Jovan Ulićević

My activism started back in 2012, shortly after I came out. At that time in Montenegro knowledge about trans issues was almost non-existent. I met Jelena Čolaković, a fierce activist and a dear friend, and Danijel Kalezić, who is now one of my closest friends, and colleague in Queer Montenegro , which we founded together with some other great activists in 2013. Over the last five years of activism, my work has constantly grown, and now I am proud to say that I am representing three organisations: Queer Montenegro, where I am still coordinator of the trans program; Trans Network Balkan , a regional organisation; and Spektra , which is the first trans-led organisation in Montenegro, where I’m executive director.

My work involves very broad spectrum of activities, from social services provided by Spektra (peer-to-peer support, counselling, workshops, HIV prevention activities) to advocacy and lobbying. At the moment, Trans Network Balkan is preparing a big health project, which will provide data about health care systems for trans people throughout the region, and use this data to advocate for better healthcare and education among medical practitioners.

The biggest challenge at this moment in Montenegro is legal gender recognition. At Queer Montenegro, we have prepared and presented a draft for a Law on Gender and Sex Identity, which would, if adopted, provide legal gender recognition for trans people without any medical requirements — this was the closest thing to self-determination that could hope to pass in our government, and would minimise unnecessary pathologisation of trans people — and tackles intersex issues, for instance in prohibiting unnecessary medical interventions on intersex children.

When I see my community, all these beautiful people becoming stronger, more empowered, enthusiastic, active, part of a growing network willing to give their time and energy for this cause — despite all the unfortunate things happening in their lives — I can only be proud and give all of myself even on the days when I find it hard to move on. I draw my energy also from the knowledge that everything is a process and that it takes time for things to improve; that all the small changes are important and we must not forget to appreciate them. My aim is to be the best that I can in bringing people together and making them believe that we can create a world where all living beings are respected and valued equally. I know that this sounds quite utopian, but I believe that we must strive to the highest purpose in order to achieve big things, see the big picture and overcome our own personal backgrounds and experiences. We must create a strong wider community of people sharing values and principles, not only personal traits.