Romania is so NOT gay

In 2004, when my father and brother flew from Romania to visit me in Missouri, they sweated right into the wet hot American summer of gay marriage.

One Sunday, we were driving back from a water park and we stopped in Jefferson City to see the capitol. A choir of kids was singing on the steps, and a crowd of mostly middle aged folks was slowly huddling in the shade with large cardboard signs displaying the male and female symbols as seen on the doors of public restrooms.

Man plus woman equaled marriage, the signs read. You know, the real kind of marriage, the kind that doesn’t involve men doing stuff to other men.

I reacted the way I usually did back then. I directed a little anger at the demonstrators and even more at the politicians who successfully made gay marriage a campaign issue. I might have even quipped that Americans didn’t seem more tolerant than us, Eastern Europeans.

My dad mumbled something about gays not needing to marry because of their lifestyle or something like that. I tried to explain to him this wasn’t really about marriage; it was ultimately a fight to get the same benefits heterosexual married couples receive. He didn’t buy that. I told him marriage in the United States comes with significant financial incentives. He didn’t buy that either. I could see an out of control gay parade flash before his eyes—a horde of chain-wielding leather-clad dudes that were ready to take you to school. I was disappointed.

My dad calls himself a liberal. He has built a non-profit organization to help disabled children—one of the great tragedies of post-communist Romania. He is a brain surgeon, cutting open the scalps of people of all backgrounds. He is half Hungarian and he has taught me Romanians and Hungarians are the same—an important lesson to learn for a kid growing up in a town that saw ethnic clashes in 1990, an episode that left eight people dead and hundreds injured. He has organized local AIDS-awareness campaigns three years in a row. He doesn’t go to church because he believes it’s nothing more than a powerful lobby.

But the idea of gays getting married seemed too much for him to accept. And it probably wasn’t the sanctity of marriage part that disturbed him (my parents’ marriage fell apart almost a decade ago). It was a gut reaction. To him, gays were… gross. Gays were nothing more than perverted men with deviant lifestyles and careless attitudes.

We never fought like we did that afternoon.

This past Saturday, Romanian gays marching in Bucharest at the second annual GayFest were attacked by a group of anti-gay demonstrators. According to Reuters, ten people were injured and dozens were detained. The footage shows a street brawl reeking of genuine hatred of “the other.”

Un afis Noua DreaptaEarlier that day, a larger march packed right-wing extremists (Romania’s version of skinheads) next to Orthodox priests and nuns, all chanting in unison: “Romania is not Sodom,” and “We don’t want to be a people of faggots.” They were displaying Christian symbols and banners calling for “normalcy,” saying they had enough with the deviants corrupting society.

Romania is almost 90 percent Orthodox and the Church has been campaigning against gay rights for years. In 2001, they fought to block the elimination of the controversial Article 200 from Romania’s penal code. The article, which criminalized homosexual relationships, was a relic of the communist era. The European Union, which Romania desperately hopes to join in 2007, welcomed the elimination of Article 200, as did gay rights groups.

But that hasn’t made homosexuality more acceptable in Romania. On the contrary, Romania has remained at heart an anti-gay country, and this is unlikely to change in the near future. A close friend of mine recently told me he couldn’t watch “Six Feet Under” because he couldn’t stand HBO bringing gay men into his living room.

Globalization might have made it easy to import American culture, but it still struggles when it comes to importing values. Gigi Becali, the owner of Romania’s most decorated soccer team, Steaua, told reporters last week: “I’ll give two or five million dollars and we can finish all homosexuals in this country.” Becali had the backing of the Orthodox Church; their alliance is supports the idea of a national referendum on gay marriage to show gays they are not well liked in the Carpathian land.

Until I came to America in 2003, I never met anyone who was openly gay. Back home, being gay was not a topic of serious conversation, but one of vicious jokes. Adrian Nastase, the former prime-minister was mockingly referred to as “Candyboy,” and Traian Basescu, the current president, hinted at Nastase’s supposed sexual orientation during the 2004 presidential campaign. Lest you misread Romanian politics, Băsescu is the pro-gay candidate and Năstase was the candidate who criticized his opponent for having liberal views on homosexuality.

The Saturday attacks on gay marchers are disturbing because they show how much the country has to learn. Even the Romanian media fell in the trap of identifying marchers “as the other.” One of the major papers ran a sidebar with its news story listing “famous homosexuals” such as Martina Navratilova and Elton John. If “Will and Grace” was a Romanian
sit-com, Will would either be spending a lot of time in the emergency room, or he would be experimenting with innovative forms of denial.

Romanians will deny they have an aversion to gays. They will go even further and deny any form of intolerance. They might even tell you the idea that Romanians can be intolerant is part of a Western smear campaign against our country. Romanians don’t hate gays. Nor do they hate gypsies, Hungarians or blacks. They just don’t believe any of these groups are really necessary for the country to function. After all, if God intended for the Romanian people to be Hungarian black gypsies attracted to people of the same sex, he would have passed on that memo to the Orthodox Church leadership.

My mom is also a doctor, also half Hungarian, and on top of that, she is a cancer patient fighting medical prejudices. Last winter she asked me what I would do if I had a gay child. How would I feel?

“I’d feel great,” I told her. “It’s a human being, mom. Isn’t that the whole point of life? To love other human beings? What if I were gay?”

“But you’re not,” she replied.

We didn’t go further than that because you can’t really bring gays into our living room. And Saturday showed you can’t really bring them out into the streets either. Not without a solid egg-pelting, a hellish sermon, and a serious public beating from right-wing extremists.

===

Technorati tags:, .

21 Responses to “Romania is so NOT gay”

  1. Wow, I had no idea that’s what it was like that there.

    I would have thought any place where you could grow up being a Marilyn Manson-loving, eyeliner-wearing type would be pretty open-minded about sexuality. I guess not.

    Is it just gay MEN that Romanian culture seems to dislike? Do they think lesbians are “hot” like Americans do?

  2. A well written piece which should be read by all Romanians (though it will take years and years to chnage the attitude). It was always amusing to see how Romanians reacted to the very enchanting American (and gay) Ambassador.

  3. In Romania? Lesbians are hot in some movies, some magazines, and some guys’ fantasies. To the majority of the population they’re just as vicious rotten-egg target material.

    Actually, even the seemingly young and liberal Dutch people are not exactly welcoming gay or lesbians in their talks.

    Back to Romania. I once accompanied a gay French friend to a gay club. His boyfriend and him had to guard me most of the time in order to keep me out of the claws of a) agressive lesbians and b) agressive heterosexual men (!).

    It is my generalized feeling that gay people, bi-sexual people, and even bi-curious people are at home in very few places, worldwide. Yet most nations are more civilized about the matter than Romanians.

  4. Great post. Linkage coming in a few hours.

  5. I love this post. I guess in the US they didnt know about partnership unlike here in Scandinavia. Everytime they hear about same sex marriage they ruled out that it involves the church and other stuff when in fact as you said we just wanted same rights as what the hetero couples get.

  6. […] My favourite owlspotter has this excellent post about the latest events concerning gays in Romania. For those of you lazy slobs that don’t feel like clicking: gays are actively protesting to be alowed to marry. Romanian government is between a rock and a hard place, since they want to please the EU by appearing as progressive as possible but in the same time they would also like to keep the population’s vote, and the population is very, very anti gay. […]

  7. Karla Fettich Says:

    I got really angry myself when I saw what happened. On the other hand, it’s a slow movement towards acceptance. If you think about it, before the whole Americanization thing kicked in, we didn’t even know gays existed in our country. At least I didn’t – I was so shocked when, several years ago, I found out about a friend of mine being gay and about a whole underground community of gays – until that point, I believed gays were only a phenomenon in the Western world. It will take a long time until Romanians accept gays as human beings with equal rights in society, but I believe the fact that they are parading, for and against it, is a major breakthrough. Most people have a negative reaction to everything that’s new and unusual, but they only need time to adjust to the idea. These parades are giving them food for thought, and (perhaps I’m just a hopeless optimist, but) I believe that gays will receive increasing acceptance in the long run.

  8. Six years ago, when I was working as a gay activist, I was dreaming of a gay pride in my country. Meanwhile, after constant bullying and a nasty physical assault, I have developed a phobia of homophobes and I chose not to get out much out of the house, nevermind attending the gay pride.

    I wish I could say that I defeated my fear and so on, though. Maybe someday.

  9. Cristian , I know your father and I respect him for what he build in our city Tirgu Mures and not only .I am younger than him , but I agree with him and I am tolerant 🙂 , like the huge majority of romanian peoples that I know .

    You must say in your posts that : GIGI Becali is not representative for majority of Romanian peoples and the NOUA DREAPTA party , represent maybe 0,00000000000001% of Romanian intentions for vote .
    Maybe we can chat more about this when you will be back this summer in Tg Mures. take care .

  10. I am an American and I just started a non-profit theatre company called Whirled Peas Productions- we are just in the beginning stages of producing a play, but part of our mission is to have cultural exchanges with other countries; we also want to spread the idea of world peace (thus the play on words in our name) and are in development with a playwright who happens to be writing a gay-themed play.

    In addition, my husband is traveling to Romania in October to hear one of his pieces performed by the Romanian Symphony Orchestra, and I am going to join him. Since I made the decision to accompany him, I started researching Romania and the theatre practices there. I was considering bringing a piece to Romania to work with other theatre artists there; some kind of Romanian/American collaboration. The issue is that I don’t know what would be socially and politically acceptable there. I thought of the rock musical The Rocky Horror Show, which was is also a cult film classic. It has many gay themes, some transvestites, etc. If we were to try and produce such a show in Bucharest (for example) would we meet with violence and protest? I like the idea of pushing the envelope and causing people to think about important issues like gay rights, but I also don’t want to be naive.

    Thanks for your time.

  11. Thank GOD Romania is so NOT gay!

  12. Christian, I am admiring very much your blog and I can find many similarities between our lives.
    I was born in Cluj and I realized that I am gay when I was 6; obviously I did not know the word for it. Then at 17 I have realized that “this” is “bad”, I decided to kill myself and I tried it, unsuccessfully. Nevertheless it’s hard to understand how come when being so depressed and thinking about suicide, I have still found the energy to befriend boys, selecting almost only those with a Romanian-Hungarian ancestry! (I was Romanian-only). I still remember how happy I was when I kissed Jeno – now I can say even his real name, for it has happened many years ago: Pop Eugen, who used to study in the Hungarian section of the High-school. I did that because I feared very much about being reported to my parents by my Romanian classmates, I remember that quite well.

    Now, after so many years, including 16 of them spent in NY and California, my goal is to try to do something about this situation, and I have already made some progress. While I live in California, I have influenced many young Romanian lives via the internet, and I intervened in the most vicious cases, by exposing my name, position (as a scientist) and by fighting directly against homophobia with arguments.

    I will return soon to Romania and I will continue this fight, but there is a real issue that I am not able yet to solve: the continuous interference of the American Religious Far-Right in both Romania and Moldova. Local morons are very encouraged when being helped by idiotic fundamentalists from the USA that are contributing to lots of internet sites, all horrendously anti-gay, like the “Brewer” family in Moldova. (“emigrants with a precise task and purpose to Moldova or Romania”).

    I do not know how to adress that, because they are creating over there a myth of being highly respected Christians in America. How can I unmask their background, when I have never heard of them? It is very hard. They might have some positions in the sects and cults here, but I have no access to that.

    Nevertheless, by exposing who I am on different sites (like on Curaj.net and others) I was successful in changing some things: now other people also dare to assume their sexual orientation. Yet the same problem appears everywhere: mostly the Erik Brewer couple (extremely active) and other neoprotestants are mudding the waters by impregnating the sites with sick intolerance (see the “combate_imoralitatea ” md site: it is really disgusting!).

    If anybody has some idea on how to find who these “oreilly” morons working in “missions” abroad, in the most vulnerable places from Europe in terms of huma rights, please help me with information. Other ideas would be also appreciated!
    anybody can write me at sangogio@yahoo.com).
    Thanks.

  13. If you like gays so much ,you can have them all.ROMANIA doesn`t need those animals anyway.maybe you`re interested in some pedos,zoophiliacs,gerontophiliacs,rapists,hungarians and necrophiliacs,have a big acceptance parade and live happily ever after in that wonderful scum-farm that is the US.

  14. you forgot to put gipsys in your list, USA have those please as well cause we don’t need em:D. Other than that, much love..

  15. ana bălănescu Says:

    Purple

    Aseară am avut parte de o experienţă unică. Pentru prima oară în cadrul existenţei mele tradiţionaliste, conturată în cea mai mare parte de mama – fiinţă blândă cu puternice convingeri religioase – am ajuns să mă confrunt cu o situaţie nouă.
    Clubul despre care vorbesc se numeşte „ Purple”. Chiar este decorat în purpuriu. Dar fără să vreau ocolesc subiectul care mă frământă in mod straniu de cand m-am trezit… Este un loc intim, foarte special; şi într-un loc atât de aparte, se întâlnesc oameni, deosebiţi aş putea spune. Ok… Am fost intr-un club de gay. Purple este un loc în care discrimnările nu există, graniţele impuse de anumite mentalităţi sunt dizolvate în atmosfera familiară, peisaj din care eu, femeia, am fost de mult exclusă, dar fără intenţie ofensatoare din partea tinerilor majoritari.
    Totul a decurs într-o manieră aparte. Mă simţeam ca un intrus, un peştişor auriu, într-o mare de „căluşei de mare”. Tinerii gay au un fel de a fi foarte pozitiv. Sunt un fel de baterii de rezervă pentru noi femeile, care de când intrăm timid in această lume pământeană, suntem condamnate de soartă, a fi depresive. Ei bine, bărbaţii gay se nasc barbaţi cu o latură feminină. Ei trăiesc practic viaţa ideală a unei femei. Nu menstruaţie, nu probleme legate de aşteptarea menstruţiei, exclusivitate… dar în România, există foarte multe şanse să fie hărţuiţi pe stradă de persoane mai puţin încântate de ideea democratică în alegerea orientării sexuale.
    Seara mea specială in Purple, s-a încheiat cu două martini si un prieten nou, pe nume Vlad. Tot ce am aflat de la el este că prietena cu care eram, pare să fie sufletul meu pereche si că nu îmi stă prea bine lângă bărbaţi… Eh, poate că odată cu homosexualitatea unui individ, se pierde noţiunea de „ normalitate”. Dar până la urmă, normal presupune alinierea la standardele impuse de societatea în care trăim?
    „ Being gay is so NOT gay” – Este ceea ce alegem să fim, o stare de spirit care ne face să ne simţim noi…

    Ana Bălănescu

  16. […] http://www.owlspotting.com/2006/06/06/romania-is-so-not-gay/ – This is a cool article that I just stumbled onto while I was looking for a romanian gay presence on the web. I encourage you to read it. But one of the best parts of it is this quote: Romanians will deny they have an aversion to gays. They will go even further and deny any form of intolerance. They might even tell you the idea that Romanians can be intolerant is part of a Western smear campaign against our country. Romanians don’t hate gays. Nor do they hate gypsies, Hungarians or blacks. They just don’t believe any of these groups are really necessary for the country to function. After all, if God intended for the Romanian people to be Hungarian black gypsies attracted to people of the same sex, he would have passed on that memo to the Orthodox Church leadership. […]

  17. David Stefanescu Says:

    My blood is 100% Romanian. I can completely understand where Romania is at and why it is so backwards. Romania has stinking thinking or in other words a bad attitude. Romania will never go anywhere when it is focused on the negative so much. As a human, especially a European, you should welcome diversity. You have to look at the positive things in life. Gays are really no ones business. I mean, what happens in the bedroom stays in the bedroom. Who cares if your gay? Gay doesn’t mean someone is the devil. And as far as the Orthodox Church… I have lived in a Orthodox monastery, studies the Church for years. The Church, as it knows, has no business in politics. The Church’s business is spirituality, not politics. If your a Orthodox Christian beating someone or chanting your hate at someone… where is your heart (in the gutter).

  18. I’m a Filipino living here in the US. I had a nice young VGL Romanian tutor in Math. I was fascinated with this guy simply because he was the first Romanian I met. For most gay Filipinos my age, the Romanian we knew was Nadia Comaneci.
    Then I worked with a Romanian young lady.
    I came to the conclusion that Romanians are serious people. They are genetically built that way–to be contemplative and to stay away from what they perceive us deviations. The few militant Romanian gays who push for equal marriage should take a closer look at their culture, their identity as a nation. If homosexual visibility is almost zero in Romania, how on earth can they demand for marriage?
    Don’t get me wrong–I am homosexual too ( and a proud one that’s why I don’t use the euphemism “gay”). For all it’s worth, Romania and the Philippiness are countries with extreme attitude towards gays. The presence of gays in the Philippines is everywhere. Gay jokes/ or jargons seep into the mainstream. There is no need to go underground for gays because they are just free what to do. Catholics? No problem! Go to the church and you’ll see religious homosexuals there. In the Philippines, you can cruise everywhere. even in the church for that matter.

  19. VERYVERYdisappointed Says:

    I have recently met an amazing carpathian. I can’t tell if he’s gay though. I gave him my number and he put it up on the wall at work, he’s smiles and looks me in the eyes when we talk. American body language would suggest his mannerisms and such as flirty but im not sure what Romanian culture would see it as. He’s a computer programmer and im just a janitor, so im probably just blowin myself up but any help with how gay Romanians act or even how to ask in Romanian if someone likes guys atall. any help…..REALLY! lol. tommy_the_texan@yahoo.com

  20. i will be making my first trip out to bucarest [first time in europe] & im looking forward to it very much. im visiting another gay friend of mine who lives out in the countryside & is totally closeted. we want to got to some fun gay friendly places in the big city there. if anyone can recommend any places there, please let me know. i appreciate it very much! onekoolkatinnorcal@yahoo.com

  21. As a gay Romanian, I defy the author of this sh*tty article.
    Because of idiots like this specimen, that pretend to speak in the name of the “whole Romanian people” my life in Romania was awful.

Leave a Reply