Kevin Moss

"Ja nisam prava žena": Gender and Sexuality in Two Memoirs from Beograd


Two memoirs describe quite different strategies for enacting gay desire in Beograd in the 80s and 90s. Vjeran Miladinovic's Terezin sin (2001) reveals the author's adventures as Merlinka, a well-known transvestite prostitute. Merlinka was the star of Zelimir Zilnik's anti-war film Dupe od mramora (Marble Ass, 1994). Uros Filipovic's Staklenac (2002) is the diary of his sexual escapades at more or less the same time.

Heteronormativity requires that biological sex, gender presentation, and sexual orientation be aligned and clearly legible (in other words, if one is biologically male, one should be masculine and desire sex with women); hence the frequent conflation between gender presentation and sexual orientation if a biological male desires men, he must be or act feminine. Cultures, subcultures, and individuals confront this conflation in different ways. Gay male subcultures sometimes adopt "feminine" signs (dress, behavior, language) to signal their desire for other men.

I will look at Vjeran's and Uros's narratives in terms of how their perception and performance of gender intersect with their sexual orientation (both are biological males and both desire sex with men). Vjeran's transvestism is not the standard MTF narrative of a "woman born in a man's body," but rather a strategy to maximize sexual contacts with men, many of whom also desire women. Uros, on the other hand, disapproves of feminized gay men. Yet in one episode he is attracted to a woman dressed as a boy cruising men, which he finds paradoxical.