Those that raise children within same-sex relationships do not dare speak about it. Children are already being raised in same-sex relationships and the fact that society does not know about it and do not support it does not diminish the fact that it is our reality
1. For how long have you been together and which word would you use to describe your relationship: as partnership, marriage, union, etc.?
Ana: We know each other for a very long time. Sometimes it seems like we had known one another even before we actually met. However, I do remember well the day I saw her first and touched her hand.
I am unsure about the word I would use to describe our relationship. How would you call a bond where you feel complete, which gives you everything you lack in yourself and where you can grow and develop both by yourself and together with another? The relation that is a full harmony of body and spirit; the union that resists and lasts despite all pressures? If you manage to name such relationship, do let me know please.
Vera: What two of us have is much more than a relationship; we are completely committed to each other. Patriarchal notion of the marriage is surpassed as it allowed others to confirm, acknowledge, allow and value relationships. As lesbians we are already under pressure because society and neighbors do not recognize, allow and feel our relationship as equally valuable or alike with the heterosexual relationships. Partnership, however, brings business associations, agreements or contracts. I do mind that society allows such naming and reduces love to an economical category.
We possess no models and need to invent a new language in order to describe what we have together. Perhaps the most accurate is to say that we are family – the one we chose and arranged for ourselves – quite alternative to the normative patriarchal i.e. neoliberal version.
2. What were the public reactions to you as a couple i.e. what are the ways others perceive you, those close to you and those that do not know you? Do your primary family and friends see you as a union that possesses all the classical family dynamics?
Vera: Vera: People oftentimes do not know how to perceive us but they do have the need to put us somewhere: it happens they assume we are sisters although we have no physical similarity whatsoever. Yet, a lot of people know we are a couple, we told some and some heard even before they actually met us. Such information travel fast and we have nothing against it – this even makes things easier for us as we do not need to constantly engage in coming out. The fact that my mom – who at first talked about me as being unhappy and perverted after some time started to see that I am happy and then talked about having two daughters – brings me joy. Such events encourage me to think that things can change.
3. What does family mean to you?
Vera: Those are individuals that you can spend a lot of time with and still want more. Therefore the family is not necessarily comprised of people you are born with but also those that you have chosen and who had chosen you.
4. What do you thing about adoption and raising children in Serbia? Have you given it a thought and what supported it and what did not?
Ana: Serbia, as it is now, is simply not a fruitful ground for raising children. So much violence, senseless political topic, deep economical uncertainty, privatization of educational and health system, inability of the state to secure basic rights and liberties indicates that it remains illogical to invest in these country by giving it new tax payers/soldiers/workers… Serbia needs to change if it expects its citizens to invest their lives, resources, and even offsprings in it.
Vera: I think there are many children without a home and it is necessary for somebody to take care of them and give them love. Also, I am convinced it is utterly selfish to promote births in Serbia where child care institutions are filled with abandoned children and great number of them lives in deep poverty while country does not care. But this is another issue of the conscience level.
Ana: If it would be possible to adopt children for single people (and it is under special conditions and with the approval from the minister of social affairs) or for those in same-sex relationships we would then encounter different prejudices within the environment. Yet, creation of the communities where a couple or a single parent has support is very important as the child growing up would be much easier. Such community could be made of friends or people gathered around LGBT organizations. It falls on us to create such communities since at present we do not have any models and those that already raise children in same-sex unions do not dare speak about it. Children are already being raised within same-sex relationships and the fact that society does not know about it and does not support it does not make it less important.
5. The first same-sex registered partnerships were approved in Denmark in 1989 with an idea of a life long, monogamous and strict division of tasks and authorities according to the gender parameters. How does this fit into your model of an ideal relationship?
Vera: There is more talk now about the same-sex marriages as it is assumed that the same-sex partnership has already been accepted as the basic human right. The marriage is next bastion to be conquered for the LGBT movements in democratic countries. If I could chose, which I cannot now, I would decide not to enter the marriage since I do not wish to support an institution that historically exists to preserve unequal power positions between a man and a woman and the society which positions itself as an authority to approve or not the relationship between two adults. However, I do believe it is only fair that we all have the right to chose and if couples of different sex can do it then we should be also able to do it. This would be an indicator that the traditional marriage model is being changed and it is becoming more democratic both for hetero and same-sex couples. Some people have the need to enter into the same-sex marriage and I absolutely support their right to do so.
Ana: I believe that all people strive to stability, security and sense of belonging. Ideals and ideal situations are most of the time practically impossible and remain at the level of desire having in mind at all times that something like that is desirable but not always possible. The fact that two of us – two women, have decided to love each other and cherish and preserve that love we have attacked patriarchy and value system and rules that spring out of such structured society. We build something different, our very existence proves that different life is possible, that gender divisions are overcome and that state support needs yet to arrive – until then we manage the best we can.
6. Some believe that the “same-sex registered partnership” or homosexual marriage imitates “straight” marriage. Do you think that introduction of same-sex registered partnership would lead gays and lesbians to simply imitate straight model of the middle class? What is your opinion?
Ana: Certainly, we do miss a legal frame into which we would put our union and thus had some sort of security for the future but we do last without it – and I do believe that someday when this will be possible we would chose registered partnership as the most acceptable form for us. I desire, along with practical reasons, to announce to the world that we chose one another, that we love each other but I already do it by walking hand in hand with the same woman, on the same block for almost two decades. I also believe that the state has an obligation to provide a life of full quality where we would be protected the same way heterosexual people are. Classes are important, but not in this sense as hetero people of all classes already enjoy legally protected unions. I have understood a long time ago that for me, us it is impossible to imitate somebody and that the only thing we are left to do is to invest a part of our energy into organizing our union – since no one will do it for us.
Vera: Unfortunately, what mostly drives the acceptance of the same-sex registered partnerships in western countries is the neoliberal concept of consumerism to great extent and not the true pursuit for achieving human rights. Not only people from middle class get married but it is assumed that same-sex couples will have more money for themselves and would buy wedding rings, organize marriage celebrations, travel to honey moons, renew their wows, travel to holidays, celebrate Valentine’s, i.e. bring profit. This is all very popular and we see it constantly in the movies and is being forced on us so people want to have all these things – either they are within registered partnerships or not. Mass culture will continue to work on securing profit and we cannot escape this. For some this is the reason to support registered partnerships. But it is extremely important that if we already pay all the taxes then we must have the same rights.
What is now called “extra-marital union” (again, the marriage is stated as a normative) and what is legally equalized with marriage union for heterosexual couples represents to me the closest to the ideal. I wish that the fact of us living together for years bears the same importance as the joint life of any hetero couple.
7. What would you, both individually and globally, benefit from the same-sex registered partnerships recognition in Serbia? To what extent would that change your position within the society?
Ana: Globally, reality has already significantly changed: there is less talk in the world about “the same-sex registered union”, the world has already started to approve marriages which means that lesbians are now fully equalized with heterosexual people. Ant this is good. Because, that’s the only way it should be.
Nationally, there is a completely different story: it seems that Serbia remains unaware of its status in the world and persistent in choosing wrong priorities, fighting already lost battles and closing more and more. I have a feeling that Serbia stays blind to many global advancements and misses a chance to adopt the law on same-sex unions i.e. marriage and thus alter the poor image it realistically hold in the world by showing it is a country where everybody can live equally.
On an individual level, this law would provide opportunities for us to invest much less energy in worrying about the future, secure us in the same way as other Serbia citizens through regulating our daily lives and issues of inheritance, health and social care etc. Moreover, it is very important for the state to send a clear message to everyone: Serbia recognizes all of its citizens and enables them to enjoy equal rights. This is a very strong message that would reach the rest of the population stating they need to change their attitudes towards their lesbian neighbors.
Interview by Dragoslava Barzut
Translated by Ana Zorbic