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Written by an interdisciplinary collective of authors, this powerful book documents the largely unknown histories and politics of trans lives, activisms and culture across the post-Yugoslav states.

The volume sheds light on a diversity of gender embodiments and explores how they have navigated the murky waters of war, capitalism and transphobia while forging a niche for themselves within the regional and transnational LGBTQ movements.

By unleashing the knowledge concentrated in trans lives, this book not only resists trans erasures in Eastern Europe, but also underscores the potential for survival, self-transformation, and engagement in politically challenging circumstances.

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Written by an interdisciplinary collective of authors, this powerful book documents the largely unknown histories and politics of trans lives, activisms and culture across the post-Yugoslav states.

The volume sheds light on a diversity of gender embodiments and explores how they have navigated the murky waters of war, capitalism and transphobia while forging a niche for themselves within the regional and transnational LGBTQ movements.

By unleashing the knowledge concentrated in trans lives, this book not only resists trans erasures in Eastern Europe, but also underscores the potential for survival, self-transformation, and engagement in politically challenging circumstances.

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Author: Lura Limani

Destabilising the notion of ‘firsts’ when LGBTIQ+ history remains largely unknown or forgotten, this chapter grapples with the emergence of trans narratives in Kosovar media, first during the Yugoslav period and later in post-independence Kosovo. Contradicting both local and regional reports of ‘the first public case’ of a Kosovar to seek the formal recognition of their gender confirmation in 2019, the chapter traces back the first media report of a Kosovar person to undergo gender confirmation surgery back to 1978. Using discursive analysis of media reports and semi-structured interviews, this chapter provides a short chronicle of public accounts of trans experience in Kosovo and critical interventions where facts and lived experience diverge from public accounts. Focusing on the personal accounts of three trans people who came out publicly and some that even transitioned in the public eye, the chapter also provides an insight into the intersectional character of lived trans experience, as well as pointing towards the urgent need to produce knowledge about queer lives and history as a form of epistemic justice.

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This chapter sets the stage for the volume by providing insights into the ways in which the intensification of trans-related activist engagement has manifested itself in the politically dynamic post-Yugoslav region. We start by entwining our biographical positionalities with major conceptual instruments of contemporary transnational trans studies to both account for the processes that brought us together and carve a niche for our book in Eastern European social sciences and humanities and, in particular, feminist research and queer and trans studies. We then outline the most important political developments through which trans activisms across the region have gained visibility and emancipated themselves from the more generic LGBT initiatives, also shedding a new light on trans lives and artistic endeavours. This has opened a field of political contention that both encompasses and goes beyond activist circles. As we introduce the central arguments of the ensuing chapters, we reflect upon the challenges of conceptual translation within a global economy of knowledge that centralises the Global North and especially Anglo-American trans studies. Facing an intellectual and political scene in which understanding global social relations becomes important for taking trans intellectual work forward, we argue in favour of transnationally informed, but locally embedded and intersectionally sensitive, empirical analysis.

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Written by an interdisciplinary collective of authors, this powerful book documents the largely unknown histories and politics of trans lives, activisms and culture across the post-Yugoslav states.

The volume sheds light on a diversity of gender embodiments and explores how they have navigated the murky waters of war, capitalism and transphobia while forging a niche for themselves within the regional and transnational LGBTQ movements.

By unleashing the knowledge concentrated in trans lives, this book not only resists trans erasures in Eastern Europe, but also underscores the potential for survival, self-transformation, and engagement in politically challenging circumstances.

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Author: Bojan Bilić

Over the last few years, the highly charged debates about the role that trans women should play in leftist and feminist struggles have spilt over from the Anglo-American space into the polarised and fragmented field of Serbian activist politics. In the context of rapid impoverishment, omnipresent corruption, and constant erosion of the working class, trans women – one of the most marginalised social groups – have been constructed as an ‘arch-enemy’ provoking painful tensions and draining activist energies. In this chapter I draw upon semi-structured interviews with trans and feminist activists to explore why it is that some strands of Serbian leftist activism – which has had a hard time recovering from the 1990s’ nationalist blow – mark gender difference in such a rigid way that ‘what is socially peripheral’ becomes symbolically central (Hall, 1997) to the point of exclusion, discrimination, and verbal violence. While I focus empirically on the polemics surrounding the activist collective Marks21, whose most visible male members have been particularly vocal about the risks that trans (women’s) emancipation allegedly poses for the precarious achievements of the leftist and feminist movements, I juxtapose it with Praxis, an older Yugoslav Marxist initiative that can hardly boast about its feminist record. Within such an analytical frame, I argue that the capacity of the ‘trans question’ to split the already minuscule left side of the political spectrum is reflective of the long-term conservative and neocolonial dimensions of the Yugoslav/Serbian Left.

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Sevdah, traditional Bosnian folk music, has historically articulated aesthetic, social, and gender norms of the country, while itself shifting in meaning through processes of imperialism, nation-building, and conflict. A contemporary ‘queer turn’ in sevdah music, characterised by gender non-conforming sevdah singer Božo Vrećo, offers a reimagining of the past, present, and future of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), which excavates space for the dignified life and rights of trans, gender non-conforming, and queer people. An empirical thematic analysis of YouTube comments on Vrećo’s music videos explores the singer’s surprising popularity in a purportedly socially conservative country. Several main themes are identified, including the perception of trans-ness as otherworldly and divine and the audience’s affective investment in Vrećo’s articulation of a non-nationalist queer futurity. My discussion explores these findings and how they are linked to other attempts to articulate a ‘local’ queer identity within BiH and mine the past for new political formations. I argue that these projects cultivate the ‘potentially reparative possibilities’ (Rao 2020) of the past by unsettling the notion of linear progress, which ties LGBT rights only to future Europeanisation, as well as escaping the logic of the Bosnian ethno-state that situates queerness as ‘foreign’ to BiH.

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This chapter explores social conditions that have enabled trans people to start making political claims for greater visibility, recognition, and respect in Montenegro. In order to explain how come trans activism has been focused from the very beginning on personal healing and on social transformation, we trace a relatively short history of public discussions about trans people and issues that have been led in Montenegro in the last 20 years. In those discussions, led largely in the comments section of the Montenegrin internet and news portal Vijesti, we mapped four discursive standpoints, which we call transphobic nationalism, pathologising compassion, liberal standpoint, and intersectional standpoint. We understand the term ‘standpoint’ as a particular way of making connections between notions that reflects and enables a certain understanding of the world – or as a discourse in emergence.

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Author: Martin Gramc

The emergence of the trans movement as a new actor in the Slovenian political arena happened shortly after the anti-government protests in 2012. These demonstrations stirred up the political scene demanding an overthrow of the government and induced a new wave of democratisation also marked by the increasing presence of trans people in public space. This chapter draws upon a variety of empirical sources (personal interviews, media outlets, and academic articles of local queer–feminist–transgender activists and academics) to account for the development of the trans movement and situate it in its political context. I provide an insider’s insight into the most important dimensions, moments, and actors unpacking the conflicts within the movement and outlining the challenges it faces in the current political moment. The aim of this chapter is to show how the emergence of the trans movement as a new political subject fighting against oppression (cisnormativity) did not unequivocally bring more democratic and liberating practices within the movement itself.

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This text explores the field of trans artivism in the post-Yugoslav space as a platform of social and political intervention. Trans artivism is approached as a form of political art but also of social action with a potential to enable and support social and political mechanisms of change. In other words, trans artivism is a hybrid modality of artistic and activist work enacted as a strategy of resistance to transphobia. In the post-Yugoslav space, trans artivism often appears as the most potent mode of social intervention left for the trans community. In this chapter I explore both artistic practices made by trans artists and trans-related art, which uses trans-related elements and approaches. The analysed examples are illustrative of the attitude that the social majority has towards gender minorities as well as of the attitudes that the trans individuals themselves have towards their own bodies, identities, and the wider trans community.

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