A tale of two parents: Georgian drag artist on hostility, acceptance and learning to love life

The following is a version of a partner post by Tamuna Chkareuli that first appeared on the website OC Media.

Drago — a stage pseudonym — is a 17-year-old boy from Rustavi, Georgia. He is a make-up artist, a fashion model, and a drag performer. Everywhere he walks, he gets unapologetic looks —  openly wearing women’s attire, with dyed hair and make-up, he does not expect anything else. The courage to be himself, he says, comes from his mother, who always supported him along the way.

“I’ve had many different interests since I was a little boy. I always had long hair, was friends with girls, and never wanted to participate in boyish games. There were attempts to change me, mostly from my father, but I would always resist.”

“This resistance was what I grew up with. I remember once he tried to cut my hair while I was asleep, but I woke up and he couldn’t do anything. He took me to a boxing class and bought me boxing gloves, but that didn’t work either.”

“My father sometimes ambushes me in the street, asking me to at least dress ‘normally’. But I don’t want to hide who I am. And it was not just him, but other male relatives too. For my own safety, I ended all relations with my uncle and my grandfather.”

“My mother was the only bright light of my life. She was always by my side and till this day, stands by me no matter what. In my childhood, she would always resist my father and defend me, and now, after years, it’s the other way around. I often defend mum when people tell her nasty things — that happens a lot. The majority of it comes from my father, but for the last four years, luckily, we have lived separately and I feel free.”

“My father wanted, because of my identity, to deprive us of the flat in Rustavi and throw me and my mother out, but thanks to support from the Equality Movement [a queer rights group], we won the case in court.”

“We are much happier now. I’m a happy person and have everything I’d ask for thanks to my mother. I’m dreaming about going abroad and becoming a professional make-up artist, and she supports this idea. Of course, at first, she didn’t like what I did. But I have quite a decent income from my work, and she likes that I’m independent.”

‘I was only 13 when I first called the police’

“At school, everyone accepted me surprisingly well after some time. They knew me well and no one was aggressive towards me. I was the first one to dress differently in school and was bullied because of this, but there was never any physical violence. I think they also knew that I was aware of my rights and would always defend them.”

“I was only 13 when I first called the police — they [the attackers] tried to take off some of my personal belongings that looked different. I have had to call the police almost every year since then.”

“My mother was the person who taught me the most important thing — I need to be able to survive alone. There are situations when no one will help me, except myself.”

“The latest attack happened around two weeks ago, when I was sitting in a minibus, and a man punched me from outside and tried to escape. I took down the contact information of witnesses, I went out and photographed the car plate from outside, and I memorised the attacker’s face. I was able to identify him later, and now he’s about to face justice.”

‘A true parent loves their child no matter who they are’

“I would love to have a family in the future, and also raise my child with acceptance, no matter what. A true parent loves their child no matter who they are. My father is not a true parent to me, and I’m not ashamed to say that.”

“My classmates, friends, and people in my neighbourhood in Rustavi also recognise me and help me. They know me better than my father ever did. I’m proud that I have come so far being who I am and didn’t give in. I have several relatives who share this point of view, among them the husband of one of my mother’s relatives who genuinely worries about my safety.”

“For May 17 [International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia], he asked me to go on a picnic with them to stay safe. My mum is not that afraid, by the way. There are many things that have changed for the better in society, and we are hopeful.”

‘The most important day for a queer person’

“May 17 is a day of fighting hate for me. It’s a day of standing together and I feel it’s the most important day for queer people. Unfortunately, this beautiful day was stolen by the [Georgian Orthodox Church] and became the day of Family Purity.  Well, I would like to tell them that our families are pure too, and we can join them in their celebration.”

“I would say to those who want to talk to their families but are afraid — have the courage to make the first steps. If you do it carefully, you have a good chance of being accepted. But it also depends on the parent. And I don’t think that a parent has to have ‘modern thinking’. There is nothing modern about the idea you should love your child.”

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