He was born a couple of years before the velvet revolution. In his early childhood he wrote sci-fi stories and from his school years he developed his drawing talent and love of foreign languages. He earns his money as a publisher, reporter and creative. He established and publishes the LUI lifestyle magazine, the only liberal occasional publication not only for modern gay readers.
LUI magazine was established in 2009. A lot of water has passed under the bridge since then. How did you get the idea of establishing and publishing your own magazine primarily aimed at the gay community?
Yes, next year we’ll be celebrating our tenth anniversary. At the start the magazine was very activist. We tried to break down taboos and various social stigmata. Our aim was to improve social conditions for gays in the Czech Republic. Registered partnerships were passed into law, but the public image of the community of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and trans people was not that rosy. With regard to the fact that I did not want to reconcile myself with this social situation, because as a child it marked me in a way that was not that good, I decided to change it. And publishing a magazine through which we could disseminate thoughts and ideas that we believed in appeared to be an ideal tool.
Is it really only homosexuals that read LUI magazine?
At the very start LUI was only for gays, but over time we found that not only homosexual men, but also heterosexual men read us. It’s true that they don’t boast about turning the pages of LUI much, but they like being inspired by the magazine. Women also read us. We recently expanded co-operation with Seznam.cz, which changed our target group and we’re now focusing more-or-less on everybody. Our mantra is high-quality, interesting and specially-written content. We differ in this regard.
As an LGBTQ+ activist you certainly took a good step by deciding to publish such a magazine. In your opinion, how are gays doing in the Czech Republic? Can you compare differences in society here and abroad?
I unfortunately still see differences. There is still an evident difference between the West and countries that experienced a communist or other hard-line regime. If you go west, the countries are further on in this regard. The relationship between majority society and minorities is more developed there, both at the social and at the legislative level. Laws for gays and lesbians are better thought-out in the West and in northern Europe. I can mention again the legal institution of marriage, which the organisation Jsme fér has being trying to achieve in Bohemia for a long time. And I believe that they will manage it.
On the other hand, Czech society is one of the most tolerant. I think it’s because we’re traditionally one of the most atheistic nations. For example, I see Poland as a very religious part of Europe, as less tolerant at this time regarding homosexuals, although even there you can see progress in the question of the approach to the LGBT community, albeit not as marked as here.
In the Czech Republic there is obviously work to be done, and I still have the feeling that it isn’t the way I imagined it. Nevertheless, the older I get, the more I realise that limitless tolerance is a mere utopian idea—there will always be somebody who will define themselves as being against different communities, whether it’s a community of gays and lesbians or, for example, Roma. In particular in times such as these, where some political parties are trying to gather votes by looking for a public enemy.
In your opinion in the recent past has there been a change of opinion in Czech society about minorities?
I think that in its approach to gays our society has a better attitude, at least in the last ten years progress is visible. And this is thanks to the establishment of a magazine that, in my eyes, helped our community’s visibility. We showed society and, actually, the economic environment here that gays are not just an underground group that is in a questionable environment in clubs and so on. On the contrary, we are a target group with large potential that has interesting socio-demographic and socio-economic values.
A year after the magazine, the Prague Pride festival was established. I think that this festival divides part of society, but there is more talk about our community and about topics that are related to us, and it’s good.
What do you mean: Prague Pride divides society?
From my point of view Prague Pride is a very interesting, beneficial and important event. There are lots of gays that are for the continuation of the festival, but I see a group that is just as large, let’s say 40-50% of our community, that is against the festival. These people claim that the festival is unnecessary. The problem is on the part of the mass media—they unfortunately create a distorted image of the festival through exaggerated focus on members of the procession that have an extreme appearance. The truth is that in reality they only account for about 5%. The vast majority of visitors to the festival are normal people that we meet on the streets.
Pink boas, painted nails, extravagant models and shocking make-up—this is, however, the festival’s media image. And that’s how people outside Prague see our community. Although we’re looking for ways to prevent it, we haven’t found one yet. We live in a country where one of the values is freedom of speech, so we have to respect this aspect of the mass media. Even if we don’t agree with it.
But back to minorities. How do you see the current situation with refugees?
I see the influence of the media and the quantity of fake news and reports that have been paid for. I’m afraid that in society we will see an artificial spiral of hatred against the common enemy. Populist political parties obviously profit from this. In my opinion, people should realise that there is no mass of refugees that will occupy our cities and rape our women…
The aim of spreading this hateful wave is, in my opinion, tying up society and limiting human freedom, from which only certain authority figures obviously benefit. This is unfortunately related to the oligarchizing of the Czech media and the buying up of media companies by influential businessmen. In my opinion, freedom of speech is the most important element of a democracy. On Twitter I recently read an interesting quote by the US philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson, which was shared by Jiří Drahoš: Democracy becomes a government of bullies tempered by editors. As a journalist I can’t disagree.
You like travelling. Which trip do you remember most fondly and why?
I love travelling. My favourite memory is a recent trip to Alaska. I overcame my limits there. Until then I had travelled in a basically monotone way: I stayed in hotels, went on a trip in the daytime and returned to the hotel in the evening. I can’t just sit around by a swimming pool or the sea all week, I wouldn’t enjoy that. I need to be in motion.
Alaska, where I was alone, and walked through untouched wilderness with a pack on my back and slept in a tent around which bears circled, was exceptional for me. When you’re travelling alone, it’s great that you aren’t organisationally tied to anybody and you can do what you want. But obviously there are moments when you would like to enjoy a view or experience with somebody else. On the other hand, you meet lots of other people everywhere. Everything has its pluses and minuses.
Is there anything that you’d miss if you found yourself on a desert island?
Most probably people. The worst thing would be the total isolation and loneliness.
You are well known for diving into everything head first and doing it full on. Where do you get your energy for life?
What works for me is that I sleep for no more than six hours a day, I also do sports and eat in moderation. If I do that I seem sharper, fuller of energy. The less I sleep, the more I do, mostly. I usually get up at six, with a few exceptions, obviously (laughter). I have a slow start, but after waking up I have a shower (sometimes a cold shower), something light to eat and go and do some sports. Mostly I go to the gym, I run or swim, I like that. I’m not really into collective sports.
You’re a fan of technology and social networks. Don’t you think that the technology around us and, in particular, the need to put on our profiles the most piquant (and sometimes also the most boring) details of our life robs us of our privacy?
To be honest, a short time ago I cancelled my profile on Facebook. And imagine it, I feel freer. Nobody knows whether I’m connected or not, nothing appears on my phone, nobody tags me, nobody follows me. It’s a relief. My aim is to gradually get rid of most social applications and profiles. This is because I’ve reached the opinion that real life takes place offline.
You live in the centre of Prague. How does living in the beating heart of the metropolis suit you?
The centre is for people that have an active social life. At the moment I am happy—everything is literally within reach. In my old age, however, I see myself somewhere in the mountains, in a small cottage where I can spend my time writing. I don’t know what, but I’d like to write.
What are your plans for the future?
In particular I’d like to maintain our magazine’s position, push it further forward, improve it, work on bringing new visions to life and simply moving it forward. What I really don’t like is stagnation. It’s necessary to move forward, come up with new ideas and do things differently.