#Armenia #Yerevan #Transsexual #Hatecrimes

Yerevan April 28, 2020. The 28-year-old, known by her first name in Armenia, is the first transsexual to speak in parliament. "People like me are being tortured, raped, kidnapped, burned, and attacked in this country."
Her speech takes less than three minutes. Soberly and with numbers, she describes the discrimination and persecution of people with a deviant sexual identity in the Caucasian country. What follows is a wave of hatred and threats that collapses over Lilit.
The session leader in parliament, Naira Zohrabyan, accuses Lilit of "disregarding the agenda" and "disrespect". Shortly afterwards, the first hateful messages and death threats appear on Lilit's Facebook page. Someone publishes the address of their apartment on the Internet.
A mob gathers on the street in front of their house, shouting insults and threats. The situation is coming to a head that representatives of the European Union and the United Nations are warning of "an increase in hate speech and violence" in Armenia.
Lilit goes into hiding and flees abroad for several weeks. Today she lives in hiding in Yerevan. Statistically, a transgender person is murdered almost every day in the world.
Almost always hate crimes are involved, the only reason for the crime being the victim's sexual identity. 26 transgender people were killed in the United States last year, reports the Human Rights Campaign.
In some other Western countries a debate is starting to arise about transsexuality. Lilit takes the next big step, sex reassignment. The surgeon who is supposed to operate on Lilit has to be flown in from Russia. Several doctors in Yerevan had previously declined.
It would be too big for an Armenian surgeon to break the taboo to perform a sex change. To this day Lilit has received hate messages and death threats. Her family, friends and employees of her NGO were threatened despite having had sex reassignments.
Vardan Ghukasyan, MP for the opposition party "Blossoming Armenia" and long-time mayor of the second largest city Gyumri, told Radio Free Europe: "Perverts" like Lilit should be expelled from the country. "Prison isn't enough. You should be burned."
Actually, Lilit should never have talked about the situation of transsexuals. Formally, the parliamentary hearing dealt with children's rights. A routine event at which non-governmental organizations should also have their say.
The topic does not fit with the modern and European image with which Armenia presents itself abroad. In advertising brochures, the country advertises itself as an industrial location, as the "Silicon Valley of the former Soviet Union".
Armenia is one of the countries in the world where trans people are most discriminated against and persecuted. A country that feels part of Western Europe, is a democracy and shaped by Christianity.
In a study by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association of 49 European countries, Armenia ranks 47th in terms of persecution and discrimination against people of the opposite sex -
only in Russia and Azerbaijan the situation is even worse, according to the report. Gender reassignments and same-sex sex are no longer officially prohibited in Armenia.
Since 2015, transsexuals have been able to have their names changed without changing the gender entered in their passport. But the rejection of people with a different gender identity or inclination is still deep.
97 percent of Armenians believe that homosexuality is unacceptable, according to a study by the Pew Research Center. Those affected say that social acceptance is even lower among transsexuals.
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