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Coming out to others

Coming out in the Gypsy Roma Traveller communities

Gypsy Roma and Traveller LGBTQLGBT+ issues are largely a taboo subject within Gypsy Roma Traveller (GRT) communities which leads to LGBT+ GRTs often feeling isolated. Many hide their sexual identity fearing rejection by family and their community, others because of family pressure and religious beliefs which is why they conform to tradition, get married and have children.

There is no research or statistics to refer to in evidencing the hidden problem of homophobia within the Gypsy Roma Traveller communities against their own LGBT+ community but this indicates how taboo and hidden the problem is. From casework engagement with the wider Gypsy Roma Traveller NGO sector and other stakeholder groups the Traveller Movement are acutely aware this is a real but hidden issue within the Gypsy Roma Traveller community. The shame and guilt inflicted on LGTB+ community members has and can force many to live their lives in total denial, in secret and fearing for their health and wellbeing.1

Getting the language right

The term Gypsy, Roma and Traveller has been used by policy-makers and researchers to describe a range of ethnic groups or those with nomadic ways of life who are not from a specific ethnicity. In the UK, it is common to differentiate between Gypsies (including English Gypsies, Scottish Gypsy/Travellers, Welsh Gypsies and other Romany people), Irish Travellers, who have specific Irish roots, and Roma, understood to be more recent migrants from Central and Eastern Europe. In continental Europe, however, all groups with nomadic histories are categorised as “Roma”, a much broader term that, while it includes Gypsies and Irish Travellers, is not the way in which most British communities would identify themselves.

The term Traveller can also encompass groups that travel, including, but not limited to, New Travellers, Boaters, Bargees and Showpeople. While these communities share many of the barriers faced by people who are ethnically Gypsy, Roma and Irish Traveller, covering all these groups in a single inquiry would not do justice to their needs. Our hope is that the recommendations in this report will benefit not only those that are in the three groups we have focussed on but everyone who travels or is not a part of the settled community.

We asked many members of the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities how they preferred to describe themselves. While some find the term “Gypsy” to be offensive, many stakeholders and witnesses were proud to associate themselves with this term and so we have decided that it is right and proper to use it, where appropriate, throughout the report. We also heard many other terms used to refer to the Communities that are completely unacceptable and hate speech will be explored in Chapter 6 of this report.

Gypsies and some Traveller ethnicities have been recognised in law as being ethnic groups protected against discrimination by the Equality Act 2010.1 Others, such as New Travellers, have either been deemed not to be protected or have not tested their rights in court. Migrant Roma are protected both by virtue of their ethnicities and their national identities.

As the inquiry progressed, we heard evidence that suggested to us that migrant Roma communities face inequalities that are very different to those faced by Gypsies and Travellers. Therefore, Chapter 7 of this report is dedicated to Roma-specific issues. Elsewhere in the report where Roma are included, this is explicit. Where Roma are not mentioned, the recommendations apply to Gypsy and Traveller communities only. These variations are deliberate to help the reader to understand which groups we mean to include. On occasion, the word Communities is used as a shorthand to refer to Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities as a whole.

Tackling inequalities faced by Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities | Seventh Report of Session 2017–19 | Point 2-6 | Parliament UK

Terminology

 

The Traveller Movement
The Traveller Movement

Traveller Pride (Trans & Non-Binary Solidarity Fund)
Traveller Pride

LGBT traveller/ gypsy

‘There are so many harmful stereotypes out there’: What it’s like to be a Traveller today | Metro | 12 Feb 2022
LGBT+ Travellers: ‘A lot of the community are ignorant towards the trans issue’ | The Irish Times | 25 Apr 2021
Priti Patel using LGBT+ and women’s rights to sweeten cruel policing bill, critics say | Pink News | 21 Feb 2021
‘Most families find it shameful’ – Finding pride in a community where being gay is taboo | 6 Nov 2019
Being a gay traveller | RTE News | 30 Sep 2019
'It’s hard being a traveller and being gay - it doesn’t mix' | Manchester Evening News | 28 Apr 2018
Campaign launched for LGBT Irish Travellers and Gypsies who have ‘nowhere to turn’ | Travellers Times | 17 Oct 2017

LGBT Gypsies and Travellers: Our Stories | Traveller Movement | 24 Oct 2017 | 9m 54s

GRT LGBTQ+ Spoken History Archive | Romani Cultural and Arts Company
The Romani Cultural & Arts Company has launched the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller LGBTQ+ Spoken History Archive. This online resource is the result of research carried out by the RCAC, with the support of the European Roma Institute for Arts and Culture, and gives insight into the experience of LGBTQ+ individuals from a variety of international Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities.

GRT LGBTQ+ Spoken History Archive | Romani Cultural and Arts Company

1Adapted from Support for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller LGBT+ people and their families | The Traveller Movement, Resource for London | 2019
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