Transgender stigma is not the biggest challenge of her life: One of the 283 acts of violence

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Lilit Martirosyan’s speech during the parliamentary hearings on the national human rights agenda troubled Armenia. Protests were held against the members of the LGBT community, calls for demolishing transgender people were heard. The European Union and the UN Office expressed concern over serious threats to minorities and human rights defenders in Armenia.

“Would it be possible for a transgender to make a speech from the National Assembly during the RPA’s reign?” asked Anzhela Tovmasyan, a commentator of the Kentron TV that belongs to the Prosperous Armenia Party (PAP) leader Gagik Tsarukyan. The commentator was defending Naira Zohrabyan, the Chairwoman of the RA NA Standing Committee on Protection of Human Rights and Public Affairs. The latter had initiated parliamentary hearings, but was surprised by the speech of the transgender person and called the issue disrespect towards herself and the National Assembly.

All Lilit Martirosyan did was to cite the number of crimes committed against transgenders – 283. According to her, there are 283 abused, raped, burnt, stabbed, killed, robbed, stigmatized and discriminated unemployed transgender persons living in poverty, whose state agencies do not support. We found only one out of 283 transgenders –Zh., who, due to circumstances, became a prostitute.

“He broke my ear, and I felt how I was running out of air”

On the night of February 28, 2018, she was tortured, smothered, a man tried to kill her, burned her apartment in Mashtots Avenue. Her operation lasted 9 hours. She has been in coma for six days. “They did not want to operate me. They were asking 1 million 370 thousand drams. Lilit came and said, “Europe has given money to Armenia. She does not have a house, no one is out there, and her property is burned: where from she would have money?” Zh. recalls that brutal day.

She was seeing waiter E., who works in one of the restaurants in Yerevan; she was seeing him for the first time that day. After a non-traditional intercourse with Zh., the waiter has asked to repeat it. Zh. refused. E. turned to violence.

“He put off his cigarette and proceeded to crush my neck and choke me, he broke my ear. I felt how I was running out of air. He left me a little to rest. Then he began to chock me again. He was delighted with choking. I was struggling. It lasted for hours. At dawn, I tried to open the door of the apartment to call for help. It was five o’clock AM. I was screaming really loudly, my voice, probably, was being heard even from the street. But no one came out. He kicked me on the back and I fell down in the middle of the lobby. I was facing the floor. He started beating me, thrashing my head with his both fists without stopping, and then, after some time, I do not remember anything.”

One of the neighbors called the police. E. tried to escape. The police caught him when he was trying to come out of the lobby. They called firefighters. She has stored the fire pictures in her mobile phone. Zh. has no doubt that his sadist client, after brutally beating her, has returned to the bedroom, most probably, to destroy his traces, and burnt it. Nevertheless, the prosecutor’s office did not accuse the defendant for attempting to destroy another person’s property, although, according to the expert’s opinion, the apartment was burnt.

The assailant was released with a signature

Investigator tried to persuade Zh. that she set the fire herself. “As much as he could have done, you could have done too” he said addressing Zh. “But how could I burn my bedroom when I was fallen unconsciously in the lobby?” she does not hide the insult. Throughout the entire process of investigation, she felt discrimination against her by the prosecutor and the judge. The investigator asked for two months’ imprisonment for the assailant, but the prosecutor refused. He was released with a signature after 72 hours of detention when Zh. was still in coma.

The defendant said in his testimony that he did not know that the prostitute was not a girl and learned about it after meeting with her. It is a lie widely spread among men who have intercourses with transgenders. When confronting face to face with her, Zh. described in detail how, in what ways they had intercourse, which excludes that he might not has known she was a transgender. The assailant originally was from Akalkalak (Georgia), is married, has a little child. He has told Zh. that he has been with other transgenders in Georgia.

Would you please stop for a second, Honorable Judge?”

The trial on this case started in September. Zh. has felt that judge Marine Melkonian was biased from the very beginning of the first session. The judge said he was unable to recognize Zh’s passport and demanded a new passport. “She said, you have black hair, your nose is not like yours here,” says Zh., bring me a new passport. And postponed the trial for two months. In November, I went with a new passport: I had changed my passport picture.

“Rise, the court is coming,” after these words we sat down, and she [the judge] without speaking to us, without reading any texts, immediately, looking at a paper, said, I want to send him to a psychological examination. Are you for or against it? I said, send if you want to. She got up and left. I run, I say, would you please stop a second, honorable judge. She went and did not listen to me,” remembers Zh. her first humiliating encounter with judge Marine Melkonian.

His attorney Ara Gharagyozyan did not want to speak about this trial, he did not even give the name of the defendant’s lawyer, reasoning “This is a closed trial. I have no right to provide any information.” “Are you going to challenge the judge’s actions?” “When the time comes, I will present my objections to the court,” said the lawyer briefly.

Zh. covers her eyes with black on the photo selected for Forrights.am. She does not want people to recognize her. In this photo, she is in bandages, unconscious, looking like a man. Now, she is a blonde woman with a mild, expressive look, a nice feminine smile, and a well-groomed skin.

She often notices people’s hateful looks in the streets, but there are some who smile. “They accept my image. If a woman suddenly calls me “hey, girl”, it makes me the happiest person in the world.”

“I think God created me this way because at one point it was necessary to do something of importance, to save someone, and maybe a woman’s spirit came and nestled inside of me.”

These days have been stressful

These days, she and other transgenders live under tremendous stress bearing the expressions of hatred pouring out from the TV, in the streets, social networks, etc. Most of all, Zh. was shocked by the fact that, among active participants against the LGTB community, she recognized a couple of permanent customers of transgender prostitutes. “Most of all, I hate lies,” she said.

Zh. does not consider her main challenge the stigma of a transgender, but the loss of a loved one. “Five days ago I lost him. He died of heart attack on 7th of this month. I lost my first love when I was 22 years old. He died of a car crash. The past is in the past, new days are coming, I get that, but my heart hurts. When I enter the apartment, I look at his shoes in the corridor, at the flowers on the table,” says Zh. showing us a bouquet of already dry flowers, which she is going to keep long-long time. “I read the last letter he wrote to me, ’What a heartless person you are.’ He wrote that. I fight with him in my mind: no, I am not heartless: I am strong.”

Syuzan Simonyan

ԹՈՂՆԵԼ ՊԱՏԱՍԽԱՆ

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