Polarized within Ourselves

by Mania Israyelyan

“My mum won’t accept me because she is ashamed,” says Nare, a 19-year-old, who identifies as a lesbian. If she had a chance to change something in society she would wipe away the feeling of shame that comes with sexual orientation. That is one of the reasons people get labelled as being “like that,” thus polarizing and isolating them amongst us.

What lies behind that shame? Is it groundless? Can there be a reason? And what is the price they pay for being “like that”? Nare asks. Polarizing the LGBT community is quite logical for our society that has cherished its traditional values throughout history. Preserving our national identity, our religion, the “privilege” of being the first nation to accept Christianity as a state religion has been a challenge, a drive, a goal to pursue for centuries. In this struggle, our national consciousness would polarize and exterminate anything that posed a threat.

The reasons that make homosexuality so “abominable” can be different. Some are afraid of the unknown, others are guided by their traditional values. And some of them would even recall Bible verses condemning the phenomenon. But is it the only thing that the Bible condemns? What about idolatry, greed, covetousness, gluttony and the rest of the deadly sins that thrive in modern society? Shouldn’t they be condemned and eliminated from amongst us?

Times change, values transform. For example, in biblical times, women did not carry the same social status as men did. Women in fact were men’s property. In the 21st century, women are no longer inferior to men; marriages are not transactions. Feelings and emotions are involved, the quality of the relationship is what matters. It is possible to cite innumerable examples that are outdated, diminished or have vanished since biblical times. We fight for women’s rights, that they have their place and say in the government, but with the same zest we fight against all kinds of minorities.

Intolerance is at its peak among the less informed members of society and in religious circles. The former ones consider LGBT people to be sick and thus fight to exclude them to the greatest degree possible. They do it with exactly the same vigor as they fight against the so-called sectarians, the religious minority. If you ask what it is that makes them reject a group, you will not get a coherent answer. The rationale behind such choices is vague. What makes us reject a phenomenon and blindly deprive people of their natural rights? We can’t say that we live in a free democratic country when we keep ostracizing minorities living among us. As the saying goes, my right to swing my fist ends where your nose begins. It seems that my fists are enormous or you just don’t need a nose.

An incident that had an indelible impact on Nare was when her brother dragged her to a psychologist to figure out her “disorder” and “treat” it. The psychologist relentlessly told Nare that she will not make it as a physicist because of her sexual orientation. Nare studies physics and wants to be a scientist. She is planning to pursue a master’s degree at a foreign university. If we believe this psychologist, then we must at least assume that there is a connection between a person’s sexual orientation and cognitive abilities. No matter how hard I tried, I could not find any material supporting this statement. Moreover, human history is full of records of diversely talented successful men and women with a non-traditional sexual orientation.  

“The degree of polarization is most intense in the street,” Nare says. She recalls an incident when she was walking down the street and a group of boys started chasing her and shouting “Hey, bro!” She does not rule out the possibility of a clash if she turned back and retaliated.

“Time after time a little boy or a girl would ask their mother, “Mummy, is that a boy or a girl?” The answer would come, “Not your business” or “It’s a girl, do not stare like that,” – answers in the form of a rebuke. Yes, a rebuke. When kids are rebuked, they know they did something wrong. In this case they feel there is something wrong. There is something they should not speak about out loud.

As they grow up, they carry that feeling of shame. It could be the other way around. Parents could take the time to explain to their children, to raise their awareness of matters like that, educate them and carefully lead them. In a situation like this, we actually have two polarized parties. And one can’t say which one is in a worse or more unfavorable situation. The polarizers are not at rest, they have to constantly keep vigil, “be careful with their behavior and words, keep at a distance” (at best) and fight to exterminate (at worst). The ostracized have to be bugged and bothered, bear it or burst. 

“We must start a dialogue,” Nare concludes. “Only as a result of a dialog will they accept us.” Nare’s family is divided now, only one of her brothers and her aunt accept her. Her mother won’t. “They do not tell my father about my sexual orientation in order not to shock him,” she says. It is unclear how many families we have where the members are divided into polarized camps. And no one has a clue. A mother who is desperately hoping that her daughter will change, but doing nothing but rejecting her, and a daughter who is eager to see her mother accept her. “I do need her support,” Nare says referring to her mother. “But it is not there, and a big part of my life is kept away from her. This creates additional tension.” Tense are the relationships with some of her friends, too. A few have doubts about Nare’s orientation, but they won’t discuss the subject with her. “They are about to reject me. They are waiting for me to confess it so they can say goodbye to me. But I am not ready to do that. I am not ready for them to kick me out of their lives…”

Is polarizing minorities the solution? Does kicking them out end the discussion? Maybe there is a missing component. Perhaps, love? Simple as it may sound. Does not God say, “Love each other as I have loved you.” Nare looks at her mum and wonders what it would be like if she obeyed the commandment, if they were not in polar opposite camps. There would be change. Positive change. For her and society.

Note: The name of the heroine is changed for security purposes.