I am a lot of things. Right now I am discovering myself, but I know the exact scope of my identity:
I know that I am French-Georgian,
I know I’m a woman
I know I’m a lesbian.
I know I’m an artist.
It took me a long time to say this, but now I know.
Before moving to Sweden, I lived in France for 12 years. Leaving my ex-husband’s house coincided with the pandemic. Like many, the isolation made me face myself. Suddenly, I was all alone with my piano. It came in waves. I wrote so many songs. At some point, at the age of 37, I decided to do what I couldn’t when I was 17- to leave, start living alone and find myself.
I chose Sweden for various reasons. I wanted to be close enough with my child. I wanted to be in an English-speaking and queer-friendly country. So I left everything and came here. I wanted to set aside a small room for my art, but financial problems arose. It is very difficult when you have a child and you are the only one responsible for them. This is a topic that women don’t talk about – how their ex-husbands and partners, famous or unknown, do not visit their children. It all falls on mothers. Motherhood is a role. Everything around me is arranged so that I abandon my art, leave, and return to ordinary life. I am partly back- the reality is that I come home exhausted from work; there is less time to write or sing.
I grew up in Gonio, by the sea, on fig and tangerine trees. My grandfather used to stand under a tree and shout to me: “Come down! The branch is soft, it will break, it is not reliable”. I was my grandparents’ girl until I was 5 years old, and then I went to live with my parents in Kobuleti.
“It took me years to realize, the ‘crush’ I had on a girl, when I was 15, was real.”
I had a special relationship with my father- we always quarreled and all. I inherited the love of music from him. He relaxed while listening to the music from the 60s. He had huge collections, concerts numbered by years, favorite groups. He used to teach me how to distinguish music: “Now listen to the drums, now to this…”. Nowadays our opinions may differ, but not our love for music. Yet my father will not like the music I make. I ended up as a “pop” singer in the end.
I made my first steps while on stage. I was a member of Kobuleti student-youth home. My sister and I, dressed as twins, were always singing something, mostly Georgian folk songs.
Then I got married at the age of 17 and had a child. Period.
In order to return to the stage, I had to go through something that only women are subjected to. When you have a heteronormative family, you only have the time and investment to sing if you have a guaranteed salary and the children need less attention. Consequently, I stepped back on stage when I got my teacher’s license and I gave myself permission to do so.
Being trapped in Hetero life
It wasn’t like I woke up one day and discovered I liked women. It’s just that before I started asking myself questions, I was already married and in a serious relationship. There are a lot of women like me. I did not choose to get married. I didn’t know there was a choice—that I could have been in a relationship with anyone, regardless of gender; I could have been fluid, or bisexual.
“I wouldn’t trade my coming out for the world. I do not regret it for a second, but no one can say that everyone must have the will to do it.”
The end of my second marriage was a turning point for me. Before that, I was stuck in a straight life for 20 years. It took me many years to realize that when I was 15 I had a crush on a girl, and it was a real crush. Finding words in a heteronormative environment is difficult. You don’t know what to call it. I didn’t have a strong gender preference early on, so it took me a long time.
Before giving yourself the validation, of at least not being a heterosexual, you have to go through a lot. You often ask stupid questions, because you don’t know any better. When I get asked such a question now, I start seeing myself, I start thinking that I was once there, just like them, looking for proof, thinking that my identity had to be realized through some physical act. This is something only queer people face.
Now I am 38. Before I turned 30, I was already out to all my friends, as a bisexual. Like many gay people, I also identified that way in the beginning. I wrote to my parents that I was one of the people; they wanted to put on a ship, take to the sea and sink. My father answered that he no longer thought like that. He must have remembered how passionately I protected the queer community in my youth, before realizing that I was a part of it.
“Be, but don’t say” – if you are told this, it means that being a lesbian is shameful. I am very angry about all this. I wonder what I should be ashamed of? […] Shame should change the camp.”
In general, a family emotional blackmail is the worst kind of blackmail. “If you don’t do this, I’m going to die” — this kind of pressure doesn’t just apply to queer people. In my case, it was the most difficult part.
I do realize that my parents are in a very tough position. There is a lot of pressure on them – I know who their relatives, neighbors, friends are, how many of them are openly homophobic. My parents don’t have a safe space, where they are supported. After I made my public coming out, some relatives wrote to me, some disappeared. I found out that people had deleted me from Facebook; some I deleted myself. I wonder if I’ll ever go back to my village. On one hand, I might be pleasantly surprised, and have a great time, but there is a real threat that someone might physically kick me out.
Going back into the closet
“Be, but don’t say” – if you are told this, it means that being a lesbian is shameful. I am very angry about this. I wonder what I should be ashamed of? I have never stolen anything from anyone. I take responsibility for all of my actions. I have never betrayed my words. I am the sole guardian of my child. When I look at what men get away with, I am sorry; but should I be the one ashamed? Whom did I hurt? It’s a shame to mooch off your mother at the age of 40; It’s a shame when parents and children need you and you don’t help them; It’s a shame when you’re not worth anything; It’s a shame when you don’t pay alimony to your child; It’s a shame when you act irresponsibly at work. There is enough shame to go around, but the threshold for men is much higher. I think shame should switch teams.
Family members who accepted me, did so until I introduced them to my girlfriend and/or a spouse. Everyone is very accepting, until you go on a date. Even those who have some level of acceptance do not understand what you mean when you say the word “lesbian”? Why are you going public?
This is what we call “going back into the closet” in activism.
“Why should I not talk about my personal life? Sorry, but all straight people do it very easily. For example, she says that her husband did something, and she says this without having to suppress a million worries in herself.”
When I was “on the other side”, I also had this privilege, and not for a second did I ever think whether or not I should mention my husband.
As a public servant and a teacher, I thought for a long time whether students should know that I am a lesbian. This year, one student asked me: “Madam, do you have a husband?”. I answered that I am a lesbian. Once, the children were fighting and one shouted at the other: “Gay! gay!”. I turned to him and said, “Are you calling me?”
A woman who decides to give herself the room
Institutions such as the family or other hierarchies that have women under control want to keep them in the dark. A woman who is not interested in a man is a dangerous woman. I felt this with all intensity. A man who sees that he has no chance to flirt with you must have something very bad to say to you. He’ll call you hairy and think that he’s insulted you. I use sarcasm and irony as a defense mechanism.
Just like Virginia Woolf said, when a woman decides to get a room for herself, everyone tries to push her back into motherhood. Back in it as in responsibility. How, you want to write? That must mean, you are a bad mother. I can’t remember anyone saying the same thing about fathers, even if they are pursuing their careers, although they might be fully absent from their kids’ lives, if you don’t count the toasts, of course. I think there is a legion of women stuck in their marriages, unable to leave. Women who were never able to come out, because men are controlling them- what will the father, husband, brother, son say?
Look at who is on stage, who they applaud, who they listen to. I love it when male artists say that gender doesn’t matter. Then you go to their Facebook profiles and 95% of it are sharing each others work. They teach each other in universities; they include each other in the syllabuses; they support each other. But when push comes to shove, they all oppose quotas, supporting someone just because they are a woman?! It’s as if they haven’t been doing exactly that for centuries. We’ve been at it for ages; look at all the literary prizes, the music industry, the roles, the distribution — when it comes to power, where there’s money, there’s men. And as soon as you’re a threat because you’re refusing to give up, especially if you’re queer, you are told to shut up and say thank you for getting somewhere with the quota thrown at you.
Getting out and making yourself visible to people means you exist. Your existence threatens the existing hierarchies. So everyone prefers to be in the closet, which in my case means not writing lyrics, not writing songs, not writing blogs, not writing podcasts.
But I am my word
I am my song
I am my texts
I am my podcasts
I am my clothes
I am my appearance.
And three years ago, when I was still in the closet, all these things that I value most in myself, today, I was not.
Whether I am a good singer is up to others to assess, yet, to be honest, I don’t think my songs are bad. Just for a moment, imagine that a popular song written by a hetero man or a woman didn’t exist, just because the singer was straight. Imagine that queer community is the dominant part of society saying: “Oh god, why don’t you straight people just sing at home!”. When someone says “Do whatever you want, but for yourself alone”, what they mean is: you must not exist.
“No path a queer person chooses to live is wrong. If you are scared to come out, well, I am no example. I’m not asking anyone to come out. But I wouldn’t trade my coming out for anything today. I don’t regret it for a second, but no one should say that everyone must have the strength to do so. You can not demand anyone to be this brave.”
I was very affected when “Batumtumelebi” asked me for an interview in September of last year and I said that my mother doesn’t know. I said it half ironically, although it was completely true. Then I realized I couldn’t. You stand there on stage in front of queer people who come to your concert and listen to you, look at you, and you say: Oh, don’t photograph me, don’t tag me. Don’t spread me… but you need that to record an album. But the mother does not know. This is no way to live.
No path a queer person chooses to live is wrong. If you are scared to come out, well, I am no example. I’m not asking anyone to come out. But I wouldn’t trade my coming out for anything today. I don’t regret it for a second, but no one should say that everyone must have the strength to do so. You can not demand anyone to be this brave.
Humans deal with it as best we can, and once again, shame should change camps.
I do what I can. I need this.
I do this for myself. So that when I turn 60, I can say- wELL, darling. I am a lesbian artist and you can kiss my ass!
Wine, Duduk, women and club Jujuna
I had no idea I wanted to do a podcast. I couldn’t allow myself to do that before. I started writing a book two years ago, but since I did my Coming Out, the story has taken me to a completely different place. Now it’s more than obvious that the text will be about coming out and love for queer people. Before that, I had all of this locked up.
They scare you that they’ll call you a “lesbian” singer. Let them! I decided to answer: Thank you! What an honor to be addressed this way.
I think this whole straight community has a lot to learn from the queer community. I encourage everyone to keep an eye on our podcasts and content. If they listen to queer advices on sex life, their relationships might survive.
Along with the podcast, we also make online content. My co-sister, Natia, takes care of culture and memes. We also opened a club called “Jujuna”. This, friends, is a kind of circle where we give sex advice. One big deconstruction every hetero couple needs. From us, they can learn about couple dynamics, sexual relations, dating and well-being. I would personally recommend that they get a little queer in their hetero relationship as well. Let them relax a little and enjoy life more.
Dao is an activist song. I love it and I’m proud of what I did, although it’s not my best song. The clip was released with the support of the Women’s Foundation and I am very happy.
I have my own notes on production, but everything was done on a very activist level; we put our heart and soul into it as much as we could.
Making an album is my dream. I have a few beautiful songs ready for it. I want to sing about loving women. And I want to do it with words and formations I love the most: by crossing Georgian-National-popular-Fanogi (Georgian national musical genre). No one should expect me to be a good and reliable artist that Tea Tsulukiani might like. I will be vulgar, express protest, and anger. But there are some things that are sacred to me – Georgian folklore is my great love, and I treat it carefully. For example, in my video I am wearing a Chikhti-kopi (a part of the old Georgian clothing, a headdress) with pride. It’s a small detail, there’s nothing special about it, but I’m so lucky that I’m a lesbian and I’m wearing it. It’s a blessing for me and for those teenage kids listening to and writing to our podcasts from their “closets”.
I came out for those kids. I came out because I used to be that kid. First and foremost, I am singing for that little girl, who dreamt of girls at night, but thought that she had to become a boy to make that dream come true. And then I sing for all the other queers, who are everywhere, yet hiding in “closets”. It is to them that I want to say; Oh my God, we exist. Whether it’s through songs or podcasts, I want to show them that being queer is a blessing!
To others I would like to say that this is who we are, people. We are your children, sisters, aunts, and we are normal human beings.