Uroš – the gay James Dean
The Serbian urban guy has an avant-garde taste – in his lifestyle as well as in his way to fight for gay rights.
by Lisa Crinon and Milka Domanović
He definitely got something from James Dean. With his worn-out jeans and his lascivious way of smoking his cigarette, Uroš is undoubtedly a cool guy. 29 years old, a purposely three-day bear, big brown eyes, thin and always, a smile. Beside his studies and his work as a travel and a social media agent Uroš is fighting to make gays, like him, a normal part of the society.
Drinking his Latte in the back of a fancy bar, Uroš depicts the struggle being gay still represents in his country. “It is a difficult fight. In order to have more political influence you have to play a good game” he claims. For himself and his own sexual background, no need to play, “It just happens”. No denial, no rejection from his surroundings, no mean jokes from peers, as it seems: no discrimination. “It was just a normal feeling that it should be that way”. And so does he live his life, as it should be. Whether downtown in one of the plenty cafés he usually goes to, or in a club where he will sometimes take his shirt off, just to feel free and dance, as any party boy will do in another normal capital. But in Serbia, he is still an exception.
A psychological torture
“Living in the countryside as a gay can be awful. I can just imagine the psychological torture those people are probably going through, from their community, friends, surroundings. It can be really difficult in Serbia”, Uroš describes. And there are still fathers who prefer killing their own sons than letting them be gay.
It is about raising the awareness on the gay community. Therefore, a good instrument is the gay pride, called “Belgrade Pride” in the Serbian capital. Not only is it the biggest event of the gay community but it also has a tremendous symbolic power. It is about getting LGBT people in the middle of the street, in the middle of the society. Since 2009 the pride is banned almost every year – slowly it becomes a tradition, an unsound game between activists and politicians and a statement for the LGTB community. Even policemen position themselves. Like the one Uroš met, “I hate doing the parade, I hate to have to protect gay people” he told him.
Feeling oppressed by the ban of the pride, the gay community stick to the planned controversial photo-exhibition. Depicted: the scene of the Last Supper reconstructed, with queer apostles wearing latex and leather, but not a lot of it. Another picture shows Jesus, all in white, his hair flying in the wind, and with his fetish believers in total admiration. Sex and Religion, enough to raise a societal debate. And it did harm, according to Uroš. “That exhibition heated up the situation even more. You just give more arguments to the opposite side to ban the parade”, he says, still smiling.
“If you are doing something for the community, you have to think about the community”. Organizers do have a responsibility. And Uroš does have a problem with the way some human rights activits still protest in Serbia, “they use street protest in order to change something”. Time for some changes, for some entertainment, and why not, for a flashmob.
Downtown in Belgrade, rush-hour in the fancy but still conservative Serbian capital, the perfect moment for a see-and-be-seen. It is also the moment Uroš choose for his action. A pop-like music begins to drone in the streets, louder and louder. Young people step out of the crowd to move to the rhythm, more and more. Passersby stop by, looking amazed, curious and intrigued. In the middle two couple in wedding outfits are attracting all the attention. Even a registrar is here to wed them. The song is almost finished, the two brides found to each other, hold hands, raise their veils, and kiss. “The approach should be like this”, Uroš says.
Special wish: being normal
This flashmob earned mostly positive feedbacks. Mostly. Yes, there is a slowly emerging gay scene in Belgrad. And yes, somehow it allows young boys to wear tights pans or wide neck t-shirts in the city. But it doesn’t prevent the yearly ban of the gay pride, the violent protests against it, nor the fear of gay couples to hold hands in public.
Normality can help to make the gay community an accepted part of the Serbian society, according to Uroš. And then it will all come from itself, everybody, politicians and civil society will follow, Uroš is confident about it: “It is inevitable, it is just a matter of time for it to happen”, he assures, and lights another cigarette.