“I Am a Person Who Is Trying to Develop” — Liova Luzhanski’s Path in Art and Activism

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“I am a person who is trying to develop. I see myself between art and activism. Art can be considered as a kind of activism — art can absolutely express activism and describe problems, difficulties and ways of solving them in detail. You can be show it very beautifully, very artistically, so in art I can develop ways of activism”.

This is how 23-year-old Liova Luzhanski describes himself. Our readers know him from his blog about the shared oppression of people with disabilities and queers . Liova represents both communities and thinks that by working together, queers and people with disabilities will raise awareness of each other and break down stigmas and stereotypes.

Liova was born in Batumi. He has been living in Tbilisi for years. He studied at Batumi public school for 4 years, then at a campus school for the visually impaired in Tbilisi. He remembers the period of his life and childhood in Batumi partially positively, although he says that he felt like an inferior there.

“My childhood was good and fun on the one hand – I was often with the neighborhood guys, we had fun, but in the end I get to the point where I felt inferior. I was an inferior member of a small friend circle.

They couldn’t see me as a real  friend or someone who could be ordinary and not an outcast or a bystander. There were times when they avoided playing with me during games, hide and seek or other games. I was a problem for them because I depended on them in some way to hide together.”

The process of getting an education in Batumi is associated with challenges and obstacles for Liova, because there were no adapted textbooks at the school. Moving to Tbilisi brought important changes in his life.

“Batumi did not have and does not have an education system adapted to the disabled and the blind. This made my vision even worse as I had to read in small print. There was no luxury of an enlarged print, and then I moved to Tbilisi for that reason.

I got a lot of things here that I couldn’t get in Batumi: audio materials, enlarged font and interaction with other blind people, which was important. Of course, the environment and situations were not fully adapted in Tbilisi either, but it played an important role and contributed a lot to my development”.

ლიოვა ლუჟანსკიVakho Kareli / Aprili Media

However, this process was accompanied by difficulties. Separation from family being especially hard. Despite this, he knows that he could not stay in Batumi because it would prevent him from developing and appreciating himself.

“I studied in a campus school. Staying at school on the weekends was a problem in some ways and a little bit difficult in terms of feeling that I was actually cut off from my family, from my relationship with them. A wall was formed between me and my family. Somehow the feelings got colder. The warmth that could have been there during direct contact with them disappeared and, of course, our relationship could not develop. However, if I had lived in Batumi and tried to continue there, I would have been much less developed, I would have met less important people, and self-recognition and acceptance would have been even more difficult.”

Due to the stereotypical and homophobic environment, in the process of self-determination, Liova thought that his sexual orientation was a “sin” and a “disease”. He explains that at that time they did not talk about this topic and if they did say something, it was necessarily negative. So, for a long time, he thought that his desires were not normal.

“I started to understand and notice roughly between being 10 and 13, I don’t remember the exact period. When I realized, I started to fight with myself. The fact that I liked boys of my own sex kind of scared me. There were moments, of course, when I seemed to give up and stop fighting myself, but then the fight continued. This was a constant process, for about 20 years.”

He remembers an incident when he had to listen to an unpleasant conversation at school because of putting his head on friend’s shoulder, who was a guy. They sent older boys to talk to them, who “explained” to them that this was not normal and accepted.

“They advised, so to speak, that this is not correct, good, accepted. A boy should like a girl and vice versa”.

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Vakho Kareli / Aprili Media

There was a turning point in Liova’s adolescence, which he is also writing his novel about. He really wants everyone to pay attention to this issue and take into account that at a certain age, adolescents become sexually interested and sometimes they try to imitate a certain behavior.

He also recalls his experience when he had his first kiss with his friend near his building, which was followed by an offer of sex.

“I had a friend who seemed to be very close to me, but I was less visible to him with the other guys in the neighborhood. When they were not there, he came to me, we would walk together.

There were those moments… the first was the kiss, the next was the offer of sex, and that he had to teach something and we tried to imitate it. My neighbor told my father about it. My father told my mother. What happened afterwards that was very sad — my father rejected me right then. He said that he didn’t want such a child, because I embarrassed him, disappointed him.”

Liova says that he had a relatively mild conversation with his mother, but he still had to hear from her that “this is not normal” and I would get laughed at.

“This affected me emotionally a lot. Those moments and that situation had the effect of making me cold. This topic seemed to have disappeared, died, buried, but I became cold in the details of life. I could not be emotionally close to them. I was unable to accept their warmth. It was like they were very cold after that”.

In a few years, he came out to a school psychologist in Tbilisi, then a teacher, and a couple of friends. He met people from whom he felt support, who did not turn away.

“The psychologist told me that I should choose what was comfortable for me, although I might have to wait a little or think about how much coming out to my parents would cost me. That was actually good advice. It was important that the psychologist did not reject me and did not say that this was unacceptable.”

A year after starting his studies, he returned to Batumi during the holidays. He says that at that time he already felt the difference, not only between the perceptions of society, but also found changes in himself.

ლიოვა ლუჟანსკიVakho Kareli / Aprili Media

Liova is fascinated by art. He is taking the first steps now and has many plans. He wants to play the piano and saxophone, but he devotes special attention to writing and his novel. The story will be partly based on real events, partly fictional. He has been writing it for two years now and hopes to publish it after he is finished.

“The first chapter of the novel is dedicated to my adolescence. I have changed some things there, I have invented a bit, however, I have completely conveyed the simulated sex and the reaction of my parents. This first chapter is the most important. Then it becomes a bit “light” and towards the end there is a couple who become victims of an attack by street boys”.

As for music, he started playing the piano at school, but neither did he like what the teacher taught him, and was the teacher was not satisfied with his performance either. Finally, he continued his studies independently, from YouTube.

“I have a dream that I want to make a goal – to live in France or Belgium, French-speaking countries. I love and like the French language very much. They say that I have a good accent I can speak French well. I am studying some stuff, but I want to go to the university and study more seriously to do an exchange program”.

Talking about art, he explains that this space makes him feel very comfortable, free and he considers it one of the most useful ways of expression.

“You can think about exactly how to convey your voice to people, how to convey your opinion, the point of view that you want them to understand correctly. Art is an extraordinary way of expressing this”.

Recently, he has been actively writing posts on Facebook, blogs on various current topics and poems on the queer topic. He also shared one of them, “Forbidden Fruit” with our readers.

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Vakho Kareli / Aprili Media

“Scent of beautiful colors, their taste and caress mixes in me,
I hear the soft notes of a rainbow.
I dance a night tango with red,
and softly kiss the lips of yellow under the sun,
while it smiles at me with eyes full of a feeling.
Me and green watch the sea, resting our heads against one another and savor the sunset.
Us, two strangers are drawn in by passionate sounds of a saxophone”.

Liova also spoke about the discriminatory approaches he has faced as a queer and as a person with a disability.

“Basically, recently I started to express myself better. Before I left Batumi, I dyed hair. My father didn’t like it, but I explained it in such a way that I wouldn’t completely come out and protect myself. I have said that it does not define either sexual orientation or sex. When I came to Tbilisi, I also dyed my hair red once, and at that time an incident happened – I was out with a friend and a guy started coming after us saying, we were “pedarasts”. He followed us to the subway. We tried to stop him, but then he started mocking me, saying I shouldn’t go out like this, that there should be no Pride. I got very tense. I am very easily affected by a harsh tone or an aggressive word. It’s very freezing, even though I can be mentally engaged and aware, I’m physically and emotionally frozen.”

He also remembers that he was a victim of positive discrimination during his admission to college, when the school failed to provide him with appropriate technical support and did not give him the opportunity to pass the exam in full. Since the audio program was not installed on the computer, part of the tasks in one of the tests was done by the curator’s assistant instead.

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Vakho Kareli / Aprili Media


“Besides, we agreed on the English exam that they would send me a PDF, I would read it, and when the curator came, he would write down the answers that I said. I don’t know what he talked about with the lecturer, but in the end it turned out that he wrote for me, answered the tests for me. He was saying, I know English well, I’m a teacher and did it, he was in a hurry and couldn’t manage it if it was otherwise.

It affected me a lot and froze me morally. I was laughing too, thinking about what the hell was going on. However, I did not object, somehow I did not want to continue studying in that college. Then he also told me that we would overcome the rest of the exams and pass, and I laughed about that too. Saying we meant that he would give the answers to the tests instead of me. I want them to think more about it”.

ლიოვა ლუჟანსკიVakho Kareli / Aprili Media

Liova explains that he has just entered activism and has written only a few posts about shared problems, but he goes to meetings and trainings and tries to expand his circle of acquaintances. It is important for him to help the disabled and queer community overcome the existing stereotypes and find a common language.

“I think that I am dealing with a very difficult task, because homophobia and transphobia are widespread in the disabled community as well.

It’s important for people who have feel these stereotypes to take those steps and say: let’s interact. After that, some things will fall apart, and then it will be more powerful to unite and fight against problems. The society will also see that the union of the two minorities will somehow have a good effect. They will destroy each other’s stereotypes and dogmas in the society as well”.