Smothering Silence - Some Thoughts About The Artistic Voice And Being Queer In Georgia
I’ve been silent all my life. Written words used to terrify me, too concrete I used to say. No wonder, the words I’ve heard watching Marlon Riggs’ film “Tongues Untied” have struck me close:
“Silence is my cloak it smothers
Silence is my shield, it crashes.”
These words encompassed what I’ve felt as a queer person living in the orthodox, conservative country - Georgia. Silence was smothering me and I was out of breath. Queer people of colour have acted as my guides through the process of really, consciously knowing myself. I saw then, how my silence not only was not protecting me1, it was killing me.
One could say, selves and bodies contain spaces for things that are not yet, but will be. These spaces seem like empty shells. Hollow, not quite fitting the general mechanism. But they are full of reverberations. We know how to ignore the ripples, the noise, how to block it out so there is nothing left, except for a kind of silence. Here, with a certain readiness to listen, one could foretell their future.
Most queer people have experienced silence, in its various forms and shapes. Mainly: our own silence and the one surrounding us. There is stillness in us, an illusion of tranquility. It is our wall, built brick by brick throughout our lives, whether consciously or not. These fortresses, all unique from person to person, with their distinctive battlements, turrets, moats and pinnacles, protect us from the world, but they also lock us in tightly. Alone.
This silence is twofold. There is one in us that we don’t address and there’s the fact that we don’t speak.
You can’t disrupt the silence through speaking without first listening to it within. Pay attention to the signals, as the faintest of them are amplified in the acoustics of the empty shells. Differentiate them from noise, until they conjoin and the waves of sound fill the space. Only then, can one speak.
Through this process, listening first, and speaking next, one can gain their voice. Be it the artistic voice, the voice of the activist, or both.
In a post soviet country where people don’t share a sense of belonging, where they are bound to their soil but also dispersed by migration2, it is hard to find footing, the foundation to fall back to, if needed. Here, the context of the country and its history is not (re)examined. It is neglected and the myths surrounding it are weaponised for political goals. As a queer person you are alienated from this mythology. Art here usually (thanks god not always) also stems from this mythos, in a sense that it is not grounded in the context of the country and its people, or It is just a rehashing of the outside stimuli.
The myths of nationalism, orthodox christianity, traditions, of “manhood”, create an orchastrated whirlwind. In this chaos and confusion, the genuine perspective and the voice of queer artists and activists, I believe, can and will bridge the gaps between myth and reality. As that voice is grounded, confident, visionary and disruptive, but not destructive.
I believe our voices are stronger weapons than our smothering cloaks !
Text author: M.S