COMMUNITY COMMENTARY:

The Gay and Lesbian Armenian Society of Los Angeles commends Glendale Unified School District Supt. Michael Escalante for his willingness to uphold his students’ First Amendment rights, which were expressed through the Day of Silence event (“Parents blast Day of Silence,” April 25).

We are glad that the Glendale Unified School District and other area school districts support these events that seek to increase awareness of sexual orientation issues.

The Gay and Lesbian Armenian Society of Los Angeles is a nonprofit organization whose goal is to foster acceptance and promote equality of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. We at the society have tried as adults to create the kind of place we didn’t have as children — a place where we can be ourselves without fearing for our safety.

We want to state unequivocally that the handful of Armenian parents who were vitriolic in their opposition to the Day of Silence do not represent the entire Armenian community. The members of the Gay and Lesbian Armenian Society of Los Angeles and our many supportive family members and friends belong to the Glendale and Los Angeles Armenian communities, and we all believe that there can be no tolerance for bullying and harassment of any student, regardless of his or her sexual orientation.

We condemn the homophobic comments that were aired on a recent Armenian television program. They were irresponsible since such speech can cause disastrous consequences for children, who might go so far as to commit suicide or substance abuse as a result of rejection from their families.

Naira Khachatrian was simply wrong when she said, “This is not a school issue. This is an adult issue.” The mistreatment of children at school is an issue for all the parties involved — parents, school administrators, teachers and, most of all, children.

All parents must support what the Day of Silence stands for; after all, anyone’s sons or daughters are at risk for bullying or harassment, whether it be for their real or perceived sexual identity.

The Gay and Lesbian Armenian Society of Los Angeles is saddened to see that some Armenians are unable to see the parallels between racial and sexual orientation discrimination. We come from a culture that is, sadly, too familiar with what can happen when one group is ostracized and discriminated against. However, we have hope for the future that springs from the students who courageously organized and participated in the Day of Silence event, especially given the sometimes hostile response it has received in the community. And, we are proud and encouraged that some of the participants in Day of Silence were Armenian.

Homosexuality not only exists, it exists within the Armenian community. The members of gay and lesbian society are the children and grandchildren of the Armenian community. We are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender and there is nothing wrong with us. If sexuality had been a choice, surely we would have chosen to fit in with the majority of our often traditional culture. But, we are all proud of who we are.

We hope that through events like the Day of Silence, more Armenian families will accept that there is nothing wrong with children who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, and that it is not a failure of parenting. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender sexual orientation is not a product of non-Armenian culture. There are many proud lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Armenians around the world, including in Armenia.

The Glendale community — Armenians included — must do everything it can to foster the acceptance of all of its parts, including those with which it does not agree. Teaching students about the value of tolerance and acceptance of people different than themselves is a powerful tool that can prevent tragic events such as the murders of Matthew Shepard and, more recently, Lawrence King. These two innocent children were murdered by their peers — peers who were never taught the value of accepting others different from themselves.

We call upon our fellow Armenian brothers and sisters to support tolerance, the local school districts, and most importantly our children. We must all raise our voices against hate and misunderstanding and support valuable programs like Day of Silence that can make a positive difference.


 HAIG BOYADJIAN is the president of Gay and Lesbian Armenian Society of Los Angeles and a resident of Glendale.

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