LGBT activism in the Western Balkans: a regional fight for rights

For decades, countries that were formerly part of Yugoslavia have been politically, economically and culturally intertwined; a shift in one neighboring country has rarely gone unnoticed in another. Such is the case with the region’s LGBT movement, with pioneers never failing to mention that personal, as well as professional relationships, along with a strong sense of community, helped create a strong bond between activists all around the post-Yugoslav space.

When change began to feel tangible in one county, activists from others would flock in to give a helping hand, as well as to learn and to feed off of the products of their courage and vigor.

It’s a theme that is present in different stages and decades of the feminist and LGBT movement in this region, whether we are talking about the first Yugoslav feminist gathering, Belgrade’s 1978 ‘Drug-ca žena’ (‘Comrade Woman’), or the first Pride Parade in the region held in Belgrade in 2001.

Early activism

One of the fundamental conditions for a gay and lesbian movement to emerge in the region was the decriminalization of homosexuality, which first occurred in Slovenia, Croatia and Montenegro, as well as Serbia’s autonomous province of Vojvodina, in 1977, as part of wider legal reforms in Yugoslavia.

“It is only after that that homosexuality was able to enter public discourse and public space,” says Tatjana Greif, an activist and one of the authors of “LL25,” a history book on the Slovenian lesbian movement.

The first notable LGBT activism in the region was organized in Ljubljana in April 1984, when the students’ cultural center, SKUC Forum, put on the Magnus Festival that included films, exhibitions of gay publishing, and lectures and discussions on gay culture. Later that year, a group called Magnus, which embraced both gay men and lesbian women, was constituted as a section of the SKUC Forum, becoming the first LGBT group in the region. Read more via Krytyka Polityczna