National is not traditional. Marine Petrosyan

LGBTnews continues the series of talks with public figures, and this time our interlocutor is poet and publicist Marine Petrosyan.

-Marine, you write a lot about your vision of Armenia: what status or place do LGBTI people have in your imagined future Armenia?

I imagine future Armenia as the most developed and leading country in our large region. And by saying a developed country, I mean not only the economy, but first of all, human relations, new ways of life. If we stem from today’s situation, my remarks may seem fantastic because in today’s Armenia, particularly in the field of education, exactly the opposite policy is being implemented; conservative values are propagated, which are presented as the core of national values. This is the traditional strategy for national survival, which may in some cases be inevitable in stateless times, but today it turned into a pure anachronism.

We do not need to survive, we need to develop. And the development, as I said, supposes a renewed ways of life. Negative attitude towards the people having non-traditional sexual orientation in Armenia is mainly promoted by the imagination that national is traditional, that the destruction of the traditional, distructs the national. Right this image should be changed and enshure the differentiation of national from traditional and conservative. Surely, it is not easy to achieve this, it implies to make a revolution in the perceptions about national, and in my opinion, this is that very difficult, but basic and mandatory change, which the rest of the changes will follow.

-Does the national that you describe, which perhaps could be characterized as national progressive or liberal, suppose that LGBTI people, equally with all other people should have the opportunity to exercise all their rights: to marry each other, to adopt a child, to donate blood and so on, and transgender people the right to legal sex reassignment surgery?

Yes, in my imagined future Armenia, LGBTI people will have the opportunity to realize all the rights you mentioned. But before they are legalised, it is important firstly to change the existing perceptions and attitudes toward those who have non-traditional sexual orientation. If this thinking remains the same and just the legislation is renewed, it will hardly work in reality. 

Moreover, if the old perceptions continue to be dominant and contrary to it, say, marriages between same sex people be legalized in Armenia today, many will see it as something imposed from the outside, retreat from the demands of the West, which will have a conterimpact and can deepen the negative attitudes in some layers towards LGBTI people.

So, the right way is not, I think, to look what rights LGBTI people have outside and immediately to move them all into the legislation of Armenia, but to pass the way which has passed those countries by our own, reaching the present day. In other words, to reach the consciousness that there is nothing shameful in having non-traditional sexual orientation. After that, legalising the rights you have mentioned will come as a natural thing.

In fact, you suggest starting changes from the mindset of people. But to change the imaginations you’ve mentioned it’s very important to raise the issue and identify the problems. You frequently write about the most acute and important issues in your blog, on Facebook, in poems; you are actively involved in hot debates. The situation of LGBTI people in Armenia and the talks about their rights situation are among the most pressing topics, but I do not remember that you often refer to this question.Why, what is the reason that many publicly active people that recognise the need of exercising LGBTI rights, often do not seem to notice or notice but simply ignore this topic?

I guess you are mistaken a bit, I have participated in several TV debates on this subject, after which, by the way, I became not only a target for online attacks, but also had some adventures on the street. But, I myself have not written texts dedicated to this issue.

Why haven’t I written? I have never given myself this question, and now that you have posed it, I am trying to understand why. First of all, it’s probably because I do not consider myself to be a great expert in this matter. And also because the time is not infinite, and I prefer to address the problems that maybe because of my immodesty seems to me that nobody will write about except me. The worst issue that concerns me today is the fog of despair that has fallen on Armenia, my big fight is against it, and I am trying to materialize the positive plan of building New Armenia in speech, to justify my belief in our public capacity, so there is no time left for anything else.

-The fog of desperation on Armenia is not abstract; there are concrete reasons, fogs do not just happen, don’t they? The LGBTI community composes about 10 percent of the population, and the fog you mentioned is denser for these people for the known reasons. Isn’t the best way to dispel this fog of despair by giving people hope and faith in the positive image of the future, and to show that there are people who say that the national is this; it is also the realisation of LGBTI rights, and the opposite is anti-national?

The reason for the disappointment in Armenia is not just the heavy reality, but the clash of people’s expectations with that reality. People believed in the opposition forces, they were excited, stood up, did not achieve anything, and the big disappointment came to replace the big enthusiasm.

I have made a conclusion that in order to make real changes, it is necessary to have a right strategy. In my understanding, the main problem is as I have already said changing that rooted imagination in Armenians which identifies national with traditional, and breaking the tradition considers to be a threat. This in itself is a very difficult task, and if an incorrect strategy is chosen, its solution will be impossible. If I declare that many traditional ideas are hindering us, that we need an update and from the very beginning bring the issue of homosexuality as an example, my defeat will be guaranteed, because it’s a very sensitive issue and starting with that question, I will not achieve anything.

By the way, I won’t argue as confidently as you, that LGBTI community members are more desperate than the rest of the Armenians. The LGBTI community today is quite well-organized and has its own means to voice and solve problems. However, most Armenians do not have this today.

The conversation was moderated by A. Minasyan