Inspiration from Armenia: Lilit Martirosyan

For some time now, I have been considering adding an international component to this web site. Since I’m not even covering everything that’s happening in Ottawa, it did seem a little absurd to be throwing myself upon the world, but as a woman of many interests it is hard to limit myself, particularly as there are so many important and fascinating stories out there.

Not all of these are positive, unfortunately, and yet even in the struggle of trans people in other parts of the world, we can find hope. There is a line in the Korean movie Age of Shadows that reflects this idea: “Even when we fail, we move forward. The failures accrue, and we tread on them to advance to higher ground.” So it has been in this country, and so it is elsewhere.

Although I’ve written one article on international subjects – a review of books on trans people in Argentina and Poland – what finally pushed me to create this category was an article I read on trans woman Lilit Martirosyan’s speech to the Armenian parliament. On April 5, 2019, during a session of parliament when human rights were being debated, Ms Martirosyan was smuggled in and took to the podium to air the grievances of the transgender community in Armenia. She said, “I ask you to look at me as the collective image of tortured, raped, physically abused, burned, stabbed, killed, emigrated, subjected to discrimination, poor and unemployed transgender people.” Although homosexuality has been decriminalised in Armenia, discrimination is common and Ms. Martirosyan’s speech precipitated the predictable backlash. She has been subject to death threats and some parliamentarians even called for her to be burned alive. (Here is the link to The Guardian article:

LilitSince I read this article, I have been unable to get Lilit Martirosyan out of my mind. I am in awe of her bravery and strength of character. Although I can’t claim any of her glory simply by being trans, I found her inspirational and a testament to what we’re capable of under the most trying of circumstances. She somehow made me proud to be trans.

So Ms. Martirosyan is the first story of this international section. I don’t pretend that it will be comprehensive. I’m proposing it be a combination of short comments with links to articles elsewhere and longer pieces I’ll have written on events in other countries that I find relevant and interesting.

Canada can seem like a relative utopia for trans people compared to many other nations. Even so, I know the struggle for trans rights in this country is hardly over. What happens elsewhere can perhaps seem irrelevant to our immediate lives. And yet, Ottawa is home to the embassies of the world and a cosmopolitan view is part of the territory. It’s a small world out there. We have much to learn from it.

June 2019