A minority within a minority: Roma and LGBTQ+

Gay or lesbian Roma persons often face multi - dimensional discrimination in the Czech Republic and in Europe on societal level and within their ethnic communitiy. The czech activist David Tiŝer shares insights on this issue of multi – dimensional discrimination.

This weeks vote on the legalisation of same – sex marriage by the Czech Parliament could be life – changing for the entire czech LGBTQ+ community. One subgroup of the LGBTQ+ community could benefit from a legalisation particularly. LGBTQ+ Roma find themselves subject to manifold discrimination, not only both as Roma and LBGTQ+ by society, but often as LGBTQ+ person within their Roma community as well. Legal same – sex marriage would improve their standing both in society and thereby in their community at the same time though.

David Tiŝer, Roma LGBTQ+ activist, author and journalist, journalist and founder of the organization “Ara Art”
"Homophobia is a problem in some Roma communities, as children often are an important value to them", says LGBTQ+ Roma activist, journalist and politician. Besides, according to studies of the European Council, traditions like the ritual of purity lead to homosexual family members being outcasted, as they are perceived as unclean. Tiŝer is familiar with this problem personally, as his boyfriend has been beaten up and excluded from the family when he came out. Many young Roma face the same destiny when it comes to acceptance towards their sexual orientation within their own ethnic community. Not only does a Roma person often have to come out to each family member individually as the family may be spread across the country, but also in rather loose communities they get excommunicated easily. In contrast, as studies showed, especieally in tighly – not networks or if a person is heavily relied upon in a community, the sexual orientation of this person is tolerated. This illustrates the five different Roma communities living in the Czech Republic, each varying in their traditions as a group. After all, „Roma are human beings as everyone else. Their attitude towards LGBTQ+ depends on the individual.“, stresses Tiŝer. In contrast to his boyfriend, Tiŝer himself was lucky to being raised in a loving familiy who backed him up not only in being Roma, but also for being gay after his coming out, as tells Tiŝer‘s autobiographic movie „Roma boys – The Love Story“. 

To tackle homophobia within Roma communities, raising awareness through education turns out to be most effective. Therefore, Ara Art, a one-of-a-kind czech organization focussing on LGBTQ+ Roma founded by Tiŝer, spreads information mostly via facebook, reaching beyond a Roma audience. This serves a multi – dimensional goal. On societal level, Roma LGBTQ+ can be subject to discrimination for both being Roma and their sexual orientation, as well as to being discriminated for their ethnicity within the LGTBQ+ community. This multi – dimensional discrimination has been recognized scientifically only recently on a broader level. Nevertheless, across Europe more and more Roma LGBTQ+ activists work for better inclusion on all levels. 

Ara Art, a one-of-a-kind organization in Europe on behalf of czech LGBQT+ Roma founded by Tiŝer invited european activists for several conferences to the Czech Republic in the past years. Participants from more than twenty countries like France, Germany, Spain, Macedonia, Serbia, the Slovac Republic, Hungary and Turkey worked on promoting Roma LGBTQ+ rights. Whereas campaigns to raise awareness often focus not on empowering the affected but the discriminating group, Ara Art shifts this focus. By the means of performing arts and theatre, young LGBTQ+ Roma are guided to be confident about their identity as Roma and LGBTQ+. 

According to Tiŝer, the situation in the Czech Republic for Roma LGBTQ+ improved throughout the past years. The legalisation of same – sex marriage, or even legal adoption of children for same – sex couples, would be an essential step in tackling multi – dimensional discrimination. Nevertheles, Roma people living in the Czech Republic and in Europe remain a disadvantages group, which appears to be an even more endangered group as conservative and right – extremist political parties gain seats in national governments.


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