I am Anastasia Kartosia, aka Tasa, 19 years old. I study at the Faculty of Political Sciences, I am queer, an activist and an ambitious person.
I was 11 when I realized I liked girls. I don’t remember how I felt at the time, but I never felt ashamed or uncomfortable with myself. I took this news very naturally, and at the time I had no idea what reaction the outside world might have to it. In the end, this reality hit me very hard.
Often, when I talk to queer people older than me, they tell me that they started thinking about queerness and coming out late. I had it very early – I was in 8th grade when I was “outed” and everything hit me at once. At that time, I already had a rather strained relationship with my peers and classmates, no one knew about my queerness, but they didn’t like me. I was bullied because of my appearance, because I was “a geek”…
I had my first coming out with my classmate’s little sister whom I trusted a lot. It was well received and I was very happy in this little comfort zone of mine. Later the whole school heard about it though. I had just turned 12 yet I was asked how I had sex, they asked me questions related to religion. I was stunned and had no idea what to answer. There was a lot of bullying, both psychological, physical and sexual. This was my daily reality – I went to school and found a very negative environment. At the time, I had no resources to deal with it, and no one around me to be an example for me, about whom I could say, hey, they’re like me and still have a good life, and are proud to be themselves… I found myself in an awful situation . By the way, there were other queer students at my school who were not out then. Today, when I talk with them, it is interesting how their experience differs from mine – at that time I was a phenomenon for the school, children like me were not “out” and hadn’t been seen till then. I felt isolated.
I became aggressive and depressed. I was not ok mentally, so I started hurting myself. I stopped going to school . All through eighth grade, I would pack my bag, leave the house, but not go to school. The management knew about it, everyone who bore the responsibility knew. Adults, who witnessed this story, did nothing, on the contrary, they scolded me. Then, when I was already transferring from this school, the principal called me and told me that despite missing the whole year, I would still get 10s in every subject. At that time I thought it was a kind gesture on their part, but then I realized that they just didn’t want to deal with me.
I didn’t talk about it with my family. I thought that I had to bear everything alone and I regret it to this day – I regret that I did not ask for help and did not tell the truth to anyone. I distanced myself from my family, I didn’t talk to them for many years and we had a superficial relationship. For them, I was a “little problematic” child and they could not fully understand what was happening to me or around me.
My mother heard what had happened later, from others and took it very hard. Not because I turned out to be a lesbian, but because I didn’t tell her. She couldn’t do anything in that situation and I know that she still hasn’t forgiven herself, she can’t get away from this past. I was young and I thought everything was my fault, I thought I had to deal with it myself and I didn’t want to appear as a bad person in her eyes. When I think about what my mother would have done, if I told her the truth, she would probably help me change my environment first. Later, when I really changed the school and my surroundings, many things changed for the better – I no longer thought that I would be stuck in that school forever and it would never end.
When I was little, I was a very happy, very good child for the whole family. I was crazy about talking, doing things, always radiating positive energy. Then I never laughed again, I felt miserable. If anything was stolen from me, it was my natural grace. Now I think that I have slowly started to let go of these traumas, I am regaining myself and I am happy.
Your own biggest supporter
I haven’t lost anyone because of my queerness. I made friends when I became openly queer, before that I was more lonely. All the relationships I’ve made have been made in this context. I don’t want someone in my life who won’t accept me for who I am.
Actually, the most radical thing you can do is to love yourself, not in spite of things, but with them, absolutely everything. If I want to tell people something, this is it. When I had to, and as my mother says, chose to walk this path alone, I became my own biggest supporter. I used to say that if others don’t like me, I will like myself. That’s exactly what saved me – I didn’t let anyone dictate where I belonged. Today I am creating my own place.
Everyone knows about me being queer, I hide it from no-one, nor do I restrict my self for anybody’s sake. I’ve built my experiences around this notion- when all the cards are laid out on the table, one can see everyone for who they are. I am a quite confident person at that, I do not enjoy the role of a victim and think that situations should align with me. For example, when I became a freshman, I created an environment where saying something homophobic was “not ok”, and so if someone blurs out anything inappropriate, everyone starts to feel awkward. Therefore one must demand to have fixated spaces around them, in order not to be left out.
I have noticed that older queer people have much harder time when establishing themselves. For example, I do not like club culture, and even though I’ve been told that it is the only place where one can truly be free, I do not like this notion, because I want to be myself wherever I go.
“We must do more than establish our spaces, we must also fight for public spaces.”
Sexism and homophobia
When I think about the obstacles that women have to overcome, things that comes to mind are domestic violence, sexual abuse and economic discriminaton. For how many centuries, the issue of economic independence has been relevant, when was it first written about? Yet the problem is still there, to this day. I have an acquaintance who was told where to enroll, a pregnant woman may be fired from her job, or not employed because of this, and many more similar cases exist, we should be protected from this by the law, but often these laws do not work in practice.
I don’t identify myself as a woman, it’s just that society perceives me that way and I have relevant experiences. I keep thinking about domestic violence and sexual violence, how different it is in our case—in a world where femininity is so directly tied to men, and moreover, where femininity cannot be defined without men. Our life is not related to men. When you see your femininity as separate from men a lot of anger starts to accumulate around the issue. If you are a lesbian, you will definitely be asked if you have tried to have a relationship with a man. There are constant question marks, how dare you not like men. This interesting mixture of sexism and homophobia is constantly in the air.
I am a very ambitious person, so I want to have it all, even in this country. Freedom for me is having a successful career, even in politics, without it being influenced by my sexual identity; having a family, children; not worrying about being verbally or physically harassed in the street while walking with my partner; not fearing professional failure due to people rejecting me.
I see the solution in queer representation. When I read the constitution and see that discrimination based on race, skin color, sex, religion and “other signs” is prohibited. I don’t want to be categorized as “other signs”. To achieve this, first of all we need the state taking a firm position on the matter. But, unfortunately they are all populist, I am just a headache for them and they avoid talking about the issue. There are so many cases where queer people being attacked which aren’t even accounted for, and even if they are, they are not investigated properly. They should pay more attention to this matter and not just let the attackers go after giving them a 100 GEL fine. Such cases have a huge impact on me.
As for the queer community, I can say that I don’t like how divided we are. I often hear that some people don’t like each other, don’t like the attitudes one might have, or the politics they support ets. This bothers me a lot. We must stop the division inside our community and cherish one another, everything else will come naturally. From what I see, the new generation is less prone to stigma, much more accepting, more certain and self-confident. Those who claim that they will not allow this in Georgia have already outlived their time. And if it is not yet true, it soon will be. A new generation is coming, whose values are radically different. This is a natural process that cannot be stopped by artificial restrictions.
“I don’t just want to survive – I want to live”
Now I help other children to avoid the horrors that I had to pull myself through. At least to make it easier for them to be in this position. In addition to loving myself, this was also one of the methods of dealing with trauma for me – in the last four years, I have talked to many children and they have thanked me so much that I am very proud of myself. What I didn’t have and needed, I became for others. I put the energy I had used on anger and resentment into something that helps others.
I have a very simple goal — I’m interested in queer issues, I’m working on that. I will fight for everything and I will not allow myself to give up. I can’t just drop everything and give up. If I don’t do it, who else will?! Yes, there are many factors that limit you, but at the end of the day, the individual is responsible for their life and they can take it in the direction they want.
When I see how people live with fear, complexes, self-inhibition, the only word that comes to my mind is – “Dare!”
You have to find the inner strength to not set limits for yourself regardless of the environment. I don’t just want to survive – I want to live.
The narrative of our lives
Everything is a matter of narrative. We create the narrative of our lives and I don’t like the narrative of the victim very much. Yes, it is true that we are oppressed, and I have experienced this very bitterly myself, but I like myself, I like my queerness, I am beautiful, and I find a lot of cool things in all of this. I like the representation of queer themes in films and animations, in real people, in their stories, in queer movements… I may be romanticizing it, but I think it needs a little romanticization. I want people to not look at their queerness as something aggravating and holding them back, but the opposite. I also can’t say that I’ve never thought; what if I was “straight” and that my life would be much more simple, but today I look at it like this – what does my identity add to me. This is the bottom line for me.
I’ve often felt that I was too much of “myself” for some. They hinted that I should tone it down a little, had to make my self expression less loud, or I wouldn’t be able to fit in. I thought about it too But, some time ago, Tbilisi Pride invited me to a queer gathering, and everyone there really liked my extra expression in everything. I want to look the way I feel – wearing a very large mushroom hat that I made.
I want to always be this level of “myself”.