Day Three – Jewish, Roma and LGBTQI intersectionality

Posted on Thursday, August 30th, 2018

Bella Lever is “particularly struck by the interaction and overlap” between the organisations that the Fellows encounter on Day Three. 

We began our third day in Budapest by meeting with Tamas Dombas of the Háttér Society, to hear about its advocacy and support services for the LGBTQI community. To provide a framework for the issues faced by LGBTQI communities across Europe, Tamas categorised problems as relating to legislation, social attitudes or law enforcement. Focusing on legislation, Tamas led an interactive discussion on topics ranging from parental rights, to asylum claims, to legal recognition of gender identity, highlighting the approaches to these issues across Europe.

Peter Neuman then led us through the program on Jewish identity that the Haver Foundation provides in schools, to satisfy a void that the Hungarian government has failed to address in the education system. Through a blend of personal storytelling and dynamic debate, the Haver Foundation imparts an understanding of the various strands of Jewish identity to high school students.

“I was particularly struck by the interaction and overlap between the organisations” 

We then joined Bettina, a member of the Roma community and a volunteer for the Uccu Roma Informal Educational Foundation, for a tour of District VIII, a predominantly Roma area often viewed negatively by Budapest’s locals. Bettina revealed the Roma history rooted in the district’s shops, schools and playgrounds, and stopped outside a block of flats to show us two ‘stumbling stones’: memorials to previous Jewish residents who perished in the Holocaust. Bettina spoke of the difficulty in uncovering the Roma history of the Porajmos, and of the lack of any meaningful acknowledgement of the genocide of Roma in Hungary.

“Bettina revealed the Roma history rooted in the district’s shops, schools and playgrounds”

Over the course of the tour, we reflected on some resemblances of dress, history and tradition between Roma and Jewish communities. Standing by memorial stones to Jews who had died in the Shoah, whilst speaking of the Roma experience of the Porajmos, was striking in both the similarities and the differences it evoked.

Our final meeting of the day was with Dezso Mate, a social psychologist whose research on intersectionality focuses on Roma LGBTQI people, and the overlapping oppression they face. He began with an overview of Roma history, and spoke particularly of the struggle to understand and articulate Roma identity and culture after centuries of being persecuted, fetishized, romanticised and defined as an ‘other’ in their own countries.

Dezso highlighted that research on Gypsy Roma Traveller (GRT) communities is compiled by white, middle-class, hetero-normative men, and suffers from a glaring lack of research on issues faced by LGBTQI Roma people, who are put at risk of marginalisation within Roma communities, and who are excluded by mainstream LGBTQI movements.

“research on GRT communities is compiled by white, middle-class, hetero-normative men”

We ended the day with Havdalah, followed by a group reflection on the day’s activities. I was particularly struck by the interaction and overlap between the organisations we had heard from, and the importance of the work they do in a climate increasingly hostile to minorities.

Saturday 26th May 2018