Dear Prime Minister Zaev,
The LGBTI people hear the word “faggot” on a daily basis: in schools, on the street, in the state institutions, restaurants, barber shops and police stations. To be a “faggot” in North Macedonia means to live in an environment that dehumanizes you, restricts your freedom, interferes in the harshest way with your privacy and prevents you from fulfilling your wishes and plans on equal terms with other citizens. Being “faggot” cost some of us even more: violence that the police never resolved, families that hurt us and didn’t accept us, violence that left deep wounds that we draw motivation for resistance and solidarity from, for a zealous fight for our rights and the wounds we are proud of. “Faggot” is not someone’s trait, “faggot” symbolizes a society that hates, fears, and detests us.
After the public learned of the “Extortion” case involving Bojan Jovanovski, the media and social networks focused on his supposed sexual orientation and used it for personal humiliation and ridicule, causing great damage to the dignity of the entire community. We probably should not explain that Boki 13’s sexual orientation has nothing to do with his illegal activity. LGBTI people are not a homogeneous group, just as heterosexuals can be conservative or liberal, religious or atheistic, belong to different ethnic communities, engage in criminal activity or earn their living honestly. If a heterosexual committed a crime, no one would mention it or attribute it to his heterosexuality, but if a gay man did so, the whole public and even the prime minister would emphasize his sexual orientation. This is, in fact, the central issue of our equality debate. Double standards, a majority making a special case of themselves while denying the same rights to LGBTI people, pervasive myths about immoral and disgusting “faggots” designed to intimidate and mobilize the public against the equality, freedom and dignity of LGBTI people.
The LGBTI community in you and in your party saw and is still seeing an ally. We cannot deny that key steps have been taken with regard to LGBTI rights: the adoption of the Law on Prevention and Protection against Discrimination, the takeover of HIV program financing, the amendments to the Criminal Code that recognize SOGI-based hate crime, the organization of the first Pride Parade, as well as recognition of sexual orientation and gender identity and other laws in the field of media and education. However, our lives and our daily experiences have not changed much. We cannot remain silent on the mistakes you make: like Health Minister Filipce’s two statements that caused immense damage to transgender people, the fact that the Interior Ministry still does not prosecute or recognize hate crime based on SOGI, unsolved cases of attacks against the LGBTI Support Center, the Birth Registry Office refusing to enforce the European Court of Human Rights ruling on changing transgender man’s personal documents, numerous hate speech reports stuck somewhere in the middle between the police and the prosecution office, etc. The problems we face are numerous, and such statements by state officials do not help solve them.
We urge you to apologize publicly, this time after the even more offensive excuses, in order to remedy the damage caused to public opinion by your statement. But more importantly, we urge you to intensify and seriously promote the rights of LGBTI people. It is the only way to make up for the exclusion, stigma and violence that this community is experiencing, and to build one society for all!