From: Zorana Milovanović
Comment: Belgrade: A time of Ideological Confusion

The atmosphere of tension ahead of European Pride, hosted by the city of Belgrade for the first time, shows our society to be more polarised than ever. The decision that the European Pride will be held in Belgrade was made back in 2019, but back then, it didn’t cause nearly as harsh of a reaction from the public, especially the homophobic and homosceptic part, as it did on the eve of the event itself.

Why, despite growing affirmations of the LGBTQA+ community in the past few years (albeit slower compared to other, mainly Western societies), suddenly such an increase in homophobia and homoskepticism?

The answer could be found in analysing the main actors during this renewed global crisis: the ruling political elites, political leaders and political parties, mass media and LGBTQA+ activists and organisations. Anti-LGBTQI+ movements should be highlighted in particular, noting that they are challenging to identify since they do not exist as authentic anti-LGBTQI+ movements but draw their popularity from other motives – against globalisation, against EU/NATO, pro-Russia, pro-“defence” of Kosovo; their presence in the public eye has been more visible since the beginning of the Russian aggression against Ukraine.

These movements, riding the wave of ideological and cultural conflict between Russia and the West, place the LGBTQA+ community, which in their eyes symbolically represents Western political currents, in the epicentre of aggressive efforts.

They ignore the concept of human rights or rob it of its civilisational value, reducing members of the LGBTQA+ community to actors working towards the collapse of the Orthodox Church, Serbian national identity, traditions and culture of Serbian society.

Additionally, these movements use hate speech in combination with fake news and deliberate misinterpretations (e.g. linking to psychological-social deviations such as paedophilia) in anti-LGBTQA+ propaganda.

The ruling majority since 2012 does not have a defined attitude towards the LGBTQA+ community, and there are even fewer active support measures in the form of policies and laws.

Although the three-term prime minister is a publicly declared lesbian who visited Belgrade’s pride parades in previous years, nothing has been done to regulate the rights of LGBTQA+ people. No law on same-sex unions has been adopted, nor did the ruling majority publicly declare its condemnation of homophobia.

Neither SNS nor SPS has a policy program for improving minority status, and even less so for the LGBTQA+ community. There are no shining examples in the opposition camp either – no party has an official program or any concrete actions regarding LGBTQA+ rights. Who is the bastion of the defence of human rights and the rights of the LGBTQA+ community on the political scene? No one.

A hypocritical left is the only thing worse that can happen to a society than an uneducated right.

The media fail us too. Both are under government control (most) and those who are not. The LGBTQA+ community needs continuity of public presence, objectivity and clarity in communication.

They are only talked about in a public discussion format, happening in parallel with the popularisation of the law on same-sex unions. The story is usually rendered meaningless by choice of guests. LGBTQA+ issues as human rights issues give way to sensationalism.

On the other hand, LGBTQA+ activists and organisations fail to act thoughtfully, strategically and effectively, though it is difficult to do so in this system and general atmosphere. They appropriated a broader emancipatory role in society to their detriment, instead of focusing on strategic action; under the slogan, “differences unite”, they attempt to dissuade people that religion, national identity and similar individual and collective characteristics should not be divisive.

Although accurate and correct, this message currently does not have adequate listeners in Serbia, especially from LGBTQA+ advocates.

This is why the LGBTQA+ community should find a way to communicate the nature of the LGBTQA+ identity and the fact that when we talk about their members, we are talking about the citizens of Serbia, and there are sexual differences in Serbia, just like in any other society.

No one should be allowed to proclaim that LGBTQA+ members do not have the right to nationally and religiously identify themselves if that is important to them. The request for the culture and traditions of this country must not be denied, nor is it contradictory to the LGBTQA+ community. See you at Europride, 17.09. at 5 p.m. #Loveislov

Zorana Milovanović, project manager of the European Movement in Serbia

Published with permission from Okruzenje