LGBTIQ Roma and queer intersectionalities: the lived experiences of LGBTIQ Roma

This article by Dr Lucie Fremlova is not only about how LGBTIQ Roma are going through judgement from the majority for being Roma and part of the LGBTIQ but also being discriminated against by minorities - their Roma community for being part of the LGBTIQ.  But it is also about explaining Roma history, their position in society and how they see themselves. 

Author: Dr Lucie Fremlova
Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: September 2020


“Romani Studies scholars have theorised and conceptualised Roma as a minority ethnic group and a social group that is allegedly fundamentally distinct and essentially different from non-Roma in almost every aspect. Undoubtedly, such research is important when describing the causes and forms of inequality or proposing possible policy interventions. However, foregrounding ethnicity may unwittingly contribute to re-inscribing the marked essentialist 'difference attributed to Roma'. At the same time, there is evidence within research that individuals who self-identify (or are identified) as Roma simultaneously make other identifications, which they may experience as more important, as well as that Roma, possess identities characterised by hybridity, super-diversity, intersectionality and queerness. There is also evidence that Roma experience Romani ethnic identity in ordinary, mundane, everyday ways.

Roma of minority sexual and gender identities experience oppression and structural inequality both as Roma and as lesbian, gay, bi, trans, intersex and queer-identified (LGBTIQ) due to the intersectional location that they occupy in society and the negative social valuation of their non-normative ethnic/racial, sexual/gender and other identities. Despite an abundance of literature on Roma, in academic literature, including journals on gender, there is a dearth of information on the experiences of LGBTIQ Roma. This article intends to make up for the aforementioned lack of literature by exploring conceptualisations of Romani identities based on the lived experiences of LGBTIQ Roma.

In this article, first, I briefly present basic terminology, research methods and methodology. Second, I discuss dominant conceptualisations of Romani identity in Romani Studies, as well as alternative ways of understanding Romani identities offered by intersectionality and queer theorising, particularly queer assemblages. I outline how these concepts make it possible to transcend the “ethnic” frame of reference’ in Romani Studies, where ethnicity has often been foregrounded. Having established this conceptual framework, I then proceed to explore and analyse the empirical evidence. In this section, I consider how LGBTIQ Roma experiences and navigate multiple oppression at the intersection of ethnicity/race, sex/gender, sexuality and gender identity. I discuss LGBTIQ Roma’s experiences of antigypsyism; the enactment (or lack thereof) of non-normative sexual and gender identities due to experiences of rejection; and the less familiar experiences of acceptance by families, communities and other kinship structures. I argue that the lived experiences of LGBTIQ Roma pose a fundamental challenge to one-dimensional, essentializing and homogenising conceptualisations of Romani identities. 

Data were generated through participant observation, focus groups and interviews with LGBTIQ Roma, and were analysed using thematic analysis. Findings reveal that individuals who self-identify as Roma also make multiple identifications on other grounds, including sex/gender, sexuality, gender identity or class. In this article, I argue that reading intersectionality in conjunction with queer assemblages – ‘queer intersectionalities’ – benefits queer (non-normative) intersectional understandings of Romani identities as not anchored in the notion of fixed ‘groupness’ or essentialist difference while allowing us to identify and interrogate the inequitable workings of asymmetrical hegemonic power relations constitutive of binary social normativity.”

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