Gay Rights in Romania: Aimée Brissay

RomaniaAn Eastern European country and part of the former communist bloc, Romania is slowly stepping into the 21st century. Once a liberal state where same-sex relationships were not treated any differently than heterosexual ones, it sunk into the dark period of communism where everybody that was different was persecuted and every form of culture, be it literature, television, radio, music, or art had to be preapproved by the  party committee.

Then, twenty-four years ago, everything changed. The political regime changed, the social classes mixed, and traditions were lost. Since then, measurements have been taken to integrate the minorities into the general population, but decades of indoctrination make change difficult.

And while the infamous Article 200 that proclaimed homosexuality illegal was repealed in 1996, and no discrimination laws were passed in 2001, the mentality of the common people has a long way to go toward the acceptance of sexual minorities.

Over two decades after the revolution that freed us from the plague of communism, gay pride parades still generate protests (violent at times), and anti-gay demonstrations— the so-called “Marches for normality.”

At the beginning of September, one of the Romanian television channels presented a gay wedding in one of their shows. The wedding, officiated by a foreign minister and not recognized by the Romanian state, was meant as a statement and was watched by millions. It generated a huge reaction among right-wing organizations. They protested  the display of a gay union and went as far as taking legal action against the television channel that aired the show. In spite of all this, the program still aired and its ratings skyrocketed. However, the reviews through the blogosphere were mixed at best.

“Although not legally persecuted anymore, homosexuals are not truly accepted either.”

Earlier this year, one high school in Bucharest held an extracurricular seminar about LGBT issues, where the students were asked to participate in the school’s activities during LGBT month. Parents and right-wing organizations protested and went as far as asking the government officials to put a cease to these activities.

Although not legally persecuted anymore, homosexuals are not truly accepted either. Concentrated in the biggest urban centers, most of them choose to remain in the closet, fearing harassment and rejection from friends, family, and society in general. Because even after a quarter of a century since we joined the modern world, still over 50% of people would not want to live next to an open homosexual or work side by side with one. Not to mention that even more people wouldn’t want a gay family member.

While censoring media or individuals has been outlawed, the lack of means of information in rural areas is almost overwhelming. There are no magazines, TV shows, or radio time to provide help or better insight into the minds and lives of gay people.  And for many, research through the Internet is not an option.

At the moment, the LGBT community’s voice is only a whisper in an ocean of screams. They need the ability to make themselves heard, seen, read.

There are no gay clubs, at least not ones that cater to only the LGBT community. There are no art expositions or gay literature, except the foreign books that can be found online. In fact, the absence of fresh Romanian literature covers almost all domains. Publishers prefer to work only with well-established writers or to translate international bestsellers than to take on new writers. And while there is a market for the rest, gay literature has yet to find its way into the bookstores.

The same thing goes for the media. Considered an educational medium for the masses and financed by them, it offers no support to the gay population. While the rest of the stations are not bound by traditions as the national one is, most of them are too fearful of the scandal a gay-friendly show would generate to air anything that could be considered remotely inappropriate by the activists.

The local gay organizations are doing their best trying to increase exposure and improve the life of the LGBT community, but denying them access to schools, youth centers, or rural areas where their help is most needed is only making their job more difficult. But without the media’s support, marches and parades organized by the LGBT community are only small steps in a long journey.

photo credit: CamilG via photopin cc