ERRC Launches Flagship LGBTQI+ Roma Initiative

Today, on Roma Resistance Day, the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) launches its RoMagic initiative, bringing much needed visibility to the discrimination faced by Romani LGBTIQ+ individuals, both from society and also within their Romani communities. Alongside our partners Vojvodjanski Romski Centar in Serbia and RomaJust in Romania, the ERRC will seek to foster an activist group of LGBTIQ+ Romani individuals through this initiative which will serve as a base for the ERRC’s ongoing commitment to defending all Roma from rights abuses, regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation.

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”This project is deeply personal for me” explained the ERRC’s President, Đorđe Jovanović. “It is an immense honour, opportunity, and privilege to celebrate this unique chance to experience the world through the eyes, body, and mind of someone whom people often fear, hate, would subject to torture, and even deprive of existence. Having personally gone on my own long road as a queer Romani person which was filled with fear, guilt, oppression, bullying, and violence, I have managed to forgive and find beauty in this quite unique experience. I am therefore thrilled that this project will celebrate an existence and a type of love that many tell us we should hate.”

Beyond a celebration of diversity, the project is a disruptive intervention to break the silence about the very existence of LGBTIQ+ Roma. The ERRC as a Roma-led, queer-friendly, rights centre intends to highlight and challenge the multiple and intersecting forms of oppression and injustice that LGBTIQ+ Roma face. Many live in segregated and deprived neighbourhoods, devoid of support networks and social services. Such conditions take a toll on an individual’s physical and mental health and life chances, characterised by high morbidity, poor education and a lack of qualifications, loss of confidence and self-esteem, and no personal space or ‘closet’ for LGBTIQ+ Roma to hide in or come out of. In addition to more general homophobia and transphobia, and the intimidation that comes with it, many Roma face forced and arranged marriages to ‘cure’ them and prevent them from living their lives as LGBTIQ+ persons.

Through a combination of photography, audio, film, online and physical exhibitions, and the production of a living photo catalogue in digital formats, this initiative will challenge existing prejudices within Romani communities LGBTIQ+ non-Roma community and wider society by rendering the life experience and personal narratives of Roma LGBTIQ+ visible to diverse audiences across Europe. These testimonies will contribute to the wider endeavour of ensuring LGBTIQ+ Romani history does not go unrecorded, their oppression unchallenged, and to insist that the LGBTIQ+ Romani contribution to the arts and culture in Europe is fully acknowledged.

This project, led by queer and trans Romani individuals, aims to record the everyday lives and routines, the family and community dynamics of LGBTIQ+ Roma, and examine how they present in professional, public, and social life across different European countries; the photo book, a living catalogue of the exhibition, will explore how they view the wider society, and how they negotiate the challenges they face. More than merely documenting oppression, these will be testimonies of resilience and affirmative celebrations of LGBTIQ+ Romani identities.

The exhibition will be held across Bucharest, Belgrade, and Brussels in 2025.

While Roma have so often been relegated to the footnotes of European history, LGBTIQ+ Roma have been even more marginalised, completely elided from histories and accounts of the Romani past and present. This project aims to remedy these historical omissions and proffer a celebration and affirmation of lives lived with pride.

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