Being a lesbian and a mother in Serbia is a concept that neither the system nor society as a whole recognizes. Yet, such models of parenting exist, and they are as functional as any other family in which, regardless of the gender of the parent, there is love, understanding and warmth. There were some important questions that have been opened at the "Lesbians and Motherhood" panel, organized as part of the sixth Lesbian Week in Belgrade. Questions on how to overcome the obstacles imposed by the society, what are the challenges faced by lesbians while planning a family, how easy/hard it is for them to choose to have an offspring, whether as a biological mother or as a partner to a biological mother.
The conversation, moderated by Marjana Majstorović, involved lesbian mothers with completely different, but still similar experiences of becoming a parent, but also of discovering sexuality and dating. While Aleksandra Gavrilović realized that she is a lesbian at the age of eighteen and decided on parenthood together with her partner, Milena Marković became aware of it at the age of thirty, after being married for ten years to a man and when she already had two children. Jelisaveta Blagojević spoke from a slightly different perspective, she became mom to a child born by her partner five years ago. All three have boys.
- I have always known that I wanted to become a parent and that was probably because of a very beautiful relationship with my mother. When I became aware that I was a lesbian, I soon wondered how to combine these two identities, to be a mom and a lesbian. Not because I didn't feel good about it, but it seemed to me that the society around me implied that the two identities could not co-exist. The problem was also how I would reconcile that relationship with my partner, where the question was whether we were both ready for it and which of us would be a biological mom - says Aleksandra, who eventually decided on artificial insemination and now together with her partner has three toddlers.
The decision-making process on parenting is, according to Jelisaveta Blagojević's experience, "hellish."
"It's a hellish process, and something I haven't thought about before is the dictate of biological motherhood," Jelisaveta said. Her story is, she said, privileged, since her girlfriend is from Sweden, whose laws recognize same-sex parenting. Problems arise when the Swedish documents are transposed into the context of Serbian legislation.
- There is no institution in Serbia where I did not go with my Swedish papers in which I was recognized as a mother. The problem is that our registration books contain a father or a mother, not a parent (or parent 1 and 2). At the same time, motherhood is not even defined in the Constitution as "biological motherhood" – she lists obstacles that are still unknown to our institutions.
- I am not even a father in the system, I do not have a place, and that absence of a place is very difficult. It all looked like I had to design a new model myself, ”she says.
Milena's story, however, sheds light on the problem of homophobia, discrimination and rejection by parents after coming out. Coming out itself, she says, was not difficult for her because she knew she wanted to live together with her partner.
- I came out the age of thirty, after ten years of marriage, when I started living with my partner and my children. Then the problems started, the rejection, the discrimination by my ex-husband, my parents, I even lost my job at that moment. It all went pretty hard, but the good side of it all is that the kids have embraced our life together very well – says Milena. There was no negative feeling among her boys, she explains, until grandparents decided to take matters into their own hands and explain to the children that it was not normal to have two moms.
- The children then become confused, afraid that they will be laughed at at school, and now you have to explain to them on a daily basis what they have at home and what in school and in the environment - says Milena. She even found herself in the process of losing her children, initiated by her parents, believing that a lesbian could not be a mother. As all the services became involved and the whole procedure lasted for a year, Milena says that the Center for Social Work in Novi Sad, where she lives, "did a fantastic job".
- They tried their best to make the whole "hell", which included the regular session for children with psychologists, less painfull. My parents were advised to consult a group called "Come Out", in which parents were taught to accept children that have come out, but they did not want to do it - Milena states.
Although it is difficult, or at least unusual, for parents to know that their lesbian daughters will become moms, the arrival of children into the world, in Jelisaveta's and Aleksandra's experience, has pushed their same-sex partnership into a completely different plan.
"Kids kind of disolve those things," Aleksandra says, noting but the love and warmth of a family is important for growing up.