Meet Rim from Yerevan who will tell you not only about the Armenian LGBTQ+ community but also about her football team, Queer League Armenia, which was recently invited to take part in “Queer Olympix,” an international queer tournament held in Istanbul. It’s been a dream for Armenian LBQ+ girls and women & Trans men for a long time to build a football team that can compete on an international level. Now they are just an arms’ length away from realizing this dream. Help them go to their first international tournament and read about them in this interview.
Can you introduce yourself please?
I am Rim Sardaryan, a lesbian human rights activist from Armenia.
I am the representative of Eastern Europe and Central Asia in the Global Feminist LBQ Women* Conference’s Working Group. Since January 2018 I’ve been a co-founder and Community Mobilization Officer of Queer League Armenia Initiative, which uses sports as an alternative way of LBQ+ community mobilization. I am one of the founders and currently the coordinator of LGBTI Shelter Initiative in Armenia, which is the only such initiative in the whole country established to provide accommodation to LGBTI+ persons at risk for their safety. I was working with Pink Armenia, an LGBT human rights defender NGO in 2015-2017 as a Project Assistant and was promoted as the Administrative Officer of the organization in 2016. Currently, I am the co-founder of a newly born Queer Sista Platform, which is the first organization in Armenia working with and for LB women and TQ+ people aiming to improve the well-being of the community by promoting the culture of well-being, self-care, community care, and safe-spaces.
Wow, that was a long list. It’s an honor. Now tell us a bit about Armenia and what the general situation of the LGBTQ+ community is like over there.
LGBTIQ+ people in Armenia are facing discrimination and human rights violations in all spheres of social life, including education, family, workplace, health care institutions, etc. We don't have anti-discrimination legislation, or any legal regulation against hate crime and hate speech. Each year the human rights defenders are recording hundreds of human rights violation and hate crime cases that remain ignored.
As I see, the LGBTIQ+ movement and all discourses around it in Armenia are mostly men-oriented and sometimes it can be binary, and I believe this is probably so in many other countries as well. LBQ+ people who are engaged in activism often remain in the shadow being invisible and unappreciated. In my opinion, as long as any action without men is considered insignificant and non-essential, it is highly important to engage LBQ+ activists in the advocacy and leadership levels, give them an opportunity to focus on their special needs and well-being, while raising the voices of LBQ+ community.
Where do you live? What’s the situation there specifically?
I live in Yerevan, the capital of the country. Of course, the situation differs a lot from other Armenian cities. I think the visibility of LGBTIQ+ people is the highest here. On the one hand, it is of course very important and beneficial, as our lives and our existence is not under a question mark. On the other hand, the lack of visibility in other cities and regions actually helps LGBTIQ+ people to live their lives without facing direct violence and discrimination, in short they can feel more safe.
Can you say a couple of words about lesbian* social life in Yerevan, or generally in Armenia?
The first thing I wanted to say was that there is no lesbian* social life in Armenia. Of course it is not completely true: there is lesbian* social life but not in its classing sense. We don't have any lesbian* bars, clubs or other places, but we still have some lesbian-friendly spots. We have different types of gathering, mainly non-formal ones, which of course also means that a couple of times a year we party hard.
Good to hear. Now, we are at the last question. Can you share a memorable coming out story of yours?
I decided to come out to my two closest friends when we just graduated from university. I was tired of hiding and I felt that it was better to direct the energy spent on this lie on something more effective and more productive. I took them to have drinks, and I mean lots of drinks, and the truth is, neither of them are people that usual drink. When all of us were already drunk, one of them started to cry about her breakup, the other one about the beloved one that ignored her, but I was just sitting without saying anything. Then out of the blue one of them just looked at me and asked, "And what about you? You are giving us advice relationship matters, but do you you have a boyfriend?". And I was like "Nope". Then they continued: "Or a girlfriend?". Then I was "Yep". My friends, being too drunk to say it properly, said they knew it, continuing: “Do you really think we are so stupid not to know such a thing?" and they burst into laughter. And at that time I was thinking, "Hm, where is that reaction that all of us are scared of? Is it just laughing?” It was so easy and fun.