An interview with Jovan Ulićevic, Association Spektra, Montenegro.
Montenegro is a country with strict gender roles and a highly masculine, often violent, culture. Women, especially lesbians and bi women, along with trans people, are very marginalised. Our communities have a lot in common, particularly the treatment of our identities, our bodies, our sexualities, and our place within (or outside) traditional gender roles. I think that often we are punished when we have the courage to publicly defy or overcome Montenegro’s norms.
Lots of legislation has been introduced that should help us, but there’s little implementation. For example, we still haven’t seen any convictions for hate crimes. Such crimes have been convicted solely as violent behaviour, not as hate crime – this means sexual orientation or gender identity are not considered as aggravating circumstances.
We also have discrimination in healthcare and in social care. In one case, the Ministry of Internal Affairs defied the law and prohibited a trans woman from legally changing her name. However, I think that with more engagement, a more visible community, stronger safe spaces and a lot of work from activists, the situation is slowly getter better.
We’ve created some change already by developing strong social services at Association Spektra – through this we provide urgent help to trans people. However, we realised that in order to create lasting change we must tackle the root causes leading to the oppression of trans people.
First of all, we need to transform the educational system – a lot of young trans people are dropping out of schools. The ones who remain live in fear that somebody will find out about their gender identity, or, if they are open about their gender identity, they face extreme violence.
We also face a lack of data about the experiences of trans people: the only data we have comes from our own outreach work. We hope that through this project we can collect enough evidence for more advocacy work. It will take time to create lasting change, but we can open the discussion now, start a good campaign and say to the people in power: ‘Now we have the data from trans people – this is what they say and this is what they experience.’
There was so much diversity and so many people from different backgrounds. It was a challenging few days – I learnt about many different perspectives, and that we are all marginalised on different levels and in different ways.
I’m very happy to be part of a project like this and to understand the varied perspectives people bring to the same problem – that’s very exciting!