Gay Romania: Thoughts of a lesbian couple
Last year my partner and I took a two month, semi-working vacation throughout several different European countries. As a couple we are openly gay but due to current social conditions in the United States we are used to having to occasionally hide our sexuality while we're out in public. As women we are generally able to pull this off better than some of our gay male friends, but it still causes issues at times, particularly in cases where we decide that we're tired of censoring ourselves to please others.
Before leaving for Europe we did a lot of research on what level of acceptance, or lack thereof, we could expect in the different nations and cities that were on our itinerary. We were both committed to visiting Romania regardless of the social stigma against homosexuality, due to the working aspect of the trip. I'm a photographer and Romania presents some amazing photographic opportunities, not the least of which are the more legendary locations that horror lovers and the gothic crowd are drawn to. Hundreds of thousands of people in the United States are fascinated by such topics so the opportunity to attempt to capture unique images of iconic castles and the like was too much to pass up.
We selected Bucharest as the main home base for our time spent in Romania, due in part to locational convenience, but also because of the city's reputation for being more open minded about homosexuality. We were able to plan out our visit to coincide with the annual GayFest Romania pride festival, which is gay Romania's biggest pride gathering. Although the festival wasn't nearly as flamboyant as they tend to be in the United States, it was well attended and did not seem to attract many more detractors than others that we have participated in.
Although we were very happy to be able to attend GayFest, we realize that the timing of our trip may have had a big impact on our experiences in Bucharest. There seemed to be a relatively large number of gay people in every establishment that we entered, even before and after GayFest, and public reaction seemed to be quite mixed. We did not encounter any actual altercations, but at one point we stopped being on guard for a few moments and began to hold hands which caused a few people to stare at us in a way that would not be described as friendly. Other locals, however, seemed to be comfortable with our public display of affection. All in all, we did not feel much more uncomfortable than we might have if we had done the same thing while walking down a city street in the southern United States.
When we ventured into the more rural areas, though, the atmosphere did not seem nearly as accepting. As a result of which, we decided to take the easy route and describe ourselves as being "friends." We did get a few sideways glances from people but for the most part no one seemed to notice anything about us other than our American accents. The tour guide who took us to view the remains of Count Dracula's castle did pick up on our relationship, however, and he politely and quietly informed us to be careful while outside of the major cities. When we inquired as to exactly what he meant, he stressed that although we probably wouldn't deal with any violent hate crimes, that we would most likely have to deal with being cursed at and potentially spat upon if we displayed any public affection while in the more rural parts of Romania. Although such warnings are frustrating, we were well aware of Romania's slowly changing social views and so we were not surprised. We thanked him for his concern and assured him that we would be careful.
After spending a couple of days traveling through rural Romania it was a relief to return to Bucharest. We did enjoy our experiences in rural Romania, but it's always easier to be in a city that makes us feel more able to be true to ourselves. To celebrate a successful photographic tour of rural Romania we spent our last evening in Bucharest at The Soho Club, which is a very popular gay club that had an almost surprisingly large number of attendees and one of the best DJ's we've ever encountered. We definitely recommend The Soho Club to all gays and lesbians who visit Bucharest, especially those looking to have the gay Romania experience.
All in all, our trip to Romania was a success. Although we did encounter some negative attitudes towards homosexuality, it was not much different from those that we've experienced in other countries. We both agree that it would not prevent us from visiting Romania again.