Lilit Martirosyan

I’ve always been an activist. When I was 13 years old as I started volunteering in the office of WFCE, which was the first organization based in Armenia to deal with LGBT issues. I remember attending WFCE’s seminars being amazed by the speeches of Karen Badalyan, who rooted in me a sense of activism and willingness to make a change in Armenia.

Two years ago I founded the NGO Right Side. There was always talk of “LGB” issues but trans people were never discussed. So I started work on the NGO because, first of all, as a transgender woman, I know how hard it is to live in Armenia with that gender identity. And nowadays I’m proud to say that Right Side is the first trans organisation founded by trans people that works for trans people, not only in Armenia but across the South Caucasus.

Our organisation deals with issues such as name changing for transgender people. We work with the Ministry of Justice to make the process of changing one’s legal name much easier. We also give educational seminars in our community centre. Right now we give courses on make up and sewing to the trans community. At the end of that courses we give them diplomas so they will be able to find places to work. And we give legal consultations to community members.

Being transgender in Armenia is a very particular issue. Trans people have their own specific problems. In Armenia we have only one endocrinologist who is an old lady with no knowledge of hormone therapy for trans people — she provides them (incorrectly) with contraceptives for women. We don’t have a law about sex transition in Armenia, so every surgery has to be done in secret. Because there is a lot of transphobia in Armenia, many trans people are involved in sex work, which is very dangerous.

I am strong through my community, and they inspire me a lot. Right Side works according to the needs of the community, and every project is designed to satisfy those needs. Our aim is to create a society that respects gender diversity, where trans people have equal rights, live safe, healthy lives and are equally involved in all spheres of life regardless of their gender identity or expression. We aim to raise the visibility of trans people. I’m very thankful for every moment of my activism because without it I wouldn’t be the person that I am today. I want to believe that we can make Armenia a better place to live.