My two favourite hobbies since childhood have been engaging in women’s stories and power dynamics. As I grew up, I realized that one of them had prevailed.
Politics, like any social process involving negotiations over the distribution of power, influence, and resources, is one of my favorite definitions of politics. Everything about voting is negotiation, and the electoral cycle is when the power of the voters is most evident and significant. It’s the same in relationships. It’s like when you haven’t officially started dating yet, and someone seems obsessed with you, but in a good way. You know that the obsession persists as long as you can appear mysterious. When you start dating or when you reveal your cards, you lose the persuasive power you had over them, and a game follows, often not according to your rules. In the pre-election process, political party campaigns serve to mobilize voters, especially if the chosen party represents the voters’ beliefs. Alternatively, there is aggressive courtship aimed at winning swinger votes.
Two guys have a crush on you, Miloš and Stefan.
You dated Miloš for a while, but it didn’t work out. Things didn’t go as planned; he was jealous, a bit stubborn, and always seemed to know how things be better than you did. It was exhausting, but everyone was fine with the two of you being together, except for you. The only thing you liked was the idea of being in a relationship. You were told he came from a “good, decent family,” which you learned from parents. He doesn’t have a permanent job, but his parents have two. He told you that you were the most beautiful woman in the world, elegant, kind-hearted, well-mannered, and he was right. He often talks about how it’s only normal and sacred when a marriage is formed between a man and a woman, and that faggots are sick. However, since he’s right about you, so you can’t argue with him about anything else, and it wouldn’t achieve much. You know you just need to be good, calm, and well-mannered, and you’ll have all his love in the world. And there’s something simple and powerful about that.
After some time, he starts reaching out to you again. He begins to brings you gifts, send cute messages, and everything he says sounds okay. There’s no talk about homosexuals, only about marriage between a man and a woman, and there’s no controversy there. However, as the new flirtation progresses, you feel he has ulterior motives. It’s not as joyful as it should be, it doesn’t give you space, and you know he wants to be in a relationship with you because he needs it, not because both of you truly want it. Everything looks great from the outside, your ego is inflated again, and you’re on the verge of returning to comfort. However, you still see red flags in his thoughts and words, and your stomach tightens every time he slips up with a similar slip. Sometimes it embarrasses you in front of your friends because Miloš often comes across as cringeworthy. Luckily, you feel less embarrassed when you go out, and he pays for everyone’s drinks because then those wise friends don’t complain. At that moment, as the waiter brings the round to the table and they uncomfortably nod their heads and thank him, you become Miloš’s queen, his rock, and they enjoy the fruits of your love. When they become accomplices in Miloš’s cringe, you remember why you’re together. You’re better than them because you were the first to stand by his side, and now they also benefit from it. It may have seemed at times that it shouldn’t be that way, but those were intrusive thoughts. You feel powerful in that moment.
You recently met Stefan, although you know him from the town, and he seems like a real refreshment. He says he’s a feminist and that he’s OKAY with faggots. He has a sister who is very important to him. He’s intelligent, natural, and plays an instrument… He’s not ashamed of casual flirting and has urban vibes, usually themed about space or music because he’s an urban guy, not some peasant. He doesn’t fully understand how someone can say they’re a man without having the typical male upbringing experience, without playing like a real boy with friends, but well, that’s not something you’re too concerned about. We all have the right to our own opinions, and luckily he has opinions about everything, so you don’t have to worry too much. He understands feminism better than you. Sex workers are just whores, literally, baby. What’s so complicated about that? Life is tough. Again, luckily, it’s none of your business. You’re his sexy princess, and it’s fun that you’re smart. That’s part of your sex appeal, you’re like a real Barbie doll.
June is Pride Month, and during this time, queer life and queer love are celebrated worldwide. It’s also traditionally a time for “washing mouths” with LGBT marketing, known as pinkwashing. I.e. formal support is provided to the queer population and other minorities for self-gain, without essential steps toward greater social equality.
During the 2023 parliamentary elections, when discussing gender equality and social justice, political parties in their electoral programs use the following formulations: “equal rights for both sex,” “sex identity,” “equality regardless of gender differences,” and “sexual and other orientations.”
Some parties have written about promoting gender-sensitive language so that it would read as: “politicians, doctors, sociologists, lawyers, and other open-minded and well-intentioned citizens.” One program mentioned “fighting against various forms of socially unacceptable behavior, especially all types of violence, misogyny, and sexism,” while in the section on housing subsidies, measures were proposed only for young married couples (three electoral lists proposed such measures).
Some parties have included in their programs a manifesto on the “traditional family,” “marriage as a union between a man and a woman,” and “equal rights for both sexes.” A connection has been made between “work-life harmony” and the “traditional family.” The party I mentioned stated that the “traditional family and marriage between a man and a woman are the foundation of a functional society,” thereby disregarding the principle that we are all, first and foremost, citizens and we derive our rights from that, including the right to shape our family and other communities according to our standards. Based on this principle, Montenegro has recognized non-marital partnerships and same-sex partnerships.
For Miloš, “real” men and others are not the same, especially not in the eyes of the law, and that’s their burden. Stefan has never said anything like that, which makes him better than Miloš, but when Miloš speaks, he eagerly joins in, but with a more knowledgeable tone. He doesn’t listen to you. He’s not a faggot to talk to you, or at least that’s the joke between him and Miloš. You wouldn’t get it, those jokes among friends. And that’s part of the game – not to understand everything completely, because they’re not women or faggots to reveal their cards immediately and have the fun game last ten seconds. You probably wouldn’t even like what they said, but this way, it seems like they’re complex and layered onion heads that you have to unravel slowly, only to end up in tears. This is the part where you realize they forced you to play their game with that initial mystery, which you never needed and even harmed you, but it suited them. The whole time, it seemed like those were the only options, an exciting, turbulent, crazy game between the three of you. Do you wonder if there would be an incident if you said all of this to their faces? How did the three of you end up at the same table anyway?
Reading about promises of marriages and apartments, I thought about my needs as a citizen, my capabilities, and how much the community ”benefits” from me and my work. In the context of gender equality and the right to housing or housing subsidies, I would only qualify if I were a bride. In the past, women had two options – getting married or becoming nuns (referred to as a “lesbian den”), and if they chose marriage, their right to housing was fulfilled through their new family or home. Relative, as it is still called today, was no longer their house.
My housing issue would not be resolved under any other basis – education, youth, or contributing to the community. Despite the rhetoric of gender equality, even if I had a female partner or if I were single, I still would not have the right to housing subsidies parallel to my peer of the same gender and education who is in a relationship with a man.
Only in marriage, the authorities would help me in finding a home. Why? What kind of fetish of fertility exists in Montenegrin society? Doesn’t this peek seem like an evolution of the custom of spreading bloody sheets? What a perfidious societal reward for sex, and that “as it should be.” If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you’ll find out, fella. I mean, you won’t learn about it in school. Come on, don’t pretend to be polite.
This perfidious reward is a societal incentive for heterosexuality, emotional conditioning that the only desirable thing is to be straight, and when it comes from institutions and their representatives, it is called systemic homophobia. It’s when gender equality is just a phrase not backed by content or the use of gender-sensitive language, when there’s talk of reducing sexism and related “undesirable behaviors”, but parties lack the courage to discuss measures for LGBT couples. Systemic homophobia is when some openly advocate policies that only refer to family life as straight life while recognizing universal human rights to life, work, and leisure as marital rights. It is also a systemic stupidity.
Nevertheless, regardless of the actions of politics, the distribution of power, influence, and resources, queer people have always existed and will continue to exist, despite everything. And that’s precisely what – despite – is by far my favorite definition of politics. Let the Pride Months be joyful!
Milica Prelević, a Master’s student at the Faculty of Applied Sciences of the University of Donja Gorica and an activist of the SPECTRA Association
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 solely responsibility of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Ministry of Human and Minority Rights or CCE.