Today we mourn the loss of a legend and celebrate his incredible life that spanned through nine decades on stage. An LGBT icon Charles Aznavour, a trailblazer, died today at the age of 94.
Son of survivors of the Armenian Genocide, Aznavour was born in France. He was named TIME magazine’s Entertainer of the 20th Century, he was an author of 1,200 songs in 8 languages, he sold more than 180 million records, appeared in 80 film. Charles Aznavour was one of the earliest allies of the LGBT community.
It is mostly unknown in the Armenian community, but in 1972, risking censorship and backlash, Aznavour wrote what he called “the first song about homosexuality,” 46 years ago. The song is called What Makes a Man.
Aznavour wrote the song based on experiences of his friends who were gay. He wrote it to tell the stories of good people who were “marginalized” in the society.
In an interview with The Telegraph, he stated “I wanted to write what nobody else was writing. I’m very open, very risky, not afraid of breaking my career because of one song. I don’t let the public force me to do what they want me to do. I force them to listen to what I have done. That’s the only way to progress, and to make the public progress.”
In his song, Aznavour wrote:
So many times we have to pay. For having fun and being gay
It’s not amusing. There’s always those who spoil our games
By finding fault and calling names. Always accusing
Yet they make fun of how I talk. And imitate the way I walk
Tell me if you can. What makes a man a man.
I know my life is not a crime. I’m just a victim of my time
I stand defenseless. Nobody has the right to be the judge of what is right for me
Before Armenia officially adopted the tricolor flag it uses today, in 1919, renowned artist Martiros Saryan, who’s also the founder of the modern Armenian National School of Painting, proposed a prototype rainbow flag for the first republic of Armenia. However, it was not chosen. The original prototype is on display at the Martiros Saryan House Museum in Yerevan.
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Powerfully touching, beautifully told personal account of Haig Chahinian - a single gay dad raising a daughter. A wonderful read that will answer questions LGBT parents or those who wish to become adoptive parents may have.
“Over the next few years, when Elle asked about when she could meet her bio mom, I reaffirmed the need to wait. But now at 11, her tone was different, like she was demanding something that belonged to her.”
Never wanting Elle severed from her roots, I called her birth mom every Mother’s Day while avoiding an actual reunion. But now at 11, her tone was different, like she was demanding something that belonged to her.
Last week, as part of ANCA led delegation to Armenia, California State Assemblymember and California Legislature LGBT Caucus Chair Evan Low toured Armenia meeting with high-level officials, including Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan / Նիկոլ Փաշինյան. This was Low’s first visit to Armenia. The delegation’s aim was to increase collaboration between California and Armenia through educational institutions, IT sector, and trade.
Other members of the delegation included California Senator Anthony Portantino and City of Glendale Mayor Zareh Sinanyan; both marched with Equality Armenia at the 2018 Los Angeles Pride Parade. As one of most active allies of the Armenian community in California, Senator Portantino is also an early supporter of LGBT rights. He is the brother of LGBT activist, late Michael Portantino, the editor of Gay & Lesbian Times.
Chairman Low and the delegation also toured the American University of Armenia (AUA) and met with AUA President Der Kiureghian. They toured the campus making stops at the AGBU Papazian Library, the Entrepreneurship and Product Innovation Center (EPIC) with its prototyping lab, and the newly constructed Student Union, Faculty Center and Open Amphitheater adjacent to the Paramaz Avedisian Building.
To recognize Portantino’s efforts and initiatives supporting Armenia and AUA, Dr. Der Kiureghian presented the Senator a trophy with the following inscription: “Given to Senator Anthony J. Portantino in appreciation for his support of the Armenian Community in California and the American University of Armenia.” Senator Portantino had recently introduced a successful bill in the California Senate for six full-tuition scholarships at UC Hastings College of Law for AUA graduates.
#CALGBT #AUA #EvanLow #AnthonyPortantino #ZarehSinanyan #ANCA #NikolPashinyan #LGBTRightsInArmenia #EqualityArmenia ... See MoreSee Less
“We ask that Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Diaspora Minister Mkhitar Hayrapetyan publicly condemn the violent attacks that were perpetrated against Armenian LGBTQ activists and that Minister of Justice Artak Zeynalyan takes all necessary measures for legal action against the attackers in a fair and expeditious manner.” ... See MoreSee Less
On August 3, in Shurnukh village of Syunik region, a mob of 30 people have attacked and beaten nine LGBT activists. Two of them were immediately hospitalized, the other seven had minor injuries and were taken in for a medical checkup. It took the police more than an hour to arrive at the scene of the crime.
The representatives of PINK Armenia are in Goris (nearest municipality) and are working with authorities investigating the crime.
Our hearts go out to the victims and their families. We demand just and swift action from authorities in Armenia to investigate and prosecute the perpetrators of this hate crime.
#HumanRigts #LGBTRightsinArmenia #PinkArmenia #HateCrime #Homophobia #Transphobia ... See MoreSee Less
Sir Elton John is on a humanitarian mission in Armenia. His foundation supports hearing aid implants program in the country. While meeting with President Armen Sarkissian, he stated that he’d like to help rid Armenian society of the stigma associated with the LGBT community.
While President Sarkissian dodged the “LGBT question”, his response was neutral. As Elton John mentioned, it is a relatively newly independent country where change is slow, yet there’s a lot of energy, yearning for a change.
President Sarkissian told reporters at the the Hayk and Elza Titizian Children’s Rehabilitation Center, “Elton John is a friend of Armenia, as he has many Armenian friends, and I am one of them.“ He added, "Elton is not only a great singer, but also a great intellectual who knows the history of Armenia well.”
It is to be noted that on Feb. 26, 2017 Elton John‘s foundation hosted the annual Oscar Viewing Party with a screening of The Promise, set during the Armenian Genocide. Subsequently all proceeds of the film were donated to various charities including Elton John’s AIDS Foundation. Elton John mentioned that his foundation will help Armenians with HIV/AIDS and the LGBT community in Armenia.
Elton John is scheduled to meet with newly elected Prime Minister, populist Nikol Pashinyan. PM Pashinyan, who was a anti-corruption investigative journalist, is a wise man who has done a good job of surrounding himself in good company. His cabinet choices have been progressive.
There is a lot of work to be done, though there’s hope. There is energy for change. Elton John’s visit to Armenia marks a milestone in the narrative of the LGBT community.
Photos courtesy of News.am
#LosAngeles #Armenia #eltonjohn #LGBTQAlly #Gay #Armenian #EqualityArmenia #marriageequality #velvetrevolution #nikolpashinyan #armensarkissian ... See MoreSee Less
Happy Mothers Day to all mothers out there, who unconditionally love their children. Love is the answer.
Cher is as much of a LGBTQ icon as the pomegranate is a symbol of Armenia. After an ‘un-Cher-ly’ reaction to her then daughter’s (now Chaz Bono) coming out as lesbian, Cher has been a vocal advocate of the LGBTQ ever since.
The Oscar and Grammy winning artist was the key-note speaker of the PFLAG (parents, families and friends of gays) in 1997 and received a GLAAD Media Award (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) in 1998.
Cher visited Armenia shortly after another revolution in Armenia that lead to the collapse of the Soviet Union. The Artsakh War was raging between Azerbaijan and Armenia and the devastation of the 1988 earthquake was wide-spread.
Here are some photos from Cher’s 1993 visit to Armenia and her recount of the trip.
I DON’T KNOW WHY I CAME HERE, says Cher. It is a late April afternoon, and she is standing before a group of 1,000 students at Yerevan University, deep in the ravaged heart of the former Soviet republic of Armenia. No one in the unheated, dank assembly hall seems to know why she is there either. They remember Cher from the not so long ago days when they had television and batteries and something other than candles by which to read the newspapers at night. And so to them she is an intriguing apparition, a sudden shaft of light slanting in from the West, even if her message is not full of hope.
Most Americans have no idea you are here, she tells them, in her characteristic let’s-cut-the-b.s. fashion. Now, suddenly, she seems to grasp her mission. The most important thing I can do, she continues, is take a picture back to America so they can see what it’s like.
For three days, Cher, 46, traveled through Armenia, collecting — and generating — such images of a country and a people who have fallen through the crack of consciousness between Bosnia and Somalia.
She arrived in Yerevan — once a prosperous capital city and now a ragged shadow of its former self — on a sunny, 50 degreesF Wednesday. She had departed her home in Santa Monica several days earlier, paid a visit to her 17-year-old son, Elijah Blue Allman, at his New England prep school, stopped briefly in London, then flown to Armenia under the auspices of the United Armenian Fund, a nonprofit relief organization, on a rickety DC-8 cargo plane. With her came 45 tons of medical supplies, books, printing equipment, candy and toys — including Glitter Beach Barbie dolls. Then, at the airport, she and her companions — including her old pal and assistant Paulette Betts and true love turned best friend Rob Camilletti, 28 — boarded an ancient bus crammed with an international group of reporters and photographers who had vied for the chance to join her. I want to bring a face to the name Armenian, she had said. Her itinerary included an orphanage, a typical Armenian household and — because she is, after all, Cher — a brief stop for Diet Pepsi with the president of the country, Levon Ter-Petrosyan.
To understand why Cher undertook this journey, it helps to remember that behind the leather and lace costumes and the club-scene poses, she is still Cherilyn Sarkisian, the only black-haired member in a family of Southern California blonds. Cher, who grew up with one half sister, is the daughter of a mother, Georgia, with Irish, English, German and Cherokee bloodlines, and a father, John, whose parents left Armenia after an ethnic-cleansing campaign conducted by the Ottoman Turks in which an estimated 1 million perished. Her parents divorced when Cher was 14 months old, and she enjoyed meaningful contact with her father for only a few months when she was 11 and Georgia and John briefly reconciled. Although her relationship with her father, who died in 1985, was volatile, and the two seldom spoke, Cher will always remember that first sight of his dark eyes. I just looked at him, she recalls. Until then, I didn’t know there was such a thing as an Armenian.
In 1993 there is barely such a place as Armenia. The country of 3.7 million — shattered by a 1988 earthquake, economically ruined by the disintegration of the Soviet Union and locked in an unwinnable war with neighboring Azerbaijan, which has blockaded most of its borders — is so staggeringly dysfunctional that it could rouse maternal instincts in a stone. Unemployment brushes 85 percent in the cities, electrical power is sporadic, and a pound of beef costs 1,000 rubles — for most people, two week’s pay. Scattered along the route that Cher’s bus traveled were the weirdly uniform stumps of trees that had been cut down for firewood during the long winter.
So why plunk herself down amid the misery? Cher says that at this point in her life she actually feels herself drawn to such grinding need and utter turmoil. One reason is that her family responsibilities are lighter these days. Elijah (her son by second husband Gregg Allman) is off at private school. And her daughter (by first husband Sonny Bono), Chastity, 24, is pursuing a rock career with a band called Ceremony. I was living a life of seclusion — and it wasn’t working, Cher says. Later she adds, If you want to represent people as an artist, you’ve got to live your life with your ear to the ground, to be disturbed and restless.
During the last few months, Cher has been shaking up her world. She has put all of her real estate holdings — a house and 1.3-acre spread in Malibu, and another house on 7-plus acres in Aspen — on the market. She has stepped up her contributions of time and money to the Children’s Craniofacial Association, a group she learned about while making the 1985 movie Mask, in ( which she played the mother of a teenage boy with a severe facial deformity. And though she hasn’t made any definite plans to pull out of the infotainment business, her days of huckstering hair and skin products on late-night TV appear to be numbered.
I think I kind of lost my way, she said one night in Armenia, speaking from the darkness of a hotel room that would have to wait another day for its allotted hour or so of daily electricity. I’ve sold my soul in a way. What I’ve done is nothing to be ashamed of, but I just don’t want to be a businesswoman who does infomercials anymore. It doesn’t feel good. It’s strange what does. During her brief but emotionally charged tour of Armenia, Cher did her makeup by the light of a sputtering candle, hid her unwashed bangs under a velvet cap and a striped headscarf, huddled for warmth each night under ratty blankets — then woke up refreshed and ready for more.
Each day in that land of poverty and chaos brought serendipitous surprises. For example, Cher probably never thought she would want to see the inside of an orphanage again. She had spent some six months in one when she was about 2 and her mother, a single parent, was too sick to take care of her. But Cher’s visit to the warm but shabby Mangadoon home near Yerevan brought smiles instead of traumatic memories. Cher sat cross-legged on the floor in her leather overalls while two dozen children of preschool age recited the Lord’s Prayer for her and sang the Armenian national anthem. She rewarded each child with a hug and a Barbie, a gift that left many of the Mangadoon residents, who had never had a new toy before, speechless. I always hated you, Barbie, Cher said to one of the dolls. I always thought you were a blond bimbo, but now I see that you have your uses.
The woman who headed the supposedly typical Armenian household that Cher visited on her second day in the country was anything but speechless. I hope this is the worst of times, Alvard Keropian, a woman in her mid-40s, said to her celebrity visitor. Ensconced on the sixth floor of a concrete apartment block atop a hill in Yerevan, Alvard and her husband are raising five children on a diet of little more than rice, potatoes and powdered milk. Against a backdrop of dozens of books — which, along with brandy glasses, coffee cups and a few sticks of furniture, seem to be the family’s only possessions — she chatted with Cher, mom to mom, about the difficulties, and occasional joys, of having a teenager. My son is doing so well at mathematics, she said, that someday you, Cher, will be proud to say that you have met Vahan Keropian. The boy, standing nearby, emitted a strangled noise — the international signal for adolescent embarrassment.
The next day, Cher visited another household a few miles away and encountered yet a deeper level of need. Christina Agabekov, who lives with her parents and year-old sister, has been partially paralyzed since birth from cerebral spastia. Although she is only 3, she knows who Cher is because her mother, Nelli, reached the movie star eight months ago with a letter that she had entrusted to a friend who was immigrating to the U.S. and who found an address for Cher through a charitable organization in New York City. What the mother wanted was help in getting Christina to America, where her condition could be better diagnosed and treated. It’s a miracle that letter got to me, Cher says. But the family thinks it’s an even bigger miracle that Cher not only wrote back, offering to bring Christina to the U.S., but showed up to sit in the parlor and confirm the arrangements. The child and her mother will be going to a hospital in Los Angeles some time this month. Unbelievable! said Christina’s Aunt Irina, who traveled about 400 miles from Uzbekistan to be with the child and witness the celebrity visit. Yeah, said Cher, with her patented deadpan. This is kind of the Armenian version of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.
On her final day in the country, Cher took a short trip through Yerevan to pay a 30-minute call on President Ter-Petrosyan. They discussed a book Cher had read recently, The Forty Days of Musa Dagh, about noble Armenians who fought the Turks. Then Cher went with her group to visit Echmiadzin, the headquarters of the Armenian Orthodox Church and Seminary built amid a peaceful setting of trees and gardens in the year A.D. 301. She took in the ancient archways and the painted and inlaid altar, then paused before a heavy jeweled crucifix as black-hooded priests chanted the morning Eucharist. After lingering over the tapestries, paintings and manuscripts in the seminary’s museum, she wrote in the guest book that visiting this place has been one of the most thrilling moments of my life.
Outside, the sound of hammering drew her toward a cave in the ancient wall where a stonecutter was at work on an ornate cross made from the crumbly pink tufa that is Armenia’s native stone. She clambered down into the cryptlike , space and asked for instruction. Guided by the stonecutter, Max Chazarian, she helped etch an elaborate chain design into the soft rock that will eventually be installed in front of the seminary.
As Cher hammered at the stone, intent on her work, pink tufa dust rained down on her black clothes. She couldn’t have cared less. Malibu and Aspen seemed far, far away. I could have stayed there for days, she said later, shortly before getting on the plane to head home. I met a man, and he taught me to carve on stone. At that moment I began to feel Armenian.
#Cher #LGBTMother #mothersday #unconditionallove #IndependenceFromSovietUnion #VelvetishRevolution #snapoutofit #Armenia #EqualityArmenia ... See MoreSee Less
Tell me who your friends are and I’ll tell you who you are” is a an ancient proverb known to all people. And from the company Nikol Pashinyan keeps, it seems like the new leader of Armenia is a wise and progressive man. An anti-corruption investigative journalist turned parliamentarian, turned opposition leader, then swept to power by the people - Nikol Pashinyan, the new Prime Minister of Armenia, is a worldly man who has a deep understanding of what it takes to lead a nation into democracy - a democracy for everyone.
At a protest on April 17, in a speech at the Republic Square in Yerevan, Pashinyan called upon Arsinée Khanjian, Serj Tankian and Charles Aznavour to stand with the people of Armenia. These are sons and daughters of Armenia, loved and respected by all, who have conquered the highest stages in the world. These are our best bets in representing Armenia to the world.
Beyond being “pride of Armenia”, there’s an unavoidable common denominator in all these national heroes - they are all staunch supporters and allies of the LGBTQ community. They are all defenders of human rights.
Armenian-Canadian actress Arsinee Kanjian, who holds a Masters Degree in political science is married to twice Oscar nominated director Atom Egoyan. In 2012, both Khanjian and Egoyan signed a statement condemning the proposed anti-LGBTQ legislation in Armenia. The bill would have made any display of “non-traditional” relationships punishable by a $4,000 fine and possible jail time. The statement read:
“In response to reports of draft ‘anti-propaganda’ legislation in Armenia, modeled on Russia’s recently passed and widely condemned bill, we, the undersigned members of the global Armenian community, say such attempts to codify anti-gay prejudice into law are contrary to our values. We believe in dignity, equality and the right to self-expression for all people regardless of religion, sexual orientation, gender, or race.”
Another signer of the same statement was Grammy nominated artist Serj Tankian, the leading vocalist of the Grammy winning band System of a Down. Tankian and SOAD have toured the world educating audiences about the Armenian Genocide and human rights. In an interview with the Rolling Stones magazine, Tankian, in reference to the Russian version of the anti-LGBT law, said that the law “…is just a Pandora’s box of possible abuses of human rights of people who belong to the LGBT community…” Tankian added that “Part of the problem is education and experience. Many parts of Russia [and Armenia] just like many parts of America may be unaccustomed to living alongside people from the LGBT community.”
In the constellation of “LGBTQ rights-embracing Armenian stars”, Charles Aznavour is a trailblazer. The legendary “French Frank Sinatra,” Time magazine’s Entertainer of the 20th Century, author of 1,200 songs in 8 languages who sold more than 180+ million records, appeared in 80 films, Aznavour is one of the earliest allies of the LGBTQ community. But it is mostly unknown in the Armenian community.
In 1972, risking censorship and backlash, Aznavour wrote what he called “the first song about homosexuality,” 46 years ago. The song is called What Makes a Man.
Aznavour wrote the song based on experiences of his friends who were gay. He wrote it to tell the stories of good people who were “marginalized” in the society. In an interview with The Telegraph, he stated “I wanted to write what nobody else was writing. I’m very open, very risky, not afraid of breaking my career because of one song. I don’t let the public force me to do what they want me to do. I force them to listen to what I have done. That’s the only way to progress, and to make the public progress.”
In his song, Aznavour writes:
So many times we have to pay For having fun and being gay It’s not amusing, There’s always those who spoil our games By finding fault and calling names Always accusing, Yet they make fun of how I talk And imitate the way I walk Tell me if you can What makes a man a man.
I know my life is not a crime I’m just a victim of my time I stand defenseless, Nobody has the right to be The judge of what is right for me Tell me if you can, What makes a man a man.
We are happy that the revolutionary people of Armenia have role models like Serj Tankian, Arsinee Khanjian, Atom Egoyan and Charles Aznavour. It is time for the people of Armenia to embrace their heroes, not just the ones named above, but the heroes of the future who stand amongst them today. As Glendale, California Mayor Zareh Sinanyan said during his speech at the Equality Armenia Leadership Council on March 29, a day before Pashinyan’s historic March from Gyumri to Yerevan, “It is as important to love each other as it is to love our homeland”. Let Armenians love each other without fear.
“I am telling you that there will be no revenge, vendettas - we will build a country of equality, national unity...” These were Pashinyan’s words at a protest the day after Serzh Sargsyan’s resignation.
There’s hope in Armenia today. There’s a possibility of a brighter future being nurtured in Armenia today. There’s a window of opportunity for Armenia to become a leader in the region. A leader in human rights. Strategic modernization of LGBTQ rights are the most efficient way to present Armenia as a modern democracy open for business. The Diaspora, the world is counting on it.
Given that the President of Armenia, Armen Sarkissian, is a physicist, a mathematician who served as Armenia’s Ambassador to the U.K., who is a member of Dean’s Advisory Board at Kennedy School of Governance at Harvard University, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan is in good company. Pashinyan has the political capital to push for reforms - not just economic reforms, but also social reforms in women’s rights, minority rights and LGBTQ rights. For economic reforms are bound to social ones; one is incomplete without the other. We are all in this together. #դուխով.
#nikolpashinyan #arsineekhanjian #atomegoyan #charlesaznavour #serjtankian #LGBTQAlly #Gay #Armenian #EqualityArmenia #velvetrevolution #duxov #դուխով ... See MoreSee Less
We are happy that the revolutionary youth of Armenia has role models like Serj Tankian. The lead vocalist of Grammy winning band System of a Down is a champion of human rights, social justice issues and animal rights. Tankian is currently in Armenia to support the people in the aftermath of the peaceful Velvet Revolution that ousted Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan.
In 2011, Tankian was awarded Armenian Prime Minister’s Memorial Order medal for his contribution to the recognition of the Armenian Genocide and the advancement of music. Through his music, he tells the stories of the oppressed. Tankian and SOAD have toured the world, including Armenia, educating the audiences about Genocides and human rights. He is a humanitarian and an ally of the LGBTQ community.
In 2012, Tankian signed a statement addressed to the Armenian Parliament condemning the proposed anti-LGBTQ legislation in Armenia. The bill would have made any display of “non-traditional” relationships punishable by a $4,000 fine and jail time.
The statement, signed by Tankian read: “”In response to reports of draft ‘anti-propaganda’ legislation in Armenia, modeled on Russia’s recently passed and widely condemned bill, we, the undersigned members of the global Armenian community, say such attempts to codify anti-gay prejudice into law are contrary to our values. We believe in dignity, equality and the right to self-expression for all people regardless of religion, sexual orientation, gender, or race.””
In a 2013 interview with the Rolling Stones Magazine, Tankian said the following: “The legislation in Russia that targets supposed gay propaganda, whatever that may mean, in the presence of minors is just a pandora's box of possible abuses of human rights of people who belong to the LGBT community there.” He added that “Part of the problem is education and experience. Many parts of Russia [and Armenia] just like many parts of America may be unaccustomed to living alongside people from the LGBT community.”
#serjtankian #LGBTQAlly #Gay #Armenian #EqualityArmenia #velvetrevolution #duxov #դուխով #nikolpashinyan ... See MoreSee Less
ON TUESDAY, APRIL 24 AT 12:00PM, MARCH WITH US! The Armenian Genocide Committee calls upon all segments of our community to join together in a MARCH FOR JUSTICE on Monday, April 24, 2017 at 12:00PM from the Pan Pacific Park to the Turkish Consulate in Los Angeles as we continue to fight for justice and against the denial of the Armenian Genocide. Organizational leaders in Southern California call upon the Armenian-American community to remain vigilant and active as we continue to voice our collective demands for justice.
It is our belief that our voices are most loudly and effectively heard when they are unified, and to that end, we proudly announce the continued cooperation of community organizations to organize and execute the commemorative activities and demands for justice for this year under the banner of the Armenian Genocide Committee (“AGC”) consisting of the organizations and entities listed below.
YEREVAN (A.W.)—Moments ago, Serge Sarkisian resigned from his post as Armenia’s Prime Minister after nearly two weeks of protests, demonstrations, and acts of civil disobedience across Yerevan and other parts of the country calling for [...]
Violence against trans women are on a rise in the U.S. and in Armenia. Unfortunately in Armenia, there are no hate-crime laws to protect LGBTQ individuals. And often, the police do not treat anti-LGBT violence incidences with warranted diligence.
“She was immediately hospitalized and is now receiving treatment at the Erebuni Medical Center, said Lilit Martirosyan, the president of the Right SIDE NGO.”
Sad news of a noble man. “Buckel had served as the marriage project director for Lambda Legal, the nation's first legal organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights.” ... See MoreSee Less