Lila Milikj

Lila Milikj was born in 1984 in Skopje. Since 2009, she has been actively engaged in raising the awareness of the audience at large about the sex industry and sex workers in North Macedonia and later on in solving the needs and problems of the transgender people in the country through the system. In 2019, at her initiative, was observed the International Transgender Day of Visibility organized as a march of visibility on March 29. She is one of the most prominent activists advocating the rights of transgender people and sex workers.

Being a transgender woman herself, together with several other friends and fellow activists, she founded “TransFormA” – an initiative for the protection and promotion of transgender people’s rights in the Republic North Macedonia, today an established collective in our civil society. With exceptional courage and confidence, Lila has been challenging the stereotypes and prejudices against transgender people and through the association has been promoting public recognition of gender, equal access to rights, justice, and services, as well as equal opportunities for transgender people.

Milikj represents a precedent in the Macedonian society, still predominantly conservative and patriarchal. With her biography, physical presence, and readiness to publicly share her personal problems and policies, as well as the needs for the transformation of the system, she ushers in a new era of the fight for the special human rights in North Macedonia. In the last two years, she is one of the first and rare trans women who publicly and in the media have talked about their childhood, transgender awareness and identification, the experiences during the elementary and the high school education, and the ways she used to foster herself and get to where she is today.

Even though she is very much present in the media and makes herself available to the reporters for answering the toughest questions at all times, every time she experiences or detects an injustice in the system, she files petitions to the competent authorities. Also, all of her knowledge, skills, and energy for launching new initiatives, she selflessly passes onto the younger members of the community in Skopje and outside of it. Finally, a former sex worker herself, Lila is a true ally of these marginalized women, men, and transgender people. Therefore, her activism and professional engagement as regards these issues should not be dismissed or neglected in the time of the pandemic.

The prudence of Lila Mitkj can be seen in the fact that she does not deal with these pivotal, sensitive topics and issues only through activism, strategically, and within her own professional environment, but also through her participation in artistic events, performances, radio shows, and other author-performer collective and individual forms, all for the purpose of opening up and discussing questions. Thus, for one, she participated in the first photo exhibition featuring transgender girls from Skopje entitled “Some Girls”, by Lepa Georgievska, a photographer.

The following year, together with several transgender people from North Macedonia, she posed for the international photo exhibition featuring trans people from the Balkans, “Trans Balkan”, by the renowned author Aleksandar Tsronogorats. She is the first trans woman-model who participated in the fashion show during the Fashion Weekend in Skopje 2018. She walked on the runway in the pieces designed by the fashion designer Irina Tosheva, whose idea was that the collection Fall-Winter 2018 be presented by atypical, different women. In 2019, she participated in the gala evening of the “Pich Prich” event, which promotes female oral history, normalization of the female experiences, and takeover of the public space. The same winter, together with a dozen distinguished girls and women, she had a cameo appearance in the official video for the song “Proud” by Tamara Todevska, the Macedonian representative for the Eurovision Song Contest 2019. Notable is also her participation in the organizational teams for the Visibility March, Skopje Pride 2019 and Skopje Red Light District 2017 and 2020.

In front of MRTV and YCC, river Vardar, promenade, Skopje. Photographed by Jana Kocevska, 2021

“Cruising area” around the MRTV and YCC, Skopje

The green surfaces and the dark alleys between the MRTV and YCC and toward the Vardar promenade to the south, at the city center, accessible by bike and on foot; in the vicinity, there is also public transportation.