The Letters

Parvana Rahimova

In the Caucasus, especially in Azerbaijan, writing about women, LGBT rights, and gender discrimination in general is not so popular or well accepted.

 When I searched for lesbian women, especially members of the LGBT community, I found that most of them hide their identities to avoid embarrassment and harassment in the society. Some of them wanted to give an interview while a few wrote down their feelings. So I decided to write their stories in the form of letters.

Aygul’s letter:
Dear Mom, I wish you would read the letter.

It took a long time to understand and accept that I was different while living in a remote village. When I was in sixth grade, I started to feel changes in my body that I couldn't understand.
I had a soft corner for my English teacher for the first time. When I didn't see her, I started to miss her. I remember listening to her carefully, waiting to see her and I still remember her in all my experiences. These memories strengthen me and connect me to life.
I had very strange feelings as well as embarrassment. I couldn’t understand this strange attraction. Who could I talk to about this feeling?

Mom, for the first time I wanted to share this with you, but I was shy. I was afraid I would lose my relationship with you. I hated my father because he made you cry. My friends, who I had been friends with for years, walked away when they found out that I was “different”. Living in fear of losing you is very frustrating for me.

When I was studying in the university, I decided to cut my hair short for the first time and after that you didn’t talk to me. You seem to be beginning to understand that I'm different. If you only knew how lonely I felt, I was suffering.
I could not be the child you want to see,mom. Sorry...

You really want me to wear a wedding dress and get married but I can't explain to you that I'm different. I simply can't ... After all, if you love me as I am, you will accept who I am. You complain about the pandemic and can't walk down the street, so you complain about not being able to have a cup of tea and talk to your neighbor. You wish for birthdays and weddings. You complain that you can't fit in the frames when you are alone in the four walls of the house.

You know how I have been afraid of the judgments that have kept me in isolation from you, my father, my relatives, my friends for years. How I was shocked by stereotypes and exclusion.

I am 23 now, who is not afraid to go hungry, to be alone between four walls. Only you can see me. If you can feel the pain that is raging inside me, mother.

Rumors began to circulate among my relatives. They began to realize that I was not wearing a woman's accessories. They said she dresses like a man and doesn't wear make-up. It's as if she's a man, not a woman. They make fun of me, they make fun of me.

I write my words on white paper. How can I show my family who I am with in the picture frame? For years, I lived with an identity that was hidden from me, from my classmates, from my friends, and even from my mother. I feel the coldness of the iron chain of stereotypes in my arms. There is a woman living inside me. It's like an experimental mouse doomed to live with its mouth closed for years in a box. A dumb, dumb animal. I live in a society laboratory that expects me to do what I expect, not what I want. Who will win, who will be the victim?
Nigar’s letter:
I am 32 years old and I am an editor by profession but unfortunately, I am unable to find a job. I love cycling, watching football and animals. I even have two cats at home. My favourite hobby is to buy different flowers and shrubs and take care of them. I live with my mother and I have no idea how she would react if she knew I was a lesbian. But I do not want to lose her. I have a girlfriend for 8 years and I am happy with her.
Michelle’s letter:
My name is Michelle, I am 22 years old. I identify myself as a gay (lesbian). I am a free woman. I work and earn my living and I have no financial dependence on my family. I have tried myself on many jobs, and the money I earn is mainly through promotional jobs at supermarkets. I am a social worker and an amateur actress.

I was born and raised in a traditional, heteronormative Azerbaijani family, so I have always tried to overcome certain feelings I have. I had never revealed my identity as a LGBT individual until three years ago. When I was twelve or thirteen, I liked a girl in school but I was very shy because I was told that all such attractions are "sickness, sin, and immorality." Therefore, I always kept my sexual orientation a secret and pretended to be heterosexual like everyone else. This lasted a few years until I fell in love with another girl. So I started doing a lot of research about this feeling inside of me. I was no longer the previous person, and this time I was very strong and was not afraid to tell everyone about my sexual orientation. Even if I am at risk of being abandoned by my family, I will still not give up on my real identity.

My family is phobic to gay relationships. I know they won't accept me like that, because we have a lot of arguments about it at home. My relationship with my mother is good, but when it comes to LGBTQ, it gets too bad. No matter how homophobic she is, I can't give her up because I love her. I know people won't accept me. My relationship with my father hasn’t been great. I cannot discuss such issues as LGBT with him or even gender equality.

Certainly, homosexuals are more discriminated against in society by men. Another reason why I am less discriminated against is that I am dedicated at my work, in my family relationships and in other environments. However, I have been subjected to sexual and psychological pressure regarding my sexual orientation. You would see a lot of criticism of alternate sexuality on social media by men. Men want to prove that I chose my sexual orientation because of the lack of men in my life. Some even send nude pictures and pictures of their money to me. Since there is no point in talking to such disgusting people, I do not bother about them.

I can see that my psychological problems are getting worse. This mental tension is not only due to my family, but also due to the extension of pandemic quarantine. I also have a gynecological problem. The remedy to this problem is very expensive and requires constant treatment. It’s not certain even after surgery whether I will get rid of my daily pain or if I will feel healthy. But as I said, I have been in this situation for the last few months, and although it is critical, I can’t seem to find a solution in the near future.

Note: Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, there are many LGBT members in Azerbaijan who are unable to find a job at all. This leads to many economic and psychological problems. Most of them are forced to live in rented houses away from their families due to their homophobic behavior. Moreover, due to reduced financial resources, they have difficulty paying rent and surviving during this quarantine period.