Experiencing life as a non-binary person in Serbia: N1 guest discusses challenges and need for respect

NEWS 18.05.202414:39 0 komentara
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Non-binary identity represents a strong activist expression and endeavor, as it is a fight for freedom. When society becomes freer, there will be many more non-binary and bisexual individuals, believes Valerijan Savic, a member of the non-binary community. Psychologist and psychotherapist Zoran Crnjin highlights the importance of recognizing non-binary categories. Pročitaj više

“In my case, using various forms of address isn’t a matter of etiquette. I use all pronouns—he, she, they, male, female, it’s all okay. It is appropriate to refer to me as a ‘member’ since I use all genders. However, when reporting on non-binary individuals without knowing their preferred pronouns, it’s best to use both male and female forms,” Savic explains.

Savic noted that it’s also acceptable to use „members,“ though this is the masculine plural form. Neuter forms are generally avoided in Serbian because they are considered dehumanizing or infantilizing, often used for children.

“Non-binary identity is a very strong activist expression and endeavor. It represents a fight for absolute freedom to decide who we are without any adaptation or labeling. I use the term ‘non-binary’ more to make it understandable to others than for myself personally,” Savic elaborates.

Savić adds that he never fit into the binary categories of boy or girl, nor man or woman.

“I didn’t want to play any gender role of that type. When I learned about the term ‘non-binary’ in 2021, I felt like I had found myself more in it,” he says.

Gender vs. sex

When talking about gender, it is a social construct, typically assigned and aligned with one’s biological sex, explains psychologist and psychotherapist Zoran Crnjin.

“If we have male sexual characteristics, we will express socially desirable male gender roles. If we have female sexual characteristics, we will express female gender roles that are socially and culturally acceptable. There are simply people who do not identify with either definition and whose sense of self is not based on their sexual characteristics. These are non-binary individuals,” Crnjin notes.

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He mentions encountering gender dysphoria in his career.

“Gender dysphoria is when one’s sex does not align with their self-perception. These were individuals in transition. I haven’t encountered non-binary identity in clinical practice. In our environment, it is still heavily stigmatized. It is a significant stress to seek help, and many might not feel ready or know whom to talk to,” he said.
Marginalization and Mental Health

Non-binary individuals are marginalized not only by society but also within the LGBTQ+ community, according to Crnjin.

“This insecurity is a major problem, even when approaching a therapist or any professional. It’s not just an issue for non-binary individuals but for everyone in Serbia. For instance, many women who sought help after sexual harassment or assault experienced secondary victimization from the police, family, and professionals. Everyone in this system faces such issues. We have a general problem with mental health and providing mental health support,” Savic says.

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