Azerbaijan's LGBTQI people: who they are and how they live
Unfortunately, the LGBTQI community in Azerbaijan is not active enough. Even if there are minor shifts, positive steps, they rarely go far beyond the country’s capital – Baku.
At times, it is the LGBTQI people, residents of Baku, who share their stories and problems in Azerbaijan on social media. This time I decided to change it. New faces from different regions of the country shared their stories, experiences, and personal experiences with us.
“The family accepted me for who I am”
Vilayat from Jalilabad region says:
“I am 18 years old, male homosexual. For the first time I discovered myself in front of the mirror. I could hardly understand this, it seemed to me that I was sitting in a different body, playing some role. I can’t do what I want. This is a very unusual feeling.
Looking at myself in the mirror, I said to myself: “This is not me. This is not what I want”. Unfortunately, I cannot live the life I dream of. But I’ve already resigned myself to it. I accepted it because I love myself.
I used to have a loved one, but after seeing the reaction of the family, I had to leave. Then they found out. I told my parents myself. As in all families, at first they took it negatively, but then they accepted it. They – you are our child, whether you are gay or bisexual – we cannot interfere in your life.
In the village I told everyone about it. At first there was a negative reaction, they didn’t allow their children to communicate with me, they didn’t even allow me to talk, then they got used to it. Sometimes I sit and talk with women. I have 3-4 friends nearby, who are also gays.
Classmates also know, they also accepted me after a while.
Now I feel calm, my fellow villagers accept me for who I am. People think of me as a “woman”, but every time I emphasize to them that being gay is just being gay.
One of my friends, inspired by my experience, came out, but the reaction was not the same. He was abused by his family, he was not accepted.
I think that LGBTQI + people in Baku go wherever they want, from a financial point of view, they have a more favorable situation. At 18, I have to think about these things. I work, but I earn little. I can afford to leave my native village, but rarely. Transport here is expensive, there are almost no parks. In the center of the district, people look askance at me, I’m worried. Everyone in my native village knows me and used to me, that’s why they no longer react. But in the village everything is different they consider me a “prostitute”. There are many people in Baku, no one knows each other, it is much calmer.
Recently in Masalli (a neighboring district) one guy was literally thrown out of his house and onto the street because he was gay. He had nowhere to go and the way out was suicide. A bit far away for me, but I attended his funeral.
It’s financially difficult for me, the budget is small. Sometimes there is no money for weeks. But because I live in a village, I can borrow from my neighbors.
Sometimes I get a job, but I live in the area, and when I talk about it, they no longer write. If I lived in a city, it would also be easier financially. Soon I will buy a ticket and leave the village, I will be free.
But if we stay here and claim our rights, then in the future these places will become less problematic”.
“If my father finds out, he will cut my head off”
Daniel (prefers not to disclose his real name) lives in Sheki. He is sure that it is much harder for him to live in his area than for the LGBTQ I+ representatives living in Baku:
“I am 20 years old, male homosexual. I first felt it when I was 9-10 years old. Three years earlier, I finally figured out myself and after a sufficient amount of research, I accepted myself for who I am.
I had a partner. The relationship lasted for a while, but there is no serious loved one yet.
I told my sister about it, but my parents don’t know. If my father finds out, he will literally cut off my head. Therefore, I plan to come out after I fully ensure my safety.
You know, there are great difficulties in Baku too. The pressures that we all have to face are faced there as well. But in the city, LGBTQI + representatives can at least contact each other, they understand that they are not alone. It is practically impossible in districts and villages ”.
“This is worse than female debauchery …”
“Elnara (not her real name), I come from the western part of Azerbaijan, my family lives there. I came to Baku when I was 20 to get higher education. I used to think that I was just a lesbian, but now I feel bisexual.
For the first time at the age of 12, I felt that I was not quite like the others. And before that I knew that a girl falling in love with another girl is alien to my environment. It was strange, but I was still little. One day my mother found me crying because of another girl. It was as if her glances woke me up that day. I remember saying to myself: “What is this? Why am I like this?”
There was a gay guy in our village, everyone was talking about him. One day my brother came home and talking about this guy, he said: “This is worse than female debauchery …”
Then everything fell into place, but I was very scared: to die, to be killed, to be unworthy of my family, fears about the future. But due to the fact that I was still young, no one paid much attention to all this.
I could not master myself, and in the end, I told my mother about everything. She listened and said that it would pass. But it didn’t. When I was in the 9th grade, I went with my mother to the clinic, got tested for hormones, and even had my brain studied. Nothing abnormal was found.
Mom decided that I was still little and that everything would go away with time.
I still don’t know the reason, but the girl I was in love with committed suicide. For many years I was depressed. Only in the third year did I decisively say to myself: “This is me”. But I still hid it from others, I was afraid that people would leave me. Last year, I once again fell into a severe depression, and decided to tell my sister and friends about everything. It became easier, I felt more confident. I have good friends, I know that for sure.
I always loved people from afar, but after accepting the situation, I met a girl on Instagram. There was a relationship, I was able to feel whole with her. It was the real me, no guy could complement me like that. Then we parted, and over time I realized that relationships with guys are also developing. But that was not enough, and that relationship was not related to feelings. Probably, there is no such love for guys. I still get to know myself.
In Baku, queer people are much freer, in my opinion. Others do not interfere in their life, at least when they are bored, they can go out for a walk. And in the regions, you can’t even go to the store, they say different things about such a girl right away. People in Baku experience less negativity. In the regions, people are conservative.
It was with the aim of getting out of that situation that I went to study. In general, I am sure that people in the provinces should be educated more. There is no other way to get rid of the family and that strange society”.
“Difficult to find a partner”
Our last interlocutor lives in Shamkir, his name is Turan.
“I’m a trans man, heterosexual. I told my parents about myself, they cannot accept it. Aunt and grandmother know from relatives. I did not say anything to other people around me, and there was no communication with them. But I would like to tell others about myself. After all, tomorrow one of their relatives may also know a representative of LGBTİQ + in themselves. I want to be perceived for who I really am.
The loved one was not there. There were virtual relationships, but they did not turn into real ones. It is not so easy in the provinces.
But it seems to me that regardless of the place of residence, a person is capable of anything. If you believe in yourself, opportunities will come.
I received a pedagogical education, now I am busy with music, I intend to work. So far, I don’t see anything else in the future.
I live with my family. I thought that they would let me go to live freely, but it didn’t work out. In the regions, people like to say different things, but that has never been a problem for me.
I fought with society for a long time. there were many problems at the place of study. People are shackled, and do not understand that we are controlled by our senses, our brain”.
In the course of preparing this material, I talked with many people, listened to their stories, some of them got into this article. The main problem of LGBTİQ + representatives in the regions is the inaccessibility of information and the absence of their own community. People who are difficult for us to reach because of the distance face an unimaginable number of phobias. Lack of access to the press, lack of information makes their struggle for survival even harder.
The difficulties of finding a community also complicate the solution of these problems. The main reason for these difficulties is the impossibility of their participation in social events and the lack of sources in the Azerbaijani language. This is why most of the people I have spoken to only know what gay, lesbian and trans means. By identifying themselves in this way, they try to find themselves.