Medical Writing

Deborah Liao, PharmD

Crossroads - from Armenia to Stockholm and in Tbilisi

One thing I do have to say about my wandering life is I sometimes come across other wanderers of sorts. And they are always quite interesting. Admittedly, this is based on an n of two, so my sample size is inadequate to draw hard conclusions from. The first one I've already mentioned in a previous post. The second one I also met in the Caucasus region. This time in Tbilisi. But I should make the caveat that I have been lucky to meet other generally interesting people because I think the way I live my life weeds out the timid, the scared, the non-out-of-the-box thinkers who think I'm too wild when in actuality, the majority of my time is spent working and trying to find a decent gym to work out at. Oh, and snacking. Because I do love good food.

However, back to the Armenian. We had matched on Tinder a few weeks earlier but she had departed Tbilisi. But since I was in Tbilisi and the surrounding regions for a 5-week stretch, it turned out that she came back for work and we decided to meet up. By she, I mean a queer, feisty, outspoken, and E to my I (as in extrovert to my introvert) Armenian who went to college surrounded by Mormons in Utah who now lives in Stockholm. She also works in the NGO world trying to advance the dismal state of queer rights in Eastern Europe. Let's just say the woman has her work cut out for her because the way nationalism and conservatism is rearing its head across the world, there's a lot of hate out there for queers (see Georgia and Poland and recent marches for "traditional values", aka, murder the gays if they could. Also see Uganda with the government support and attempts to re-instate a jail the gays for life or "kill the gays" law).

What was most interesting about meeting her was--besides the chemistry of meeting an intellectually and physically compatible cutie--her perspectives and insight into this region of the world, having grown up in Armenia, with family still in Yerevan, time in the US (she stayed with a hippie host family in a conservative Texas suburb at one point), and life in Stockholm. She was the one who brought it to my attention that Tajikistan has a gay registry, purportedly for the public safety (I still want to visit Tajikistan but as my travels take me into less and less friendly territory, more and more discretion is required). And as well, that in Armenia, the state of queer rights is dismal yet it is not uncommon for straight-identified women to be in relationships with queer-identified women until such time as the straight-identified woman decides she wants a husband/family/children. It seems like a sort of unfair situation for the queer women who get their hearts broken. And I actually semi-experienced this when I matched with a woman in Armenia and our conversation basically turned a corner into her saying, I want a boyfriend and let's meet for tea. I was a bit thrown off by that and decided not to pursue it further, but yes, it is a thing. 

I also can't imagine what it must be to do the work that she does. To go to these countries to meet and help empower and organize these marginalized and disenfranchised people who are willing to fight against the government and the deeply rooted absolute murderous hatred people have towards them. And in the name of so-called traditional values or religion. I may not be religious, but sometimes I think I have more empathy and compassion for people from all walks of life than lots of people who claim to wholeheartedly embrace religion and its teachings. Or maybe my understanding of what religion should be is completely off base and if that's what religion is about, disenfranchising, hating, loathing, murdering, and violence towards "others", no thank you. And I can't even imagine being one of those people who fights this kind of fight, against such overwhelming odds, and at risk of everything. Their life. Their safety. Their liberty. Their pride. Their freedom. Their love. Their jobs. Their family. Their everything. The strength it takes to fight that fight. The courage it takes to stand up against the state, literally. I honestly don't know if I could do it. I would probably be a coward and hide and try to fly under the radar. 

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