“Lolo B-Jones is a young Roma activist from England. Lolo is the co-founder of Traveler Pride, one of their greatest achievements being a unified presence of Roma LGBTQ people for the first time in history at the London Pride in 2019. At the age of 17, she became involved in several women’s rights movements and at the same time became an activist of Roma rights through events thematizing Roma genocides, such as Dikh He Na Bister (lit. Look at it and don’t forget), which commemorates the Roma victims of the Holocaust.
Lolo expresses her struggle for freedom in fashion. Co-founded by her, the products of Dikhlo Collective are based on various traditional Roma folk costumes, the designers themselves being Roma artists. Lolo and her partners want to make traditional Roma clothing available to all Roma, making it easier for them to express their identities. So, everyone pays as much for the pieces as they want. If you don’t have money, you can take them for free. With the brand, Lolo also wanted to show that Roma LGBTQ people can contribute to Roma culture in the same way as heterosexuals. “People often think that if you dress traditionally, you can’t be an LGBTQ person. Well, I’m both. I am an LGBTQ person, yet I try to keep our cultural heritage alive.”
According to Lolo, it is important to see intersectional communities including LGBTQ Roma people in all areas of life, because if we see only one narrative about Roma people, we project a made-up ‘fairy-tale’ image on them. She thinks there are plenty of undiscovered values under the surface: “I like that Roma fashion, for example, is not about sizes: as a plus-size woman, I can dress as colourful as I want. All this cannot be said of the majority society.”
She doesn’t think it’s a problem if non-Roma are also buying from them since they support Roma designers. Rather, the problem is rooted in the fact that although many people love and use ‘Gypsy patterns’, they do not think about what is behind Roma culture and are unwilling to deal with Roma issues such as Roma victims of the Holocaust and social issues. Without a society-wide discourse, this topic will never be adequately processed.
Her first experiences in Hungary were not really good – in the first week, for example, taxis refused to transport her. According to her, however, being a Roma LGBTQ person in England is not easy either. Yet, we need to talk carefully about homophobia within the Roma community. “If you’re a Roma LGBTQ person, the majority of society likes to hear that your culture doesn’t accept you because it validates their racism. And then they can say that they don’t like Roma people not because they are Roma, but because they are homophobic or transphobic.”
According to Lolo, the problems stem from the fact that Roma communities have 500-600 years of oppression behind them, so these groups try to get every privilege they can. And for this – since oppressed groups want to assert themselves by building their own system that can fit into the greater system – the path often leads through homophobia or transphobia. Lolo herself has never experienced homophobia from her family, but there are still communities and families where she sees it.”