Blogbox | LGBTQ+

Some new closets

By - 08.04.2021

How the pandemic made the Montenegrin LGBTQ+ community even more vulnerable.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been ongoing for more than a year and it seems as if the whole world has come to a halt. Such a state of affairs has put many heavily marginalized groups into an increasingly dire situation, including the microcosmos of the LGBTQ+ community across Europe where it is felt strongly. Perhaps it is the most brutal situation since the emergence of HIV.

Oppressive laws in Poland, Hungary, outbursts of homophobia, transphobia, misogyny, enveloped in legal acts and oppression, are slowly but surely demeaning and pushing us back into the closets we thought we had incinerated for all time.

Deep divisions

A few days ago, I read how some young men in Zagreb pushed a girl under a tram because they thought she was a gay man who allowed himself an outpouring of tenderness with his partner in the street. Something that ought to be permissible in any European country. The lesson learned from this social momentum is that heterosexual people can no longer feel safe if they don’t uphold certain generally accepted norms of conduct and appearance.

At the same time, news from Turkey has arrived, with President Erdogan openly negating the very existence of the LGBTQ+ community. “There are no such thing as LGBTQ+ movement in Turkey,” he said in a confident tone as if a word is enough to erase thousands of his citizens, to take away their identity, and even worse, to classify them as state enemies and domestic terrorists.

United, strong, and ready for the struggle; everything the LGBTQ+ community in Montenegro lacks.

Yet still, the terrifying rates of femicide make it even worse to be a woman in Turkey (just last year, more than 300 women were killed), especially after a midnight presidential legal act deprived them of the last existing lawful protection they had.

However, the community’s resistance is evident and their struggle inspiring, as is the struggle of women in Poland. A united and strong resistance, ready to fight to the death ― both literal and legal ― for a better tomorrow. 

My dears, I truly hope that you will succeed. By the way, I am certain that you will! United, strong, and ready for the struggle; everything the LGBTQ+ community in Montenegro lacks.

Nevertheless, we can boast that the Law on Same-Sex Partnerships was passed in the middle of the pandemic. Some claim it is a historic moment for this small European country that is often underrated. It really was historic, while the community’s mortals, such as myself, will say it’s unexpected and surprising, although it has been worked on, lobbied, and advocated for almost a decade.

We, the “faggots,” celebrated the passing of the law modestly, as proscribed by the epidemiological measures, thus showing solidarity with everyone.

However, that isn’t the only thing that shook this country to its core.

Montenegro has been divided in half during the elections ― among “these” and “those,” “us” and “them,” “such and such.” We, the LGBTQ+ community, are used to being the punching bag, decided to stick to this polarization, and thus started pointing fingers at each other. Now we refer to ourselves as “gays” or “fags,” while others call us “homosexuals.”

For some we are a disease that should be thrown into the fire, probably as a sign of sacrifice to God. For others we are the cornerstone for building the European house, a victim still, just wrapped in emancipatory rhetoric. Because even those who defended the law and voted for it did so with the remark that, without it, we allegedly would not be able to become members of the European Union.

We have been given an ultimatum: Either we use the chance to participate in this binary and collective rage, only intensified by the pandemic, or there will be blood.

We listened. Because although being queer means being different in its essence, this time we chose the option of heteronormative and polarized queerness. Thus, even though we are all the same in the social order of things i.e., at the bottom of the food chain, we agreed to slaughter each other for a few bones so that the strongest among us could swallow a slightly larger piece than usual. However, I am afraid they will suffocate on it.

A glimmer of goodness

However, in their greed, some have even become reckless. From time to time they use their jaws to grab some of their own, some of us, people from the community. And they then chew on them constantly. Upon realizing what they have done, they spit out onto the carpet what remains of those people. That is precisely what happened in the recent case of an alleged attack against a trans person in Podgorica.

The organization the person is involved with first published the news through Twitter, sharing perhaps too much information about the alleged victim and their condition. I can now say “alleged” with confidence, because the police and prosecution deemed it as such, dropping the case with a remark that it was an attempted suicide and self-harm.

The finger that was pointed and that was threateningly being flapped in the air was raised to the mouth and only a loud Shhh was heard... silence, stillness, and reservations.

Yet the same people who originally stood up for this person, spreading unverified information, are now turning their backs on them, making the suicide attempt — that resulted in injury — the victim’s fault, while disregarding systematic injustice, repression, violence, fascism, and the pandemic. 

After it turned out that the person, themself, did what was initially blamed on others, no one was held accountable for inciting and spreading panic within the community. No one was held responsible for the fact that the person did not speak out. Further, the person in question was put into the service of those who are in charge. No one dared to point a finger again, this time quite deservedly and fairly. 

The finger that was pointed and that was threateningly being flapped in the air was raised to the mouth and only a loud Shhh was heard… silence, stillness, and reservations.

In a matter of days, the “victim turned into a “protected person.” As part of this shift in attitude, the private data of the person in question were shared publicly, thereby violating their right to privacy. Montenegro is a small country where we all know each other and the smallest detail about somebody’s identity, such as their initials, can lead to disclosure.

However, every evil brings with itself a glimmer of goodness, and in this case that’s the general condemnation of this attack on behalf of us, the ordinary mortals of this community. A condemnation that must not and will not be absent in the case of any incidents that include members of the community. If I dare say it, we need some positive thinking, although it seems that the term became a taboo in the pandemic. Suddenly, it’s worse to be “positive” (of course, this refers to COVID-19) than gay.

Since we have already touched upon faggots and homosexuality, it’s genuinely not clear to me how we became so heterogeneous in such a particular social context, when the homogeneity of this small and exposed community should and must be imperative. We are fighting the system while scattered and are still amazed by its victory.

At this given moment the imperative cannot solely be placed on raising awareness, that is seemingly the only thing activists in Europe deal with. Because, how will you raise awareness when the system and daily life reveal a lack thereof? The imperative must be placed on the community, the pulse of which must be felt carefully; that is, the pulse of those serving the community. Because, the community isn’t there for their benefit but vice versa, and they can’t afford to ever forget it.

As a positive individual, I genuinely believe that the community will find a way to heal itself. The dogs will lick the wounds of one another, and the broken bones of individuals will heal better and stronger only if they repel the vultures who have been feasting on them for many years.

Feature image: Arrita Katona / K2.0.