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A Brief History of Gay Pride in Serbia

Contributor Filip Teovanovic gives us a brief history lesson about Serbia’s many attempts at Pride.

Are we still judging people based on their skin colour, sexual orientation, nationality, gender, religion, (etc.), instead of judging them by the fire in their eyes when they are talking about things and ideas they are passionate about? [dramatic pause] Unfortunately, yes.

Depending on the geographical coordinates, these judgements and stereotypes can be more or less socially (un)acceptable and (de)institutionalised. One of the places that still struggles to incorporate LGBTQ+ rights into its modus operandi is Serbia, a non-EU Eastern European country whose Pride-guided battle with heteronormativity has been on since 2001.

Belgrade Pride (Belgrade is Serbia’s capital that also stood as a capital of communist Yugoslavia) is a manifestation of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Serbia. The event’s intention is to direct attention towards the issues of violence and discrimination that the LGBTQ+ community faces in this macho-oriented, Orthodox-fuelled environment. Even though the first Belgrade Pride was organised at the onset of new millennium, it took 14 years for it to be “successful”. So, let’s take a brief look back at some of the manifestation’s milestones.

In 2001, shortly after Serbia’s democratic revolution, the first Belgrade Pride resulted in blood and tears as dozens of tparticipants were beaten up and tortured by hooligans and right-wing groups.

Belgrade Pride wasn’t planned again until 2004, but organisers were forced to cancel it due to political and social turmoil that included massive burning of Islamic mosques in several cities of the troubling Balkan county.

After half a decade hiatus, Belgrade Pride was scheduled for 2009. Unsatisfied with poor collaboration with uncooperative police, the organisers of the Pride decided to postpone it for the following year.

The Serbian LGBTQ+ community was persistent in their aim to take the walk of pride and in 2010, Belgrade Pride finally occurred. The participants of the event circled around the city centre surrounded by an army of police officers. The irony is that there were more policemen than the members of LGBT+ community (considering the policemen were heterosexual and cisgender). Although it represented a milestone, the event was not completely successful as a few thousand hooligans terrorised the streets of the capital, mere hours after Belgrade Pride, by breaking into McDonald’s and brand stores that represent the Western world and its many liberal values.

In 2014, Serbia organised the first Belgrade Pride without any major incidents, but it wasn’t until 2015 that the organisers proclaimed the first official successful Pride, mainly due to the fact that it also incorporated Trans Pride. While the event successfully ran again in 2016 and 2017, the situation for LGBTQ+ people in Serbia is still far from ideal. But more about that at another time.

For now, let’s just take this moment to recognise and remind ourselves of just how far the global LGBTQ+ community has come. Despite this, no matter where we are, wether we live in Australia, France, China or Serbia, we still have a long way to go.

Equal-sex marriage laws and other official regulations are undeniably indicators of the shift in status quo, but this is only one segment. The real impact should be in the real world. And some real worlds are unrealistically more cruel than others. So, the least we can do is to walk with pride every day, in every world.

(Main photo via Vesna Lalic).

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