You knew I was a foreigner, you assumed it the moment you saw my piercings and my tattoo, the moment I was dressing shorts, smoking and drinking.
You knew I was a woman, you assumed it the moment you saw my physical appearance.
You knew I was heterosexual, you assumed it the moment your religion told you that that was the only natural expression of love.
I never felt so much freedom in my life. I am away from home, away from what people could say about me, about my hair style, my dressing style, the people I date, the way I choose to present myself in society. I finally have the mental freedom to act in order to become the real me I always wanted to be.
So, manos a la obra!: I cut my hair (yet still too long, probably getting a new hair style more like myself soon), I am wearing my baggy trousers everywhere and I stopped wearing make up (be more feminine! the every day plea at home), I began to date a wonderful young woman and eventually looking at the mirror and loving what I saw.
Don’t get me wrong. Back in Buenos Aires, I had come out as bisexual to many friends and my family (although the only person who didn’t seem to be in denial was my sister). Never the less, for some reason I was afraid of fully committing to what I felt was right. I was so confused… I was always told who to be, how to walk, how to look, what message should others perceive with my first impression (oh yes, no one ever says “human beings”), who should I become, who should I love….
How me, as a person who doesn’t feel completely woman or completely man, who’s anxiety triggers every time I realise I like men and woman but who always avoided such conversation because of the stigma around it, would be able to feel right in my own skin?
How could I be anything else than the overwhelming expectations that apparently everyone had?
Based in your assumption, you, who are my friend and who know me, you are stopping me from considering myself Armenian, from defining myself within the huge spectrum of gender and sexuality, from loving and being loved.
And here I am. Finally loving myself.
And here I am, immerse in a country where the LGBTQIA+ community has no rights, a place where everyone within this community are second class citizens.
I am again, a minority within “my majority”. What a paradox. I was always told I was a minority in Argentina for being Armenian (don’t forget your Italian heritage! I can hear my dad screaming from far away) and that in my “mother land” I will feel at home, accepted.
Then, why do I find it so so hard to think as myself as an Armenian Bisexual? How did I end up embracing my sexual identity in Armenia and at the same time facing homophobia? Why wasn’t I able to be an Argentinian Bisexual when I had a safe space to be it?
Since the moment people meet each other, we immediately start labelling ourselves in every possible aspect. What if we had the chance to be free to think outside these boxes? What if we lived in a world where we were not pushed by society the moment we are born to tell us who we are, and be free to find that for our selves while growing up? I do believe it is all a matter of perception, a construction that shouldn’t be limited by a standardised idea of the majority.
My journey is not over yet, I have so many months to go, so many people to know and many social organisations to work with. Yes, in order to be safe I have to hide a part of myself, and yet, I am proud of calling myself Armenian.
But if you are reading me, and if you know me, if we have met here and you feel confused or angry or ‘shook’ but you also remember all the nice moments we spent together, I hope you can still see me no so different to yourself. Reach me out, speak to me, ask me questions. I know it is a hard conversation, but it is worth having it if you and I are honest and patience with each other.
I assure you, equality is not a western invention, and none of us are free until all of us are free.
The thumbnail photo and photos in this article by Anush Grati and Raffi Berberian.