the “Half Open Windows” program broadcasted by ATV has led to the clash of contrasting attitudes and approaches towards LGBT people in Armenia, which is still going on in social networks taking unacceptable forms as always.
Let us remind that the hero of the program, a citizen of Dalarik village, who does not hide his homosexuality, has raised a number of questions regarding the state of LGBT people rights in Armenia, including the issue of the right to work. Speakers and experts in the auditorium were discussing these issues, often deviating from the main problem and taking the discussion into another dimension, which was especially promoted by the ones introduced as a psychologist and sexologist.
What did psychologist Mariam Mehrabyan and sexologist Vrezh Shahramanyan say, complementing and mutually supporting each other? What was the connection between their thoughts expressed, and what was their motive? In this article, we will try to answer these questions. From the very beginning and throughout the program, Mehrabyan and Shahramanyan were positioned so as if the TV station is a doctor or psychologist’s office, where they have a “patient” and, through anamnesis, collect the history of the disease, and they not only did not hide this, but also took the hint about that in their speech.
“Haven’t you ever tried to work on you, to change, as you say, bright colored clothes in order to get a job, a bit more, so to say, come out of that bright image if it really is the only reason?”,– Vrezh Shahramanyan.
“Is your orientation a problem for you, do you feel bad of having such an orientation?”, -Mariam Mehrabyan.
“Yes, Edgar, it’s not easy for a parent to notice such a problem and to live with it. Would you shortly describe where Edgar’s father is?”, -Mariam Mehrabyan.
“Who was constantly in contact with him, who brought him up?”, – Vrezh Shahramanyan.
“What did Edgar play with? Everything starts from here. You have heard about intrauterine life, let’s pass to early childhood stage. Let’s understand how Edgar’s socialization went on”, – Mariam Mehrabyan.
“At small age has he communicated with the representatives of the opposite sex – grandfather, uncle?”, – Vrezh Shahramanyan.
To identify and prevent this problem… By the way, all the questions are aimed at prevention of the problem in the society… Edgar, the problem also depends on the place the baby sleeps. Please, tell me how Edgar’s childhood passed at that stage – together with grandmother? We didn’t know so much about Edgar’s problem at first, but see how the problem begins to develop from the early childhood. Now as a call to society – how to prevent the development of such phenomena in a child…”, – Mariam Mehrabyan.
“Do you want to get rid of anything that hinders you from living fully?”, – Mariam Mehrabyan.
“Actually, Mariam wanted to ask our hero whether this lifestyle, this state disturbs him and whether he wants to get rid of it”, – Vrezh Shahramanyan.
“Edgar, do you want to get rid of anything that bothers you? I will ask the question from the following side: I often hear from such persons that they do not want to live like that, but they cannot otherwise. Have you ever tried to use your own willpower in order to change your orientation? You think it is impossible, because you do not want. You don’t have a desire, I understood”, – Mariam Mehrabyan.
“It’s our problem: we either help or don’t help, we are silent, we are isolated. The psychologist was asking questions, trying to figure out where it all began and where it was taken. Our task is trying to be useful. The usefulness is as follows, we continue the question of the psychologist, over the past 25 years, has there been a desire to change all that? Have you ever tried to change? ”, – Vrezh Shahramanyan.
“It is possible [to cure], if there is a desire”, – Mariam Mehrabyan.
“Has there been a desire to change the behavior, have you had a wish inside or have you tried to contact a specialist to change that all? ”, – Vrezh Shahramanyan.
“You have developed your willpower for self-expression… They say that there are two types: the ones who want to live like that and, on the other hand, the ones who really consider it their illness. Which type do you belong? Do you consider it to be illness or do you want to live like that?”, – Mariam Mehrabyan.
Here it was repeatedly talked about helping, the impossibility of treating, and for a moment, all became 22th century sexologists. First, homosexuality has two variants if it is about changing, treating, and helping. If the person has inner desire to change the situation, he/she applies to a specialist. It’s an hour, me and Mariam are trying to reveal these issues so that we understand whether we are able to help that person, and if he wants, there is an inner critical attitude toward his lifestyle, and he asks for help, in that case it’s considered that…This situation is assessed as an illness, and we are trying to be useful. Yes, it is ego-dystonic homosexuality, please do not interrupt. And the other case, when we are dealing with the situation when he/she is already put up with it, when he/she is molded with that character and is already living in that lifestyle, a question raises – what to heal?”, – Vrezh Shahramanyan.
“Please face your inner wish, the problem, and for the sake of your mother and your future, say, is it possible to raise that inner desire so high, that we could be useful, so that you change your life.? Turn to it!”, – Mariam Mehrabyan.
“We, me and Mariam, wanted to understand it during this time, lead to this – can we be useful for you or not? This is the whole matter”, – Vrezh Shahramanyan.
It’s obvious from Shahramanyan and Mehrabyan’s words what positions they have and what they want to say. If we are to summarize, they say that if a person wants, if he/she has an inner motivation and aspiration, he/she can apply to professionals (they mean theirselves) and be healed. It should be noted that, unlike Mehrabyan, who clearly says what she means by saying “to heal” (to change sexual orientation), Shahramanyan is cunning enough not to specify, and though he actually supports the ideas voiced by Mehrabyan, nevertheless, he leaves a space for maintaining his professional inviolability through pun. That is to say, in the eyes of the viewer, who is unaware of the nuances of medical science, Shahramanyan defends the ignorant thoughts voiced by Mehrabyan, contributing to the dissemination of false imaginations, that sexual orientation can be cured, but, at the same time, he does not clarify what he means by saying “to cure” the ego-dystonic homosexuality and what is being healed in that case? So he is trying to deprive us of the opportunity to criticize him in the professional realm. So he speaks on both sides, but, of course, more emphasizing the one.
Then, what is ego-dystonic homosexuality, about which Shahramanyan spoke, and to what do Armenian specialists cling when they want both to share the majority’s opinion and not to lose their professional image.
According to the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Diseases (Revision 10), the ego-dystonic orientation, as Shahramanyan himself likes to say – a person does not choose his sexual orientation, is defined as follows “Sexual affiliation and sexual orientation (heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, prepubertal) does not cause doubts, however, because of associated psychological and behavioral disorders, a person may want to change it and seek treatment”.
Under F66 subparagraph “Sexual Development and Orientation Psychological and Behavioral Disorders” of Chapter V (Mental and Behavioral Disorders), there is a very important annotation which is of a very importance in interpreting the description of the ego-dystonic sexual orientation.
In the annotation, it is stated: “Sexual orientation is not viewed as a disorder”.
Thus, ego-dystonic sexual orientation is a psychological disorder, when a person has a clear and insurmountable desire to change his/her sexual orientation no matter what the orientation is – homosexual, heterosexual, bisexual or prepubertal.
He/she wants to change “because of associated psychological and behavioral disorders”. Taking into account the above-mentioned annotation, in this case, sexual orientation is not a mental disorder, but the consequences that have emerged as a result of the wish to change it. So, if a person with a mental disorder applies for a medical intervention, specialists should not try to change sexual orientation, but should try to help a person to overcome internal conflicts and its consequences, in other words, to admit their sexual orientation. Local and international organizations of psychiatrists have repeatedly urged professionals to do just like that, calling on them to abstain from actions aimed at changing person’s sexual orientation.
In heteronormative societies, it is difficult to imagine that a person with a heterogeneous orientation can have an ego-dystonic mental disorder and, hence, have an internal motivation to change his orientation, for example to homosexual person. That is why when talking about this disorder, homosexuals and the ones desiring to change this orientation is meant.
However, if we consider that homosexual orientation can be changed by medical intervention, it may also be considered that the orientation of a heterogeneous person can also be changed. This is an idea that most representatives of the heterogeneous society would not like, but in some countries, laws against homosexual “propaganda” were created probably just “for the prevention of the problem in society,” as psychologist Mehrabyan would say. However, contemporary medicine claims that attempts to change sexual orientation are risky and potentially dangerous for a person.
Thus, even in the case of an ego-dystonic sexual orientation, there is no word about the attempts to change a person’s sexual orientation. Taking into account the cruel methods of homosexuality treatment and their consequences in the previous century, science refused gender binary imaginations long ago.
We are far from the idea that Vrezh Shahramanyan has not studied or is unaware of the contemporary medical science. On the contrary, taking into consideration his thoughts expressed at different times, we are sure that he is well-informed and maybe better than me – the author of this article. This definitely cannot be insisted in the case of a psychologist Mariam Mehrabyan, which is probably the shortcoming of the Armenian educational system, taking into account the failure of psychology at our universities as a science and the subject being taught.
The objective of this article is, surely, not the criticism of Sharmanayan, but that of the phenomenon. The point is that in Armenia the attempt to mislead the audience through wordplay, euphemisms and incomplete thoughts has a significant prevalence (especially in the case of narrow professional issues where there are nuances), which is used by many knowledgeable specialists like Shahramanyan. The reason for such behavior is known: these people are trying to disobey public opinion, ignorance, conveniently fit into the conjuncture, avoid unnecessary problems with the system, not to impede their own career growth, not to be isolated by the media, retrospective academic circles and not to be labeled. The reason is self-defensive both in the wide and narrow sense.
Self-defense, however, is not an excuse, and in this case, can not reduce the responsibility of such specialists for the consequences of denying science. These professionals need to know that they have failed and will fail to mislead the whole audience, and every time they will be called for professional liability when they try to distort the science and deliberately render it in the form of ignorance, thus hindering the establishment of civil society and promoting the dissemination of retrogression. Professionals like Robert Spitzer will have to publicly apologize one day for deliberately misleading and misinforming the people.