Serbian bishop calls for armed attack on LGBTQ+ people: ‘If I had a weapon, I would use it’

A senior bishop in Serbia has been condemned for encouraging armed attacks against an LGBTQ+ Pride event in Belgrade.

In September, the Serbian capital will host EuroPride, which celebrates LGBTQ+ rights across the continent, in a first for a southeastern European country.

But Serbian Orthodox Church bishop Nikanor Bogunović of Banat, a region that covers parts of Serbia, Romania and Hungary, has vowed to “curse” all those who attend the week-long festival.

“I will curse all those who organize and participate in something like that,” Nikanor said in remarks made on 11 August, according to Balkan Insight.

“I can do that much. If I had a weapon, I would use it, I would use that force if only I had it, but I do not.”

He added that EuroPride participants “will come to Belgrade and flaunt and desecrate the city of Belgrade, the holy Serbian city,” and that “we raise our voice against such [people]”.

Serbian president Aleksandar Vučić said Nicanor’s sermon had another clear target – the country’s lesbian prime minister, Ana Brnabić, elected in 2017.

“Bishop Nicanor insulted himself and our church, humiliated our church, much more than Ana Brnabić or anyone else ever did,” he told TV network Prva TV on 12 August.

Only three days after Nikanor’s comments, chants of “Hands off our children” and “Stop the parade of shame” boomed through the streets of Belgrade as part of a protest against EuroPride.

Tens of thousands of people gathered outside Serbian Orthodox Church Patriarchate offices before ending at the Sain Marko Church. The demonstration was backed by the Serbian Orthodox Church, according to local media reports.

Serbia, a deeply conservative country in the Balkans, has a spotty track record with LGBTQ+ rights at best. Something seemingly at odds with it being one of the few nations to have an openly gay leader.

Queer Serbs do enjoy some protections in the eyes of the law, but same-gender couples are not legally recognised and marriage equality remains firmly banned by the constitution.

Though the days when nearly half of Serbs considered being gay an illness are long gone, officials remain sluggish to tackle homophobia while religious leaders consider LGBTQ+ rights a degenerate Western plot.

Serbia’s prime minister Ana Brnabić (2-R) at Belgrade Pride in 2017. (ANDREJ ISAKOVIC/AFP via Getty Images)

The knock-on effect of this is easy to see. Almost 60 per cent of LGBTQ+ Serbs have reported physical or emotional abuse in the course of a year, according to a 2020 report by the human rights group Center for Research and Development of Society IDEAS.

So for a high-ranking religious figure like Nikanor to call congregants for arms wasn’t exactly unexpected to some activists.

“It’s deeply disturbing to see a bishop incite armed violence against the LGBTQ+ community, however, it’s not surprising,” Nik Jovčić-Sas, a British-Serbian LGBTQ+ activist, told PinkNews.

“The Serbian Orthodox Church’s response to the queer and trans community for the past 20 years has been one of implicit and explicit violence.”

Jovčić-Sas said the first Belgrade Pride ever held in 2001 has come to be known as “Крви Прајд, ‘the bloody Pride’, for its extreme violence”.

Football hooligans joined right-wing nationalists to beat up and stone Pride-goers wishing to celebrate who they are. The violence only ended when police fired in the air to disperse the seething crowds.

The haunting scene was repeated nearly a decade later in 2010 when the second Belgrade Pride was held. Thugs tore through the march, lobbing Molotov cocktails, bricks, stones, glass bottles and firecrackers at Pride-goers and police in a protest egged on by religious leaders.

More than 100 people were arrested after the office of the ruling Democratic Party was set on fire and at least one shot was fired in clashes with the police.

“The church has always allowed itself to be the heart of the country’s most virulent anti-queer campaigns,” Jovčić-Sas added.

Patriarch Porfirije offered LGBTQ+ Serbs hope for a more inclusive and tolerant Serbian Orthodox Church when he expressed sympathy for queer couples fighting for legal recognition.

“However considering that he has not condemned Bishop Nikanor for his comments and allowed the church to be the rallying point for this weekend’s anti-Pride march,” Jovčić-Sas said, “I am not optimistic we will see any change from this Patriarch.”

 

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Green Party names Northern Ireland’s first out gay leader of a major party

Belfast councillor Mal O’Hara has become the first openly gay political leader in Northern Ireland after being named as the new leader of the Green Party.

O’Hara will replace Clare Bailey as leader of the Green Party in Northern Ireland, after she lost her seat in May’s Stormont assembly election.

Before embarking on his career in politics, O’Hara was an active LGBTQ+ rights campaigner, having worked for the Rainbow Project and acted as vice-chairman of Northern Ireland’s equal marriage campaign.

He joined the Green Party in 2014, and was elected to Belfast City Council in 2019. That same year, he became deputy leader of the party.

On Monday (15 August), O’Hara became leader of the party after he was elected unopposed.

In a statement posted to social media, he said: “I am beyond delighted to have been elected as the new leader of the Green Party in Northern Ireland.

“I’ve big shoes to fill. Clare Bailey has been my mentor, boss, friend and confidant. As leader she led us to record council elections, [she] and Rachel Woods passed two pieces of law that will change lives and they forced the NI Executive to bring forward climate legislation for Northern Ireland.

“It’s time for a new generation of activists. We were right on marriage and abortion and we were always right on the environment. It is welcome that others are following our lead.

“Northern Ireland faces many challenges; cost of living, housing, mental health, reconciliation and of course the climate and biodiversity crises.

“I believe that Greens uniquely have the solutions to these challenges. We can create a fairer world and a fairer Northern Ireland. Come and be part of that.”

Mal O’Hara is determined to tackle homophobia in Northern Ireland

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Mal O’Hara said he came out while at university in 1998, and that he was “lucky” his family and social circle were affirming.

“I know that is not the experience of everybody,” he said.

“I’ve had death threats, I’ve had harassment, I’ve had homophobic abuse, I’ve experienced all of that and that is what led me into LGBT activism.

“The fundamental failure is the executive promised a sexual orientation strategy in 2007; it is 2022 and that has still not been delivered and that is a key mechanism for addressing inequality.

“While I am very lucky, I am conscious that is not the experience of very many people across Northern Ireland.

“There has never been a better time to be LGBT, but there is still a lot of work to do to make sure it is better for coming generations.”

In an interview with The Irish Times, he added he hopes his new position will encourage the younger queer generation, and that it will be a step towards diversifying politics.

O’Hara said: “I hope that says to the next generation of LGBT activists that you can be what you can see. That means you can be the leader of a party, that means you can be an elected representative, and that broadens the political representation in the North.

“I think we have an over-representation of heterosexual older men of a certain class, and politics needs to change and be more diverse and representative of those wider communities and I think that brings us better politics.”

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Kim Kardashian and Skims release new size-inclusive shaping swimwear collection

Kim Kardashian’s Skims has released a new size-inclusive swimwear range.

The shapewear brand from the reality TV star has combined the popular technology of its athleisure with water-friendly fabrics for the latest collection.

It dropped this month and is available to shop exclusively from skims.com.

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The new Shaping Swim collection is “designed to smooth and mold your body in all the right places”, according to the brand.

The medium-to-full coverage pieces “lightly smooth your curves, cellulite and the body in multiple target areas for the signature Skims compressive, body-hugging feel”.

There’s nine styles in the new collection, including one-pieces, swim skirts, tankinis, bandeau tops and high-waisted bottoms in Skims’ signature neutral colourways.

Plus they’re size-inclusive with XXS through to 4X available, continuing the brand’s aim to cater to all body types.

The Skims Swim range combines the shapewear technology.
The Skims Swim range combines the shapewear technology.

Fans of the brand can also build their own set, as you can mix and match the swim styles to build your favourite look for the beach, pool and beyond.

The prices range between $54 and $108 and international shipping is available, including the UK.

Since launching Skims Swim earlier this year, there’s been a number of drops including a unique range of metallic styles and even elbow-length swim gloves.

Kardashian has modelled the swimwear on the cover of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue in May, pairing a nude string bikini by Skims alongside matching gloves.

To shop the entire Skims Swim range head to skims.com/collections/swim.

Since launching with shapewear in 2019, the brand has expanded to bras, underwear, sleepwear and loungewear and Kardashian recently confirmed she was widening the “vagina area” of the brand’s best-selling bodysuit to make it more inclusive.

Kim Kardashian is releasing her own Beats headphones

It was announced earlier this month that Kardashian is releasing her first collab with Apple-owned brand, Beats.

The reality TV star-turned-mogul has revamped the wireless earbuds, Beats Fit Pro, with three minimalistic designs.

The earbuds called will be available in three muted tones: Moon (light), Dune (medium) and Earth (deep) and are compatible with Apple and Android devices.

Alongside the neutral hues, the earbuds are expected to feature a wingtip design to provide a secure fit, Active Noise Cancellation, Adaptive EQ modes, and spatial audio.

Other features include dynamic head tracking – the music’s sound will change as you turn your head – and Apple’s signature H1 chip, which pairs your earbuds to your iPhone or any other Apple device.

Fans have reacted positively to the product reveal, with one saying that people are “tired of metallic grey” products.

The Beats x Kim earbuds are dropping on 17 August and will be available from Selfridges.

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‘Filthy’, joyful Mulan Rouge drag show reclaims Disney princess for queer Asians

A new mash-up of Disney’s Mulan and Baz Luhrman’s Moulin Rouge is a “filthy, stupid and fun” antidote to cultural appropriation.

The story of Mulan has been told and retold for more than 1,500 years, with the first recorded version of the tale appearing in China around the 6th century.

Disney adapted the story as an animated film in 1998. It was a milestone in representation, but has been criticised for appropriating and attempting to westernise Chinese culture, and for disrespecting the original story.

The 2020 live-action remake attempted to fix some of those wrongs, putting Chinese and American-Chinese actors, though many were disappointed that the film was “too white behind the camera” (according to its (white) director Niki Caro, she was hired because she was able to handle mixing Chinese culture with “the culture of Disney”, whatever that means).

Now, a new retelling of the story comes in the form of Mulan Rouge, written and directed by Shay Shay, a non-binary performer and founder of drag troupe The Bitten Peach.

It’s all part of their mission to improve Asian representation in the arts in the UK, going beyond tokenistic invitations to putting Asian excellence front and centre in predominantly white and queer spaces.

Mulan has long been an LGBTQ+ icon, ShayShay explains to PinkNews. In all versions of the story, Mulan is a young woman who pretends to be a man to serve in the army. As she escaped the gendered expectations placed on her, Mulan embraces her true self.

“There are a lot of trans masc people who feel like: ‘This is my story,'” says ShayShay.

“Especially with the song that Mulan sings early in the film, when she’s wondering: ‘Who is that girl I see staring straight back at me?’ 

“She’s somehow saying: ‘When I obey the gender rules that are pushed upon me, why does it feel like it’s not me?’”

Mulan Rouge follows Mulan’s journey (played by the wonderful Ella Cumber) of faking her identity and going to war in place of her father – but that’s where the expected ends. Think glitz, glamour and go-go girls.

The idea for the show first came to ShayShay a decade ago. It evolved into its current form, which celebrates not just drag queens, but performers of all genders, thanks to the diverse London drag scene ShayShay encountered when they moved to the city.

“I moved to London after I finished university [in the US], and when I went to queer clubs and bars I started to see a form of drag that really resonated with me,” ShayShay explains.

“Seeing trans people doing drag, seeing women doing drag, and seeing people who did not necessarily want to look like women but more like art pieces and aliens was so inspiring. That’s when I was like: ‘Oh, drag is like professional dressing up.'”

The script is filled with clever, queer jokes – “You can be anything! Demi-boy, Demi-girl, Demi Lovato” – delivered by talented queens, kings and performers in gorgeous costumes.

Perhaps the only downside to the show is that Mulan is the only Asian performer seen on-stage (others behind-the-scenes, like the costume designer and ShayShay, aren’t visible.) But it remains undoubtedly an antidote to cultural appropriation made by and for queer Asian folk.

As well as championing queer Asian talent, ShayShay advocates for drag of all shapes and sizes.

Although television has made a certain kind of drag mainstream, they would like to see the art of drag enter the more elitist spaces.

“The RuPaul’s Drag Race empire continues to grow and I feel like drag has infiltrated fashion a lot more,” they say.

“Some queens have managed to get roles in films as actors, but I’m hoping there will be more to come and beyond just drag queens. 

“I’m focusing my energy on what I can personally do to make a change. What shows can I make featuring drag performers in non-club spaces? We need drag kings and non-binary drag performers, and just artists working on drag in many different ways.” 

The hilarious trio of drag kings on stage in Mulan Rouge definitely falls into that category.

A political piece with many layers to unfold, it is a show full of comedy and good heart. Or, to use ShayShay’s words: “It is filthy, stupid and fun.”

Mulan Rouge shows at The Vaults, London until August 28.

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Monkeypox: Vaccinated man put into quarantine after roommate tests positive loses court case

A man in Germany has lost a court case to lift his quarantine order after his roommate caught monkeypox.

According to German newspaper Rheinische Post, the man was advised by the Düsseldorf Public Health Department to quarantine for 21 days after his roommate acquired monkeypox, despite being vaccinated.

The man filed an applicate lift the quarantine order due to his vaccinated status.

However on Wednesday (10 August), Düsseldorf Administrative Court decided the man’s vaccination was invalid as the European Union has not yet approved the JYNNEOS jab, and refused to life the order.

According to a statement released by the court, its decisions were based on findings and guidelines generated by the Robert Koch Institute in Germany, a government agency for disease control and prevention.

The institute guidelines state a “high-risk contact” is someone who has spent at least one night in the same living space as someone with a monkeypox diagnosis during the infectious period.

According to the latest data from the CDC, there have been 31,799 confirmed global cases of monkeypox in its current outbreak, as of Friday (12 August).

The World Health Organization declared monkeypox a public health emergency of international concern in July. The US federal government has since declared monkeypox a public health emergency with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reporting more than 11,177 confirmed cases in the country.

In the UK, people with monkeypox are asked to isolate, though close contacts are not, provided they have no symptoms,

WHO this month announced it would be creating an open forum to rename monkeypox, as concerns build that the virus’ current name could be increasing stigma and discrimination.

It added that giving new names to monkeypox variants would “avoid causing offence to any cultural, social, national, regional, professional, or ethnic groups, and minimise any negative impact on trade, travel, tourism or animal welfare”.

A group of scientists added they believe a new name that is “neutral, non-discriminatory and non-stigmatising” will be “more appropriate” going forward.

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Millie Bobby Brown opens up about Hunter Ecimovic ‘grooming’ claims: ‘I felt vulnerable’

Millie Bobby Brown has spoken about her “unhealthy relationship” with TikTok star Hunter Ecimovic

The Stranger Things star was 16 in 2020 when she reportedly began dating then 20-year-old Ecimovic. While the pair never confirmed they were together, they were pictured kissing and cosying up to each other on social media.

Ecimovic was accused of grooming Brown (the age of consent is 16 in London and Georgia, where Brown has homes, but 18 in California, where Hunter is reportedly based).

In July 2021, during an Instagram live, Ecimovic addressed the accusations and said he “had nothing to apologise for”.

After responding to one commenter who called him a groomer by saying “I know, I groomed her” he went on to say: “Everything that I did was completely legal… You guys don’t know anything. You guys are just following after one person saying one thing… I have zero things to apologise for. You guys do not know a single thing at all.”

Ecimovic later rescinded his comments on his Instagram live, saying: “I never groomed her. I never put pressure on her to like me.”

In a new interview, Brown told Allure that she had broken off the “unhealthy situation” in January 2021.

Of the aftermath, she said: “I felt very vulnerable. Also, no one on the [Stranger Things] set knew I was going through this. So it was kind of nice to be able to just deal with that myself and no one else knew. Then it was harder when the whole world knew.”

Millie Bobby Brown with current boyfriend Jake Bongiovi
Millie Bobby Brown and current boyfriend Jake Bongiovi. (Theo Wargo/Getty Images)

Brown reflected: “It was a year of healing. When you get publicly humiliated this way, I felt so out of control and powerless. 

“Walking away and knowing that I’m worth everything and this person didn’t take anything from me, it felt very empowering. It felt like my life had finally turned a page and that I actually had ended a chapter that felt so fucking long.

“Ultimately, all I wanted to do within my career is help young girls and young people out there know that I, too, go through things. I’m not this perfect person that is selling skin-care products and [who is] in Stranger Things. I absolutely have made wrong decisions.”

Brown has been in a relationship with Jake Bongiovi since summer 2021.

Millie Bobby Brown has opened up previously about her experiences of being sexualised as a young woman in the acting industry. In February she spoke on The Guilty Feminist podcast about the “gross” comments she has had to read.

“I have definitely been dealing with that,” she said, “more within the last two weeks of turning 18. Definitely seeing a difference between the way people act and the way the press and social media have reacted to me coming of age,

“I think it’s just a very good representation of what’s going on in the world and how young girls are sexualised. And so I have been dealing with that, but also have been dealing with that for forever.”

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