GLXY Travel Guide - Exploring the LGBT Scene in Skopje, Macedonia

by Enisa Bahić

Macedonia is a small country in the centre of Balkan peninsula. It borders Serbia, Albania, Montenegro. The capital city is Skopje and it is also the largest city of the republic of Macedonia.

11 Aug, 2017

Skopje is known for its very long history. First traits about the city appear around 4000 years BC, and first written traits we can follow through the lens of Roman historiographers, that called Skopje, Scupi. One of the most notable and noticeable asset of the landscape of the city is the old Kale Fortress, that is just next to the modern city centre. Built on a river Vardar, and you can easily get there from Belgrade. Also, you can easily get from Skopje to Athens. Skopje is on the main north-south Balkan route, very well connected to other Balkan capitals. According to the last official statistics, there are around half a million of inhabitants and the number keeps growing. It covers 337 square kilometers. The city is covered in interesting architectural designs, some of which are art masterpieces, and some of which are kitsch. We know you're probably wondering why are we explicitly pointing that out, as if there was no kitsch in any other city. Well, it won't seem as a cliche to confirm that in order to understand the dichotomy, you have to go and see it. Or at least google it. People of Macedonia are especially kind, open and generous, and have a tendency towards easygoing attitudes to foreigners.

LGBT situation

Macedonia is one of the underdeveloped, post transitional country. Taking that into consideration, we will have to accept to see the situation from that perspective. We have a so called transitional society, that is adapting from communism to liberal capitalism. The corruption level is really big there. So, we can conclude the state of LGBTI rights in Macedonia, just by seeing its political circumstances. Same-sex couples do not have the same legal protection that is available to straight married couples.
LGBT people living in Macedonia are not even protected on the basis of antidiscrimination law, so there isn't a hate crime defined due to offences on the account of sexual orientation or gender identity. There has been something like the proposed law, but in the field of labor law, and only lasted for two years, from 2008-2010. LGBT's were protected from discrimination in the area of employment during that period. In 2010., the county's parliament removed sexual orientation from the list of protected grounds. Nevertheless, Macedonian rigid government didn't stop there. In 2015, Macedonian politicians accepted the amendment that adds a clause to the marriage law, where a marriage is possible only between a man and a woman. Since it is a constitution amendment, in order for Macedonia lawmakers to make a marriage equality possible (at a certain point in future), the whole constitution will have to be changed, or the Macedonian government would have to go with alternative options such as civil act partnership, as we saw they did in Croatia. Most of the queers in Macedonia are still in the closet, so it takes a bit of an effort to reach out to the community, but luckily these days we have internet.

So, don't let the situation convince you that there's no reason to visit Macedonia, or that there are no LGBT's there. Internet apps such as GayRomeo, Grynder, Tinder offer ways to find what you seek. If that doesn't help, you can always contact one of the four organizations working on promoting LGBTI rights:

1. LGBT United is an organization formed in 2013 and it was formed exclusively for LGBT people. Alongside Coalition "Sexual and Health Rights of Marginalized Communities, they organized the first pride week in Skopje in the year of 2013. A lot of LGBT related movies were played and it was the beginning of forming such group and initiative.
2. EGAL is the organization that is also focused on LGBT's, but the general focus of the organization is LGBT's health issues. Also supports Dzunitsa film festival that is a festival of LGBT movies.
3. Coalition "Sexual and Health Rights of Marginalized Communities" partially works to promoting LGBT rights and organizes such events that would tackle stereotypes and prejudices in the country.
4. LGBTI Support Center – is a subsidiary of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights of the Republic of Macedonia located in Skopje that works on changing the legal and social status of the LGBT people through community strengthening, advocacy and free legal aid.

There are no openly LGBT bar but these informations can help you to find LGBT and LGBT friendly bars/restaurants/places to visit:

1. Skopje Pride Weekend is one of the events that you shouldn't miss if you are about to come to Skopje somewhere in May or June. This is one of the rare opportunities to be a part of the greater change. LGBT tourist who come to Skopje for vacation could find themselves being cought by the courageous and non-compromising flow of LGBT people, fighting for their own rights. if you are not an activist at home, you certainly are going to be in Skopje. https://www.facebook.com/skopjeprideweekend/

2. Unfortunately, there is not even one openly LGBT bar, but you certainly should have a drink in a bar called New Age. The address is Kosta Sakov 9. There you can ask about other friendly places, because it seems like the LGBT community is gone super-underground. Seeking for a friendly place might not be available online, but when you're there, a right question to a right person gets you gold.