Being a gay male that doesn’t fully align his personality with all the typical notions of masculinity, I have to be conscious of the social mentality in every new place that I go to. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect in Croatia, or more specifically Rijeka, as this city is where I spend the majority of my time and therefore have the most reflection on.
As a somewhat larger city (large for a country with little over 4 million people), Rijeka has a more open mindset as many people occupy and shape the city’s character, but I have noticed some reservations towards LGBT+ identities here. Nothing to the point of harassment, but I do see that whenever I open up about my sexual orientation in spaces that I feel are safe to do so, the other people navigate the conversation in a strange way moving forward. Homosexuality still has an automatic association with femininity to the people I’ve met, and while the two concepts can be related, depending on the individual, and they’re both completely fine, the attitude here still has notions of a man being somehow feminine is a bad thing, and so while many people are fine with homosexuality here, they still have moments of saying less aggressive but just as problematic statements/jokes.
This isn’t to say that I’m having a bad time. I have been enjoying my internship work, and the people here are incredible. Whenever the slight tension occurs from situations with the above mentioned nature, I tend to talk about the issues with what is being said, hopefully leaving everyone a better person by the end of the conversation. It reminds me a bit like the United States, in relation to public ideology of homosexuality I mean, because even in America there is still a lot of progress to be made over educating people’s attitudes towards the LGBT+ community. While it felt like I was handling a similar situation that could have occurred in the US, I also had to keep in mind that I can’t treat everyone from a US-centric point of view, so it became a challenge in avoiding cultural exertion while still opening up an opportunity to promote consciousness. This has got me thinking a lot about how my sexual orientation shifts abroad in the sense that while all forms of phobia towards the LGBT+ community must be stopped the world over, being a gay man from America adds a whole other side to my end in navigating my way through the world, be it for work or leisure.