By: Enida Bogdani
PINK Embassy in Albania
10 October 2010 – A big part of Albanian and international media gave the news about the banning of the Belgrade Pride by the Serbian government and Police. Bringing back images of the 2010 Pride, where downtown Belgrade turned into a sort of battlefield, the Serbian government decided to ban, for the second consecutive year the pride march. But, the news, rarely talk about the colossal work made by activists during a whole week of activities or about the views and opinions of its supporters, and this is, among other things, the goal of this article.
Serbian activists had organized a week full of activities. The mornings were busy with debates and round tables on LGBT issues meanwhile the evenings were reserved for different cultural activities. The agenda of the whole week was public and every citizen could participate in them. All the events were protected by police officers who would guard the entrance of Media Center and other venues. But, on the other hand, this made us realize that if something were to happen, the Serbian police would be there, doing their job. In a country where Albanians are little or not appreciated at all, the silent faces of blue uniforms became part of our day, as friends who couldn’t speak.
The debates would focus on different topics and each panel would have LGBT and non-LGBT activists. The topics included also women’s rights, the feminist movement, discussions about religion, diversity etc. Participants would go from one event to another without knowing the final decision of the Belgrade Police, whether it would guarantee pride march. While the verdict was being awaited, debates continued on LGBT issues covering Serbia and the region.
Of all the debates, I would mention in particular the one held on the coming-out process. This session did not allow the media to be present and people could make personal confessions. The conference room was arranged differently and for most participants this was the first time they spoke so openly about issues which are usually reserved for very close circles. Some parents of Serbian activists were also present.
Meanwhile, one of the most provocative exhibitions was the one from Swedish photographer Elisabeth Olson Wallin. She brought to Belgrade her famous exhibition Ecce Homo where among others; there is also a depiction of Christ, from the New Testament, but in an alternative version, with LGBT people being depicted in it. The entrance into the exhibition was made with special invitations and two police blocks had to be crossed before entering the venue which was also surrounded by police forces.
Wallin’s exhibition is contemporary art which aims to provoke but not offend religious dogma on the inclusion or exclusion of people from their faith in God. Members of the LGBT community in Serbia , Sweden or elsewhere can be followers of any religion and no human power can decide about their exclusion from their faith. This was the message that people took with them before leaving the exhibition.
The day, after this exhibition, came the news that the Police had banned the pride. Meanwhile one of the Pride organizers, Goran Miletic said: “The police has not organized the pride. The pride was organized by us, Serbian activists and we have not cancelled it yet. We did not cancel I last year either. But the police expressed its inability to protect people at the pride march”. These are the words that depict the whole meaning behind the pride.
In the last panel before the planed march, were many international representatives and supporters of the pride. It is important to mention that the Belgrade pride is not just a walk on the street, to help the majority break their prejudices but also represents the right of people to assemble and freely express their personal identity. If the Serbian state cancels the parade because the police cannot offer protection, this is not a failure for LGBT people or human rights. I would like to share the words of a Serbian activist, Boban Stojanoviç: “I saw a young man who would come to all our activities and stay alone in a corner. He came every day and stayed alone. But on the last day I saw him dance with another man in front of everyone. I though that what we did served for something. We are changing reality for many people and this is of great value”.
After speeches from regional and international representatives all participants went out in front of the conference venue, where the police would stay too. Between activists, supporters and the media, the Belgrade Pride was surrounded by walls and a barricade of policemen. But Serbian activists did not think that they would surrender, because they could not live in a place where the community is allowed to exist, but not to enjoy its existence.
Our participation at the Belgrade pride allowed us to learn many things. References for the Balkans depicts it as a melting pot, where we believe that a step forward or backwards for Serbia is a step backwards or forward for the whole region. Serbian activists showed that they are ready to fight for a society with equal rights and inclusion by trespassing politics and the daily facade. The LGBT community in Serbia , with its activists, organized debates and provoked the public opinion through art, by demonstrating a clear message: They exist despite extremism and non-acceptance. Thank you for the experience.
Note: The opinions and views expressed on this article are not necessarily the views and opinions of PINK Embassy/LGBT Pro Albania.