How we import homophobia and transphobia 

There’s a remarkable congruence between the narratives of right-wing pundits and media in the US, and their counterparts in the Balkans. Especially when it comes to demonizing LGBTQ+ people.

Tijana Cvjeticanin
Tijana Cvjeticanin Istinomjer, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Source: Istinomjer
How we import homophobia and transphobia  - NewsMavens
Newspaper reader, Pexels

Why this story matters:

America's “culture war” is apparently being closely followed by media outlets in several Balkan countries. Many seem to be subscribed to right-wing websites located in the States, and eager to translate any piece of outrageous fake news which targets LGBT+ people. In several such examples, we see a pattern emerging: false accusations about a war on heterosexuality and/or Christianity; paranoia about an agenda to promote pedophilia; and more or less explicit support for "conversion therapy". The frequent appearance of California as the main "infernal pit" in these stories adds an almost humorous dimension. 

The latest example was a story appearing on Daily Caller, NewsPressed and Global Dispatch, with headlines such as “Gender fluid nut cases demand that vagina be called “front hole”, which was debunked by “Snopes” just last month. Snopes writes:

A LGBTQIA safe sex guide published by Healthline, a California health information provider, stirred up controversy in August 2018 when a number of conservative web sites took issue with Healthline’s use of the term “front hole” to describe the genitalia of some transgender individuals.


In short, this “controversy” stemmed from a single health information provider’s decision to use term “front hole” in addition to -- not in place of -- the word “vagina” in a safe sex guide created for the LGBTQIA community.

Their attempt to stir a moral panic with a claim that LGBT movement is trying to “annihilate femininity” by banishing the word “vagina” and replacing it with “front hole”, was quickly replicated on several Croatian and Bosnian portals. When they were notified that these claims are false, two responded with considerable aggression, with the editor of “Maxportal” telling our journalist that she can “suck his d*ck”.

This and other similar examples, but also links between radical groups and individuals who try to promote the notorious "conversion therapy" in the Balkans, makes one wonder how much of our widespread bigotry is home-grown, and how much are ready-made concepts transplanted from abroad. 

This is not an isolated case.

  • A few months ago, another website from Croatia also published claims from CBN News (The Christian Broadcasting Network), which had a whole series of incredulous “reports” about California’s move to “ban the Bible” and “other Christian books and resources which address issues of homosexuality and gender identity”.
  • In reality, it was about an amandment to the consumer protection act, which would make it illegal for proponents of “conversion therapy” to advertise it or receive money for it as if it was an actual medical treatment.
  • While some of these items are simply translated and published; others are adjusted to produce a moral outrage closer to home.
  • Serbian tabloids recently promoted material from one of 4chan’s “PsyOps” aiming to convince the public that LGBT+ activists are introducing the letter “P” for “paedophile” to the acronym. In the Serbian version, this became the “EU’s agenda to legalize paedophilia”.
  • Another media outlet, this one from Bosnia, has previously used disturbing pictures from a “conversion therapy” picturebook “Alfie’s home” -- which presents homosexuality as a consequence of childhood sexual abuse -- to falsely represent the first Croatian children’s book about same-sex families.
  • The above was published in an article titled “The end is near! Here comes a picture book about same-sex marriages with children”. The same picture is also used by the “PsyOps” crowd to equate homosexuality with the sexual abuse of children.  

Project #Femfacts co-financed by European Commission Directorate-General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology as part of the Pilot Project – Media Literacy For All

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