Saying at home that I'm gay, I'm hanging on a rope. Even their own family discriminates against Roma
20. November 2022

Saying at home that I'm gay, I'm hanging on a rope. Even their own family discriminates against Roma

David never had an easy life. He is gay and Roma. "I was beaten by my classmates at school, then I came home, where I was beaten again," describes his childhood today, a nineteen-year-old man. He grew up in a children's home, from which he often ran away. He spent two months locked in the house of a pedophile. Today he lives in a crisis apartment, studies and is looking for a job. However, he still faces threats from his family because of his orientation.
When David was young, he lived in a small Czech town with his younger brother, mother and father. He doesn't remember much from his early childhood. The period that most people see in retrospect as idyllic was full of trauma for him. His parents tortured him psychologically, for example locking him in the dark in the bathroom as a punishment. "They only gave me food and drink and locked me there for a few days," he says.

When he came home from kindergarten one day with his father, they found out that his mother and younger brother had fled to Slovakia. "She didn't say anything, I still don't know why she did it," says the nineteen-year-old man today.

So he lived only with his father, who after a while found a new girlfriend. The woman already had children from a previous relationship and cohabitation did not work very well. "She was quite hysterical, she would go to the bathroom and start cutting herself," David recalls.

The father did not want to take care of him and after some time took the boy to an institution for abandoned children. When he was seven years old, he was taken into care by his grandfather. But you didn't improve with him either. The grandfather was an alcoholic and behaved aggressively towards him. “When he got drunk he came up to me and started beating me while I was sleeping. He took me to the kitchen, where he started throwing knives at me," he says. He had no support in his grandmother, because she was addicted to playing slot machines and she was not interested in the boy's problems.

"After a while, my grandfather got sick and had to be connected to an oxygen bomb for at least 16 hours a day. When I wasn't at school, I took care of him," says David. A gravely ill grandparent, who was prescribed morphine by doctors for pain relief, became a dealer in his old age.

David describes that a lot of junkies and prostitutes came to their house every day to buy opiates from their grandfather. "Many times I walked around town and the junkies would yell at me if Grandpa had anything. It was pretty annoying. I could have been twelve," adds the man.

Over the next few years, he began to realize that he was gay. At first he tried to reverse it, trying to force himself to like women, but he failed. He could not confide in anyone about his orientation. "If I told anyone at home, I'd probably be hanging on a rope. If I told a friend at school, I would be bullied again. I have experienced bullying before because of racism, videos of my classmates beating me were sent around school," he adds.

When he was 14, his grandfather died. He was left to live with his slot machine addict grandmother and her son from another relationship. The son was just released from prison. He was serving time for robbing elderly women to get money for drugs. "The grandmother's son lived with a prostitute whom he beat daily. Blood was the order of the day at home," David describes the events he witnessed in his childhood. After a while, he had enough and called the security line, through which he got to the emergency bed. After some time he returned home, but continued to run away from home. He lived alternately at home and in institutions for endangered children, until he ended up in a children's home at the age of 15.

Although he was not living at home, the threats from the family continued. "Uncle once called me and told me that if I'm a 'b*zík', I shouldn't show my eyes to him. That if grandpa found out, he would step on me."

By this time he had found his first boyfriend. The partner was also the first person to whom David openly admitted his orientation. But the relationship was not ideal. "At two in the morning, my ex-boyfriend sent me photos and videos of him standing on the bridge and writing that he wanted to jump," he says, adding that he often ran away from his friend and ended up in a "trap" because of the escapes. “I felt like I didn't really belong there, but I knew I had myself to blame,” he notes. Unlike others who had a problem with drugs and theft, he never did any crime.

But he was sad. "When I'd walk out of school and see other parents come to pick up their child, asking them what's new, and I don't have anyone, it's not nice. When you feel hopeless, you have no one to lean on.'

Locked with a pedophile

One day he ran away again and got drunk outside on a bench. He was very sick when a strange man came to him. "All I remember is throwing up and waking up in the morning and I was on the road in the car."

A strange man locked him in a room in his apartment. He brought food and cigarettes to his room every day. He could only go to the toilet when his captor was at home. The man claimed to work as a paramedic, showed him equipment and medicine. Over time, however, he began to touch him and be intrusive. “One night he was there with me, we were talking, I went to sleep and woke up almost naked. I don't know if he wanted to see me, if he was taking pictures of me or trying something, I don't want to think about it," he claims.

David got into his computer, where he found nude photos of ten-year-old, thirteen-year-old boys. He found an article on the Internet in which it was written that the man holding him in the room had served a sentence for pedophilia. "In addition, he started coming to me with a gun strapped to his waist, he wanted to handcuff me to the heater, he wanted me to be afraid of him," he adds.

After two months, he had enough and managed to call the police. He got back to the orphanage. While his former captor wrote threatening messages to him, David started studying again, went to help out at various events as a waiter. Thanks to his good behavior, the principal allowed after a while that he would not have to go to school every day and would go for a check-up once a month. And it still works in this mode today. He is 19 years old, lives in a crisis apartment in Prague, has found a boyfriend, and is looking for a job.

I'm written off as gay at home

He never established a relationship with his parents, they are not interested in him. “Mom wouldn't even recognize me if she saw me. I feel the same way with her. My brother, who still lives with my mother, showed me her photo, and it's like looking at a stranger," David describes.

His parents do not know about his orientation. The information reached only the grandfather, who then cut off all contact with him. "Whoever is gay or lesbian is immediately a bad person for them. They will judge you and take you forever. Unfortunately, I don't know any Roma people who would be fine with their son or daughter being gay. Definitely not in my family," he concludes.

David Tišer, director of the Ara Art association, which helps LGBT+ people and their loved ones, explains that the "coming-out" of a Roma lesbian or gay is often followed by the exclusion of a person. A homosexual often has to move away from the city. Even an aunt or uncle must not establish a connection with the person in question, otherwise they would also face expulsion from the community. However, Tišer emphasizes that not all Roma groups behave in this way, it is mainly the groups of Olašské Roma and Sinti.

Another response to homosexuality in Roma communities tends to be the creation of social control. "When a gay man comes to visit, they treat him, but the dishes he used are thrown away. If a gay or lesbian person lives in an apartment, their own dishes are set aside for them," says Tišer. One of the men they met at the foundation even had dishes stored in the toilet.

According to Tišer, fear is a frequent motive for a dismissive attitude. Traditional Roma families are often worried that their descendants have a problem because of the color of their skin. "If someone from the family has a different orientation, they will experience even more discrimination," he describes.

About 400 people contact the Ř counseling center run by Ara Art every month, with some of them the workers are in contact repeatedly. According to the counseling center's data, 60-70 percent of homosexual Roma have encountered physical violence, most often in the family.

"We, the Roma, are used to discrimination and prejudice in society, we count on them. When I am "just" a heterosexual Roma and experience discrimination outside, I have a safe environment at home. But as Roma and gay, I am not accepted at home or outside. And not being accepted at home is much more painful," adds Tišer.

The text was published as an article on