LGBT+

Will Having a Lesbian PM Change Anything for Serbia's LGBTQ Community?

Serbian lesbians on whether they think Ana Brnabić's nomination will make the deeply conservative country more tolerant towards women and gay people.
June 19, 2017, 10:06am

This article originally appeared on VICE Serbia

Ana Brnabić is under quite a lot of pressure. Not only is she about to be confirmed as the Prime Minister of Serbia, but she will be the conservative country's first woman and first openly gay person to hold the position.

For years, members of the LGBTQ community have been victims of violent and public abuse at the hands of the country's prominent nationalist wing. Some see President Aleksandar Vučić's decision to appoint Brnabić as an inspirational step forward for gender equality and gay rights. Others consider it a tactic by Vučić to distract from his authoritarian policies. And some, even politicians, simply refuse to accept her as their Prime Minister.

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I spoke with a few young Serbian lesbians to hear how they feel this nomination could affect the LGBTQ community in their country.

Asja, 23, student

VICE: How do you feel about Ana Brnabic becoming Prime Minister? Asja: Surprisingly, I'm pretty indifferent. The fact that she's a lesbian won't change her party's conservative policies, and will not stop our society from being patriarchal and homophobic.

You don't think her appointment will make Serbia more tolerant?
That depends on President Vučić – he's the one who runs the country and makes the key decisions. One problem is that people might think now that the battle for gay rights is over. Of course having an openly gay Prime Minister could change things, but the question is, what kind of change?

What could change for you, you think?
Nothing. Thanks to my social class, I already don't suffer as much discrimination as most LGBTQ people in Serbia. Growing up, I always believed that I could become Prime Minister.

Kristina, 22, activist and tattoo artist

VICE: How does it feel to have a lesbian at the head of the Serbian government?
Kristina: It feels great. I think it's about time it happened. I believe that every time a gay public figure is successful, it inspires others to come out and embrace their sexuality.

Do you think this changes anything in the discrimination LGBTQ people face in Serbia?
It's hard to tell. Serbia still has a long way to go when it comes to gay rights, but this is definitely a step in the right direction. Unfortunately, Brnabić decided to distance herself from LGBTQ issues. As much as I understand her position, I do believe she has a certain responsibility to the gay community. We will see what kind of change this will bring, but I believe society will become more conscious about gay rights.

Isidora, 21, student

VICE: Does Brnabić's appointment make you feel hopeful?
Isidora: For me, this isn't a step forward for women's equality or the LGBTQ community. Vučić's government is a step back for Serbia. In principle, electing a lesbian Prime Minister is a big thing, but she is the President's puppet.

So you doubt it could decrease discrimination LGBT people face?
I doubt that sexists and homophobes will be less sexist and homophobic just because our PM is a gay woman.

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Does it mean anything to you personally?
I don't support President Vučić, so regardless of who is Prime Minister, I will continue to do whatever I can to leave this country.

Teodora, 18, high school graduate

VICE: How do you feel about Brnabić's appointment?
Teodora: I'm happy she's come out. Her election is an inspiration to the LGBTQ community, and hopefully we can now focus on all the positive contributions of gay people in Serbia.

Do you think more people will come out now?
Yes, because it won't be seen as such a taboo. I suppose there will be less discrimination, because a gay person is in such a position of authority.

What do you think she would change?
I don't think she is aware of the problems that LGBTQ people suffer in Serbia, because she is from a privileged background. But I don't want to jinx it.

Andjela, 26, human rights activist

VICE: What do you feel about Brnabić's appointment?
Andjela: I'm impatient, excited and a bit scared. I fear her election won't live up to the hype. Of course it is a great step – it is not easy to be a gay woman in Serbia.

Will her appointment inspire more people to come out?
I don't think the effect will be that immediate. There are still not enough public services to help the LGBTQ community. It would be great if her appointment was enough to eliminate all the prejudice against us, but we know that won't be the case.

Will anything change for you personally?
Not personally, but I'm sure more people will seek assistance and support now, and I hope that the future PM will try and make sure that the government is more understanding of the needs of LGBTQ people.