The consequences of homophobia and the lack of tolerance towards LGBTQ+ people do not always end with affecting the targets’ mental health. In severe cases, their lives are taken. The suicide of a young gay couple in October 2022 and the news about the suicide of a young gay person in November this year were the latest and revealed cases of LGBTQ+ people choosing suicide as the only way out of a society full of hate.
Tigran and Arsen, 21 and 16, respectively, decided to post photos on Instagram documenting their relationship and captioning it ‘happy end’ before taking their lives by jumping from one of Yerevan’s bridges together. Arsen, a minor from Yerevan, later turned out to be a victim of domestic violence due to his sexuality.
The news of the suicide shocked the Armenian public. Still, it did not become a reason for a widespread discourse about the safety of the country’s queer community and homophobia in families and society in general.
Little more than a year after the tragic incident, in November 2023, a 17-year-old queer person, Kh. S., committed suicide after their pictures and information about their sexual orientation and gender identity were made public on the Russian «Xaytarak» Telegram channel and then reached the person’s family.
The mistreatment, discrimination, and stigmatisation of young queer people place them at a high risk of suicide, despite the fact that, according to research, they are not inherently more prone to suicide. Young LGBTQ+ people are four times more likely to commit suicide than their heterosexual peers.
There is no accurate data about the cases of suicide among queer people, and only a few of them get media coverage if the sexuality of the victim is revealed. Many instances of self-harm by queer people do not make it to the news, and the rare ones do not get enough attention in the media. At the same time, the coverage varies from neutral news articles to support and, in many cases, increases in homophobia and targeting of queer people. The suicides of Tigran and Arsen brought hate speech and its propaganda against queer people on social media to a new level, while the media coverage became a subject of manipulation.
Homosexuality remains a taboo topic in the Armenian public, with any public event or coverage facing a massive backlash from the general public.
Public opinion* affects the mental health of queer people, generating the need for compassion from peers and, in many cases, psychological support. In Armenia, a few community-based non-governmental organisations provide psychological support to queer people.
The post-2018 government has first been seen encouraging tolerance and putting efforts into adopting anti-discrimination laws and laws prohibiting domestic violence and empowering women’s rights. The 2020 War over Nagorno-Karabakh, however, put the initiatives on hold, refraining from taking a stance on incidents of homophobia and related violence.
According to ILGA-Europe, Armenia remains one of the most homophobic countries in the world, along with Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Russia.
* Public opinion։ a unity of concepts and norms widely accepted by society, forming a general opinion based on that society. Yet, both on theoretical and practical levels, there is no universal opinion. Meanwhile, members of society continue to believe in its existence, which then transforms into a tool of influence.