Due to the mixed feelings I have postponed publishing my thoughts on this topic. First of all, I admit that I am a privileged western white (transgender) woman – despite the fact that Finnish legislation discriminates against my kind, e.g., by demanding sterilisation as a condition to recognise the legal gender status of a transgender person. In Georgia, there exist no ”trans laws”, so there is no possibility to have a new gender status officially recognised.
In my activism, I do not have to fear for my life, and with this attitude I came to Batumi as probably the first transgender woman to play in chess olympiads, with a rainbow coloured scarf on my shoulders and with rainbow coloured fingernails (this kind of fingernails were too much in athletics outlined by International Association of Athletics Federations a few years ago, but luckily chess seems to be a very tolerant branch of sport). During the chess olympiad, Vitali Safarov, a 25 years old human rights activist, was murdered in Georgian capital Tbilisi by neo-nazis. A couple of days after I left Batumi, local activists were attacked by masked men with knives. It is possible that the Batumi incident is thought to be so minor that the police will not put enough effort to investigate the incident despite the injured activists got into hospital due to their wounds. The Georgian establishment (law makers and even law enforces) tries to pretend that gender and sexual minorities do not even exist. It is a harsh environment for activism. Only now afterwards I do understand that I may have been too overconfident, walking alone on the beach boulevard at midnight to catch some pokemon or showing my true (rainbow) colours in public also outside the chess game hall. The local rainbow community called me courageous, but maybe I have only lost my ability to be afraid even in a sensible way.
During the tournament I had a possibility to meet some members of the local sexual minorities community. I had fun, insightful discussions, memorable moments, and I even played chess with these warm and courageous people. We exchanged views on different aspects of culture, I learned a lot about the Georgian culture, and maybe in return I gave something about the Finnish culture. I probably lost a part of my heart to the land of opposites: I liked kind people, mountains, shores of the Black Sea, food, and the best red wine I have tasted by now is Georgian.
Late night in the taxi back to my hotel, Tina Turner sang me ”You’re simply the best”. For a moment I believed it. The community had given me more courage, energy, and hope for fighting for rainbow rights, and most importantly new friends. Next day I also played chess quite well. I saw that the fight for equality, freedom and tolerance is possible to win globally, and I hope that I can witness it with my very own eyes.
Thank you, especially Lidia, Katey, Mariam and Natia for making my tournament memorable.