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One of the biggest challenges when we as queer activists try to raise public awareness and institutional will for our daily lives occurrences is to remain calm, reasonable and confident in the face of the massive spread of hate speech against us and our communities.
In the past period, same as each year, we marked the month of pride, during which visibility is given to the LGBTI+ community worldwide, given the historical subversive and protest meaning of this month. By trying to claim public space for just one day through the Pride Parade, we aim to establish new dynamics in a society that stubbornly tries to impose the narrative that our lives are less valuable or that they should be hidden within four walls. In the face of this event, the increase in hate speech against the LGBTI+ community and its supporters always reaches its peak. What is concerning compared to previous years is that this kind of hate speech is coming in a much more organized level than before.
Pages on social media like “Take Responsibility” and “Coallition for the Protection of Children” are some of the main centers for disinformation and promoters of hate speech against our communities. In an interview I gave before the Pride Parade, where I emphasized that LGBTI+ youth are increasingly facing violence and that there is no doubt that adults cannot deny their identiy despite everything, the group “Take Responsibility” targeted me and my organization by posting false information and distorting the truth, accusing us of promoting pedophilia. In the comments of this post, people declare me a person who should not have any opinion on the safety of young people just because I haven’t had children, they issue calls on me being burned alive and slowly, they call me a “rotten corpse,” and argue that people like us should not be given any media space at all. This is the reality we live in, where hate speech can often escalate into physical violence and lead to fatal consequences. What is paradoxical is that people who declare themselves peacemakers are the ones calling for death and public lynching. It is high time we re-examine ourselves as a society and deal with such malign information. As a society, we must seriously commit to developing our abilities to understand diversity, to increase tolerance and to provide space for debate and reasonable exchange of views.
Photo image by Freepik
What further encourages these groups and individuals to spread hate speech against marginalized groups is their impunity. Rarely, and almost never, has our community seen justice in someone being punished for openly inciting violence and spreading hate online. In comparison, we have seen how the institutions react very quickly in their actions when hate speech against politicians and power centers was spread. It is clear that the state does not consider our lives valuable enough and that the message it sends in this way is that the life of a politician compared to the life of an ordinary citizen (especially an LGBTI+ citizen) is not as important for protection and attention.
Groups such as “Take Responsibility” and “Coalition for the Protection of Children” that appear under the guise of protecting women’s rights, are doing one of the most active and organized demonization of the transgender community, which is one of the most marginalized communities in our country. Through the screening of the film “What is a woman?” by Matt Walsh, we saw the mobilization of citizens through what is globally recognized as transphobic content by Matt Walsh.
The truth is that these groups are not concerned at all about women’s rights. Just a few months ago, when we witnessed the dissemination of information about rape in Stefan Lazarov’s podcast, these groups did not come out to defend women’s rights and condemn such speech. They also did not stand up for the rights of Roma women who lack access to basic services such as gynecological care. Nor did they support poor women. On the contrary, these are groups that have opposed many things that would mean a united, humane, and equal society, using the most vulnerable as cannon fodder for their agendas.
I believe that the concerned homophobic, transphobic and misogynistic audience will also mobilize for this text and demand that I be stripped of all voting rights. Their obsession with silencing our voices is incredible. But at the same time, our voices exist and they are stronger and more united than ever. Our messages are based on providing hope and a sense of security at times when we ourselves are not quite sure that better times are coming. Our language is without hatred because our struggle and idea requires us to imagine new worlds in which language and its manifestation will be based on full respect for the integrity and identity of every individual in society.
Society at large needs to step up and build ways to prevent such outbursts of hatred that are becoming more and more usual. It is necessary to severely condemn hate speech by those who hold positions of power, report it on social networks as disturbing and hate-based words, proper reporting to institutions, as well as direct reaction when we find ourselves among persons who spread hate speech and intolerance. This implies appropriate action by institutions when they notice the reporting of acts of hate, especially when they are aimed atmarginalized communities.
Source: Author’s personal archive
Author: Angel Dimitrievski
Angel Dimitrievski works at Association for Educational Development Ekvalis on programs related to youth activism, gender equality and LGBTI+, and media education. He is an LGBTI+ activist, as well as an activist for the rights of people with chronic illnesses and diagnoses.
This text was produced as part of the project “Good Governance in Cybersecurity in the Westen Balkans”, implemented by DCAF – Geneva Center for Security Sector Governance, funded by Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office of the Government of the United Kingdom. The contents of the text are the sole responsibility of the author, and may not reflect the positions of DCAF and the donor.
To read more about the gender perspective of online hate speech cases in North Macedonia, read the research Online actions, offline harms: Case studies on gender and cybersecurity in North Macedonia and the Western Balkans which was prepared by the Metamorphosis Foundation with the support of DCAF – Geneva Center for Security Sector Management.
The views and conclusions expressed in this study belong to the authors and the Metamorphosis Foundation and do not necessarily reflect the views of DCAF and FCDO. The copyright on this publication belongs solely to Metamorphosis Foundation. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of Metamorphosis Foundation.