June is recognized as a global holiday, or rather, Pride Month for LGBTQ+ individuals. However, that sense of pride is sometimes overshadowed by shame, sadness, and dissatisfaction – as the fight for full equality is long and exhausting. And it is not only a collective battle of those united with the same goal but also a personal, internal struggle to remain loyal to oneself and one’s authentic identity. How can one protect their identity when the queer aspect is constantly undermined day by day? How is it that, in the sea of economic and social issues, same-sex couples are seen as a risk to the future of our society?
Don’t you know that queer individuals exist in all spheres of society, contributing to the mechanisms that drive our community? Don’t you know that maybe your neighbour, who greets you every morning with a smile, is also gay apart for being a good neigbour? Have you not realized that queer individuals have the same civic duties as you but lack the same civil rights?
You don’t know because you don’t see us, and you don’t see us because you don’t allow us to show ourselves as who we truly are — in the entirety of our identity. Our character values can be numerous, and our actions can be significant. However, all of that is veiled by secrecy, silence, and the reduction of ourselves and our identities. While this concealed “massacre” occurs, the general citizenry actively chooses to ignore our problems or even support their deepening.
At the forefront of resistance are undoubtedly activists, both individuals, and organizations. They bear the burden of shame (or pride) and make daily sacrifices, compromising their privacy and safety in the fight for a better position for LGBTQ+ individuals. This is a heroic and selfless act, however, as a society, we have become so comfortable with hurting and neglecting others that change must come from the system itself, the problem requires a systemic solution. It requires us to take a second look at the current state of affairs, and deeply evaluate the set of values we believe in and proudly promote. This moment requires critical thinking, as well as compassion, a powerful virtue, and that can be taught and acquired through the educational system. Only when we depart from our world of conformity and confront injustices can we “set up” a compass that respects what is different, not better or worse, but equally valuable.
Certainly, someone will argue that we currently have bigger problems than those “extravagant” cases, which is neither commendable nor a valid argument. We cannot relativize societal problems because they are often interconnected or overlap, especially when they share the same foundation – misunderstanding and hatred. For example, issues regarding the position of women in our patriarchal society, or racism and discrimination against marginalized populations, are all part of a common problem and, therefore, the struggle belongs to all of us. We can no longer overlook all these nuances of injustice and inhumanity, as they have been ingrained in our homes, educational institutions, and public spaces for far too long. It is not about having a bigger or smaller problem, it is about the need to address the whole spectrum of problems.
Of course, the world is not black and white. There are positive aspects, open discussions, and support provided to LGBTQ+ individuals through panels, various workshops, or even in private circumstances, and sometimes the topic is even touched upon in Parliament, albeit rarely. However, we must not forget that, in addition to exchanging opinions, action must also be taken to align with those goals. If it remains only in words, we are merely ideologizing human rights. The everyday problem of a queer person becomes nothing more than an instrument for snobbery or a race for more progressiveness, to prove who is more enlightened, and meanwhile, the problems of queer people remain sources of dissatisfaction and sadness.
The fight for equality is long and exhausting, and sometimes it seems unattainable. But even the smallest step is part of the entire journey, and at the end of that journey lies a society of equality, understanding, and love. It may sound idyllic and utopian. But let it be because I believe that dreams shape the future, and I want a future of justice, and a conscience is the core of justice.
Jakov Ivanović, a student at the Faculty of Political Science of the University of Montenegro
This column is part of the project “Together Against Prejudice!” conducted by the Centre for Civic Education (CCE) with financial support from the Ministry of Human and Minority Rights. The views expressed in this column are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Ministry of Human and Minority Rights or the CCE.