I am Giorgi, 20 years old, from Batumi.
I grew up in the most colorful part of Batumi, in old Batumi, in the so-called “Italian garden”. In general, Batumi is an outstanding city, with its character and diversity, but this part of the city embodies its spirit, and leaves a mark on the people who live there. “Italian garden” is a place where the line between personal and public life is erased; where walls and doors are just suggestions and neighbors know everything about each other. I can’t say that this is bothersome, because from the beginning you get used to the fact that the neighbor is like a family member , knows everything about you, takes care of you, if they cook a delicious meal, you will definitely taste it, they will take down your laundry when it rains, and give you medicine when you are sick.
My childhood was wonderful, full of playing with friends and books. My parents gave me maximum freedom; they never tried to limit me; always let me make my own decisions, with a condition that the responsibility for them was also on me. This affected my personality a lot. I acquired many necessary qualities and learned how to be independent.
My most memorable childhood memories are of my constructors. I would build cities, pretend to be the mayor, create currency, build roads, and dream of doing it in real life in the future.
From that age, I knew that I wanted to be a politician and I haven’t changed my mind since then.
“For me the idea of ideal space is when you no longer have the need to come out, where the sexuality and identity of a person is accepted like having curly hair, blue eyes or any other characteristics.”
Now I live in Tbilisi, with my mother. I study at The Georgian Institute of Public Affairs, at the Faculty of International Relations. In the beginning, I found Tbilisi’s locked door way of life comfortable. Neighbors couldn’t come inside without permission and more or less stayed out of my personal life. But I soon realized that I missed Batumi and that it had left its mark on me.
School- a place where you lose your freedom
Bad memories are related to school. Unfortunately, the Georgian school is of a Soviet legacy, where children are indoctrinated and standardized from day one. It’s like you lose your freedom; you are forbidden to ask questions and start believing that your opinion does not matter, as it is never the right one compared to the opinion of an adult. At school you are taught obedience; your existence is evaluated by a ten-point system.
Later, as a grown-up, you unwillingly start looking for an “adult”, who will replace your teachers and so you continue living in the shadow of others opinions. All of this affected me as well, but less so, I would say, as my mother always supported me and I felt safe while expressing my protest to useless rules. For the sake of objectivity, it should be said that there were bright spots in the school, who taught us critical thinking and things that made us grow personally, although such people are in the minority and their efforts cannot change the general situation.
“I was afraid that I would be the only one like that”
My identity and sexuality started manifesting before I even knew these words existed. I liked a girl for a while in kindergarten. I talked about it a lot, and everyone knew it. Then I liked a guy, although I was not vocal about it, realizing that the people around me would not have the same reaction to it. As a child I didn’t know why this was happening and what repercussions it would have on my future. I just tried to take it as a given and show my affection towards him, so that others wouldn’t notice.
“After coming out, my mother told me that my personal life is my business; that she loves me and will never give up on her son.”
After kindergarten, until I was a teenager, I didn’t return to this issue again – it was as if I put it on the shelf and decided to forget it, because I couldn’t understand its essence, the acceptable form to express it, I was scared that I was the only one who was like that. Back then it was not that traumatic, because as a child I didn’t make much of it. I couldn’t analyze it. Simply, from this point of view, I recall the behaviors of little Giorgi, which were probably dictated by the subconscious, and explain it like this.
“Self-identification and attempts at concealment”
The difficulties started in my teenage years, when I liked a boy again. By then I already knew that it was forbidden and not allowed. Therefore, I tried to find the cause of these feelings, a way to cure them. Until I accepted my identity at the age of 18, I tried to get rid of these feelings. I asked God for help. I made a decision to hide it many times, even from myself, but as I wrote in my coming out statement, identity is something that can not be suppressed, and even a small spark can reignite it.
At some point I started reading articles about identity and sexuality. I saw people like me through television and slowly I overcame all the prejudices, fears, complexes and accepted myself.
“Coming Out is the most powerful action, a social and political act”
I’ve heard different positions regarding coming out, from community members. Including those, who asked me what was the purpose of my public coming out on Facebook, what good would it bring me. All positions have the right to exist. From my point of view, man is a social being and they have social needs such as love, friendship, respect, self-expression and all these are impossible if you have to hide something that defines your personality. Besides, it is impossible to completely hide your personal life; it is not something you do only behind closed doors or in the bedroom, so other people inevitably find out about it. So there is not much of a choice.
You either come out on your terms, or, sooner or later, someone else will out you. I understand that everyone’s situation differs from one another, for some coming out is directly related to life risks, but as an event, coming out is the most powerful action, a social and political act that changes the existing reality for the better.
I first came out to my best friend, who also came out to me. It kind of ended up as a double coming out. Turns out we were both struggling with the same issues, and couldn’t even tell each other about it. It was a big relief. Emotionally, it’s not even comparable to a public coming out — the first one is completely different, at that time, you still think you’re doing something depraved and no one will understand you, so acceptance is more valuable.
I have not lost anyone because of my coming out, because I naturally removed people who I thought did not recognize me from my life and cut off emotional ties with them. Everyone else accepted and supported me, which is the most important thing, because it neutralized the traumas and complexes that society put on me in my childhood and adolescence.
My mother found out through social media, as I was not brave enough to tell her directly. I thought many times about how she would react. I knew she wouldn’t give up on me; she wouldn’t throw me out of the house, but I was afraid that she would say something homophobic, which would completely destroy my self-esteem and hope that I had built up over the years. But her reaction was surprisingly correct and ethical. We met up the next day and talked about it. She told me that she loves me; that my personal life is my business, and that she would never abandon her child.
“Any persecution strengthens the truth, and at the decisive moment it will be recognized by all. Us, queer people must keep fighting.”
Not much time has passed since my public coming out, so the reactions of relatives and neighbors are not yet known. I know that my family members will also feel some discomfort, and this is the most traumatic part for me, because I am used to homophobia. But because now the pressure of society on the family will be especially heavy, and this is a new phase that I will have to go through with them. I do feel guilty about it, but I will not let this defeat me. We must disarm this weapon that homophobic society wields.
Decision to stay in the country
I know a lot of queers who left the country because of homophobia. I can not blame them, as the only person that you can demand to be a heroic fighter is you. My mother also brought up this subject, but I am not planning to emigrate. More than homophobes, I fear the feeling of weakness and defenselessness that will come with emigrating. I think patriotism is when you stay where you may not feel the best, but you don’t lose hope of contributing to the improvement of the situation. Besides, the sacrifices made are already so great, so many queer people have been killed, that my conscience does not allow me to leave.
Difficulties of queer relationships in Georgia
For queer people, relationships are an added trauma because it’s hard to build healthy relationships when you’re hiding and not being accepted. Plus, I have often notice complexes, fears, and traumas in myself and in other queer people, which hinder the ability to build healthy relationships that are acceptable for both sides. Building relationships takes special effort for me because I have never had a healthy role model. I often can’t handle certain moments and I treat myself toxically. I think that heterosexual people also have this problem, because any social connection in Georgia is often unhealthy.
I want to go out on the street and shout about my bisexuality. Not because I want to arouse anyone’s interest, but because it should become something so ordinary that no one pays attention to me. For me the idea of ideal space is when you no longer have the need to come out, where the sexuality and identity of a person is accepted like having curly hair, blue eyes or any other characteristics.
“It is of the utmost importance that we show the political spectrum our electoral strength so that they are motivated to act to protect our rights. We are not few.”
In Georgia, society’s attitude towards the LGBTQ+ community has changed. This is thanks to all the organizations that have been increasing the visibility and acceptance of the topic over the years. Thanks to all those people who were not afraid to come out when it was even more difficult and dangerous. Thanks to their efforts, acceptance in society is slowly increasing.
“We must continue the fight”
I know very well how people who are in the process of self-discovery feel. My advice for them would be to never lose hope for a better future and fight for it. To understand that their life belongs to them and no one else, and nothing is more important than their own happiness. To use every chance and get a good education, because only this is the guarantee of their independence. To realize that if family members can not be chosen, friends can be, and they can find a space where they don’t have to hide — such small spaces help a person get through difficult times and wait for the moment when they will finally accept themselves, become independent enough that they no longer need to hide. .
Georgian queer activism is a force that no one and nothing can stop, because love cannot be a crime. Any persecution strengthens the truth, and at the decisive moment it will be recognized by all. Us, queer people must keep fighting. It is of the utmost importance that we show the political spectrum our electoral strength so that they are motivated to act to protect our rights. We are not few. The vote is anonymous, so it is possible to influence political life and change reality for the better even without the public coming out.
After 10 years, I see myself in Batumi, where I plan to start my professional career. On a pleasant sunny day, I leave work and go to the first Batumi Pride.