A gay couple donned traditional Georgian wedding outfits known as chokha at their ceremony last week in defiance of a rule that states gay men can’t wear the clothing. Why? Because they are not “men.”
The couple, David Shubladze and Matthew Gandolfo, married at their home in New York City on Nov. 27, 2017 in the traditional outfit known as chokha, a formal coat symbolizing masculinity, strength and conservative. To clarify: we’re talking about Georgia the former Soviet nation, not Georgia the state in America.
Shubladze told Gay Star News, “In Georgia, gay men are told they cannot wear chokha because they are not ‘men.'”
“I wanted to challenge that. Not to assert my “masculinity”, but to assert my right as a Georgian to wear a garment that every other man has the right to wear for his wedding. Perhaps it will give hope to our sisters and brothers in Georgia that one day soon they will have the right to celebrate their own wedding and find happiness in their homeland.”
“I chose to wear Georgian traditional dress because it is my heritage,” Shubladze said.
“The history of the chokha stretches back to the 9th century, and is a symbol of hyper-masculinity and conservative traditions which are commonly used to repress my sisters and brothers from the LGBTQI community.”
Shubladze claims this is the first time two gay men have ever wore the outfits.
“Yes, it is the first time two men have worn the chokha for their own wedding,” he said. “If that makes history, then so be it. There is always a first for everything, and I hope being the first will make it easier for others.”
Shubladze, who was an LGBT activist before moving to the states, opened up to a Georgian news outlet about why he was forced to leave his country.
“In Georgia, admitting that you are gay causes a lot of problems,” he told On.Ge News. “During my last year in Georgia, I had to change apartments three times. Each of my TV appearances as a gay activist turned into another search for housing. Each of my actions was accompanied by scolding and a wave of threats. In the neighborhood where I lived, among neighbors, at work – at every stage of my life I had to fight this stigma. Trouble arose with friends, as I repeatedly became the object of humiliation, ridicule, and aggression, they beat me… Being an LGBT activist is very difficult, a special moral alertness is necessary.”
Even though Georgia does not have gay marriage or civil unions, Shubladze and Gandolfo’s marriage will be recognized.
“According to international law, we are also a married couple in Georgia,” he said. “Even though Georgia does not have same-sex marriage, it recognizes legal marriages from around the world.”
“Therefore, whether those who oppose us like it or not, we are already married in Georgia.”
“I’m happy to be in this country [United States],” he explains. “I’ve never had to hide who I am. I don’t have to think about how I choose my words in conversations about this topic … Here, nobody cares who I sleep with or who I live with. The main stipulation of life in the US is to be a decent person and a good citizen.”