This month ERA is highlighting Rainbow families and we can not start the interview with Daniel Martinovic, from Croatian organization Rainbow Families, but to ask him a question about the current situation. How does your life look like these days? What are your recommendations to the Rainbow Families and LGBTI community?
Most of us are stuck at home, keeping our social life in close small circles. Last month the child in my rainbow family had its 5thbirthday, but instead of 10+ kids that usually attend the party in a large children playroom with slides and ball pits, there was a small party in an apartment with just two kids and four adults – and unfortunately no grandparents. But hopefully this too shall pass! It’s in this times that we have to be strong and show solidarity – be it with keeping in touch with your friends inside the rainbow family or LGBTI community via video chats or internet messaging, be it with helping the elderly in your neighborhood if you can and if it’s advised.
The work of Rainbow families is well known in the region, but for those who do not follow your work, could you tell as what are the focuses of your work? Also considering that the Balkan region and the theme of traditional families that is “forged in stone” how are you moving the boundaries’ and how is this theme welcomed by the LGBTI community?
We gather mostly LGBTI people who are already parents and their kids or those who wish to become parents. Our main aim is to advocate and improve the family and parental rights of LGBTI persons in our country, to aid and support LGBTI parents and their children, and parents of LGBTI people; basically to inform, educate, connect, advocate and participate in the processes of social change as well as encourage all the relevant parties to review the current situation and take part in the changes. We do all this through a variety of activities, both through an advocacy and free legal support program, and through community and general public activities and programs, such as rainbow family meetings, conferences, public presentations and media appearances, educations, book publishing such as our picture book series “My Rainbow Family”, photo exhibitions and lots of others. Our main goal is to support the LGBTI community in Croatia, not just the parents, but also to raise awareness of LGBTI issues among the general public.
I would say that in a region such as ours, the family theme really works sometimes because it gives you a new angle through which you can talk about LGBTI issues to the general public, really no one expected us to start talking about children rights, the situation of the foster care system in Croatia, or about education from a parental perspective. And I hope that we hit a good balance on how the theme is welcomed by the LGBTI community; there are some that think that our themes are too “traditional”, there are some that think our themes are too “conservative”, but in the last 5-6 years since we have the civil union law the feedback from the community has been predominantly positive and we hope to continue on that note.
Now that we mentioned the region, we are seeing that the movement have covered the majority of the issues that LGBTI community is facing but the lack of advocacy and campaigning in this area is notable, what are your thoughts on how should LGBTI movements and organizations in other Balkan countries incorporate the advancement of the Rainbow families and their issues in their work?
We know from our personal experience that the best way is also the hardest part – and that is to find parents with children who are willing to speak out, to talk about their issues. Be it to the media, be it at advocacy meetings with decision makers, be it publicly or anonymously, but those voices need to be heard. We had the fortune to visit many countries in the region in the last couple of years while organizing our activities, and in every country there are at least some rainbow families. Many of them are scared, most of them don’t talk about their families even to their closest friends. And the same was in Croatia, most of the families became visible only after 2014-2015, when the civil union law came into effect, and today we still have families that are scared to talk publicly. But step by step things are changing, they are going for the better really fast – but you cannot make a change for someone who doesn’t exist.
The other important thing is to hear the voices of those families, and to really listen and see what are the main issues that they are currently facing – and then shape the advocacy and campaigning based on those needs. Ten years ago in Croatia, the main issue was the lack of legal recognition, which fortunately came through after many years of hard advocacy work. But after the law was passed, many issues remained. There were still some legal issues that had to be resolved, such as adoption and foster care, or there was a lack of educational materials for children talking about their families, which motivated us to publish picture books and other educational materials. All the campaigns, activities and projects that we developed and took part in, we really want to listen to our members and our community first, and that’s where our regular rainbow family meetings really shine.
Rainbow families are one of the few that funded their work through crowd funding, what are your experiences in that field? We have seen that the success of both picture books about same-sex families what are the next steps for the Rainbow Families?
Crowdfunding has become quite popular in the last couple of years, and some of us had experience with it even before joining the Rainbow Families association. It was a huge risk, since most of such campaigns fail and don’t reach their goals for a variety of reasons – lack of visibility, poor or unfriendly marketing, bad timing – but we really had a right mixture of expertise and luck both times and successfully crowdfunded two campaigns focusing on LGBTI topics in the region, I guess that’s a first! Both our “My Rainbow Family” picture books were successfully funded by donations from our supporters, and that really puts a smile on our faces and makes us confident when making the next steps – which will surely be some new picture books, but also other educational LGBTI materials for children and teachers. In the future we want to also provide more opportunities for rainbow families not just in Croatia, but other countries in the region to connect and share experiences; last year we had our first Rainbow Family Conference in Zagreb, and it was quite a success – families from Slovenia, Serbia, Montenegro and Croatia all connected and there are plenty of opportunities to share experiences and grow as a movement in the region. Let’s hope to have such an experience sometime in the near future, when the global situation reaches some kind of stability.
And for the end, tell us how we collectively, as regional LGBTI community can help advance Rainbow families rights and support your work.
Just by following our work and sharing that info, you’re doing amazing things! LGBTI family life as a topic is just being discovered in the region, and we really love any opportunity to connect and share. You can follow us on most social media (the handle is @dugineobitelji, there are also links on our website www.dugineobitelji.com), you can download, share, read and print our materials – we really like when we receive the colored-in versions of our coloring books which can be downloaded for free from our website or facebook page. And if you are in a rainbow family, or are planning to start one, don’t be afraid to reach out! We are very grateful for all the connections we have made through ERA, and our organization is also quite active in the European network of rainbow families, NELFA (www.nelfa.org) so hopefully both those networks can help us all to build a stronger, larger rainbow family movement in this corner of the planet. :)