Tbilisi’s resilient queer community on what nightlife means to them

‘That time raving for us was our freedom, that is why we went to the club’

TextDan HeyesExecutive ProducerBec Evans

Led by a new generation of creative youth, there’s a cultural revolution happening on the streets of Tbilisi right now. Across fashion, art, music, and beyond, today we explore what’s happening in the Georgian capital, and why the city deserves to be on your radar.

In his short film Altered State, director Osman offers insights into Tbilisi’s queer community’s very first experiences of going out in the Georgian capital. As an extension of photographer Olgac Bozalp’s shoot for the winter 2018 issue of Dazed, Osman’s short film allows the city’s creative talent a voice. Its poignant stories cement the need for queer spaces as places of escape, self-discovery, and most importantly, safety. 

The city of Tbilisi has a complex and sometimes oppressive relationship with queer culture. Although homosexuality and gender change are legal in Georgia, society's view of the LGBTQ+ minority remains negative. In 2013, tensions came to a head when activists trying to carry out a Pride march in the city were severely beaten by homophobic protesters, including Orthodox priests. Prejudice resurfaced again in May 2018 when armed police carried out unsanctioned raids on legendary techno club Bassiani and the bar and art space Cafe Gallery. The city’s response was a protest rave that caught the attention of the world, and rocked the foundations of the city’s former parliament building.

Throughout the film, languid shots of a dilapidated cityscape in the shadow of the Soviet Union are juxtaposed with Maxime Machaidze’s rapping, and a performance by artist Luka Bitchikashvili. Osman captures the divide between the traditionalist past of the city and the forward-thinking nature of its youth.

Despite the historic hostility toward queer communities, the subjects of Osman’s film are still fiercely patriotic. “I think it's the Lord's will that I was born in Georgia. For me my country is the air which I breathe. I can’t live without it” says musician Dato Evgenidze. Their resolve has only been emboldened by their country’s push back and they are carving out their own narrative for the future.

Watch the full film above.