Global LGBTIQ advocates will once again convene this December at OutRight’s annual Advocacy Week in New York City. The ten day event will have advocates amass for trainings and meetings with U.N. representatives to discuss global LGBTIQ issues. This invaluable collaboration between advocates will culminate at OutSummit, the capstone meeting where attendees are invited to discuss unique social and political issues that LGBTIQ people face in a diverse range of nations.

Kristian Randjelovic has been working as an LGBTIQ activist, in Serbia, for more than ten years. His work is heavily focused on the rights of transgender and intersex people, an issue which he has spoken ardently about in the media, drawing from personal experience.

In his lengthy career as an activist, Randjelovic has participated in some of the earliest waves of LGBTIQ reform in the Balkan region. In 2006, through his work with the LGBTIQ human rights center, Gayten-LGBT, Randjelovic helped establish the first trans-focused support group in the Balkans. Randjelovic has also served as a board member to countless LGBTIQ organizations, including ILGA Europe, ERA LGBTI, and OII Europe. The work he continues to do, through the grassroots initiative XY Spectrum, aims to tackle discrimination and stigmas against trans, intersex, and non-binary people in Serbia. Here is what Randjelovic had to say about his journey:

OutRight: What first made you want to advocate for LGBTIQ rights? How did you get involved with your earliest activism and current organization?

Kristian: Being [a] trans and intersex person [made me want to advocate], and [from the] time that I [realized] that, I was [the] only visible one. I wanted to share my experiences and knowledge with others, I was thinking how I can help others to feel less alone and to be braver, and get out of closet.

[A] doctor ([who] was one of [the] medical specialist [on] the team working with trans persons in [the] early [90’s]) approached me and asked me to participate in [the] first TV show on trans issues. This was the first step [towards building] my public activism. After that I joined [the] NGO Gayten-LGBT and [started] to work on developing programs for trans people in Serbia and [the] ex-Yugoslavia region.

XY Spectrum is [a newly] founded organization, which is working with intersex, trans and non-binary persons. I am one of [the] founders, and for me [it] was very important to work on intersex issues [using] my personal experiences (I discovered that I am intersex later in life) to try [and] break [the] silence, stigma and shame which exist in Serbian society–where intersex people are invisible.

OutRight: How have global politics impacted your work?

Kristian: For intersex people, information, policy papers, resolutions and declarations on intersex issues are crucial. The shift towards human rights of intersex people has great impact on my work and I hope it will help me to [find] more allies in this struggle.

OutRight: Why is it important to be a part of advocacy week and how will that impact the work that you will do at home?

Kristian: It is very important to be part of advocacy week and meet human rights defenders from other [countries and] continents. [I hope] to learn from experiences they have [had] with governments, UN agencies, global organizations and charities, to use lessons learned in a local context

In our [organization’s] approach, from top to bottom, [it] is very important, it is very hard, to reach out to [the] intersex community. But from these learnings we can continue our work building allies and supporters. Establishing safe environment and validated recognition from different partners…can help intersex persons open [up] and to reach out. [The] stigma, shame and trauma is very high in Serbian society.

OutRight: What are some local social or political obstacles you and your organization currently face?

Kristian: [Our] organization is newly founded, we [don’t] face political obstacles, but [we face] social ones on different levels of our work. We tried to organize trainings in schools for parents (state funded) for their staff on intersex issues. We started negotiations as [an] informal group and it was very promising.

But as soon as we registered [our] organization we didn’t received any response. On meeting with [the] midwife (she is [the] owner of [a] private School for parents) intersex people were verbally discriminated and pathologized. Trans people, especially trans women, are [also] subjected to discrimination and violence. In [the] last few months three trans people were attacked.

Note from OutRight:

As is the case in much of Europe, awareness of intersex and trans rights are still developing. There is still a discrepancy in the level of recognition the world affords intersex and trans issues, in comparison to the visibility lesbian and gay rights sometimes receive. Still, activists like Randjelovic are pushing through the obstacles and working to create opportunities for trans and intersex-aware programs that are crucial to foster inclusive policy and expand the LGBTIQ community.