We’ve been set on doing a sex issue since we launched Kosovo 2.0. We’ve always been determined to make visible what is taken for granted, whether it’s image, corruption or religion (our previous issues). Therefore, it felt appropriate to take sex apart.
Never before has the media in Kosovo genuinely and openly initiated a public discussion on sex and sexuality. During our process, messages of anticipation and direct queries about the contents of this magazine have driven us to take on the topic courageously.
In this issue, we base our understanding of sex on the idea that it is a political apparatus through which bodies are regulated, controlled and disciplined. Sex in our society is talked about by not talking about it. In fact, sex remains among the most misconstrued and inadmissible topics, subject to conflicting understandings of what constitutes sexual freedom; how we define backwardness or emancipation as they relate to sex; what it means to be attracted to the same sex; or how one understands one’s own body.
Meanwhile, hesitation, fear and resistance to talking about sex are apparent in the rest of the Western Balkans, as well. And they meet at a common impasse. In the past 20 years, our societies have undergone political and social transformations from socialist to nationalist to democratic rhetoric. This has not only affected how we understand and express our national identities, but it has strengthened patriarchy and heterosexual normativity.
If we only look at the mainstream discourse around gender equality, we’ll repeatedly hear terms such as “emancipation,” “political representation,” “awareness raising” and “discrimination,” and these are mostly used to explain strides in making women equal to men. While gender discrimination is, in fact, mainly directed toward women, rarely are notions of manhood and masculinity critiqued or challenged — particularly in how constructions of manhood perpetuate images of men as heads of household, heads of state, breadwinners, thinkers and more. The mainstream gender equality discourse, thereby, rarely challenges the gendered division of labor and roles, which also translate to sexual relations.
So, ultimately, the battle among and within the sexes boils down to the basic request that in the act of sex, men act (penetrate) and women receive (passive recipient). As such determinants frame “normal” heterosexual relationships, they are therefore also used to excuse homophobia. The space to challenge such social norms seems small.
We discovered that throughout our region, many struggle with multilayered constraints that appear in various forms of pressure and repression. Our stories acknowledge them, and give a thorough account of how lesbian, gay, straight, bisexual, transgender and intersex people negotiate their lives with regard to their own identities, genders, family, communities, as well as how they deal with a lack of social support and widespread displays of homophobia.
Our message and position are clear. We see this magazine as a call to everyone to come out and break free with their sexuality. It’s an appeal to bring to an end social and legal barriers that prevent people from openly expressing their sexuality, living their sexual freedoms, and equally participating and shaping the public sphere.
The struggle is undoubtedly harsh, and the stories you’ll hear aren’t always pleasant. Discriminatory behavior and language and incidents of violence prove that. As recently as a few years ago, mainstream media allowed for LGBT hate speech to be published and even validated for acts of hatred. LGBT people and their supporters have been failing to organize Pride parades, cross regionally, because of security concerns, as participants’ personal safety is not guaranteed. State institutions continue to disregard legislative and educational reforms that would make for equal and fair participation, and representation, for all sexes. Essentially, those whom we see as protectors of our well-being — be it police, doctors, schools, teachers or families — fail us.
Clearly no genuine discussion on human rights has begun if we continue to treat sex as an issue of what is “right or wrong,” “natural” or “unnatural,” or socially acceptable. The change that should happen is political, and sexual orientation and sexual freedom, as an individual’s right over her or his body, emotions and self, need to be recognized.
So, with this magazine, we aim to break the culture of silence, shame and violence. In doing so, we join those who already have taken the lead to fight for everyone’s personal freedom.