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Mima Simic, Croatia

Mima Simic is an independent LGBTQ activist who “ambushes the audiences in the seemingly non-political spaces” by using various media platforms to push for normalization of queer culture.

By Ryan Eakins

As an individual growing up in Croatian society where LGBTQ issues are silenced and made invisible, Mima found that  the most powerful tool for creating change that queer members possess was coming out. As Mima evolved into her true, authentic self, she noticed that Croatia lacked models of LGBTQ representation, likely due to the extreme nationalism and patriarchization Croatia was going through during its wartime against Yugoslavia. Because of this, she sought to use a surplus of media platforms to extend the message of visibility and representation to others struggling with the same issues that she faced. Over twenty years she has utilized personal interviews, cooking shows, talk shows, women’s magazines, political campaigns, daily papers, and various other mediums to discuss what it means to be a member of the LGBTQ community in an underrepresented country. 

To many, activism may seem strenuous or tiresome. However, to Mima, she sees her efforts as “sexy and seductive,” a great way to spin the work she does into something that may entice all. She enjoys contributing plenty of fun to the work she dives into so that burnout may never be on the horizon. Using the entertainment industry as a means to incorporate enjoyment into her goals is a true testament to the unique approach to pushing LGBTQ advocacy. Being an out lesbian in an openly homophobic society can be daunting, but for her, casually mentioning that she lives with her girlfriend on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire creates a large enough space to invite the audience in to see it as an ordinary matter. Mima mentions that winning money from a competition show allows groups to stop “pitying the poor lesbians, and makes them want to be your friend.” 

Her focus within her work also expands far past the entire entertainment industry’s reach and into the European Parliament. In 2020, she ran as a green-left coalition member and became the first openly lesbian Croatian politician. She utilized personal tactics to help her win, such as cycling across her country and talking to individuals about bringing visibility to various political issues, especially those surrounding the LGBTQ community. Switching the narrative of having a lesbian minority become the majority’s representative was a fascinating transition of power, she mentions. 

Mima strives to magnify the importance of solidarity and the intersectionality of oppressions, which discusses the interconnectedness of multiple areas in society, such as women and sexuality. As a lesbian, bringing to light issues of feminism and the sexuality of queer individuals is a fantastic way to address multiple concepts and bring in a new audience of supporters that can fight for a proximate cause. Mima mentions her early life in Croatia, having the urban centers be beacons of freedom and expression, engagement, and visibility. In contrast, the small towns like the one she grew up in have a more traditionalist and religious approach to life. While discussing the effect of the “dark closet,” Mima states that most individuals gravitate toward Croatia’s capital Zagreb, which provides the anonymity, independence, and spaces necessary for queer individuals to thrive as non-heterosexual citizens. 

Although it is not an enjoyable time to be out in Croatia, more individuals are moving out of the closet into the open life as LGBTQ members of society. The drawbacks of social stigma and negativity still permeate the population, with couples, adults, and children suffering from violence, bullying, and harassment. She mentions that “only the other day a woman was pushed under a tram in Zagreb because two men mistook her and her boyfriend as a gay couple.” She uses these negative issues to continue the push for equality in underrepresented areas of the globe. 

One structural development that contributes to the push for LGBT rights is the creation of laws within Croatia. Although there has been progress within the legal realm with anti-discrimination laws, hate-speech laws, and the Life Partnership Act, the problem lies with the limited use of these laws. Fear of being outed and shamed for using these practices inhibits individuals from completing a file for domestic violence, assault, bullying, etc. that naturally leads to many cases unreported. Mima fights for preventing these cases from going unheard and continuing the push for consistent Pride parades across the conservative areas within her country. She states that the community’s change is visible, stating that her niece has a girlfriend, and no one has antagonized her over the relationship. Her contributions to the media industry and the European Parliament also display the everlasting growth that occurs for LGBTQ visibility and advocacy within these underrepresented regions. Although problems still occur for queer individuals worldwide, she states that the continuous development of advocacy on the Internet, social media, and film and TV allows change to occur at its fastest rate. Through these mediums, the formation of freedom can be within hand’s reach. 

Mima continues to advocate for various groups that surround her and her community across the globe, such as the Rainbow Families organization and the European Lesbian Conference. 

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