Living in Romania

Is Romania a LGBTQ Friendly Country?

Recently, I have received an email from one of our readers, asking me whether Romania is gay friendly or not. I realized that this is a good topic for an article, so here I am, sharing with you the good and the bad about Romania, how LGBTQ friendly it is and how open minded (or not) are the Romanians.

I will start by saying that the Romanian LGBTQ scene is growing, becoming more and more visible and active. There are some gay communities in the country and the fight for equal rights is ongoing. But it is a tough, difficult fight as you will see.

Unfortunately, Romania overall is not very gay friendly. While most of the Romanians would not openly criticize members of the LGBTQ community, they would still consider it strange or unnatural. This happens throughout the country, but expect people to be more and more closed-minded in the smaller cities and villages.

lgbtq in romania

One of the main reasons why many Romanians are still not ready to accept gay people and their rights is the fact that the country is a highly religious one. Even the state was often criticized for spending more with the church than they spend on hospitals or schools.

The priests still have a massive influence over the crowds and monstrous things like the People’s Salvation Cathedral are being built.

And since the orthodox religion, by tradition, doesn’t go well hand in hand with accepting homosexuality (among many other things), the people are taught to consider it unnatural and even a sin.

A few years ago, there was even an attempt to modify the country’s constitution to have a definition for the “Traditional family” which was supposed to only exist between a man and a woman.

Over 3 million signatures were gathered from people demanding that there’s a clear definition of a family in the Constitution – and nothing else is accepted.

Fortunately, not enough people ended up voting for this – a minimum number of participants wasn’t met. It was a real, one of its kind campaign back then NOT to go to vote.

But even though the “traditional family” definition didn’t go through, the reality is that many Romanians are far from being considered gay or LGBTQ friendly.

However, despite these worryingly facts – including a relatively recent scandal when the Romanian government refused to accept a married gay couple in the country because Romania doesn’t recognize gay marriage (but they were forced to do so by the EU, since the couple was married in the European Union and they should have the same rights in all countries)…

So, as I was saying, despite all these happenings and facts, the younger population is more open minded and have a healthy and sane approach to LGBTQ members. But even here, there are many bad examples.

How is life in Romania for gay people?

how is Romania treating gay men

Now, more than ever, being gay in Romania is not as much frowned upon as it was some 10 years and more ago. People in the larger cities are starting to at least accept gay men and women around them, although there’s still a long way to go.

You will rarely, if ever, see men holding hands while walking down the streets, in bars or restaurants. Any sort of public display of affection – even hugs – would start a staring competition and might even result in some sort of abuse.

As you see, I said “men holding hands”. For women, things are a bit easier. It’s not uncommon for girls and women to hold hands, hug and be very close, so they don’t draw too much attention. And generally, they are less frowned upon than men are.

In the 90s and even early 2000s, you would’ve been crazy to come out as gay. Gay people were beaten and abused and up to a degree this still happens in Romania even today.

There are a few more places that are gay-only in Bucharest and apparently in Cluj Napoca – but that’s about it. The rest of the country doesn’t really offer exclusive places for LGBTQ members to spend their time in mingling with others.

There might be some unofficial ones that the communities know about, but unfortunately I am not extremely knowledgeable in this area.

So, in most of the country, being openly gay or even bisexual might still come as a shock. You will draw attention and at the very best just draw some serious stares if you and partner hold hands (and if you are men).

Kissing would probably be considered the ultimate sin in most places in Romania and even though I doubt that people will actually become violent, there’s always this possibility.

Things are changing though

At our son’s Christening party, for example, our son’s Godfather and Godmother (it’s actually something similar, I don’t really know has an English translation) were members of the LGBTQ community. The godfather in particular drew some stares and whispers – he is a trans man, known by most our guests as a woman.

It was an ultimate test – both for himself, as well as the crowd. But everything went well, in the end. Some of the guests were honestly curious about the situation and seemed to understand it, a very low number hinted at the fact that “it’s not normal” but most people just enjoyed the party.

Many of the younger people we know are open about their sexual preferences and even more are starting to accept it as a fact, without making too much fuss about it. We’re still a long way from being able to say that Romania is LGBTQ friendly, but at least we’re on the right track.

So we could say that the future looks good and bright and colorful. Even though things are a bit gloomy right now, it’s much better than it was several years ago and I am sure that after a few more years, Romanians will be even more open minded when it comes to members of the LGBTQ community.

But right now, Romania is definitely not one of the most gay friendly country in the world.

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12 Comments

  1. Like you, Calin, this is a subject where I may not be an authority, but because of certain friends and relatives I have a passing interest. I was pleased to hear a couple of months ago where, under pressure from the European Court of Justice, Romania would be granting marital rights to same-sex couples. Although the process will certainly be very slow, I believe this legal decision will ultimately provide a path that can normalize these relationships in the eyes of the general public. It was less than a year before when the notorious homophobic American zealot Kim Davis made headlines as she trotted about Romania speaking her obsessive hate of gay marriage to anyone who would listen. For those who may not know, Davis was a Kentucky county clerk who had been jailed for failure to fulfill the legal requirements of her job when she refused to issue marriage licenses for same-sex couples, citing her personal religious beliefs. It was this dubious honor which provided the notoriety that raised her from a backwater civil servant to national, and ultimately international fame. It seemed, at least as one would read in the press, she found a ready audience in many of the people in deeply religious Romania. However, I don’t think I’ve personally seen anything that would make me wary of inviting my LGBTQ friends for a visit. As at your son’s Christening party, there could definitely be stares and whispers. What I don’t know, though, is whether I could recommend Romania as country in which to emigrate. At least not yet.

    1. Great comment, as always! I wasn’t aware about Kim Davis, to be honest, but I am not surprised to hear that she found a crowd here :)Hopefully things will change indeed and recommending the country as a great one to come to, no matter what your race is or your preferences, will be easier in the near future.

  2. Calin:
    GREAT ARTICLE!
    It’s pretty much the same everywhere. People are set in their ways, and
    anything which goes against the grain is either feared or fought.
    It’s true that the younger generations are more accepting, and as the older (moi) generation passes, things will get better for the LGTBQ community.
    I would imagine abortion is a no-no in Romania, too. I believe in a woman’s right, but I know this is a hot-button issue everywhere.
    If I were you, I’d sell your cottage, and try to get more money than you paid. I bet all the fruit was nicked again, too.;-)
    Again–great, well-written post!
    ~Teil (USA)

    1. Teil, strangely, abortion is not as frowned upon in the country. It is actually legal and ladies can go to a doctor to get an abortion easily. Strangely, the people living in the villages don’t consider it as a sin – as they do with other things. I hadn’t thought about how strange this is, but you’ve opened my eyes on the matter 🙂

      Regarding the cottage – selling it for what we paid – even though it was extremely low by Western standards, would be probably impossible. Everybody is running away from the villages and properties there are extremely cheap and spend ages on the market…

  3. The culture in Romania is so different than in the U.S. that when I am in Romania something always surprises me. For example I have often seen grown women walking hand in hand in Romania. I perceived it was a mother and her adult daughter. In the U.S. I do not see this although I see gay women holding hands infrequently. This is not common except in some locales. Then there is the kissing “thing”. I am still adjusting to kissing my male relatives when we meet. 🙂

    1. Haha, yeah, kissing and hugging is the norm here, as well as ladies holding hands. When I was in school and during my college years, whenever two girls met, they had to kiss and hug. I’m not sure if this is still done today, tough. Things would be a bit different if it were males holding hands and kissing, though…

  4. Great post C! I’m not surprised at the attitude of the people there. It’s the same as in Nigeria. All these religious nut jobs and their beliefs. I’ve been around gay people ever since l moved to the States. It’s been interesting to say the least watching how people react. My best friend’s parents were the most homophobic people ever and were so critical. They had to face some ugly truths about themselves when my friend finally told them he was gay. Live and let live is my motto. Take care of your own shit and stop poking around other peoples lives 🙂

    1. Exactly! There are so many other things to worry about anyway. If everybody would understand this, life would be so much easier and pleasant. But hopefully time will heal all these wounds and open the eyes that have to be opened…

  5. Calin:
    It’s funny that in “Western” society, women hugging, kissing, and holding hands is perfectly fine (in a non-sexual manner.) But see men doing the same and it’s a cause for verbal and physical abuse.
    Funny, it’s customary for men to hold hands in some parts of the Arab world. Italians, the Dutch, the French have a kind of kissing on the cheek to great each other – to say that I am your friend, and we trust each other, and care about each other. (Maybe this is true in Romania?) The intensity of that kiss depends on how close you are – in terms of family, friendship. Arabs, Iranians, and Turks, and people from southern Italy will often kiss other males on the cheek. Kissing women on the cheek is not generally done, though some liberal Arabs would do that because they have more relaxed notions in terms of how men and women relate to each other, but it’s not so common, and it would be in more private settings around their clique. In short, it’s a way to show that someone is your friend, that you trust that person, and the person’s dear to you. However, cheek kissing is done in different ways in many countries including in parts of Western Europe.
    Of course this is all curtailed with the virus and mask wearing.
    Stay well and pray for the USA!
    ~Teil

    1. Indeed, things vary around the globe. As you said, it’s not uncommon for males to hug and kiss on the cheeks: it’s usually reserved to family and close friends, but it is indeed done as a greeting. I also remember that I loved it back in my high school years that girls were usually greeting us with a kiss on the cheek… but that’s another story, hehehe.

  6. At least Romania is not doing what Poland is doing right now. Declaring that some regions are homosexual free. They are not allowed to even exist there! I found this shocking, considering Hitler wiped out so many people there, like he did in other countries. So one would think experiencing the extermination of people who are viewed differently would be more accepting. But I guess you can blame religion for this too. This is really upsetting and has indeed made me change my future holiday plans of visiting Poland. I just can’t spend my money on a country if that country is deliberately discriminating against a group of people. It’s very disappointing. You can read that article about it here:

    https://www.cnn.com/interactive/2020/10/world/lgbt-free-poland-intl-scli-cnnphotos/

    When I was visiting Bucharest in 2018 and having dinner with my model friend Lia, this subject was brought up. It was clear her views were very conservative regarding this. I found it surprising since she is young. My other friend with me on the other hand, was much more supportive of the LGBTQ community. So I guess it just depends. And Lia was more religious, so this type of thinking is definitely with these views about the LGBTQ community. Hopefully they will have more progressive views and attitudes about this as time goes on.

    Brian

    1. Yes, there are countries where things are even worse, for sure. And I also agree that many of the younger people are still very religious and conservative. But overall, things are better than they were 10 years ago and with more aggressive campaigns, I am sure that 10 years from now, things will be much, much better.

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