February 28, 2020

February Member of the Month – Trans Mreža Balkan

IGLYO Focus, IGLYO, Members

Trans Mreža Balkan (Trans Network Balkan) was founded in 2014, with the aim of creating a regional support network for trans, intersex and gender-variant (TIGV) people. What started as an informal group of volunteers full of enthusiasm and many more ideas than time, developed into a small but strong team of activists from the Balkans. 

Our activism is primarily focused on the following countries in the region: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Northern Macedonia, Serbia, and Slovenia. We work closely with newly-developing groups, helping them identify their needs and capacities, sharing resources, and providing ongoing support. We aim to raise awareness about TIGV issues, expanding the circle of allies, providing quality information and creating a solidary regional space celebrating human diversity. We nurture community based arts and culture, showcasing our members’ writing on our portal and social media, as well as participating in art fairs where we display various works of art from our community including drawings, photography, poetry and writing.

Along with that, we work with local/national groups, institutions, lawyers, and healthcare providers to advocate for trans-related health in the region (e.g. to introduce procedures that were previously unavailable in a country, to advocate for health insurance coverage of necessary costs, etc.). We also work with groups on other advocacy relevant to their local context (e.g. legal gender recognition, anti-discrimination, etc.).

What are your most memorable moments in Trans Mreža Balkan’s recent history?

We are the only NGO in the Balkans that deals with trans, intersex and gender-variant human rights, establishing connections between communities in the region, building a bigger and stronger peer support network of people facing the same or similar issues. We also have a strong focus on arts and culture, education and research. We are a remote team, collaborating through online platforms, which is also how we started TMB and how we reach and gather many members of our community.

Since 2014, Transposium is the only recurring event that brings together nearly 100 trans, intersex and gender variant persons and allies from across the Balkans for several days, and offers them space to share personal experiences, successful community gathering practices, build alliances and make meaningful friendships. Transposiums have inspired new trans-specific programs, initiatives and organisations. Participants describe the event as magical and life-changing, and as an example of what the world could be like if it was based on compassion and solidarity. As part of our most recent, 5th Transposium in 2019 in Zagreb, we co-organized the first Balkan Trans Intersex March, that ended up gathering over 300 people, raising visibility on TIGV issues across the region. Our plan is to continue holding the march in conjunction with Transposium in as many countries in the region as possible.

Can you tell us about your priorities, projects, topics, etc. you’ll be working on for the remainder of 2020?

We continuously work on community building and would like to see more TIGV people empowered to become community organisers and leaders in ways that best serve their communities, as well as empowering and supporting those who do not wish to engage in activism. This year we are focusing our support to emerging informal groups in Slovenia, Serbia and Northern Macedonia. We are co-organising the next Transposium in March with one of them. We are providing support and mentorship to these groups, as well as to our partners in Montenegro and Croatia. Our areas of expertise are community organising, fundraising, visibility work, and advocacy. We strive to highlight that different parts of our communities face different obstacles and have different priorities, all of which are valid and need to be addressed. We have also started an online campaign on our social media promoting our organisation and values as we believe that increasing visibility of our work will help more TIGV people and their families reach out to us to get support and information. We hope to enable more TIGV activists and organisations, as well as other human rights groups, to get in touch with us for collaboration. And lastly, we are committed to increasing engagement from our wider community with our work.

IGLYO has been empowering young people for 35 years. What is for you the potential of youth activism in the LGBTQI movement?

It is a cliche to say that youth is a force for change, but there is truth in that because the youth is fighting for its own future to bring about a more equal and just society. In our region LGBTIQ rights are still behind and under threat, thus it is not easy to encourage youth to engage in activism, however we believe that many improvements have happened in recent years. Due to the rise of fascism people have become more aware of the importance of making their voices heard through community organising for common issues, for example with our first Balkan Trans Intersex March, as well as the first Pride parade in Sarajevo.

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