For years, Dajana Pospiš was a member of the National Front – a far-right, anti-Semitic, anti-LGBTQ movement that waged war on Serbia's queer community. But during a stint in prison for racial and religious discrimination, Pospiš came to accept what no one saw coming: despite being assigned male at birth, she was a woman – and she desperately wanted to transition.
After publicly coming out as trans, Dajana sought acceptance and forgiveness from Serbia's LGBTQ community – but can they make peace with her violent past? In VICE Profiles: The Ex Neo-Nazi Trans Woman, we hear from Dajana about her unique and difficult journey from being a neo-Nazi to coming out as a trans woman, in a move that left her "caught between two worlds".
Ahead of the film's release, we spoke with one of the filmmakers, Olivera Milenković, about the current state of trans rights in Serbia, and what it was like to help tell Dajana's story.
VICE: Hey, Olivera. It took you two years to make this film. How would you describe the process of telling Dajana's story?
Olivera: This is a good example of how the flow of time can provide a new perspective on a story. When we started filming in 2015, Dajana was still searching for an identity and sense of belonging. Her past was something she was trying to leave behind, something to forget. But, from the very beginning, we felt that it would be hard to ignore that period of her life, because her self-discovery took place while she was a supporter of neo-Nazi groups and while she was in prison – where, she told us, she had time to think about who she really was.
Do you see this as a personal story about one person's journey, or do you think it says something about society in general?
It's more a personal story, but I think it speaks to what's going on in society. When she was younger, Dajana tied her identity to a movement that recognised her desire to belong to something, and they gave her a certain dangerous set of values to hold on to. By turning away from people on the margins of society, we only ensure that someone else will scoop them up and offer values and a community that will make them feel secure. If those values are hateful, then that is a problem for everyone.
Since the film was first screened in Serbia, do you think it's helped to shed a light on the challenges trans people face?
The audience reaction was incredible. It was really important for us to screen the film at the Belgrade Documentary Festival earlier this year, because it was an opportunity to meet with people and gauge their reactions firsthand. There were a lot of tears, but, more importantly, many people came up to us afterwards to find out if they could help Dajana in some way.
Today, it is a lot harder to ignore the trans community in Serbia, because it no longer allows itself to be invisible. But many of the legal issues have not yet been resolved. For example, you can only officially change your gender after you've undergone surgery. Also, violence against trans people is still prevalent. And despite the passing of anti-hate laws five years ago, nobody in Serbia has been convicted of committing a hate crime against a trans person.
What can viewers expect from this film?
A story that shows how we pass by marginalised people every day, people who feel like they don't truly exist in the society they live in. Also, it was important for us that the film brought attention to the fact that many trans people still have difficulty finding work and are often discriminated against, even by those who are themselves on the margins. Like everyone else, they deserve our understanding and respect.