Editor’s Note: Kyle Khandikian, a former Editorial Assistant at Asbarez’s English Section, left to volunteer for a year as a part of Birthright Armenia. Below is a Facebook “status” he posted about being discriminated in Armenia 5 months into his trip.
I was kicked out of the Armenian dance group I have been practicing with for the last 5 months today because the instructor spotted one of my writings online and found out that I’m gay. Part of the reason why I came to Armenia was to do and feel the sort of thing that those dances make me feel: strong, and connected with the culture and identity I’ve always drawn strength from my entire life. I was told that I’m not Armenian, that I don’t belong to this “nation,” and that I don’t have the right to dance Armenian dance because I’m gay. He’s making sure that every dance instructor in his circle knows my name and does not let me dance.
I would like to know who exactly these people are that decide who is and isn’t Armenian? Who gave them the authority and legitimacy to control and recognize who we are, what our values are, what we believe in, what our “nation” is? Where did they get this power from to subject us to this violence? I’m not just talking about my dance instructor. I’m talking about all the people in our lives who attempt to define us, our bodies, our sexuality, our genders, our identities, who try to define what “Armenia” is–the parents, the teachers, the schools, the priests, the churches, the boards, the committees, the political parties, the “revolutionaries.” Who are they? What gives them the right? How DARE they, after everything our people have gone through–are still going through? I know who and what I am. I know I’m Armenian, and I love being Armenian, and I love being gay, and I will dance again.