Being gay in Croatia vs. Yukon: Yukoner to make film on personal journey

Heidy Enka says she’s freely open about her identity in Yukon, but still careful when she travels back to the Balkans.

'I always felt the Yukon was more accepting than anywhere else,' says filmmaker and LGBT activist from Croatia

Heidy Enka is a creative name for this Yukon filmmaker. Her next project is one that explores her personal journey of coming out as a lesbian in Yukon versus in Croatia where her family is from. (Submitted by Heidy Enka)

Heidy Enka says she came out as a lesbian in 2000.

But her family overseas in Croatia didn't know until recently — and even some still have no idea.

"When I did really reveal it to them, I had to pick and choose," said Enka, a filmmaker and gay rights activist who first moved to the Yukon in 1985.

Enka isn't her real last name, but a creative name she uses for her films.

"My family is homophobic. They say I could destroy my family name if I use my last name as a filmmaker," said Enka.

Enka has produced 25 short films so far, some of them tackling difficult subjects like how a lesbian Haida Gwaii First Nations girl from B.C. explores her sexuality and spirituality.

Enka said she gave the Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic the Yukon flag at the parade in Belgrade this fall. (Submitted by Heidy Enka)

Enka's latest project is called Busting out of the Cultural Closet — it's a film on her personal journey, comparing the rights LGBT people have in Yukon and Canada, versus the emerging rights in her home country of Croatia.

Croatia, and the surrounding Balkan countries, are still hostile places for LGBT people, says Enka. She calls Croatia a "homophobic country" where LGBT people have been "swept under the rug for years." She says the Balkan countries often "force them into the closet," like it has for her.

That's why Enka hopes to premiere her film in these countries once it's done.

Handing the Yukon flag to Serbia's PM

The first Pride parade in Croatia was in 2002 in the capital Zagreb.

Many Pride parades in the Balkan countries have resulted in injuries and arrests after violence from anti-gay attackers. Enka was in the midst of the 2011 Split Pride parade in Croatia, and says she caught some footage of the violence on camera.

The Pride parade in Split, Croatia in 2011. Enka said she captured some violence at this parade on camera. (Submitted by Heidy Enka)

This fall, Enka was at the Pride parade in Belgrade, Serbia when Serbia's first openly gay Prime Minister marched with activists. There were thousands of police present and a helicopter was deployed.

Enka said she was trying to get an interview with Prime Minister Ana Brnabic for her film, but it was difficult.

But she managed to have a small interaction with Brnabic.

"I still video bombed her, and gave her the Yukon flag and said Canada respects you, and she thanked me for it. It's on TV over there."

Heidy Enka speaks at Croatia's Split Pride 2017

6 years ago
Duration 1:46
Heidy Enka speaks at Croatia's Split Pride 2017

Being gay in Yukon

Enka says she's freely open about her identity in Yukon, but still careful when she travels back to the Balkans.

"I always felt the Yukon was more accepting than anywhere else," said Enka.

She says that LGBT people in Yukon are so accepted that often, there isn't a distinction.

Enka at Belgrade Pride parade in September 2017. (Submitted by Heidy Enka)

"LGBT people don't really exist in the Yukon because we melt into society," she said. "[Being LGBT] doesn't make a difference to people here anymore."

Enka says she's still working on getting more footage for her film, and is still chasing an interview with Serbia's Prime Minister. The film is expected to be finished in a couple of years, she says.

There's a community fundraiser Saturday Nov. 11, at 5 p.m. PT at the basement of United Church in Whitehorse, to help raise money to complete her film.

The family event is a Balkan dinner, dance and silent auction.

She invites people to bring traditional Balkan food to the potluck for a free entrance, or it's $20 at the door.

With files from Leonard Linklater