Author - Nemanja Stijak

Human rights conference “Beyond 2020: The LGBT Community in an Era of Populism” takes center stage in Belgrade

Belgrade Pride in cooperation with Civil Rights Defenders organized a human rights conference entitled “Beyond 2020: The LGBT Community in an Era of Populism”.

Held on Friday 13 September in Belgrade, the conference invited human rights experts and LGBT+ activists from Serbia, Croatia, North Macedonia, Albania, as well as the US, Sweden, Germany and The Netherlands, to share views on LGBT+ issues in an era of populist narratives.

Populist trends are on the rise at both international and regional level and its effects are being felt across the LGBT+ community. From the West to the Balkan states, anti-LGBT+ discrimination is being accommodated by right-wing populist agendas, which both dominate public discourse and threaten our decades-long fight for equality and freedom for all. In order to map out the struggle ahead and what awaits post-2020, participants shared experiences across the world and how to confront such threats in unison and solidarity. 

Keynote speakers at the conference included Dorothea Gieselmann, Deputy Ambassador at the Embassy of Germany in Belgrade, who drew parallels with the growing right-wing populist trends in her country, and the current political landscape in the Western Balkans. 

Fredd E. Siquoa, better known as ‘Mr Tree’, who was a bartender at the Stonewall Inn on that fateful night in 1969, also shared his experiences from the early struggle for LGBTI rights. He told those in attendance: “One day this fight will be over and I will proudly remember that I was with you at the beginning of your journey”.

Under the banner of ‘I’m not giving up’ Belgrade Pride 2019 is successfully held.

Belgrade Pride under the slogan ‘I’m not giving up’ was successfully held without any major incidents on Sunday 15th September in Belgrade, Serbia. 

Organizers say around 2,000 people attended, marking the sixth consecutive year that Pride marches have successfully taken place in Belgrade without being banned by local authorities. 

Amongst those in attendance was Serbia’s Prime Minister, Ana Brnabic – the only openly lesbian Head of Government – who suggested the event signaled that “Serbia is a truly open and tolerant society.”

Activists, though, dispute this and stress that each year their demands have remained the same; reflecting a frustration that LGBT+ rights and issues in Serbia are fundamentally unchanged, despite some superficial improvements. These demands include the adoption of legislation for registered same-sex partnerships and gender identity. 

Goran Miletic, a member of the organising committee at Belgrade Pride and Director for Europe at Civil Rights Defenders told reporters “we also demand stronger efforts to prevent violence and discrimination against LGBT+ persons, and this is primarily directed towards prosecutors and the justice system in Serbia.”

During the official program, organisers thanked everyone who supported Pride, and ceremoniously awarded the ‘Godmother’ of Pride to popular singer Sara Jovanovic, better known as Sara Jo, who said she accepted the title to help break some of the long-standing prejudices in society. “There are two crucial features of any family - love and character. Love recognizes no gender, race,  or any kind of etiquette, ”she said, followed by a standing ovation.

In addition to the strong support Sunday’s march received from locals, around 100 activists from the region travelled to Serbia to express solidarity with Belgrade Pride.

Activists from the region join Belgrade Pride 2019

Over a hundred LGBTI+ activists and civil society organisations from across the Western Balkans joined Belgrade Pride last Sunday (15 September). 

In the spirit of solidarity, activists from Montenegro, Albania, Kosovo, North Macedonia and Bosnia & Herzegovina made their way to Serbia’s capital to show support to Belgrade Pride. Dozens of activists from Greece, Norway, Belarus and the United States were also amongst the crowd, sharing experiences with one another on the struggles they face in their respective communities. 

Most guests from the region arrived for the entire Pride Week, which featured over 70 cultural and informative events including Pride Theatre and the International Pride Forum, where several participated in the discussions. 

This show of unity amongst Pride activists in the Western Balkans comes after each organization in the region officially submitted letters of support to Belgrade’s EuroPride 2022 bid. Fatima Dzehverovic, from Bosnia and Herzegovina Pride March organisation explained “Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro and all the countries from the region are with Belgrade. This is a defining moment for all of us”

Such solidarity is a growing trend in the Western Balkans where activists often attend each other’s key manifestation. As the number of cities to hold Pride marches grows year by year, regional support becomes a central feature in the fight for equality.

What EuroPride 2022 in Belgrade will bring to Balkans and LGBTI+ community in Europe?

EuroPride 2022 in Belgrade will be a landmark event for Europe’s entire LGBTI+ community.

Away from the colourful celebrations which embody Pride marches across the continent, a struggle for basic human rights is in full-swing on its eastern frontiers. The LGBTI+ community remains one of the most discriminated groups in the Western Balkans, while legislations on same-sex partnerships and gender identity are yet to be adopted. Hosting EuroPride outside the European Economic Area (EEA) for the first time will, therefore, not only leave a meaningful legacy in the region, but recapture a fighting spirit amongst Europe’s Pride movements. It will also acquaint the LGBTI+ community with the vast opportunities in the Western Balkans and Belgrade as a city, which is above all, well-connected, cheap, fun and hospitable and safe. 

In the region, the effect of hosting EuroPride 2022 will be truly ground-breaking. While we are under no illusions about the steepness of the uphill challenge that awaits, we are immensely proud of the headway we have made in recent years. Namely, Pride marches today decorate each and every capital city in the Western Balkans, and are spreading to smaller towns and cities in the region. Our latest additions – Skopje and Sarajevo – are shining examples of the importance of Pride for open and tolerant societies to flourish. For this struggle is not only a matter of LGBTI+ rights and issues, but of European and democratic values, of a free-thinking society and of solidarity with all other discriminated minorities. 

It is also a matter of sustainability. We have reached a critical stage where for the first time ever the private sector is realizing the value of supporting our cause. Businesses are enquiring about sponsorship opportunities, and although no tangible effects have been felt yet, we are heading in the right direction and EuroPride in Belgrade will help drive this message to the heart of the corporate world.  

Finally, it will deliver a sense of much-needed empowerment and validation to LGBTI+ activists in the Western Balkans who have been on the frontlines and committed their lives to a struggle for a better and brighter tomorrow. 

We invite you to join us in this defining moment!

The Play “Queer Cafe: Hear Our Voices” Held at the Pride Info Center

Launched by American artist and activist Joan Lipkin, with her creative team of Pavle Menalo (producer), Borisav Matić (dramaturg), and Ellen Schaeffer (transcription). Created based on the true stories of many Queer Cafe sessions, this show covers topics ranging from discovering one's sexuality to dating, family, school, church, business, marriage, and hope for the future.

It presents the perspectives of people from Serbia, Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania, Slovenia and other places in the region. A strong imprint is left by the actors as they move through the various characters from topic to topic. 

The performance was followed by interaction with the audience. They shared very positive opinions in the full hall of the Pride Info Center. The show is designed so that when it comes to interacting with the audience, the audience can also connect with each other. The performance is also for people outside the community who can hear something new and thus be educated about the experiences of their friends or family members who may be part of the community.

Joan's main goal was to bring people together and make new friendships within the community, as well as to educate through real life examples for people outside the community, and those who succeeded in the first time during Belgrade Pride Week.

Join us and revisit this short performance on September 14th at 8pm at the Pride Info Center.

 

Autor: Joan Lipkin

Mr Tree: from Stonewall to Belgrade

Belgrade’s Pride Info Centre had the pleasure of hosting Fredd E. "Tree" Sequoia – an LGBT+ activist and participant of the Stonewall riots in New York. 

A bartender at the Stonewall Inn, Tree was witness to the very moment that ignited the LGBT+ cause, the police raid and the subsequent riots which unfolded on 28 June 1969. He told a packed crowd at the Pride Info Centre that “nobody expected that such an uprising would result that night and the ripple effect it had on the LGBT+ cause worldwide...I had never broken windows. I never shook a police car. It was so much fun being dangerous”

The popularly-known Mr Tree continued by drawing parallels with the struggle in the late 60s, and the ongoing fight for LGBT+ rights in the Western Balkans. “What we were experiencing then, is pretty comparable with what you (activists in the region) are going through now. You guys here are like one big family and reminds me a lot of the atmosphere we had built around Stonewall”

The session with Tree was one of 70 activities occurring during Pride Week in Belgrade. Pride Week is taking place between 9-15 September, and will conclude with the Pride March on Sunday 15 September at 17h on Slavija square, Belgrade. 

Pride Caravan hits cities across Serbia

As part of Pride Week 2019 and our campaign to show that LGBT+ persons live in every part of Serbia, Belgrade Pride launched a Pride Caravan to visit towns and cities across the country. The goal of these smaller marches is to show solidarity with everyone who is prevented from expressing themselves because of the place they live in, and find it hard to speak out about their sexual orientation.

Pride Caravan visited a number of cities in Serbia, including Kragujevac, Kraljevo, Zrenjanin, Subotica, Sabac and Novi Sad, but sadly didn’t pass without incidents. On two ocaission they needed to be cancelled as right wing groups threatened members of Pride caravan with messages as "This isn't Belgrade, go back where you came from". 

On the bright side, in many cities passers-by greeted the activists with support and congratulated them on their courage to walk proudly with dignity in less developed parts of the country. The whole campaign marked the beginning of the fight for equality for all people in Serbia no matter who they are, where they live and who they love. The main goal is to promote freedom of expression and show LGBT+ persons across the country that they are not alone no matter where they live. Everyone should walk proudly and freely in their own cities. Several similiar actions and activities are planned for the future.

Autor: Ana Milić

Apply for Media Accreditation for Belgrade Pride 2019

The process for obtaining media accreditation for the upcoming Belgrade Pride has been launched. 

The main Belgrade Pride march will start from Sunday 15 September at Slavija square, central Belgrade, at 17h. However, press are encouraged to arrive up-to an hour early in order to obtain interviews from organisers and activists. The deadline for submitting requests for media accreditation expires on Thursday 12th at 12pm for local press, and up until Sunday 10am for international press. Journalists are invited to submit their applications here: 

The Pride March will continue through the streets of central Belgrade, before concluding with a final concert in Manjez park.  The main theme of the march will be ‘ne odricem se’ (I will not renounce), where we underline a personal and social note that we are not giving up on our loved ones, our values, equality, freedom and justice.

Please be aware that each year we handle dozens of accreditation requests from both local and international media, so please ensure to apply on-time. In case you have any difficulties please email [email protected] or call Philip: +381649391215

The Queer Cafe: Hear Our Voices from the Balkans

About the Queer Cafe

Join us for this free short performance of The Queer Cafe: Hear Our Voices from the Balkans  on Thursday September 12 from 4-6 pm and Saturday September 14 from 8-9 pm at the Pride Info Centre (Kralja Milana 20, Beograd).

 Conceived by noted U.S. theatre artist and social activist Joan Lipkin and based on real life conversations from the Pride Info Center’s Queer Cafe, this piece covers such topics as early attraction, coming out, family, school, church, work, marriage, and hopes for the future. It features perspectives from Serbia, Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania, Kosovo, Slovenia, and other parts of the region.

It is available in both English and Serbian, translated by Borisav Matić and Pavle Menalo. 

About Joan Lipkin


2019 marks the 30th anniversary of “Some of My Best Friends Are. . .”, the first piece of gay and lesbian theatre ever produced in Missouri. Written, directed and produced by Joan Lipkin, with music and lyrics by Tom Clear, it was initially denied coverage by the St Louis Post-Dispatch because they said it was not appropriate for a family newspaper. Despite that, the show sold out every performance, was voted Best Play of the Year by the Riverfront Times, called attention to Missouri’s Sexual Misconduct Law, featured on network television and was produced throughout North America.

It established Lipkin as a serious social activist, theatre artist, and LGBTQ+ activist who went on to do projects with gay men, queer youth and their families, produce an award winning festival of LGBTQ+ short plays, establish a queer playwriting award , one of the first queer performance arts series in the US, an educational theatre piece to corporations and schools, facilitate a free writing workshop for transgender and non-binary people, publish her own plays, receive numerous commissions and much more.

Her work has been produced in both major professional spaces such as New York City’s Lincoln Center, Montreal’s Places des Artes, Glasgow’s Glasgay and London’s Old Vic as well as numerous universities and community spaces.

The recipient of many awards including a Visionary, Bravely, Arts Innovator of the Year, Ethical Humanist of the Year, Leadership for Community-based Theatre and Civic Engagement among others, she has tirelessly used the arts to advocate for LGBTQ+ rights, is a bridge-builder within and outside the community, an outstanding public speaker and beloved and respected in the American human rights and theatre communities.

Autor: Joan Lipkin 

  

Pride Week: Grand Opening

Pride Week 2019 was officially launched on Monday with an opening ceremony at the City of Belgrade’s National Assembly. It will last from September 9th to the 15th, ending with the Pride March and a concert in “Manjež” park on Sunday.

Jovanka Todorović, representing the Organizational board of Belgrade Pride, opened this year’s Pride Week and gave an overview of all the important events that will take place. She then invited two proud moms, Gordana Perunović Fijat and Cveta Popović, who participated in the campaign “Ne odričem se” (“I do not renounce”). Movingly, they spoke about how proud they were of their children, and that their children’s sexual orientation should never be an obstacle for a parent’s love. “I, Cveta Popović, do not renounce my son because of who he loves. In fact, I’m proud of his bravery to be who he is, despite societal pressures.” 

Goran Miletić and Marko Mihailović, fellow members of the Organizational board, spoke about the political messages of the “I do not renounce” campaign, as well as Belgrade’s candidature to host EuroPride in 2022. Goran Miletić added that, even though there is progress in improving the LGBT+ community’s position, members of the community still suffer violence. The demands of Belgrade Pride are the adoption of the law for registered same-sex partnerships, the law for gender identity, a fast and adequate reaction from the state organs and public conviction of government representatives for hate speech and hate crimes towards the LGBT+ community., the adoption of local action plans for the LGBT+ community, an apology to all Serbian citizens who were up until 1994 legally and in other ways, prosecuted for their sexual orientation and gender identity. Also, the organizers state that the bid for EuroPride is significant not only for Belgrade, but for the entire region. It shows that the Balkans can live in peace and love in spite of our differences and past conflicts.

At the end, Pride volunteer Danja Drndarski talked about her personal experience of volunteering. “Being surrounded by those who support you at any moment, regardless of who you love, is of immeasurable value, and I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their support.” 

A few cuts through the red ribbon, and Pride Week is officially under way.