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October 22, 2018
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Renata Berkyová: Gays, hands off the Romani flag!

19.8.2016 17:09
Romani participants in Prague Pride on 13 August 2016. (PHOTO:  Yveta Kenety,
Romani participants in Prague Pride on 13 August 2016. (PHOTO: Yveta Kenety,

What some Romani people are posting on social networks these days about the topic of sexual orientation has prompted me to respond. The springboard for these heated debates is the fact that Prague Pride, the parade celebrating people of various sexual orientations, included Romani people this year who proudly raised the Roma flag.

Some believe that such a feat literally defames the Roma nation, which they believe must not be associated with "homosexuals" under any circumstances. The Roma flag, according to some, does not belong in the hands of "homosexuals", and especially not in gay Romani hands.

During these debates, people brandish concepts such as "tradition" ("Homosexuality is not part of Romani culture") or speculations about how non-existent Romani institutions would settle this issue ("If we had our own state, you'd end up like gays in Russia!"), or they come up with Christianity and the supposedly heterosexual orientation of Jesus, which is nothing but pure demagoguery. These Romani people consider themselves the custodians of Romani traditions, and at the same time they consider themselves the defenders of the rights of Roma in Czech (non-Roma) society.

That is where I see the biggest hypocrisy. I honestly do not understand those Roma who have a lifetime's experience of feeling discriminated against because of their Roma origin, being oppressed, of fighting for better conditions, for equality, and for humane treatment, and who then are able to condemn other Roma for being different from them?

How is it possible that at one and the same time these self-appointed Roma judges proudly announce their affiliation with their fellow Roma - often well-known people who have achieved higher educations or greater professional success than they themselves have - but are still able to spit in the faces of their fellow Roma who dare to associate their homosexuality with their Romani identity? Is a gay person somebody of a lower category - and who decides who has the right to carry this or that flag?

What century are we living in? It may be that some Romani people today are forgetting that romipen is not measured by anthems or by flags.

Maroš Balog, a Romani author, activist, husband and father, posted the following to social networking sites:  "If you don't carry your romipen in your heart, soul and character, then that flag could be made of cloth of gold, but it would still be nothing more than a piece of colored fabric." I really appreciate Romani people, especially older Romani people, who do not succumb to hateful, outdated attitudes towards gay people but who, on the contrary, keep their hearts open towards them and their minds well.

These people are certainly a great help to all those who have to come up with twice as much courage as anybody else in order to live freely and according to their own wishes. My own mother even once came to me at a time when I still had no children and no serious relationship to say that if I were attracted to other girls she would still love me and want me to be happy.

Lastly, it occurs to me that some people could march with rainbow flags during Roma Pride, so we can have something more to talk about :-). Aven saste the bachtale, paťiv savorenge.

Renata Berkyová, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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homofobie, LGBT, Prague Pride, Předsudky, Romani people


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