Mari, 25, Tbilisi

„I identify myself as a queer. Being a queer for me primarily means confronting with heteronormativity, recognizing and realizing that sexual orientation and gender identity is not binary, but a spectrum.

Before getting there, I walked a long and difficult road. For a long time I was a homophobe. I had radical, patriotic ideas bordering on nationalism, which basically means that you must a priori hate all gay people or people of different sexual orientation. I was a heterosexual, submissive Georgian woman, a strict follower of traditions – the definition of “a true Georgian woman”, bearing the values the school and the general society had instilled in me since childhood. I idealized Georgia and being Georgian and I interpreted everything as I was taught by my schoolteachers. I was fearful of “globalization” because it was associated with rejection of traditions and perversion. I was dead sure that in order to maintain my nationality, I had to have a negative attitude to the people of another race, religion, and especially, sexual orientation – we needed to keep them away. I mean, I had awful ideas, a wrong understanding of my country and my nationality, even though I believed with all my heart that I was one of those people who wanted to save Georgia.

On one day, my frame of mind was totally upset. I was 19 when my best friend came out to me. She had had to endure my hostile ideas about gay people (that we need to drive them away, get rid of them, they’d better die). Because of my attitude, she had had to conceal a very important aspect of her life from her best friend. She had lived in a lie all her life and she couldn’t stand it any longer. She decided to either lose me, or to be with me. I needed only one day, not more. I was so shaken that I cried all night. I cried because I realized what a terrible person I’d been. How could I have lived in hatred, without realizing that I was hurting people? And I had been hurting my closest person for blindly believing in some abstract notions that had been pushed down my throat. All of my superstitions, stereotypes and hateful ideas were gone in a day. Since then, my life took a very different direction.

After that day, I have talked, discussed and argued about equality of LGBT people with everyone – my family, my friends, whenever I have the time, the place and the means to do it. In a short time, I found out that my other close friends had also hidden their sexual orientation from me. What I mean to say is that, by our hatred and homophobia we force people to conceal their true identity, their true self.

If not my friend’s brave decision to come out to me, who knows how long I would have been in darkness, living by the forced, distant, lofty notions that guided me through adolescence. I hadn’t had any actual awareness, I didn’t have a clue. After coming-out of my friends, I started pushing my limits and overcoming my stereotypes step-by-step. The first step was when I started asking myself questions, I opened up and become freer. It became natural for me to love someone regardless of their sexuality, but it was a long process, which lasted for a few years.

I realized how difficult it is to admit to yourself that you are part of the society who is laughed at, scolded and marginalized by the majority. It is such a big pressure, that it is quite a feat to confess it even to yourself. It is one thing to talk about others, but completely different when you are in that situation. It is extremely hard.

I am grateful to my friends and my life for giving me a chance to realize that it is a shame to conceal what is in fact beautiful. Being different is something to be proud of, rather than hide it. After this difficult process, I am happy that I chose to fight – fight for the rights of all the people so that they are not afraid of being different, colorful and beautiful.

I have loved only once. Up until now, I still love that person with all my heart. I think this is the kindest, cutest and best person I’ve ever known. What does it matter if this person is a girl or a boy? How can gender gauge the honesty, quality of our love, or my or her humanity? Love lies beyond the sex, gender and identity of people.

I am doing my best to bring the harm I inflict on the world to the minimum and I think it should be manifested in every aspect of our life – towards plants, animals and the nature in general. I am a vegetarian, I do not litter streets or cut trees, I walk most of my time, and I try to be involved in activism. Yet, all some people need to hear is that I am queer, to label me as corrupt, bad, and unacceptable. Why am I corrupted? Is it because I think that every person has the right to love and be with whoever they want to?”