Tolerance, a very hard word to digest, specially if you are living in a small nation constantly struggling to keep its identity, to live, survive and exist.
Tolerance was a very hard and critical word to gasp during our weekend seminar in Tsaghkatsor, where 6 journalists and 6 LGBT community members were stuck in one remote place for 3 days to rethink all that ---
During the numerous discussions “hamaseramol”/“arvamol” was constantly defined – one part was blaming the other for writing homophobic articles and inciting hate speech in society, the other part, feeling under attack was criticizing the latter for being so closed, unorganized and not having adequate communication skills with the media and others. The ambiance was tense in the beginning, people were there with all their beliefs, stereotypes and prejudices and we had 2 and half days to work with all that.
But the real change happened at night…
Once the sun was down, nobody cared who was gay, journalist, hotel worker, diasporan, or hayasdantsi. At night something different happened which deconstructed for a moment the whole dynamic of the group. Yes, it was Mafia Time! And in that room gathered players regardless of their background, sexual preferences and social status. Two days in a row we played the game choking of laughter. And believe me when you spend 2 nights playing mafia with someone, it is very difficult to hate that person or ignore him/her. And a whole new kind of relationship starts, building a strong base for a long lasting tolerance.
The second day, journalists were ready to protect their gay game partners when hotel workers were threatening not to clean the latter’s room or got angry when a bunch of Armenian men were making fun of them and saying homophobic comments.
The last day, journalists teamed with a gay partner and prepared amazing articles and pieces to share with the rest of us, some of them are already published, other will soon. The most important thing is that communication is always possible even when the situation seems impossible. And change starts with those participants who had the will and the courage to face their deepest fears and challenge their most important beliefs.
You can read some of the articles here: