Tag Archives: Romania

Balkan LGBT Solidarity

“We are everywhere,” is the theme of this year’s Athens Pride, explained Stefanos, an organizer of Athens Pride.  The main Pride poster features a nationwide symbol, the bottom half of a traditionally dressed Greece soldier, along with the Pride’s tagline.  We’ve actually had quite a few complaints, he tells us – it’s quite a controversial cover.  Stefanos goes on to explain that while many people in Greece might be comfortable thinking of homosexuals as hairdressers, or a very small minority of the population, the Athens Pride group is finding that people are getting a little threatened by the idea that they are ‘everywhere’, and this year the group has unfortunately received more negative comments and hate mail than ever before.

Athens Pride 2010 Poster

In the large meeting hall in the Athens Cultural Center, Stefanos sits down and talk with us before the start of the ‘SE European-Balkan Pride Conference’, a prelude to tomorrow’s Athens Pride march.  This is the first year the conference is being held.  The idea behind the conference is to encourage solidarity between the Balkan pride groups, so representatives from Zagreb Pride, Sofia Pride, Bucharest GayFest, Serbia Pride, Athens Pride, and a founder from the newly formed Cyprus LGBT group, gathered to participate.  Also in attendance was a Greek member of the EU parliament and Debroha Lambillotte from ILGA.

Athens Pride SE European-Balkan Pride Conference
The issue of the financial crisis couldn’t be avoided.  It’s a complicated issue, maybe best illustrated when the Greek Politician spoke.  Her initial statements were to the point that LGBT issues were a priority even during economic downturns, and that human rights in general were important at any moment in time.  However, during the Q+A session after her speech, several of those in attendance began grilling her on the lack of progress made by Greece concerning HR equality for sexual minorities, in particular the lack of educational programs to teach about LGBT.  Answering these questions, she couldn’t help making a plea concerning the difficulty of producing change at this time due in part by the economic crisis, and conservative members of government that did not feel this was a priority.

It was quite interesting listening to each festival organizer share videos and stories about the challenges of hosting their Prides in the Balkans.  They all had tales of skinheads, religious protestor groups, and police officials that either wanted the Prides held in isolated locations and/or conducted at high speeds.  However, there was also an underlying message of the progress being made to change attitudes.   While it’s clear that it isn’t easy holding Prides in these countries, especially during the early years of each, there is also the consideration of what progress can be made if these types of events aren’t held … and the communities remain invisible and marginalized?!

Athens Pride Balkan Pride Conference

Again, many thanks to the Athens Pride organizers for hosting the
First SE European-Balkan Pride Conference.

Photos and Video of GayFest 2010 in Bucharest, Romania

A new gallery of images from Romania’s GayFest have now been posted!

GayFest 2010 in Bucharest Romania

http://wwpbehindthephotos.wordpress.com/2010/05/23/gayfest-romania-may-22-2010/

Also, check out the WWP’s video of the event …

GayFest March 2010 in Bucharest, Romania

Bucharest had its’ pride march this Saturday – making it the country’s 6th.  Unlike this morning when it down poured on the right-wing nationalists’ march, the sun was out and everyone seemed in positive spirits for the start of the GayFest event.  Different than the past two marches the WWP project has visited, both Lithuania’s Baltic Pride and Belarus’s Slavic Pride – which were struggling to hold their first ever pride marches, this event was very different.  There didn’t seem to be any anxiety or nervous tension among those who gathered to participate, just energy to begin the gay celebration.

GayFest 2010 in Bucharest, Romania
GayFest 2010 Participant in Bucharest, Romania
The location for the GayFest march was very safe, but also isolated.  While the two anti-homosexuality marches, “March for Families” and “March for Normality” walked from Revolution Square to Union Square down the main streets of Bucharest, and thus attracting attention from bystanders, this march went along the closed off streets of Union Square.  While marching next to empty buildings kept those that disagreed with homosexuality away, this also meant that there were few people to witness the pride, besides the participants and the media.

GayFest 2010 Bucharest Romania

Around 400 people were in attendance, with most of those participating in the event proudly displaying rainbow pride symbols, costumes, or Mardi Gras face masks.  The British Council is a major sponsor of the pride activities in Bucharest, so there were a number of supporters from that organization who participated, all easily identifiable in red shirts.  The media was in full force as the pride march geared up, with cameras and videos targeting the most colorful and unconventionally dressed participants.

GayFest 2010 Participant in Bucharest Romania
Along the broad empty streets of Bucharest’s Union Square there was a gay celebration, and people had a good time.  A DJ led the procession, as participants danced and smiled, waved rainbow flags and shot silly string.  On reaching the huge Parliament Palace, a relic from the Communist era, speeches were given by Michael Cashman, a gay member of the EU Parliament, and Rev.  Diane Fischer, from the US branch of the MCC (Metropolitan Community Church), both saying how pleased they were that Romania was able to have GayFest, and to be free to celebrate diversity.

GayFest 2010 in Bucharest, Romania
While there were few banners dealing with Human Rights issues, or advocacy slogans being chanted, I did see a lot of people free to express themselves.  This is a freedom that so many countries still deny members the LGBT community.

Romania is making progress toward acceptance, or at least tolerance of sexual minority groups, despite the small counter rallies held against the march.  And, this really was a celebration, so different than the struggles that took place last week in Minsk.

However, personally I can’t help thinking how it’s still a shame that the march is hidden away and out of public view … with only the media available to bring a dramatized and distorted view to those in the general public.

Anyway, we were feeling optimistic as we left the march, glad the LGBT community had the freedom to hold the event.  As Chad and I turned the corner back onto a main city street, a little blonde boy, no more than 8yrs old, runs up and shoves a bunch of sheets of paper in our hands before running off to rejoin his father who and siblings who are waiting for him.  One of the sheets was in English …
Homophobic leaflet

Ultra-nationalists March Down the Streets of Bucharest in Protest of Homosexuality

We almost missed the counter-march by the ‘New Right’ Romania Nationalist group.  Walking back from breakfast, the morning of the GayFest march, we spotted some young men with shaved heads and large signs depicting homophobic messages.  They were just beginning their march from Revolution Square, through a mile of city streets, to Union Square.

GayFest 2010 Protest in Bucharest Romania

I would say there was a small crowd of about 100-150 people in attendance.  Their march was called – the “March for Normality”.  Many were dressed in large black boots, shaved heads, military style camo-pants, and black shirts etched with the image of a white Celtic cross, they looked intimidating.  However, as we were told beforehand by members of the LGBT community, this group isn’t necessarily violent, and being a nationalist organization with a variety of issues that concern it, not just homosexuality, they usually only put on a demonstration against LGBT people maybe once a year, and leave the community alone during the rest of the time.

GayFest protest by "New Right" in Romania
More energetic than Friday’s “March for Families,” these men, and some women, strode down the main streets of Bucharest, as the rain poured down, to deliver their message against homosexuality.  Following an old car with an oversized speaker hanging out the rear, the group was led in chants and hate-slogans.  As the rain increased the participants yelled in victory – hoping this would mean difficulties for the afternoon’s pride march.

GayFest Protestor

Family Values March Sends Homophobic Message

While Romania’s Gay-Fest march will take place tomorrow on Saturday, May 22, this afternoon the Families-Alliance held a counter-demonstration.  The alliance, which is a joint effort between the Romanian Orthodox Forum (FOR) Families and the Alliance of Romania (AFR), called on those supporting “Christian values and family life” and against “sexual perversions” to rally and display their beliefs.  AFR is a nationalist group that promotes traditionalist values in Romania.

Flags at Family Values Rally
The skies were beginning to darken as Chad and I showed up at Kretzulescu church, an Eastern Orthodox church in central Bucharest, and the meeting place for the “March for Families”.  The march was set for 5:30pm, but the time came and went with only a few people gathered.  Closer to 6, people with banners started to show up, and the event got organized.  A local pretzel vendor spotted the gathering, and began doing a steady business as parents who’d brought along their kids for the anti-homosexuality march bought snacks.  Seeing young kids at these rallies always makes me wonder.  As these groups pride themselves on having family values, it seems a bit sad that they seem so concerned with teaching the value of intolerance.

Romania's Family Value March 1
Family Values Rally in Romania
It was raining by the time the march got underway.  Just over 100 people had gathered to participate.  It struck me that no one was holding crosses, or chanting messages, instead it was a somber procession of people (and children) rather silently walking in the rain while showing their anti-homosexuality banners.  People on the street watched, as the group was escorted by police down main city streets.

Family Values March in Romania
Everyone hustled along in the rain for almost 3km, when the march finally reached its’ ending point of Piata Unirii.

It will be this spot that tomorrow’s Gay-Fest march will take place.

An evening with the editors of StiriGay.ro

We sat down last night with Daniel and his partner Michael at a little bar near Piata Universitatii (University Square) in downtown Bucharest.  These guys operate a local Romanian gay news website called StiriGay.ro.

Over a few beers they shared with us some insights to better understand the situation in Romania.  While the annual Gay-Fest march has been running since 2005, they explained how it is still not yet a “pride parade”, but instead very much a march with an activist message.    

 Many eyes will be watching Buracherst during Gay-Fest, they told us, so the pride will likely be safe.  It will also be a major media event, however, they divulge that the media always focuses on the drag queens, and try to dramatize it by showing protests, sometimes violent, against it from past years. 

 When we asked about if they’d experienced active hostility and discrimination in everyday life, Daniel and Michael explained that it wasn’t really like that in Bucharest.  Homophobia is not that rampant on an everyday level, instead people might be curious, not really knowing what to expect when meeting someone who is gay.  However, they are still frustrated concerning the lack of some basic rights, such as the inability to have a civil union and same-sex couple’s right to adoption.

 More drinks arrive at the table.  Taking a look around, I have to appreciate the progressiveness of being able to talk like this so openly, a luxury friends in Belarus still can not experience.  

While the Romanian acceptance for sexual minorities has come along way since 40 years ago, they admit the older generation is still very set in their ways, though the younger generation is often more open.  It is also very difficult in smaller towns and villages, even just for education and awareness about sexual diversity.  

As we talk, Daniel says that he is sometimes frustrated concerning advocacy to those outside the LGBT community. 

Daniel and Michael from StiriGay.ro

Michael (Left) and Daniel (Right) from StiriGay.ro

They both wish for more LGBT sponsored activities that would include those outside the community.   

 “We must convince everybody we are normal … if you are not doing it by involving them, it is in vain.  It is like we are doing it for ourselves and for the media, and for our founders.” 

~ Daniel, editor for StiriGay.ro

 For more, visit their website: http://StiriGay.ro

(It’s a great resource for what’s going on in Romania)

Meeting with ACCEPT-Romania

We walk quickly down the crowded streets of Bucharest, to the headquarters of ACCEPT.  This organization is the largest LGBT rights NGO is Romania, and we have a quick meeting scheduled with organizers as they prepare for this Saturday’s Gay-Fest march.

The organization’s building is along a quiet side street, but distinguishable from the street by a large rainbow flag.  Inside, we met up with Bogdan Istrate, the group’s PR coordinator, and the organization’s Executive Director Alina Oancea.  They are very hospitable, as they sit down with us to discuss the LGBT situation in Romania.

We often have to face the “normality issue” here, she tells, currently many people consider sexual minority groups as not normal, so we are still struggling with this, to change these negative social attitudes…but in the future I hope it becomes more natural and accepted.

Alina Oancea from ACCEPT-Romania
Unlike many larger prides, she explains holding their march is more of a public statement:

“We want to send a message to the whole of Romania that the LGBT are people who have the same rights as everyone else.”

~ Alina Oancea, Executive Director of ACCEPT-Romania.

Gay-Fest 2010 is scheduled for this Saturday, May 22, and they are expecting around 500 people in attendance.

Links: ACCEPT-Romania and Gay-Fest

Country Details: Gay Rights and Culture in Romania

Country Details: Gay Rights and Culture in Romania

Romania LGBT Rights:

Homosexual Acts Legal? Yes

Same-sex Relationships Recognized? No

◊  However, as part of the EU Romania must recognize same-sex relationships registered in other EU states.

Same-sex Marriages Allowed? No

Same-sex Adoption Allowed? No

Can Gays Serve Openly in the Military? Yes

Anti-discrimination Laws? Yes

◊  Since 2000, Romania legislation has specifically forbidden Anti-gay discrimination in areas “including employment, the provision of and access to goods and services, housing, education, health care, audiovisual programming, the justice system, other public services and social security.”  In terms of prosecuting crimes, persons involved in homophobic related hate crimes also receive a higher sentence.

Legislature Concerning Gender Identity? Yes

Since 1996, it is possible for someone who had undergone sex reassignment surgery to legally change their sex on official documents/paperwork.

Cultural Points of Interest:

Operating online, Angelicuss TV is Romania’s first homosexual TV channel. http://www.tvangelicuss.beanangel.ro/

In 2006, Romania was named by Human Rights Watch as one of five countries in the world that had made “exemplary progress in combating rights abuses based on sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Websites:

GayOne.ro -  is a portal in Romania that provides news on LGBT related topics in Romania and concerning worldwide gay issues.
http://www.gayone.ro/

Angelicuss – is an online magazine for Romania providing useful information, news, and chat/blog material.
http://www.angelicuss.beanangel.ro/

ACCEPT -  the organizers of the annual GayFest pride march, and the only LGBT organization in the country.
http://accept-romania.ro/

Romania Gay News – Provides information relevant for the Romanian LGBT community.
http://stirigay.ro