Serbia’s PM doesn’t want to be known just for being gay
The first LGBT and first female prime minister in Serbian history has said she doesn’t want to be known just for being a ‘gay PM’.
Ana Brnabic, 41, was nominated for the position last month by right-wing President Aleksandar Vučić, and was later confirmed.
Last year, Brnabic became the first out gay cabinet minister when Vučić appointed her to be Minister for Public Administration.
In her first interview with a non-Serbian newspaper since becoming Prime Minister, Brnabic said she doesn’t want to be known just for being LGBT.
“Serbia is changing and changing fast, and if you will, I am part of that change, but I do not want to be branded ‘Serbia’s gay PM’. The message we need to send is about competence, professionalism and trustworthiness,” she told the Guardian.
Despite being gay herself, Brnabic has said she doesn’t plan to put forward LGBT reforms just yet.
“The reason why I am not focused on that now is because I deeply, truly believe Serbia will be a more tolerant society once people have jobs, better paid jobs, don’t have to care about their own livelihood, or the future of their own children, and do not have to worry about two or three generations living in the same flat,” she added to the Guardian.
“I don’t think Serbia is that homophobic. I know that is one of the perceptions, and I understand attitudes are different in parts of Serbia. But some journalists were in a village in central Serbia where part of my family come from. They saw a couple of people just drinking beer in front of the local store and they asked them about me, and they replied, ‘Well, listen, in this part of Serbia we grow raspberries, fruit and vegetables, and we do not grow discrimination’.
“We just need to hear these kinds of people as well. The citizens of Serbia have a right not to be portrayed by a loud minority. We can have a culture where we disagree, as long as there is tolerance and no violence. We all have different views and values, but I don’t want to change people’s thinking by law.” .
Brnabic earlier this month told CNN that her sexual orientation has never been a problem.
The PM insisted: “I’ve been openly gay throughout my life and I’ve never had a problem in Serbia. I would like to think that Serbia is not that conservative or homophobic, or xenophobic for that matter.
“There’s certainly room to improve and change and there’s certainly still people who think, ‘this is not okay, that this is not part of our tradition and part of our accepted values’, but I do think that they are a minority. A loud minority, granted, but a minority.
“I do feel I have huge support from the people in Serbia.”
Her nomination to be prime minister was met with scathing attacks from misogynists and homophobes, as well as those who accuse her of being a puppet for Vučić.
There are also those who accuse Vučić of choosing Brnabic simply for show, to demonstrate how progressive Serbia is so that it can join the European Union.
Last month, in a speech to the parliament in Belgrade, Brnabic belied her political inexperience – she has no party affiliation, and has never been elected to any position – to hit back at detractors.
Facing the insults defiantly, she said: “I expect to receive them also in the future.
“I will respond with truths and facts that I will defend with dignity.
“I have big goals as I look to the future.
“Let’s put the past together where it belongs – to the past,” she added, according to The New York Times.
After she joined Vučić’s government last year, she told Vice Serbia: “I’m not a spokesperson for the LGBT community.
“I don’t want to be branded as a gay minister, just as my colleagues don’t want to be primarily defined as being straight.
“All I want is to do my job as best as I can.”
Her historic nomination encouraged activists in the deeply conservative country, which only declassified homosexuality as a disease in 2008.
Two years after that decision, two-thirds of people still believed it was an illness.
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Brnabic is no activist, though. Last year she refused to lend her support to a proposal to push for legalising same-sex partnerships in Serbia.
Zoe Gudovic, 40, a social justice activist in the country, told The New York Times: “The only thing I share with Ana Brnabic is that we are both lesbians.”
She said Brnabic deserved “credit for shattering the deeply rooted notion of how a woman in the highest position of government should look like, what she should wear and how she should behave in this homophobic society.”
This did not mean she approve of Brnabic accepting the nomination, however.
“I find it impossible to accept that she is willing to be part of the nationalist, authoritarian regime that will ruin our economy, sell our country to foreigners and abolish whatever is left of a social state,” Gudovic said.