This week, a Montenegro man named Vuk Adzic became the first out trans person to be baptized by the Serbian Orthodox Church in the country.
Adzic was baptized at the Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ in Podgorica on November 3, Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty reports.
"For me, religion is love," Adzic told RFE/RL’s Balkan Service.
Bojana Jokic, board president of one of Montenegro’s leading LGBTQ rights groups, called the baptism an "incredibly progressive step in accepting and confirming the identities of those most vulnerable among us."
On August 28, shortly after coming out publicly, Adzic was attacked near his family’s cottage in the town of Matesevo. Three men arrested in connection with the attack are awaiting trial on hate-crime charges, among others.
In 2013, Montenegro amended its criminal code to ban hate speech on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation. The country also prohibits discrimination in employment, health care, and education based on gender identity and sexual orientation.
However, LGBTQ people still face social and legal obstacles in the country. Adzic said LGBTQ people "are second-class citizens, trapped, invisible to the system when it comes to education and health, for example."
"Discrimination, hatred, and violence are major problems,” he told RFE/RL’s Balkan service.
The Serbian Orthodox Church, which baptized Adzic, is the dominant church in Montenegro. The head of the church there, Amfilohije Radović, has been vocally anti-LGBTQ. Before a parade in the country’s capital city last year, Radović said “the unnatural sin of LGBT pederasty" was being "propagated as pride,” warning of the “sin of sodomy.” He has also called being gay a “disease.”
Radović said in a statement to RFE/RL that Adzic’s baptism had a "medical justification,” and that it shouldn’t be taken as a sign of "modernism" or "liberalism."
He reiterated "the propaganda and justification of same-sex relationships, a mindless gender ideology that we have witnessed in recent decades and which are, without any doubt, a sin."
In 2014, church leaders in Serbia blamed Austrian drag performer Conchita Wurst for the flooding in the Balkans.
Still, Adzic said, "After the attack on me outside the threshold of the family home, I definitely feel that church is my only safe harbor, where I know I can always come and be accepted as a man.”