From the religious family of the Rabbi to the opening of the queer bar in Batumi – Shlomo’s story

My name is Shlomo. I’m 35 years old and currently, I live in Batumi. I see myself as a person who has been through a lot of things in life; who got to know himself and learned to love himself; who sets goals and slowly, but surely achieves them; who fights for the life he wants to have.

I’m a patient, generous, loving, and caring person. Also a perfectionist – I always want things to be perfect. Sometimes my traits indeed hurt me, but as the years go by, I learn to accept myself as I am.

Childhood and self-determination

I grew up in a religious family in Kiryat Malakhi, Israel. My father is a chief Rabbi and has a religious school. When I was 7 years old, my parents separated and I stayed with my mom. I didn’t grow up in a home with money and luxury. My mother had to work at 5-6 places to get enough money for us. My mother, sister and I were living together and my mother raised us alone. She was like a lioness, who fought for us to have everything we needed. In the town I grew up in, the majority of people are religious, and therefore the environment is very homophobic.

I have many childhood memories, some of them are good, some – not that much. The brightest memory for the kid who loves to sing is performing in front of thousands of people. Every winter in Israel, we have a big show in which famous singers from all over the country sing. I was chosen to sing with them. This memory lies deep with me and it follows me to this day.

Of course, I have bad memories too. For example, violence against children at home. Also, I was often bullied for being different. My most vivid memory is that once, my classmate took my bag and rolled me down the stairs in school. That led to a lot of injuries.

I started realizing that I was gay when I was 11 years old. That’s the age when boys start looking at girls and I noticed that I was attracted to boys. I was desperate and was wondering what was wrong with me. At first, I hated myself for that, I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror. Being different wasn’t my choice, I wanted to be just like everyone else. Of course, I knew that if my family and friends found out I was gay, they wouldn’t accept me and wouldn’t trust me anymore. That’s why I was struggling with myself and trying not to be different.

For many years, I was living in a lie and tried to have relationships with women, I was even engaged to the woman. In Israel, when you turn 18, you join the army. Even there I pretended that I was “straight”, but inside I was screaming and crying, I wanted to tell everyone that I was gay!

I had many friends who chose to cut ties with me because I was gay. There were also those, who hugged me and said that they didn’t care who I was sleeping with.

The first process for me was turning from religious life to secularism. I still believe in God, but one can’t tell by my appearance that I’m religious. This step had huge feedback from my father’s family. They couldn’t accept that I was not religious anymore.

At the age of 21, when I finished my military service, I moved to Tel Aviv and met a boy who became my first boyfriend.

Accidental coming out and living in the streets

At that time, my family and friends didn’t know that I was gay. I started my relationship and we moved in together. He knew that my family was unaware of my sexual orientation and promised to keep it a secret until I won’t decided to tell them myself.

One day, I picked up my mobile after work and found numerous missed calls! I’ll never forget the number – 72 missed calls and all of them from my mother. I was sure that something happened to my grandmother. When I immediately called her, I heard yelling, the sound of smashing things and my sister crying. I had no idea what happened and when I asked my mother, she asked me in return: you tell me, who is the boy you are kissing on Facebook?

I was shocked. Surely, I thought that my mother confused me with someone else because my boyfriend knew that I was ” in the closet” [The term “being in the closet” describes a situation where a person does not share their sexual orientation or gender identity with anyone or a small group of people and it seemed impossible that he would post out the photo on Facebook. That minute, I entered the manager’s room and asked to open a Facebook page. I immediately saw a photo of my boyfriend and me kissing. There were also comments from his friends: “what a great couple”, “good luck”, etc. At that moment I felt that my world had been crushed. No need to say that our relationship was over. I couldn’t trust him anymore. I left home.

My mother, sister and I had this really close connection and this was the first time in my life when I was not talking to my mom anymore. It was a very hard experience for me. I even lost my weight and was 45 kg. All of that led to losing my job and debts. I couldn’t afford the rent and it happened that at the age of 23, I was sleeping in the streets of Tel-Aviv, with debts and worsened health conditions.

There were moments when I thought I would be better off dead—I had nothing left to lose. I was alone, no one was talking to me, and everyone avoided me.

After some time, I decided to call my aunt who lived near Tel Aviv. When she answered, tears flashed from my eyes and I said to her that I was in bad shape. She invited me over and when she saw me, she also started crying, because I was a man with no lust for life and who was only 45 kg. My aunt decided to let me stay and help with the recovery. That’s what happened.

Georgia is losing years of living side by side without hatred. After all, we are all human. One has blue eyes, the other has brown, one is taller the other is shorter, one likes girls, the other likes boys. We just want to live our lives like everyone else.

After a few months, I heard a knock on my aunt’s door. When I opened it, I found my mother at the door. I was shocked because a lot of time had passed since the last time we had spoken. She entered and set down. We both were silent. She came another day as well, then she called me and that’s how she slowly tried to keep in contact with me and we resumed our relationship. But my father still doesn’t accept the fact that I’m gay.

The most important thing for me is my mother. It took her a long road to accept me as gay. I was fighting with everyone to prove that I’m the same Solomon (Solomon The Wise – Old Hebrew שְׁלֹמֹה‎, Shlomo), the same person, and the fact that I like men, doesn’t make me a different person.

At first, I felt guilty that my family avoided me because I was gay. As the years passed, I realized that I had done nothing wrong, I was just living my life the way I wanted to. I had many friends who chose to cut ties with me because I was gay. There were also those, who hugged me and said that they didn’t care who I was sleeping with.

Obviously, the psychological damage was done to me during my time ” in the closet” in childhood and even after my coming out. I talked a lot with psychologists who helped me overcome difficult times.

Self-acceptance and 10 years of marriage with the man

Today, many years later, I am in a long-term relationship. I have been married to the man of my life for 10 years now. My mother accepts me for who I am and loves my husband and my life. I’m not saying it was easy. It was a very long process, but at the end of the road, I realized that it was worth it.

Georgia is missing out on what the queer community can give to the country. After all, queer people are very creative, these people strive for success, and Georgia is losing harmony among its citizens.

Georgia is losing years of living side by side without hatred. After all, we are all human. One has blue eyes, the other has brown, one is taller, the other is shorter, one likes girls, the other – boys. We just want to live our lives like everyone else.

I came to Batumi for the first time in 2018 and fell in love with this city and the country. As soon as I arrived, I knew I would live, work, and do good things for this city and country. And so it happened in 2019, I moved to Batumi with my husband. We have several businesses here and Georgians are employed everywhere. I don’t think I’ll be leaving the city anytime soon — even though I’m a singer in Israel with my audience, I still choose to be in Batumi and do good work for the city.

The first thing I would say to those on the way to self-determination is to stop and take a deep breath. Look at yourself in the mirror and tell yourself that everything will be okay no matter how you feel right now. You must understand that we did not choose how we came into this world — we are who we are because, as they say, someone up there decided it that way. You are beautiful the way you are! Love yourself and others will love you. I’m not saying it’s easy and I’m not saying it’s not a long process, but at the end of the road, there is great happiness. I can tell you that being gay is what got me to where I am today. And today, if there’s one thing I’m happy about, it’s being gay. Always remember that you were born this way! I hope my story gives you strength and inspiration.

I think there is no relevant information regarding the queer community in Georgia. When they hear the word gay, homophobes immediately think of a sexual act. That’s why there is homophobia. I think there needs to be proper communication about the queer community. We need to create spaces where heterosexual people can see queers as people, not necessarily related to a sexual act. It’s a long process, but we have to start it. Exactly for this purpose, we created Frida Bar, where you can meet a gay couple, a lesbian couple next to a straight couple. Everyone sits next to each other and learns to accept differences. This is the right way, it’s a miracle. A lot of work has been put in here and the process needs to start!

Change must begin with providing the right information. Queer and straight people need to make connections and get to know each other well. Common spaces should be created where everyone can spend time together like it is at Frida Bar. I can say that quite a few straight people came up to me at the bar and told me that thanks to Frida they learned to accept gay people and even formed friendships with them.

What keeps me going is my family, my husband, and my pets. We are also thinking about starting the surrogacy process next winter to become parents. In addition, the bar that I opened in Batumi is bringing changes to the city and that gives me strength. Not being able to be with my mother, my sister, grandmother, and nieces weakens me, but I try to continue to develop from here.

I hope to be a father of 3 lovely children in the next 10 years. Let me bring changes to Georgia. And, of course, hopefully, I’ll record songs as well.

I try to do more work instead of dreaming. Dreams are there for us to fulfill them. Thank God, all the dreams I had have come true. I have two left – I want to be a father and record songs. Of course, I dream that the world will learn to accept differences in people and finally, everyone will live in harmony.

Georgian queer activism provides full information about the gay community. By maintaining respect and patience, always be proud of who you are and what you are!



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