Meet Edi A. Klobučar, a 22 years old student in Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology at the Faculty of Arts in Ljubljana. Edi is involved in a number of projects dealing with the complexity of identity and is a transgender activist. He is most inspired by people and passes that inspiration on effortlessly.
“The [LGBT] community has a space for me where I can be seen, where I can be legitimate, where I can be enough.”
“My coming out in the LGTB community wasn’t hard, because I knew it was a safe space to land. However, I am not out with my family and parents, which is why I can’t be as a public as an activist as I want to be. I identify myself as a transgender, but also in a broad way with the LGTB community. This community has a space for me, a space where I can be seen. A space where I can be legitimate enough. Where I can be enough. I wish I could be more active, but I’m afraid sometimes. I’m afraid of the possibility there will come a time where I will need a regular job and I won’t be able to get it because of who I am. It’s easier to be what society calls ‘normal’ but what I prefer to call ‘average’ or ‘ordinary’. The only institutions that might hire me are NGOs. I know there are some people very critical of NGOs right now and they do have their benefits and cons, but I also very much believe in the grassroots movements. They have power and should have power. We should give them credit and shouldn’t diminish their results. During the refugee ‘crisis’ these grassroots organisations (a.o. Protirasistična fronta brez meja (Anti-racist Front without Borders)) closed the ranks to put pressure on the state while organising protests in the refugee camps. That’s how they opened the corridor. That’s a huge result.
The LGBT community of Slovenia is centred in Ljubljana, also the placed I moved to from my childhood on the countryside. Coming here was very freeing. Ljubljana is big and you can get lost in the crowd. I have always been very active as a volunteer in music and other fields, and now as an activist, but sometimes I find it freeing to be lost in the crowd. I like the feeling of belonging. My motto is “Home is not a place, it’s a feeling” and the feeling of safety that Ljubljana gives me, is where I want to be. It’s where I can be seen as the person I am and where I can be understood. A lot of people here are also different and we have that in common. This is what connects all the minorities that flee to Ljubljana: we’re all marginalised in different ways and on different levels. I feel at home between all the other outcasts.
“It’s important to acknowledge the complexity of an individual human being, not to reduce it to one identity.”
Currently, I identify myself with trans-feminism, a feminism that is the most inclusive: it thinks about class, race, ethnic background, gender and I think the mentality of it screams solidarity and reflecting on your privileges, which I think is the most important value a person can have. When acknowledging my own privileges, I can give visibility to someone else. In the transgender community we say: nothing for us without us, always include people. I think that is really important. I find this a bit problematic: we fight a binary system (male/female) but at the same time we have another binarism going on: cisgender and transgender. I find that neo-liberal, because it makes sense and it’s easier for people to understand. But it’s important to acknowledge the complexity of an individual human being, not to reduce it to one identity, because I never want to be seen as just non-binary, just as transgender, just a non-straight person or just as Slovenian. I want to be seen and understood as the complex person I am.
I’m always kind of stuck between having pride for being Slovenian, but also knowing that nationalism has bad consequences. I try to be proud of who I am, but not just because I am Slovenian, but because of who I am as a person. But also I try to be open for other people, and not see my way of life and my identity as the blueprint for everyone else’s. Also, being Slovenian for me is recognising my privilege of living in a Western society and acknowledging that privilege gives me the challenge to live in solidarity with others.
“This is the motto that lives in [Slovenian] society: Arbeit macht frei.”
The national identity of being Slovenian is quite strong, because of the rise of the neo-fascism in the last few years. These neo-fascists have formed a community and participate in violent actions: they’ve hurt quite some people, including immigrants. Their identities are supposedly anonymous, but we all know who they are. Most of them are young, white and male. Their goal is to protect the national identity of Slovenia. A lot of them are active in Ljubljana, but they’re all over Slovenia. For example, back in the day, Sokolski Dom used to be a house of culture and now there is a big alternative scene going on: a lot of artists and musicians reside there. The neo-fascists were violent towards them too, and towards the building. I find it quite remarkable that they are supposedly so proud of our national identity and then they destroy our national heritage. I wonder if that that doesn’t conflict in any way with the values inside their head?
The neo-fascists, but also our right-wing politicians go after the minorities in Slovenian society. I think these groups are quite similar all around the world: LQBT people, Roma people, immigrants… Even unemployed people, because Slovenian society still has deep in their roots the appreciation of labour. Labour is a big quality here and if you don’t work, you are lazy and unworthy and it’s your own fault you’re poor. This is the motto that lives in our society: Arbeit macht frei.
Politically we are still very divided between left and right, conservative and liberal. Some parties try to be the centrist one, but deep down always choose a side. Our leftist party is on the rise, however, and there are democratic socialists also. There are still communist forces in our political landscape, but we don’t call them that out loud. We just have different names for them, since the word ‘communism’ is very delicate because of our history.
Like I said before, in Slovenian society, people go after minorities, and discrimination and public hate speech are a commonplace. Everywhere – on television, in papers, in public – you can get away with it easily. In Slovenia we have a law against hate speech, but you can only get charged if it actually implies a physical threat, for example “Let’s kill the gypsies at the square at noon.” All the rest is permitted. The influence for this comes both from the right-wing populists and the effect of social media. I actually don’t think you can have one thing without the other these days. I was in a workshop where we were to learn how to be hate speech moderators on newspaper websites. In the end we didn’t even have to start working because after the arrival of the refugees, the newspapers decided to block the ability to comment altogether since the comments were so gritty.
“Every single day I think about how we, as the young generation, can change our system.”
Every single day I think about how we, as the young generation, can change our system. What can we do with the power that we have? There are a lot of movements, such as The Anti-racist Front without Borders, who played a big role in making the corridor happen. During the refugee crisis, I realised that the freedom of movement does not exist. It’s unfair that persons who are fighting for their lives or wish a better future for themselves, are stopped at the border and are treated inhumanly. How is that freedom, how is that our biggest pride here in the West? The moment that a person doesn’t have citizenship, all human rights disappear. I want to do something about this, I believe in solidarity. But other young people don’t join this goal. The general passivity of students is incredible. Everyone is taught to take care of themselves and everything else can wait. Individualism galore. This is, of course, the consequence of the capitalist neo-liberal society.
Another consequence is the inhumane treatment of LGBT rights. Nowadays, gays and lesbians can legally get married, but they cannot adopt or get pregnant with biomedical help. Yet people think this is a great step forward. For me, it’s not enough. Personally I don’t want to get married – I don’t need to have it written down on paper that I love someone – but at least I have the choice to do so. For me that is the most important in all different fields of life: to have the choice. So everyone is happy for the gay people, but what about the transgender people? What about the intersex people? What about same-sex couples that want children? This marriage thing has filled a few holes, but it’s not a solution. That is what I hate about neo-liberalism: the illusion of being free when you are, in fact, not at all.
I think something really radical should happen to make the people rise up and organise themselves in movements. Something radical in a sense of extreme violations of human rights, rise of extremist right parties – there is a risk all over the western world for that to happen. Just look at America. I believe in the Trump effect, also here in Europe: when America sneezes, we all get a cold. In Slovenia we have the politician Janes Janša, he went to prison for hate speech and just came back to parliament. We also have a new party that started during the referendum for the same-sex marriage. They created a Christian campaign with Christian roots and Christian values around the referendum, called ‘Za otroke in družine’ (‘For Children and Families’). Now they have their own party: Glas za otroke in družine (Voice for the Children and Families). In short: GOD. It’s very conservative and right-wing. We had some discussions about contraception and abortion. We’re 2017, it’s insane. Sometimes it feels like we’re back to medieval times. But we fought back strongly. There was a huge petition. Even though Slovene laws guarantee freedom of religion, but the moment they’re trying to take away people’s freedom of decision, that is where their freedom stops.
“[T]he mentality of the society is Christian, but people don’t seem to recognise it.”
I think we’re a bit limited to really educate a broad level of people about our views. I think the most important field to educate are schools and we don’t have enough money to do that. However, many teachers are open and want to talk about these topics, but are afraid of parents. A friend of mine teaches in high school and is in a relationship with a women and got a complaint that she is trying to force LGBT ideology down children’s throats just by being not straight, just by existing, just by teaching. People are very protective over children while they’re often the ones who are the most accepting. It’s their parents and grandparents who make the fuss. I think the problem is that people can’t separate what is religion and what is society. They can’t see that the way we think is soaked in Christian values and cannot separate it: you have to be quiet, you have to be inferior, you have to shut up, you have to suffer. We say: “Shut up and suffer”, it’s a saying here. We don’t have any influence of other religions because our majority is Christian. Even the mentality of the society is Christian, but people don’t seem to recognise it. Even people that claim to be atheists still carry a lot of Christian values in them.
“You cannot copy and paste strategies from all over the world. But with the right people and analyses you can learn a lot.”
Europe for us is a beacon of modernity and progress. It brought more welfare and progress to Slovenia. Even the infrastructure changed for the better, there are a lot of international projects that will have an impact in the future. We have belonged to the EU now thirteen years. The progress is slowly showing. Being European is a part of my identity. I still have some second thoughts when a power as the EU funds things that they’re looking out more for themselves than for the actual citizens, but at least they do something. It’s important to connect with people all over Europe and build networks, but also outside the borders of Europe. That is what I’m going for: a global vision. I think you can never know enough and by meeting a lot of people you get a lot different perspectives, experiences and information. That is why I like anthropology so much as well. Of course, the cultural context and the local history should be considered. You cannot copy and paste strategies from all over the world. But with the right people and analyses you can learn a lot.
I find hope in the people who recognise that things need to be fixed, and work towards a solution. I get hope from people around me that recognise me and see me as valid. I find hope when I have a chance to do something, to impact someone, to touch someone’s life with my story of who I am. All I can do is offer what I am and what I’m willing to give.
Interview by Victoria Deluxe
Photos by Sonderland