When does our vulnerability reach its highest point?! A question I had not thought about until 25th of August 2017.
What hurts the most is thinking what’s worst, when pedestrians are violent towards you because of your gender expression or the fact that the police, who should be the last resort for seeking help, does not function and treat people adequately because of institutionalized homophobia and transphobia.
When a guy on a scooter hit my transgender friends, I knew I had to stand up for them, because I knew nobody speaks up for them including the police. The support I had to show was worth the few painful punches in my face and stomach: I stand for them and I stand up for my queerness.
They say violence breeds violence and soon after the first attack ten pedestrians mobilized around us because they heard we are queers! They grasp the message: this is a great opportunity to humiliate faggots.
When we see that the police are approaching and hear how people around us are using hate speech and physically abusing us, at a glance you hope they will help you out. Even though you do not question their homophobia, you think it is their duty and they might remain professional in this situation, at least protect you from the physical violence. This changes in a minute after a policeman grabs my hand and does, for no reason, not allow me to call the police , killing every hope that they will be helpful.
When organized homophobes see the police support, they become more violent. After a few more violent punches I am already on the ground, punching continues and I feel pain in my ribs and chest and I see my boyfriend’s nose bleeding. I can see it because he is also on the ground like me. I see how the policemen keep beating him again and again because he is screaming like me and is angry and asking for justice.
After the police did the same to me, they pushed us into the police car, letting all people who have beaten us walk away. And here starts the chain of experiencing institutionalized homophobia from the police car to the police office, from the police office to the detention room, from the detention room to the first and the second trial and all of those structures demonstrate the highest levels of homophobia and transphobia. During this time we have experienced spewing homophobic slurs, demanding to take off all of our clothing and continued violence and aggression. When in custody we have to experience the same. At the first trial we have a slight hope that the judge will be sensitive towards these issues, but he called our friends – transgender women, who had to be present on court, “Mister”, using their passport names. After this he found us guilty and fined us with the maximum amount he could.
Do you remember IDAHOT 2013 in Tbilisi when thousands of people and Orthodox priests marched against and attacked few LGBTQI+ activists?
And now we learn that the Court of Appeal has acquitted all of the suspected homophobes from that day. Before their appeal their penalty was three times less than mine and Levan’s and now they won’t have to pay it at all. There are many videos from that day showing how violent people were, but nobody has been found guilty after 4 years. Well, I find the Georgian government guilty. The last hope is the European Court of Human Rights. Georgian practice predicts the same scenario for our case as well. This means that we will have to fight for the next few years against many layers of institutionalized homophobia and transphobia and still try to stay motivated to go though.
We struggled with post-traumatic stress and physical pain and still remain focused and active to digest what had happened, to find a way out, not for only us but for every queer person in our society. We started preparing for HOROOM NIGHTS and organize a safe queer party, the first one after summer break. This time it was harder to maintain previous enthusiasm.
P.S. Our friends from around the world have started a crowdfunding campaign to show us their support and help us cover all costs. We know we cannot take their entire support without sharing it. We will pay the fees for few transgender people to change their name and avoid being called “Mister” again in the courtroom. We know this won’t be the last time they have to handle institutionalized transphobia, so we want them to stand with their chosen name if not with their chosen gender.