Belgrade Pride

21 September 09

Last weekend, two public gatherings of people who take unusual pleasure of company of the same sex were supposed to take place. The first one was a graduation ceremony of the Military Academy, and the latter was a Pride Parade.

The military thing, on Saturday, went without a glitch. It was attended by The President, all the macho-ministers, priests, and generally everybody else who thinks that spending four years learning how to conquer a barren hill with nothing but some outdated guns and power of adrenalin driven determination, or precise methodology of ejecting a projectile without much damage to conscripted soldiers, is more notable and worthy of public celebration than, say, getting a degree in astrophysics or becoming a brain surgeon. They sang the anthem, particularly promising mercenaries got parade swords — in a word, everybody was happy and for the millionth time, it was once again a matter of pride to become a Serbian soldier. Good for us.

Pride Parade, on Sunday, went…. Well, let’s put it into perspective:

Several months ago, several LGBT organizations decided they want to make a parade. This was already attempted back in 2001, but it ended in tears, so the organizers were careful to involve police in all steps.

The response from the police, as well as most officials, was surpisingly positive. Now, Belgrade ain’t San Francisco, but hearing statements like “I don’t like gays one bit and I can’t emphasize enough that I’m not one of them, but they have a right to parade” was a very reassuring turn of events.

As nominal political support was becoming apparent, the streets of Belgrade were graffiti-sprayed with all sorts of insultive and, worse, threatening slogans (“We are waiting for you”, “Never in Serbia”, “Death to faggots”).

Writers of these slogans are generally well known to the public: football fans, overly-patriotic fascists etc. They are known because they do shit like that. They break up forums if they have any of “peace”, “regional” or “equality” in their name, they beat up Romani people, they organize conferences which prove that Jesus was a Serb, they publish books to out world conspiracies and their part-takers in Serbia, they celebrate Hitler or his puppet regimes.

Now, Serbia has a Constitution which forbids hate speech and discrimation. Serbia has an anti-discriminatory law which we all know about because churches were afraid of it and most importantly, Serbia has police which is perfectly capable of aprehending anyone and controlling everyone, as it showed back in 1990s.

Still, in the weeks prior to the Parade, no single individual was arrested or even questioned for threats and hate speech. This was followed by beating ups of foreigners (one guy was almost beaten to death on the count of speaking French), as well as a whole lot of “We support normal family values” gatherings.

Now, there is a whole lot to be said about a celibate monk telling you how not making children is ungodly and akin to death and hell, but if everything was left at these protests, nobody would mind.

Meanwhile, the parade organization was coming along. Some 500 people was to take place. A couple of dozen celebrities showed open support for the parade and a lot of journalists took a positive outlook on the event and even some, albeit minor, state officials confirmed they would take part in the parade. This probably doesn’t look like much to people in more-normal societies, but please keep in mind that there is no single celebrity or politician in Serbia to ever come out of the closet. Many of the people I know and expected to be very much against the parade showed support for their right to free speech, etc.

The parade was supposed to take place on Sunday and it seems everyone was a bit concerned that police was not doing anything to tone down the parade opposition throughout the last week, though. It was odd: police kept saying how they WILL protect the parade and how they WANT it to go smoothly, and they gave, what we call, “political support” for it, but there was no arrests, no questioning, nothing!

Everything came to place on Saturday evening: the police declared the parade as unsafe at the original location, and proposed to the organizers to move it away from the city center, to a location where the only pedestrians are the people who got off the bus at the wrong stop.

The organizers felt that the whole point of the parade: to show that LGBT population can exist and have a voice, is sort of undermined if they can exist only in certain parts of the town.

So, the point? Dunno. To be perfectly honest, I’m a bit relieved that there won’t be any blood. But, we have to ask this: do we live in Somalia? Does the state have the power to combat ultra-nationalists? Does it have the will to do it?

There used to be the time when I considered Belgrade a perfectly safe place: there is little petty crime and chances that somebody will rob you are slim – but how does that compare to the fact that we have to cross the street if we see a group of thugs with Serbian symbols on their t-shirts?

Well, at least we have a new generation of young officers to protect the fatherland when the enemy crosses the border…

Leave a comment

  1. Beppe
    Sep 22, 02:23 AM #

    Nothing to add, perfect post: I’m totally agree with you.

  2. Danilo
    Jul 14, 09:33 AM #

    This is one of the saddest things about Serbia.

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