Randjelovic, Slobodan. “Lives in Transition: LGBTQ Serbia”, The New Press, 2018.
Battling Homophobia in Serbia
“Lives in Transition: LGBTQ Serbia” is part of the ongoing series of photo books published with the Arcus Foundation and The New Press about queer communities around the world and like the others, this is a stunning portrait of a community battling homophobia.
In June 2001, Serbia had its first gay pride parade in history in Belgrade’s central square. It was, however, short-lived because an ultranationalist mob quickly descended on the participants, chanting homophobic slurs and injuring many. For years afterward, there was a fear of violence that prevented further pride events. Then in October 2010, the next pride march finally went ahead and again it became violent as anti-gay rioters, firing shots and throwing gas bombs, fought the police. It was only in 2014 that a pride march was held uninterrupted but it was under heavy police protection.
Photographer Slobodan Randjelović captures the struggles and successes of twenty LGBTQ people who live throughout Serbia; a conservative, religious country where, despite semi-progressive LGBTQ protection laws, homophobia is fueled by religious authorities and right-wing political parties. Serbia is a country where lack of employment opportunity and hostile families frequently drive queer people into poverty and isolation. LGBTQ Serbs have struggled to build a community that provides solace, protection, and even joy. We see their remarkable and inspiring resilience in the human struggle against a repressive social structure and demonstrates how friendship and community can help people shape their own futures.
The photos and text here take us into the lives of Serbs who are struggling for human rights and who just want to live freely. The images are powerful and moving. Those who have been silenced by society show us courage, strength, and resilience as they face violence and hatred. I found myself inspired and empowered even though I was thousands of miles away and it struck me very hard since I had lived in Israel when the same type of homophobia once existed. It is our responsibility to listen to subjects speaking back to us, share their truths, their resilience, and their collective power.