“I Want to Just Sit There and Watch Her” — A Love Story of Queer Teachers

ნატალია ავალიანი/მედია აპრილი

“If we lived in a non—homophobic environment, I would enjoy you more, every minute and every second. Fear should have nothing to do with love. Relationships are less enjoyable when you are in fear. When you don’t have this fear, you fly like a butterfly”, Mariam tells Tamta during an interview with Aprili Media.

They live in one of the regions and work at a school. The two teachers have been in love with each other for six months, but like most queers, they are forced to hide their relationship because they feel threatened by the people around them. That’s why we don’t disclose their place of residence, school, age and real names.

Mariam and Tamta Media share their love story with Aprili Media, and also talk about the problems they face due to their identity.

Tamta tells us that they have known each other since childhood, but never looked at each other “this way”. Then Mariam adds:

“I tried, but was ignored. Probably because she couldn’t imagine it, and you should not hit a person with “I like girls too and as I can that so do you”.

You should have done something, says Tamta, and Mariam answers:

“I did, but… I was writing you and received unresponsive answers”.

They both laugh at this and Tamta adds that she couldn’t even imagine that there could be a bisexual woman in their village.

Then their profession brought them closer together — they work in the same school. Mariam recalls that she made such a hint that Tamta would somehow understand her attitude towards her.

“Then, as it happens, we became closer to each other through messaging,” says Tamta.

“When Mariam and I are at the school together, even during a simple conversation, I think that everyone is looking at us and everyone knows everything. It is very difficult to live like this”, — Tamta.

She was about 19 years old when she accepted her sexual orientation. At school, she didn’t think she could like girls—in that environment, she thought it was impossible. At the university, she understood that this is natural, and that’s when she fell in love for the first time.

For Mariam, the understanding of bisexuality began much earlier, at a young age, however, when she was a student, she realized that she is not alone and it is possible for her not to feel excluded.

“Even in the village, I didn’t feel excluded, but I put myself in those frames, because in childhood or adulthood, when we got together, there the topics that I needed and wanted to talk about were never brought up. From there, I have insecurities about making friends or getting closer with someone. Actually, I haven’t even sat down with myself and thought about who I am and what I want. I did not object to myself either, but I wanted and needed not to block my interest in girls and boys.”

Natalia Avaliani / Aprili Media

Neither’s family is aware of their identity or relationship. Mariam says that her mother is accepting, but restricted — she neither supports violence nor is she an LGBTQIA+ rights activist. Talking about this topic with people close to them seems unbelievable to both of them. Tamta does not rule out that she may lose her family and job as a result.

“All this is quite difficult, uncomfortable and I am completely afraid. When Mariam and I are at the school together, even during a simple conversation, I think that everyone is looking at us and everyone knows everything. It is very difficult to live like this”.

“Sometimes I just want to sit there and watch her. If she turns her back on me, it affects me very badly, but the environment needs it, there is no other way”, — Mariam.

She also notes that the majority of their colleagues are homophobic. They often talk about LGBTQIA+ people and say that they are “sick”, “will go to hell”, that would “kill” them, etc. At such times, it is difficult for Tamta to even stay in her room.

“I don’t even want to look at those people at this time, they say these things in such ways,” Mariam tells us, and Tamta adds that the situation is so bad that there is no way to talk about one’s own identity, but also to express a different opinion in general, because “so many people can surround you and tear you apart.”

Mariam dreams of being able to live independently and not have to explain the questions: “Where are you?”, “Who are you with?”, “When will you come home?” And not having to worry about what will happen if someone sees her. She wants to be successful in her profession and continue her work independently, far from this environment.

“When you are successful and independent, then it is easier to say “no”.

She says that when there are many people around and she can’t talk freely with Tamta, she feels like she wants to die.

“She is more restrained. Sometimes I just want to sit there and watch her. If she turns her back on me, it affects me very badly, but the environment needs it, there is no other way,” says Mariam, adding that she lacks even the most banal thing — the opportunity to hold her girlfriend’s hand. According to her, the limitation of breathing freely is that you cannot express your love and be normal outside, talk to the person you love casually.

“I’m happy now too, but if they show support and respect, that would be even cooler. If you could express your opinion and not have to always agree,” adds Tamta.

Tamta also says that if I lived in a non-homophobic environment, she would write a post on Facebook that she is in a relationship, now even if they write it without mentioning each other, someone might understand, so they are careful.

“It’s irritating when people accept arrogantly, understand arrogantly”, — Mariam.

They have the opportunity to talk to each other freely only at home, and only in a specific room. They have never been on a date and if they go with a friend, they always look behind them. Nevertheless, they are not considering leaving Georgia, although they do not rule out leaving the village and say that they “cannot wait” to leave this place.

They love their profession very much and are fully involved in raising students to be good people, good citizens.

“I am good at communicating with children, they love me too. It’s a very homophobic environment at school and I’m trying to educate them more and they’re slowly becoming more accepting. 90% of teachers do the complete opposite. Still, even teaching empathy to a few children would be a big deal. I always tell them that they can count on me at any time, and I think they do. I never thought about changing my profession. I consider what I do to be one of the most valuable things. I can raise my students to be active citizens who can see and solve problems. I can’t do a better job at this elsewhere,” says Tamta.

Mariam adds that teaching means preparing people for life and her desire is to create an environment for children where they can become themselves and change things for the better.

Mariam and Tamta are well aware that, like them, many queers have to hide. Mariam advises them to find someone to talk to, and if there is no one around, to remember that they have themselves.

“I have had several occasions when I talked to the mirror, danced and got rid of negativity. I can’t recommend that they speak up, because it can be dangerous”, she says, and Tamta adds that it is better to leave such people and take care of their own safety first.

At the end of the interview, Mariam addresses homophobic people:

“I would ask them how would feel if an army of people, and in many cases a mob, was knocking on your door, literally and figuratively, invading your personal space and asking you why you like this guy or that girl. They accuse you of being sick, ungodly, and people like you cannot love God or country. They do not recognize you just because you like and love a member of your own sex. They don’t even want to listen, they stop right away, as if they would somehow get dirty”.