LGBTI Equal Rights Association for Western Balkans and Turkey

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Once a year, we parade for love and equality, and you march with hate daily

16 Oct

By: Lila Milikj, founder of TransFormA

When it comes to speech and acts of hate towards the lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersex, and queer (LGBTIQ+) community, specifically towards one of the most marginalised groups – transgender people, the media rarely pay enough attention.

On the other hand, if the event has the potential to cause public reactions, the media, especially the tabloids, take the chance to get as many clicks as possible through a sensationalist announcement while not caring about the consequences. Sensational posts spread very easily and quickly and always encourage the spread of hatred towards the people they target, such as transgender people.

On July 6, news broke about an 18-year-old transgender girl, Noa Milivojev, who had been missing for 20 days from the date she was reported on June 17, the day she was supposed to meet her boyfriend. In such cases, anyone with common sense and empathy would pray and hope that the person is found alive and well. Unfortunately, this was not the case. Noa was found dead and butchered beyond recognition in the apartment of the 33-year-old man who committed this heinous act. There is no empathy for transgender women, even when they are victims of the most brutal murder. The way that the LGBTIQ+ community in Serbia and North Macedonia found out about this was through sensationalist reports from tabloids, but also from media that you expect to share this tragic news professionally and respectfully. Unfortunately, almost all posts shared Noah’s old name, pre-transition photos, and similar information that only worsened the situation. You can only imagine the content of social media comments left in plain view, un-reviewed, and uncensored by platforms like Facebook or Instagram. Only a tiny fraction of the comments expressed sympathy for the family, demanded justice for Noah, and condemned the perpetrator. However, most comments were filled with hate, mockery, threats of violence, and death for transgender people. At the same time, empathy was reserved for the perpetrator of the gruesome murder.

As in Serbia, our journalists and media in North Macedonia are not exempt from such sensationalism. In the last few months, we have noticed increased misinformation and hate speech towards transgender people and their supporters on social networks and particular national and local television channels. 

Local televisions are watched mainly by people from older generations who mostly have conservative and patriarchal attitudes, and according to whom everything that is outside of traditional values and norms is unacceptable. These people also do not or have not had the chance to be informed and educated on the topic of gender identity and transgenderism, which makes them a perfect target for anti-gender groups and their transphobic propaganda. Unfortunately, instead of taking measures to reduce the harmful influence of anti-gender groups and focusing on education about these topics, national and local television stations are only adding fuel to the fire, becoming part of the problem by spreading and inciting hate speech.

Thus, after presentations at several public tribunes organized by anti-gender groups, where various disinformation and transphobic rhetoric were spread, Bishop Jakov Stobiski received much media attention. Several local television stations gave him too much space and time, allowing him to continue spreading misinformation, discriminatory transphobic rhetoric, and hate speech against transgender people. The situation is the same with social networks where hate speech is not recognized; even after reporting, comments and posts remain uncensored.

Although there is legislation in North Macedonia that punishes hate speech, the leaders of the religious communities behave as if they are above the law, probably confident that they answer only to God. This is also evidenced by the example of Father Jakov, for whom the Commission for Prevention and Protection against Discrimination issued a petition that clearly establishes his hate speech.

The petition clearly states that: “through his public appearances in the past period, including the guest appearance on the show Detector on Sitel Television and the public forum in Strumica, Jakov Stobiski expressed opinions, attitudes, and ideas that are humiliating, insulting and degrading towards transgender people and which encourage discrimination and hatred against LGBTIQ+ people. He expressed his attitude towards transgender people through stereotypes, describing them as suffering from a mental disorder, thus emphasizing the stereotypical and harmful image of them and their position in society.”

However, driven by arrogance, Father Jacob is firmly determined to ignore such a petition. Not only does he have no intention of apologizing, but he continues to play the scapegoat and publicly promote his discriminatory views stemming from blatant ignorance, intolerance, and hatred. Do the sacred books teach us to hate and despise? The answer to this question should be given by Bishop Jacob.

Marko, a transgender man from North Macedonia, shared with us the impact this has on the health and well-being of trans people who, although behind a pseudonym, expressed the desire and courage to illustrate at least a small part of how this affected him. “All these screenings of Matt Walsh’s film and the public forums promoted and held in the South East made me feel scared, paranoid, and anxious, with thoughts where I was creating scenarios that I would be found out as trans and that my days were numbered. That paranoia contributed to closing myself in four walls, literally and metaphorically, as if I went back into the closet.” He added, “For several months now, I haven’t even gone out to socialize with my friends, sit down with them for coffee, or go for a walk to the park and back home. With the increased fear and social anxiety, all this negatively affects my mental and physical health. I feel alienated as if I don’t belong in my hometown. I don’t know who to lean on or who to trust. I’m afraid to make new friendships because I don’t know how a new person in my life would react to the fact that I’m a transgender man.”

This is a product and one of the goals of the growing transphobic propaganda being spread by the anti-gender and conservative movements, all clergy, religious leaders, and religious people who don’t even bother to question whose side of history they stand on in the 21st century. The goal is for transgender and non-binary people and their supporters and allies to know their place in society, to live a miserable and controlled life, to live in isolation as far from the public eye as possible, to be meek and to endure calls for their public lynching, rape, harassment, bullying in schools, not being able to find a decent job for a living, not having access to health goods and services, not being able to afford a roof over our head. This may sound trite and exaggerated, but no, indeed, this is what the small number of transgender and non-transgender people in our country face almost every day.

Despite this, the question arises again – why do we need parades?

The hate speech and propaganda of the anti-gender movements sow fear and try to silence us and send us back into the closet to suffer in silence. The Pride Parade is a place where we can stand up to this. In this place, we are visible, where love, equality, and acceptance are celebrated as the highest human values. But the Pride Parade also reminds us of our dark history, which can quickly become our future. In a time of attacks on the rights and dignity of women and LGBTIQ+ people, of heightened hate speech and propaganda, it is more important than ever to unite as a community and with our supporters and peacefully but fiercely fight back against the madness. , ignorance, and hatred.

Note: This article was written as a part of the “Strengthening the Trans, Non-Binary, and Intersex Caucus in the Western Balkans and Turkey region” project implemented by ERA’s TNBI Caucus.

Originally published in Macedonian language in:љubov-i-ednakvost-a-vie-sekoј-den-paradirate-so-omraza/

Topic - Access to Justice / Advocacy / Crime / Freedom of Assembly / Gender Identity / Hate Crime / Hate Speech / Homophobia / Human Rights / Identity / Media / Religion / Society / Trans / Transgender / Transphobia / Transwomen / Violence / Visibility
Country - All Countries / Macedonia
Tags - Anti-Gender Movement / hate crime / Media / North Macedonia / Pride Parades / Trans / Trans Rights / Transgender / Transphobia /