This post was written by local coordinator Ana Jaksic
When I was younger, I never understood why people who are attracted to the same sex cannot get married and adopt.
Later on, I became aware of how much more complex the reality of sexual minorities actually is. I became aware of all the privileges heterosexual people enjoy, and all the discrimination and stigmatization gay people face. It didn’t take much for me to decide to go and participate in the Belgrade gay pride parade this year.
The situation is tough for gay people all around the world, and Serbia is definitely not an exception, quite the opposite. This was the first pride parade that had been allowed since 2010, because the government always assumed it too dangerous. And so, I went to show my support and fight for everyone whose rights were withheld and endangered.
Shortly before the walk began, I held up a banner with the face of Amfilohije Radović, who is a Serbian Orthodox cleric and current Metropolitan of Montenegro and the Littoral, with the words: “Find someone for yourself and kiss for hours”. This slogan is taken from the lyrics of a popular Serbian song.
After only around 30 seconds, one guy in a masked uniform took the banner from my hands and broke it. The police caught up with him and he was detained, but they also took my banner and wouldn’t give it back.
All of the media present reported on the incident, and soon my face was all over the news. I started getting death threats and offensive messages right away, and they haven’t stopped since. My inbox exploded with harassments, most of them calling me the devil, a lesbian (which is supposedly an insult), and a whore.
Besides blocking more than 300 people who were insulting me, my friends, and my family, I now have to go and report more than thirty people who outright threatened to find me and kill me, only because I was holding that banner. Everyone close to me is scared for my safety, and it scares me even more to say for good reason.
Now to clarify why I was holding a banner with a church representative in the first place. It is not that I don’t respect other people’s faith, it is that Amfilohije has been notorious for his hate speech against the LGBT community for longer than I can remember, and I wanted to address the problem in a innovative and funny way. But the matter is not funny at all.
Back in 2010, when the last pride parade was held in Belgrade, Amfilohije said, and I quote: “There, yesterday, we saw what garbage poisoned and polluted our capital Belgrade, worse than uranium. The worst sodomite stench that this modern civilization raised to a godly pedestal. And you see, one violence, the violence of those ungodly and perverse people caused another violence. And now they question whose fault it is, and call those kids hooligans.”
In 2013, while appearing on a national television, he said that there is no difference between homosexuals and pedophiles. As you can see, he not only incited the public through spewing his venom, but also supported violent hooligans, who, the day before the parade gathered at the city square and chanted: “Kill, kill, kill a faggot”, as they did again right after the parade.
Therefore, I believe that my banner was not offending the religious feelings of Serbian people; it was taking a stand against a church representative who continuously discriminates the LGBT community and justifies the violence they suffer.
I now feel how every gay person has felt at least once here in Serbia, and all I can say is that I will not tolerate the hate and the violence. Extremist groups can demonize me and threaten me all they want, I will keep on fighting for LGBT community and their individual rights to love whomever they chose, and shape their lives in whichever way they see fit.
Commentary by Lukas Schweiger, ESFL Chairman:
The fact that for the first time since 2010 the gay parade in Belgrade was not shut down at the last minute by the government because of security concerns was lauded by the international community as a sign that the situation for LGBT people is slowly improving in Serbia. However, Ana’s experience shows us that there is still a long way to go.
As a member of the LGBT community and a frequent guest in Serbia and the region, I am all too aware of the risks that are involved when it comes to publicly standing up for who you are.
I have the utmost respect for our Local Coordinator Ana as well as everyone else marching in last Sunday’s Belgrade pride. They walked, regardless of the current climate in the country. This kind of courage is exemplary, and it serves as an inspiration to me and to so many in our movement to work even harder.
To work harder on guaranteeing freedom of speech. It is a basic pillar of civil society. Amongst other things, it allows those who advocate the position of a minority to make their voices heard without being violated.
To work harder against the government-established normative, the ‘one size fits all’ template called marriage, as the only way that individuals who want to commit to each other can legally define their rights and responsibilities. One size simply does not fit all. Of course, the so-called traditional family will continue to serve as a suitable model for many. However, enabling also the rest of us, whether we are part of the LGBT community, adhere to other alternative lifestyles, or find ourselves in unique situations requiring tailored arrangements, to enjoy sound legal protection for our families, is one facet of what Students for Liberty is all about – putting individuals back in charge of their own lives.
As Ayn Rand once put it, “Remember also that the smallest minority on earth is the individual. Those who deny individual rights, cannot claim to be defenders of minorities.” In that spirit, it goes without saying that ESFL fully stands behind Ana, and we will support her dealing with the repercussions of her activism in any way we can, and with lots of SFLove.