Audio interview transcript:
QA: To begin with, could you tell me where you were born and where you grew up?
Anonymous: Hello. I was born in Sarajevo and grew up in Sarajevo.
QA: Could you share something about your childhood and share some happy childhood event?
Anonymous: Well… concerning my childhood, I guess I can, as much as my memory serves me. I spent most of my time with my grandmother, because my parents were busy, so somehow, I associate those beautiful memories with the period spent with her. Generally, those memories are of playing in the neighborhood where she lives, and those kids I hung out with. Playing some games that are forgotten today. Those are some of my beautiful memories I cherish. I think I had a happy childhood during that period, it was not “contaminated with technology” and there weren’t some problems that children face today… So, yes, that’s what I associate with some beautiful memories.
QA: Just to put it in some timeframe, when were you born?
QA: When and how did you start discovering your own sexuality and gender?
Anonymous: The period of adolescence was quite difficult and challenging for me. It’s because from the age of eleven, of entering puberty and that developmental period that I simply felt that I was so different from my friends with whom I hung out with, because I had different interests. I looked different, I was listening to different music and reading other books, we were absolutely different. And as for sexuality, I think my first emotions emerged somewhere around the age of twelve or thirteen. I mean, it was something completely unknown to me. I didn’t know at the time that those were emotions of falling in love. Instead, I just felt that kind of feeling in my stomach that would signal that I like that person. And then I started withdrawing because I felt afraid of those emotions that would come to me. I withdrew within, I stopped hanging out with my friends because I felt I could be criticized by them. I can now say that that period was very difficult and hard for me… until the age of fifteen or sixteen, when I started to use the Internet, and then I saw that there were people like me, and then by reading some articles I learned about similar situations. Online forums were popular then…So, from the age of fifteen, sixteen I started living life to the fullest because then I accepted myself and I just simply relaxed. I found a group that accepted me as I was and that’s when the real life for me began. But, that period from eleven, twelve to fifteen, sixteen was just gloomy, difficult for me, that’s all.
QA: And could you talk to anyone during that period?
Anonymous: Well I think I could, but I also think I was very withdrawn and very shy and I just didn’t have the courage to sit down and, I mean… I have parents who accepted and supported me from the start. They are very reasonable. I think it might have been possible to talk to them. Like if I had told my mother “I have this specific problem”, if I had told her the whole thing, I believe that she would have tried to solve some of my black moods and thoughts already back then. But simply, at that period, at the age of eleven or twelve I was just too young to understand what I needed to do.
QA: Now I’d like us to talk about the concept of a community. What is a community for you and how much has your perception of communities changed during your growing up and now?
Anonymous: So, community as a family….
QA: You define what community is to you.
Anonymous: The community as a family, I mean, during my growing up, it somehow remained more or less the same because I was always somehow surrounded by family, I think even at that period when my parents… They stopped living together. They didn’t get divorced, but they stopped living together, their paths just parted, but they remained on completely good terms, and at no point did I feel a lack of love on either side. And like I said, I think ever since I’ve become aware of myself, that is, from that earlier childhood until today, my family as a community has remained the same and we are all equally attached to each other, and so on.
QA: Where do you most feel supported and what gives you that sense of security? What do you need to feel supported and safe in the first place?
Anonymous: Yes, well, I definitely get the most support from my mom. Simply because she is our mom, to all of us. Whatever she may be, she is a rock solid support and she’s like “a safe house”, especially if you have a mother who supports you and who… My mother never condemned me for anything, ever, unrelated to sexuality. The profession I wanted to pursue, she absolutely supported everything and we always had some productive conversations when I was struggling. I had such moments and I would always find that security in her. Though when I think that in some distant future that person will not be there, I automatically become anxious and start to feel insecure because I think that she was the biggest support during some of the most difficult moments of my life. No friend, no person in my life can be compared to that strength and security that I get from my mom.
QA: There is another question for you. I know that in some periods when the LGBTQ community had no space or place to go out at all, I remember that at a very young age you organized and opened one such community space. So since you were very young I would like to ask you how that process went.
Anonymous: Well yes. I was 16 then, as far as I can remember, I think about sixteen or seventeen, something like that. So regarding that space where LGBTI persons attended events and where they could behave freely, that space had previously been supported by my dad. So he was one of the first people in our city to support our community and he had opened the door for the first parties that took place in our city, and that had happened even before I started working. And I thought that was really great because he never… somehow he never had that aversion to our community but he was quite open-minded. And I think people his age absolutely don’t share that mindset, especially not here in our country. So I just continued with the concept that he had started, and because he got sick and stopped doing the job he was doing and someone needed to keep it all going. And so I had these conversations with some of my friends about the need for such a space, and I came up with the idea, like, ok, why not give it a shot, whatever the risk is.
I think organizing a rave party where a group of hooligans can get in and make a complete mess, is just as risky as organizing LGBTI parties, they can get in and make the same mess. So, it was that attitude, whatever you get – it’s good. So we started off slowly with that kind of concept. It was really cool that a lot of people supported us, those younger people who had only started coming out in that period, i.e. my generation. Somehow I was glad to see that they feel relatively safe in one space and that they come bursting with positive energy to such an event. And then, as two or three years have passed… there were no attacks or something like that, although I think it was openly known that such events were taking place in that space.
So, from my perspective, I was young then, I mean, now I would probably think a lot more if I should do it or not, but then it was more like let it happen. I think it was a huge step forward for our community, there were all those people who were dwelling if they are [queer] or not. But, they would come because they had heard about it through someone and then they would relax and they would realize that they are what they are after all. I mean, I know by the examples of some people I know personally. First time they came terrified, like, where am I, what am I, and then already after the third time, they are dancing, hanging out. I thought it was really great, especially if you are working at such an event, then you get the idea how people’s minds work, you get into their behavior. I think that we were all one big family and I thought that was really great. And I think that it was a space where we didn’t spread hatred, but we all treated each other like brothers and sisters. That was the goal of those events.
QA: Well, I’d like to thank you. I know that ever since that space closed down, unfortunately we never got another one and it’s really being missed. Greatly missed.
Anonymous: Thank you.
QA: I would also like to talk about your art. I know that you paint beautifully, so I would like to ask you what painting is for you, how much do you cultivate that part of yourself and what does it mean to you in general?
Anonymous: Well, art in general, as a profession is something that I choose by enrolling in high school, so I continued my education at the Academy. Somehow I always nurtured that love for art, no matter if it’s music or portrait or painting, sculpture. My artistic side is just more present than this other side with natural sciences. So through education in those art schools my love for art grew stronger and I learned about some of the directions in art. I opted for a certain style that I am currently developing. I don’t know, it’s like a form of therapy for me, I enter another dimension, I relax. I think that each of my emotions that I feel while painting certain segments can be felt in my paintings and that in itself is the goal of art. Emotions which are there at a certain moment when the piece is being created, to transfer that to the observer. So it’s the opposite of having an observer who doesn’t feel anything, the point is to transfer emotions, something positive, anger, or whatever. It’s about giving rise to the emotion. So, yes. I think art is also an important part of my life and something that completes me, makes me wholesome as a personality. I mean, I am a sculptor by profession, but I don’t have work conditions because I need a studio and materials which are quite demanding to work with. Painting is much more acceptable because you can do it in your apartment, so I shifted from my love towards sculpture to my love towards paining. Though, art is art, regardless which direction one pursues. I think it’s a great form of therapy and not just for me, but also for the people I worked with through some workshops. I think making art is relaxing and it’s something we tend to forget once we’re out of elementary and high school. I know some people who were 11, 12 years old when they last held a painting brush. It’s a big mistake and I think art should be included in our lives, at least on a weekly basis…to create something now, to paint something on paper, to draw…because it really affects our nervous system and psyche in a positive way.
QA: How much does your art help you in these times of isolation, pandemic and how has the pandemic affected your life in general?
Anonymous: As for the pandemic and the negative impacts, right, we all have that psychological pressure: we will get infected, we will not get infected, there is work, there’s no work, etc. Corona opened up a lot of free time for me because during that period of first six months I wasn’t doing the work I normally do and within that free time I managed to develop those painting cycles that I had done earlier. There was considerable financial gain from that. This means that, in a way, corona had a positive effect on my art career. As I say, I had enough time to dedicate to making something specific in the domain of my art career. Prior to that I had been focused on working with children, adults, etc. because my goal had been to share my knowledge and work with people who find it useful. So, in a way, I would put my career on the side, I suppressed it, yet again, as corona broke out it brought more free time for me, time that I used to create art. It was really beneficial. On the other hand, there is always that psychological pressure and the uncertainty of what tomorrow brings, the day after tomorrow, 10 days ahead, and so on, but I hope that all this will pass soon and that we will be able to get back to the normal life we had, at least partially.
QA: To wrap up, is there a thought or an idea or something that guides you in your life that you would like to share with other people?
Anonymous: (laughs) I have a million thoughts. No, I’m kidding. Well, I don’t know. Each day is unique in itself. Often when I do some interviews with some journalists they ask what your plans for the future are or something like that. But I absolutely don’t focus on the future. I wake up in the morning and think to myself: I’m going to make the most of this day. I am guided by the thought that this could be the last day of my life. I mean, I am not trying to be negative but just we live in such a time, so then I should use it. In the morning I make a list of tasks for myself to complete, today you will do this and that, but it is always something creative and interesting. I complete those tasks, and I make the most of my day and then when the night comes I go to bed and fall asleep thinking I made the most of that day. I don’t have a specific idea that I am guided by, I mostly try to make the most of every day and that’s because I think that in general we as people underestimate the grace of life we live and I think that life is really a gift. If I spend that day at home and do nothing, then I become depressed. So I think that we should all be guided by simply making the most of every day and then in the end we will not regret whatever happens.
QA: Great! Enjoy the rest of the day.
Anonymous: Thanks. You too!
This story is part of a series of personal stories of LBTQ women about relationships, identities, sexuality and gender, feeling of belonging, creativity and work. Persons from the community share their thoughts related to these questions reflecting on the period before, during and after the war, as well as the current COVID-19 pandemic. Initiative supported by Feminist Review Trust Fund.