Lali Binyatova
"Some time ago, I was preparing for my wedding, but for the sake of my well-being and safety, I decided not to enter into this marriage and chose to part ways. Unfortunately, people perceived this as a tragedy in my life, and their judgments came my way. It was one of the most correct decisions I made in my life; I had finally chosen myself. I desired the joy and support of those who loved me, but many saw it as 'this girl couldn't be happy.' Every holiday, every birthday, they express a quick desire for me to marry, not just for me but also for my mother.
When I hear this wish, as a woman, I feel that nothing else in life, aside from marriage, is deemed valuable for society. It's as if being unmarried is a temporary inconvenience that I should quickly eliminate. Whereas, being an officer should be as normal as being married. Marriage should be a conscious choice, not an obligation imposed on everyone. Now, I am happier than I have ever been, living my life without hesitation, enjoying the freedom that is an invaluable feeling. Whenever I decide to marry, it will be with someone who adds happiness to my happiness. Even if I never make that decision, my happiness will not diminish one bit, because I am not incomplete, and I don't need marriage to be fulfilled."

"When I was a child, our family discussed that as I grew up, I would marry Kamran. We became a couple as I grew older, but by then, my parents' opinion had changed, and they opposed us. Consequently, at the age of 15, my father decided to send me away. We fled from one city to another together, but at the last moment, I changed my mind because I realized I wasn't ready for marriage. Everything started from there. I was now considered a 'second-tier' girl, the choice of divorced and older individuals. Dreams of marriage were not my aspirations; I wanted to pursue my own path, to be recognized not as a runaway girl but for my achievements. My mother and relatives desired to cleanse my name by forcing me into marriage, while father wished to uphold traditional values. I resisted and wanted an education. I dreamt of becoming a theater actress or a journalist, but permission was denied as they believed my 'name was already tarnished.' Despite the challenges, I managed to overcome judgmental words and stares. I pursued my dreams, built a family with the person I desired, engaged in the work I loved, and I can say that the events in life are not the end. Happiness is always within reach."

"I first heard the phrase 'sit like a girl if you're a girl' when I was 10 years old. As the years went by, similar expressions on different topics were used by my parents, especially by my mother and, on the contrary, by my father. Despite preserving my position through arguments and punishments on issues such as laughing out loud, expressing my opinions, and pursuing my interests, outwardly, it was impossible until I grew up and became independent. I started developing my style around the age of 15, and I wasn't allowed to choose my own clothes, which made me embarrassed, frustrated, and even cry. Later, I decided that the least noticeable thing is an earring, so I pierced my ear in several places. But I was mistaken. From that day to this, these piercings (only one on my ear) became the main reason for my father's anger. Despite explaining many times that this is quite normal, until the age of 20, I was beaten and scolded for this reason. After turning 20 and living independently, these discussions decreased but did not stop. According to my father, piercings, tattoos, torn jeans, and colored hair are signs of either rebellion or madness. And he still believes that people around me are chosen not for my way of thinking but for these piercings, and 'normal' people stay away from me for this reason. He doesn't consider that due to crossing borders every day with a tank, I have set such strict boundaries that I filter and choose the people around me. Now we are on good terms, laugh more, and have gone through significant challenges, trying to heal our relationship. However, I still hear statements like 'take them off, I'll buy you a normal gift,' or 'life will get better when this ear is clean,' and it shows that I am still not accepted. But that's okay; I love myself, my father, and my ear a lot."

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