Born20 April 1988
Mel Daluzyan, a transgender Armenian weightlifter (Armenian: Մել Դալուզյան) was born on 20 April 1988 in Leninakan, Armenian SSR. He is a two-time European weightlifting champion and record holder, two-time world silver medalist, who received the Honoured Master of Sports of Armenia title in 2006.
First steps in career
Mel Daluzyan started his career in weightlifting in 2002 under the leadership of Artashes Nersisyan, competing in women's categories as Meline Daluzyan before gender transition. His parents opposed his passion at first but then became proud of their son's achievements. He became the Champion of Armenia seven times. In 2005 and 2006, Daluzyan won the Junior European Championship twice.
Daluzyan won a bronze medal at the 2006 World Weightlifting Championships. He became the first weightlifter from Armenia to win a World medal in the female category. The next year, Daluzyan won a gold medal at the 2007 European Weightlifting Championships and became the first Armenian individual to become a European Champion in weightlifting. He repeated this success at the 2008 European Weightlifting Championships, becoming a two-time European Champion. Daluzyan was set to compete at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, but he suffered an acute attack of pancreatitis two weeks before the Olympics and was forced to withdraw from the competition. He was substituted by Hripsime Khurshudyan.
In 2010, Daluzyan won a silver medal at the 2010 European Weightlifting Championships and a bronze medal at the 2010 World Weightlifting Championships. He finally made his Olympic debut at the 2012 Summer Olympics but was unable to set a total. In May 2019, following reanalysis of his samples from the 2012 Olympics, which tested positive for dehydrochlormethyltestosterone metabolites and stanozolol metabolites, Daluzyan was disqualified from the Olympic Games.
Forced from home for being queer
‘I was still in kindergarten when I realised I was born in someone else’s body. More precisely, I have never had any internal problems, I have just never been a “girl” and have never considered myself to be one. The problems I have encountered were the problems of the outside world, where at every step I have had to quarrel with those who treat me as if I were a girl. At school, I was forced to write on my workbooks “schoolgirl”. I would erase the “girl”, and teachers would add it again, and so on. My development was very straightforward, there was no moment I would consider the beginning of my identity discovery, as I have always considered myself a boy’, 30-year-old Mel Daluzyan from Gyumri tells OC Media.
Despite Mel’s best efforts, to society, he was a girl named Meline. Mel has been weightlifting since 2002, joining the Armenian Weightlifting Federation’s women’s national team.
‘My trainer would try to inspire me, telling me God created me “like this” in order to be good at heavy lifting, and at some point, when I was still young, I also tried to look at it from this perspective. But I realised that despite everything, I also have the right to a personal life, the right to be happy, especially considering I’m not hurting anyone with my life and lifestyle, says Mel.
According to Mel, when he participated in Pink Armenia’s first LGBT forum in Armenia in 2015, and a group photo of the participants was published online, the media began to discuss his personal life, threatening his career. The record-holding two-time European champion and double bronze world medalist left his birthplace Gyumri two years ago, settling abroad.
‘I left Armenia in 2016, after a year of unsuccessful attempts to find a job in my field. So many negative attitudes were spread towards me that I couldn’t even find a job as a trainer in a gym. Now I live in the Netherlands, I haven’t faced any discrimination here, only unconditional support in all matters. At this point, I am not even considering returning to Armenia, and I don't see myself as a sportsman anymore but only as a trainer.’
Mel says that the life is difficult in Gyumri for those who are ‘different’, especially being famous.
‘Gyumri is the most conservative city in Armenia. The main problem was gossip: everybody considered it their sacred duty to invent a myth about me to explain what they didn’t understand, and the media helped to spread these rumours more. Of course, all of this created some difficulties for me when I appeared in my new environment, when I had to build my life again from nothing, but eventually, I succeeded in introducing myself to people as I am. I was able to achieve the fact that my friends won’t let anybody call me “Meline” ’.
According to Mel, there would be no problems with his parents if society had not interfered.
‘LGBT people in Armenia are deprived of almost all rights. Of course, if someone has a secret life, drowning out their identity, having a formal marriage, it’s possible to live “quietly” in Armenia. But judge for yourselves — how can it be considered a “quiet life”? I don’t have any friends who are not hiding and are able to live quietly’.
Mel does not want to discuss the details of his family life, only mentioning that today, he has everything he dreamed of.
Homosexuality has been legal in Armenia since 2003, but the rights of queer people are not protected under the law. A 2017 report on the human rights situation of queer people in Armenia by queer rights group Pink Armenia, said that despite the positive trend of a number of media outlets cooperating with rights groups and queer people to present their stories properly, the population of Armenia still had an overwhelmingly negative attitude towards queer people.
Research conducted in 2016 by Pink Armenia and think-tank the Caucasus Research Resource Center showed that 89% of Armenia's population think homosexuals should not be allowed to work with children.
The research found that people who had less contact with queer people had more negative attitudes towards them than those with queer acquaintances.
People from queer rights groups insist that while the numbers are uncertain, many queer people leave Armenia every year due to homophobia.
The film is about a love story of a same-sex couple, the struggle for the rights of sexual minorities. This is a story about how, under the influence of internal and external circumstances, the relationship between two girls changed radically. Mel Daluzyan played herself in the film.
“Mel” is partially financed by the Armenian government, mainly the parts that shows his victories as an Armenian weightlifter. This fact outraged many and became the reason for attacks on the athlete. By the way, after the release of film’s trailer, Armenian Prime Minister Nicole Pashinian announced that the transgender athlete is “under his personal protection”.
Social media reaction
Users of the Armenian Facebook segment are also divided into two camps. Here are some typical comments:
“A person is a person. And there are sick people. And there are a lot of them. You can never differentiate between people (like that). (It is written) – ‘judge not lest you be judged.’
“This man, being Meline Daluzyan, raised the flag of his homeland more than once, and already being Mel Daluzyan was not afraid to detain the criminal and get stab wounds. Leave this man alone.”
“The emphasis is not there … We need to make a film about the champions, but not about their problems. There is a magnificent film about Tchaikovsky, about his divine gift, but not about his painful problem. In the end, what do you chant – a disease or an achievement?”
“When the Prime Minister himself discusses such topics, speaking from the rostrum of the National Assembly, I’m not directly overjoyed! This means that in our country there are no more problems – all our problems, as it turned out, have already been ‘solved’!”
“Do not sell your soul to the devil! The Bible is against it. And we are the first Christians in the world. And do not compare it with cancer and blindness.”
“People have had such problems at all times. But during the Inquisition they were called witches and burned at the stake. Now they’re not physically burned, but lynched morally, and sometimes they can be pounced upon by three or four others if they feel impunity. Yes, not far from the times of the Inquisition, but now we are in the 21st century, not the 16th. ”
Mel Daluzyan’s story
This story began when Gyumri native Meline Daluzyan competed for Armenia as part of the women’s weightlifting team at the World and European Championships.
After she became two-time European champion and bronze medalist of the World Cup, Meline was forced to leave Armenia. The female sportswoman was under constant pressure due to her sexual orientation.
As a result, in the Netherlands, transgender Mel Daluzyan received asylum, since 2016 he has been living in Amsterdam.
By the way, in the same 2016 in Armenia a documentary film “Hear Me” was shot about the LGBT community. In the film, Daluzyan talks about the difficulties that he experienced in Armenia.
Meanwhile in Amsterdam, Mel already has a respectable public reputation.
In May 2019, it became known that Daluzyan stopped the robbers in the center of Amsterdam tried to rob a supermarket cashier and threatened the cashier.
“At that moment, Mel, who came there to shop and saw what was happening, stopped the robbers. Police arrived at the scene and detained them. Unfortunately, before the arrival of the police, one of the robbers managed to inflict deep stab wounds on Daluzyan in the chest and back. Nevertheless, even after being wounded, Mel did not allow the criminals to escape,” wrote one of Mel’s friends on his Facebook page.
On this occasion, the mayor of Amsterdam Femke Halsem said:
“Your action is heroic. I am proud that in Amsterdam there is a resident like you. I am grateful that you were able to effectively stop the illegal actions of masked robbers. I wish you a speedy recovery and assure you that the City Hall is ready to help you with everything you need.”