Telling Out Stories
The trouble with writing as an Armenian lesbian is that one so often feels like an odar, without community: a woman with no name. And as the poet Adrienne Rich has said, "Whatever is unnamed...undepicted in images...misnamed as something else will become not merely unspoken, but unspeakable." I begin this naming by acknowledging my debt to her and to two peoples— Armenians and lesbians—whose passion for survival against the odds is a constant inspiration.
I am deeply aware of the astonishing diversity of lesbian experience, as varied as a carpet of many glowing colors. Yet while the lives of Armenian lesbians are part of this overall design, we share with other Armenians the cultural invisibility of a small group in diaspora. Where local settlements are small, Armenian lesbians are few. Other women may be quite willing to learn about our traditions, but we must go elsewhere for a sense of ethnic community. This is one way of being an odar, a foreigner.
The next question, of course, is: Where do Armenian lesbians go? Answer: Wherever other Armenian women go. We are not yet priests of the Armenian Apostolic Church (although I wonder about some of the saints—not to mention the old goddesses!). We do not, so far as I know, head Armenian political parties or major corporations. On the other hand, we are everywhere else: linking pinkies at Armenian dances; lining up for shish kebab and tabouleh at the church picnic; winning at tavloo. We attend Armenian concerts, readings, church services, day schools, and academic conferences. Some of us speak fluent Armenian and some do not, but we all