Magda Kalandadze, Tbilisi
„As a queer activist, most of the time I feel proud and happy; however, frequently, I have equally felt bullied and isolated. Even though the first feeling is predominant, the bullying I’ve suffered is too destructive and being isolated is too disheartening.
Being queer means to defy any restrictions in any form. I don’t mean the restrictions coming from the people whose recognition means nothing to me and who I can just ignore. I mean the people, who matter – my friends, my family, even my Facebook friends. A lot of people have self-restrictions. And when they voice these self-restrictions, they consider me to share the same rules of the game and view my every word and action within these restrictions. So being queer for me means that no matter how subtle and disguised such control is – of emotions, forms of expression, looks, even where and how I spend my free time… often delivered as “advice” and solidified and justified by their experiences and narratives – honestly, it is all rubbish. Not because queer activism requires it to be formulated this way, I really do not care about it in the least.
I have often wondered what the life of those people must be like, the life of the people who wake worrying about what other people might think about their particular behavior, way of life, words.
I’ve led such a life too, but I can hardly remember it now. I have trouble remembering the sensation of living so, I only remember the facts. I remember that my attempts to become what others expected of me did not bring any results. The desired result was actually what people usually want – to be liked. In my first university year, I fell prey to bullying. I had finished school in Zestaponi and despite the fact that I was an outstanding student, friendly and kind, – I don’t know why that is never enough… – I could not get any recognition. I remember wanting it badly.
Then I received a DAAD scholarship and left for Germany for a month and a half. I cannot say that Germany set me free immediately, but getting away from this environment did me good. I might have gone to Zestaponi instead of Germany and the result would be the same. Geography has nothing to do with it.
Once I returned, I realized that in order to be better, I absolutely don’t need the people who cannot see me. I think it was a compromise in a way. Or I just decided that things don’t work another way. I started to live alone, started writing, connecting with some people and losing others. In a nutshell, I started doing what only I could manage and where another party didn’t have a say. As soon as I became self-sustaining, everything and everyone was drawn to me. As I received recognition from my own self, all of it appeared – friends, enemies, attention, aggression, conflict, joy… everything that generally happens in the people’s lives. Then I dropped out of the university. It was part of my protest then. I completed three years as an outstanding student, and then I just went to the university and did not attend the lectures. I would sit at the exams in the auditorium and say I did not want to take the exam, I did not care about the evaluation. Of course they looked at me the way one looks at a cat with spikes – something that scares and intimidates you but you still tiptop around it, curious, trying to touch, not daring to get any closer. This was the first time I felt something close to being queer: no matter the reason people oust you, what you need to learn in any case is to be comfortable with yourself; staying alone should be your comfort zone.
I may sound mundane, but the worst experience related to queer activism is the cases of physical violence – the threat of pain and even death. Most recent and memorable was when police literally attacked us when we were making stencils in the morning of May 17. I was dead sure that these guys in civil attire, black jackets and jeans, were part of the extremists who have assaulted us many times before. The first 40-45 seconds, when I was being dragged away by a police officer, I thought I was being taken to be killed. This is a long enough time to have the thoughts of this kind. This experience I find very hard to even remember, relive, let alone speak about it.
As a feminist activist, I find the experience I get from frequent use of the Internet and social networks difficult to digest. I am forced to read abusive, consumerist, objectifying posts and articles referring to women on a daily basis, feeling that all this is written about me too, about any one of us. When you walk the streets tomorrow, you will come across these people who have been posting that you are stupid, unskilled, you should not sit behind the wheel, you must stay at home, and so on and so forth. All this concerns you just as it concerns anybody. It does not matter how many books you’ve read, what position you hold at work, how many flags and feminist poster you have held in your hand – this is about you. Ninety of one hundred people write this about you. This is a daily trauma which is quite stressful in the long run. Sometimes I think that the experience of physical violence gives you more power, makes you want to oppose, you have the leverages to demand punishment of the aggressor. But in these cases, you cannot do anything, other than sit at the keyboard and swear at one another. Finally you find it useless to argue, and you just read, read, how they do not see you as a human, how much you are hated by the very people you will meet in the public transport tomorrow.”