The park of love

Photo: Rona Keller/
A place where love is free

There is one beautiful thing about Podgorica – we have a lot of parks. One of them is a nice, small, green area situated next to the biggest hotel in town – Karađorđev Park. Big old trees create pleasant shade on hot summer days, and on calm Saturday evenings when not many cars are passing by, you can hear the sound of water. This is a really beautiful and peaceful place directly in the centre of the town.

Today it's around 8pm and it's the first clear and warm night after a rainy and cloudy week. A guy and a girl are holding hands and walking through the park. He whispers something. She laughs, kisses him instead of an answer and they leave. As soon as they are no longer to be seen, two guys sitting on a bench start talking more loudly. They were hardly talking to each other until this moment. The men seem more relaxed now; they move closer to each other, and one of them puts his arm around the other guy's shoulders.

"It's good that they've finally left. What time is it?"

"8.15. Not yet. We should wait for another hour. You know, just to make sure."

"OK, darling."

Time passes by. The two guys talk and giggle quietly as if they were afraid that someone might come past and see them. Suddenly they quickly disappear towards the darkest part of the park, furtive, but at the same time subtly holding hands. Thirty minutes later they leave the park pretending they don't know each other.

"The only place in the city where the LGBT population are safe is Karađorđev Park."

The sad reality is that the only place in the city where the LGBT population are safe is Karađorđev Park. In the daytime it's a place where children play and old men feed the birds. During the night it becomes the kingdom of homosexuality, a small Gay Pride parade.

Maybe this would be a good moment to say one thing about Montenegro — and, in my opinion, this part of Europe in general. People here are not very open-minded when it comes to homosexuality. I've witnessed a lot of conversations about gay rights that ended with someone saying, "I don't care, even if my brother was gay I would stop talking to him." When you ask those people what would they do if their son told them one day, "Mommy, daddy, I fell in love with my friend Mark," they usually tell you they would try get the kid medically treated, as homosexuality is an illness. (Of course, there is a famous story about a gay boy from Somewhere In The World who was treated and "converted" so he's no longer homosexual - the story that makes me feel like screaming.) But recent research by a few NGOs concluded that 10 percent of the population have had a homosexual experience at least once in their lives. Confusing, huh?

"During the night it becomes the kingdom of homosexuality."

What I always wondered is how come none of the "straight tough guys" ever enter Karađorđev park and molest gay couples? Considering that in this country you can almost smell the homophobia in the air, that wouldn't surprise me at all. But the answer I got from a very homophobic acquaintance is simple. "If we prevented them from gathering in the park, they'd find new place to gather, or, even worse, they'd start gathering everywhere around town. This is a good way to control them – we won't step on their territory, they won't step on ours," he said.

Karađorđev Park...a small green place, where love is free and people can create their own sexual identity.

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