We Exist and, We Feel the Same Pain and Joy About the Fate of the Country as Others — Bart

ვახო ქარელი/მედია აპრილი

“I think you are born as an activist. Either you can give up your things for the well-being of others, or you can’t,” Nikolo Ghviniashvili (Bart) tells us.

He has been in activism since 2006 and as he says, he has experienced almost everything.

Bart told us about his childhood, family, activism and his experiences.

“I Knew Who I Was, But I Couldn’t Put a Name on It All”

“I couldn’t call it a process of self-determination. It seems like I was certain from the beginning,” Bart tells us, recalling the story of his mother, according to which, even in kindergarten, when she would put out her dresses, he would choose to wear the pants.

“I knew what I wanted, but I didn’t know the name of all this. I have always been attracted to women. I fell in love for the first time in the fourth grade. It comes from within, you just might not know the name at first. I saw myself as a boy since childhood and I am one still. But then I had only heard gay and lesbian, I didn’t even know what trans was. When I googled it on a Pentium one, gay.ge was thrown out and I registered there, I was reading some stuff, I was being active”.

If each person changes the environment around them, even in the workplace, I think we will go a lot further,” – Bart

He says that he did not experience bad attitudes at school because of his identity. Several incidents in the transport, when they asked if he was a girl or a boy – they had made a bet. At first he was nervous, but then he realized that although he would not ask anyone like that, he might have a similar question, so he didn’t get angry anymore.

ნიკოლო ღვინიაშვილი (ბარტი)Vakho Kareli/Media April

“Then I jokingly told them, if I got a part of the win, I would tell them. In school, I was a chaotic child, naughty, even though I studied well. I was always with boys, I could always protect myself. I even got into a fight, that’s why my nose is crooked.”

Giving a name to his identity is connected to working in the first Georgian LGBT organization, Inclusive. Bart says that period was like an oasis in the desert for him.

As he tells us, in 2006, Paata Sabelashvili contacted him, informed him about the idea of ​​creating Inclusive and invited him. Bart jokes, he had a few doubts whether they were collecting gays and lesbians, but he wanted to meet people like him and went.

“I liked it so much at the first meeting that I stayed. Until then, I thought I was alone, I only knew what gay and lesbian was, and there I gave a name to the condition, which condition is called a trans person, a trans man. It was a discovery for me.”

Every Friday, at 19:00, he did not have any other plans, because at that time meetings were held at Inclusive. They discussed various issues and invited guests.

“At that time, LGBT films were not so accessible, so we got them from torrents and brought them. There were film screenings and then discussions on them. These meetings were a space for socializing, everyone was nice, everyone laughed with you, no one whispered behind your back, no one asked about your orientation, and they just accepted you for who you were. After the meetings there was the “second part”, that’s what we called it, where we had a little alcohol and snacks. At that time, even the shyest people were able to communicate with more active ones.”

“When My Father Wished Me a Happy Saint Nicholas Day, It Was Like I Was Born for the Second Time”

“At first they were very worried. They took me to a psychologist, a psychiatrist, a sexologist. Then they got used to it little by little,” Bart recalls when talking about his parents.

We are told that he changed his name in the passport in 2011, and for the 2012 elections, an election card arrived at his house, where Nikolo Ghviniashvili was written as his name.

We exist and we feel the same pain and joy about the fate and future of the country as everybody else” – Bart

“My father called me, argued with me, and told me that he didn’t have such a child. We talked for about half an hour, if that’s called talking – I was talking about my stuff, he was talking about his. I explained to him with simple examples that I am still his child and nothing has changed in me, my attitude towards anyone, except that I felt more comfortable this way. This happened in September. In December, on the Saint Nicholas Day, he called me and congratulated me. I don’t know what happened in those few months, but it was like a second birth for me.

ნიკოლო ღვინიაშვილი (ბარტი)
Vakho Kareli/Media April

Relationships continued, but after that they did not talk about this topic. Father died last year. He says that he didn’t think he would experience his death like this. It breaks his heart that he spent so little time with him.

“In my childhood, in the process of trying to “correct” me, he caused me a lot of pain and I have wished many times with childish stupidity, that he died soon. He was very strict, he used to punish me, beat me when I didn’t believe him. I was like a rebellious spirit because I could not adapt to the role defined for me by society. I was not a woman and how should I play that? When he really left, I realized what he meant to me and I took it very badly. I missed what we had recently. My relationship with my father was not enough. We could have talked a lot and I didn’t have time, I didn’t think he would slip away so soon. My father grew up during the Communist era, when homosexuality was punishable by law, and I’m sure he thought he protected me from it with his strictness. He acted as he thought was right.”

He has a mother, brothers, their wives, a child, people who are like children to him, and sons-in-law. He didn’t come out traditionally, but he didn’t hide his identity either.

“They know that I am me and I am a good person; That I am not “a pervert”, which exists as a  stereotype. In general, this stereotype still “works”, people think that their acquaintances are the exception and others are “perverts”. It is very difficult to come out, but the more people come out, the sooner this stereotype will be broken. I know that it is very difficult, many people worry about their parents, or about society’s opinion, etc. But it will always continue like this, if we don’t fight for our rights and if we don’t say that we exist and are just like ordinary people, we feel the same pain and joy about the fate and future of the country as other people .

“I Think You Are Born as an Activist”

The first steps in activism were taken during work with Inclusive. When the news spread that an LGBT organization was created, people contacted on the forums and asked what Inclusive was doing, etc.

“I got to know these people, then I met them once or twice, and if I considered them to be a reliable person with my gay radar, I invited them to Inclusive.”

Soon after Inclusive, there was the establishment of LGBT Georgia with friends. They wanted it to be an organization that would be tailored to each member of the community. Bart says that before they had an office, they used to meet each other sometimes in Khinkali restaurants, sometimes in the GYLA office, and sometimes in the current director’s house. As he says, after the collapse of Identity, the financial support of donor organizations working on LGBT rights shifted to them, and LGBT Georgia expanded. Part of the team changed, and part remained, and today the community members know the organization by the name of the Equality Movement.

“This sudden increase was also very wrong. I think that a person achieves more with step by step and evolution. I love my organization, it’s like my child, but it breaks my heart that the Identity has not survived and now these two organizations are not competing with each other to better serve the community,” says Bart.

It is important for people to love each other. It doesn’t matter what orientation, what gender, what age. I sound like Jesus, but it’s true – love and mutual respect is what normal society always stands for, and until we love and educate each other, there will be no salvation for us”, – Bart

ნიკოლო ღვინიაშვილი (ბარტი)
Vakho Kareli/Media April

About a year ago, he created a group of transgender men, “Our Club”. They try to help each other – they pay a membership fee every month, and if someone needs money, they can borrow it, and then return it, so that others can also benefit from it.

“I have found about 30 trans men in Georgia, there are not many of us. 4 out of 30 are abroad, 8-10 of us are more or less active. We are in daily search, we call it fishing. When we find a trans man, we are happy and introduce them to each other.”

He also talks about the problem of division within the LGBTQIA+ community. According to him, this happens “sometimes for power, sometimes for popularity, sometimes because of fighting for something”. He notes that sometimes he doesn’t understand whether he should fight homophobes, or work to sort things out inside.

“Government, society, everyone is trying to have the principle of “divide and rule”, because it is easier to manage a community that you divide into groups and then destroy them separately. It has exhausted me. These internal struggles have often made me think that the years I spent in activism were a waste and that I should have lived my own life like most of the community. Then I still think that you should try to the end, bring out your truth. In this struggle, you lose associates, you gain new associates, and this process is normal.”

He also criticizes the media, which mostly talks about the community on May 17 or on Pride days. He says that LGBTQIA+ people exist every day and it is desirable that their voice be heard often.

“I will be very happy if Pride (and not what Tbilisi Pride does) will be held here as well, but I don’t know if I will be there to see it or not, I am a bit pessimistic about that. Pride means to be proud, and I don’t see any reason to be proud in the next ten years, and to go anywhere with pride, because there are so many social problems in the community. In addition, in the conditions of the danger that LGBTQIA+ people face in Georgia today, it is wrong to say that adults decide for themselves whether to go to Pride or not. Even an 18-year-old person who has not seen May 17, 2013 and does not know what will happen is an adult. I think that if there is a celebration in my house, I am the one who’s responsible for making sure that my guests get home safely. Maybe it’s a “Georgian” view, but I think it’s more correct”, Bart notes, adding that in the background of this type of visibility, the risk of violence on other days also increases.

ნიკოლო ღვინიაშვილი (ბარტი)
Vakho Kareli/Media April

He sees education as a way to escape from a homophobic, violent environment.

“Most of the trouble that is happening in this country today is the lack of education. People who does not know their history praise Russia today, which has occupied 20% of the country, because they think of Russia as a friend and NATO and the European Union are enemies. This is the result of ignorance. Yes, propaganda is added to this, but it is difficult to influence a smart person under propaganda, because they think”.

He is worried that due to the current situation, many members of the community are leaving the country. According to him, they could help develop Georgia, but now they use their potential for another country.

“It hurts me a lot, but you can’t tell a person not to go and stay here, they already love their country, but we are all born once.”

He says that activism gave him the opportunity to meet many good people. In addition, he talks about the feeling that comes from helping others and admits that it is partly ego gratification.

“In general, people are selfish. When one does good, he enjoys himself, he also does it for himself. This ego was satisfied by activism too. There were cases, when that I had to wake up at 04:00 in the night and go to Sagarejo, for example. There is discomfort at that moment, of course, but when I help someone and see the result, it gives me the satisfaction that it’s good that I woke up to the phone call and went there.”

  • On December 1, 2022, the European Court of Human Rights found a violation of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (the right to protection of private and family life) in the case of three transgender men, including Nikolo Ghviniashvili. According to the interpretation of the Strasbourg court, the legal procedure for changing the sex/gender record defined by the legislation of Georgia is vague.