Major Helena served for 20 years before coming out as transgender. The Army immediately told her to resign saying she was a ‘stain’ on their reputation. Serbia is a hostile country for LGBT people, but it is getting better. In 2010 the LGBT 1,000 strong pride was attacked by 6,000 anti-gay protesters, Orthodox Christians and extreme nationalist groups in what is now known as the “Belgrade anti-gay riot”. Pride Parades weren’t held again until 2014 but was only attended by 200 marchers who were guarded by 5000 riot police.
In stark contrast Serbia has enacted transgender inclusive human rights laws and this year even hosted the first transgender beauty pageant.
As is usually universally true the military lags behind social progress.
In a landmark for Serbia, the Commissioner for Protection of Equality agreed. Nevena Petrusic — whose office was created to help Serbia qualify for EU membership — told the AP that she recommended that the army give Helena a written apology.
The army has yet to issue one, and did not respond to AP requests for an interview. Petrusic’s recommendations are not binding, but they are closely watched by international officials monitoring Serbia’s pro-EU reforms.
By speaking out, Helena has become a rare voice representing Serbia’s transgender community, which lives under constant fear of hate crimes on the margins of the society. Tolerance for the LGBT community across the Balkans is low, and several gay pride events in Serbia have been canceled because of extremist violence.
“I am fighting for the rights of all humiliated people,” Helena told The Associated Press in an interview. “This is a struggle for all those who can’t enjoy their basic human right to be equal with everybody else.”