The Life of a Gay Man in Romania

We both love Romania. That’s no big secret. Romania is no fan of the LGBT community, however. I had a taste of what it is like to be a gay man there when we lived in Brasov in 2013. While there have been positive changes—mostly because of the fall of Communism and the necessary changes to become part of the European Union—things are still not where they need to be for the LGBT people living there.

After the interviews I did with gay people living in Malaysia, I received many requests to continue the series in other countries where it can be challenging to be gay. In a country where people feel they have to remain deeply embedded in the closet, it can be tough finding someone who is willing to speak about their experiences, even anonymously. Thankfully, “C,” a young gay man living in western Romania has stepped forward.

Gay man in Romania

Please tell our readers a little about yourself including your name, age, and anything else you think would be helpful.

C, 22 years old and still in the closet. The only people that know about me are my parents, who are embarrassed and don’t accept the situation. Living a quiet life after a disappointing relationship.

At what point did you realize you were gay, and did it take you a while to accept it?

I think I knew about this when I was 6 or 7 years old, but I didn’t know how to name it. At around 17-18 I knew that I was gay. The way I found out was that I felt attraction for a teacher from school.

Romania is a religiously conservative country. What role has religion played in your life growing up, and what role does it play for you as an adult now?

My family wasn’t a very religious one. Everyone had their own beliefs. My father is atheist, my sister the same, and I’m the same. We never went to church, and we weren’t connected to the church. I was baptized Catholic but that’s all. Now it’s the same thing, I don’t find any connection with religion.

Are you able to be out with your family members? Coworkers?

My family found out some months ago, but they don’t like it. They don’t accept it, and they don’t want to speak about it. My sister and my father are not talking to me now. Nobody else in Romania knows about me. Outside, I have friends that know the truth.

When my mother found out, she told me that she had pills (like vitamins) for the family, and she put together a list of psychologists for me to see.

Life as a gay man in Romania

I’ve read that Romanian men can be so closeted that even if you spot them making out with another man in a club they’ll deny they’re gay or bi. What has your experience been?

I agree with this. For example, on online gay sites everybody that’s over 35 lists himself as married to hide better. Nobody wants to share a picture because they are scared of being made public. But this probably happens because until 1995 (I might be wrong with 1-2 years) being gay was forbidden and everybody that admitted it was jailed.

Knowing somebody in Romania is very difficult. As I said, nobody wants to speak or reveal his identity. I was in a relationship with somebody for a while, but it was online 95% of time because of his social status. When we used to meet we were flying somewhere in Europe to have more freedom. I later found out he was married with children.

How difficult is it for a gay man to live in Romania? You’re in a larger city. Do you feel that life where you live is different for a gay person than in other large cities in the country?

Bucharest is a bit different. It has more tourists and people coming for business than in other cities in Romania. The diversity brings more gay people, so the opportunity of meeting somebody (for sex or relationships) is bigger than in the other parts of the country.

When it comes to difficulties, imagine that in 22 years in Romania I haven’t seen more than 3 gay couples on the street. Why? Because the effect of appearing in public as gay could be devastating for yourself—risk of being beaten, lose your job, friends, etc.

Gay man in Romania

Do you ever feel concerned for your safety when visiting a gay club or going on a date? How do you deal with relationships in a place where being closeted is the norm?

I don’t live for the gay life. I prefer my quiet life, so I don’t really go to gay clubs. But I would go on a date without hesitation. It’s nice to meet somebody and to try to build something together. For the right person I would do anything to have a normal relationship, even if I would avoid showing this in public. If there will ever be an opportunity, I think that living in another country would be the best thing. I am not desperate about this, but I think that having somebody is something that could boost the quality of my life.

Do you find it difficult to find men to date? If you and a partner wanted to live together, what precautions do you feel would be necessary?

Yes. It’s always hard to find somebody in Romania. I don’t know if I’m too picky and maybe look for men in a very restricted niche. 😉

Living together is possible. Everybody in Romania (especially fresh graduates) tend to share a flat because the prices of 2- to 3-room flats are cheaper than 1-room flats. I would definitely try to avoid kissing in public, holding hands or anything that could show my sexual orientation, though.

According to some surveys, Romanians dislike homosexuals only marginally less than the Roma. What has been your experience?

I think that gays are hated in Romania even more than the Roma people.

What advice would you give an LGBT foreigner who wanted to move to Romania?

Dating is OK, especially in Bucharest, but Romanians are known as scammers all over the world so try to be careful. Avoid kissing, holding hands, or cuddling in public. Anything else is fine.

We’d like to thank C for sharing a glimpse of what it’s like to be a gay man in Romania. It definitely has me thinking about some things.

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  1. Having visited Romania as one providing humanitarian aid initially then shoe box Christmas gifts to the orphanages etc. I have met several closeted Gay men.
    My heart goes out to them. Back home in UK I have always made my home available for individuals to stay and experience the gay community around the country.

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  2. Hi I read your piece about romania, there is not much else out there. I have a friend who is Romanian living in london he is 25 and was just outed to his family. His mother called him a demon and said he can never go home, she calls him often to just say he is sick.
    I’ve tried to talk to him but think if he could talk to another Romanian gay guy it might help. Is there anything you can suggest . Thanks for anything you can suggest as he is having a rough time. Chris

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  3. It’s really hard to be gay in Romania. The repression and the internalized homophobia I had to go through made me suffer a lot… At least now I’ve accepted myself and I’m trying to not hate myself because of it.

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    • I’m glad you’ve accepted yourself. I’m hoping things will continue to change in Romania and not take 50 years to do that.

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      • Thanks for the encouraging thoughts.

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    • You think being gay in Europe is difficult?? Try being gay in West Africa

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      • There are many places throughout the world where it is dangerous, and sometimes potentially deadly, to be a member of the LGBTQ community. Parts of Europe are definitely safer than many other countries.

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    • My heart goes out to you
      But always remember it’s what you feel about yourself and accepting yourself that matters

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  4. The anti-gay bigotry in Romania is promoted by both the Orthodox and Catholic churches but even more by the American Fundamentalists like the Baptists, Pentecostals, Yehova witnesses and Adventists, financed the the corresponding USA organizations.The so-called organization for families even has fascist overtones.

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  5. Indeed, it is terrible to think that nowadays the great majority of human being still minds if their neighboor are two men living together or if some job female mate dates another woman. But this becomes such a minor problem when we think about Syria being governed by a man that self ruinned its country, or that till 30 years ago Roemnia was governed by one of the most satanic ditactor for more than a decade and nobody did nothing and that in two weeks maybe almost half of US citiens will vote for Donald Trump, and……and……

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    • I’m not sure how you made that leap. Syria having a dictator has nothing to do with someone having to fear for their life in their home because of who they love.

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  6. “Avoid kissing, holding hands, or cuddling in public. Anything else is fine”. Anything like… breathing? hahahahaha… sorry, so sad actually!

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  7. I just discovered your blog. I really really like it. As for this piece, I never knew Romania (and surely other places in the world) to be so close-minded. I have never left the US, so I guess chalk it up as another assumption. I can’t imagine being raised in this culture…my parents raised me with beliefs that everyone should be free to live their life however it pleases them. I have broadened that notion, sometimes even debating and reasoning within myself on the Mormons out west and their common practice of men having several wives. Anyways, this is so very sad and makes me grateful to be in America. Even if half the country is nuts for supporting Trump and disputing that transgender ppl have the right to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity.

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    • Well, America is hardly the bastion of open-mindedness. There is a large section of the population that is worse than the Romanian mindset, and one is far more likely to be beat up for being LGBT in the US than in most of Eastern Europe. And in western Europe, people are generally FAR more open minded than a lot of the US. So, I hope you do get out of America and see what other culture have to offer as well. 😉

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  8. In romania there are pre 1995 laws that still exist like if 3 or more people complain that you are holding hands , making out and stuff you can be charged for vandalism 5yrs in prison and a 500 ron fine ..

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  9. Romania has a culture of shame, and anything that might “betray” the church and is uncommon is strictly criticised by the society. Fortunately there is hope. Most of the students in universities that are very connected to other countries through the internet tend to have a more open mind. Very religious people no matter what age or education however don’t give any reasonable arguments except GOD and SATAN. Oh, at least the number of such dogmatic beliefs is decreasing. Thank you God, haha. I am disgusted by straight couples who literally lick themselves in public places. This for me is not appropriate. Intense sexual acts shouldn’t be displayed in public, but a little kiss and holding hands is fine : ). We are all human beings and we all deserve to be loved and to love whoever want, as long as this has the consent of both sides. A lot of people compare gay people with pedophiles, sorry but that little child is not old enough to agree to something like this. There is no term of comparison. I wish I could see gay couples on the street holding hands and walking proudly. This would be a sign that our society is evolving.

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  10. Wow. That is chilling. I remember you said it was tough while you were there but I had no idea just how tough. Thanks for posting this. It’s important for us to know and remember as people get more accepting in the US that there are still many places where it is seen as aberrant.

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    • Yes, indeed. And there are places in Eastern Europe that are worse than Romania when it comes to this. This was one of the reasons I wasn’t sure Romania could be our long-term base.

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  11. So sad. At least your interviewee hasn’t suffered much from religious repression, but it’s still terrible that people have to live like this. All the best to him.

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    • Very much so, esp when you travel to other countries and realize how much more open it can be.

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  12. I find it interesting how some places can be open minded and others can be so closed minded.
    There are some places where you will see two heterosexual males walking down the street holding hands because they are friends and walking together, and it is not looked at as anything other than two friends walking together. And if the assumption is that they are gay then it is as passing as “They are both wearing the same team football shirt, they must be fans.” Nothing more.
    Yet you go to other places and gay male partners will act more hetero so as not to attract attention.
    I understand some of the arguments for it yet…
    Here in the States I know, or knew some gay men who left their small hometowns and moved to the larger cities for the same reasons. It gave them a chance to be who they were without the disapproval of their family and childhood friends. I guess that Romania will have to go through the changes that happened here in the States, and eventually they to will change, with time.
    I am in Texas now and there is a mix of views but it is nice to see people talk about there relationships (LGTB or straight)without fear of reprisal from strangers.
    I hope “C” can find who he is looking for, even if he has to move to a more tolerant area.

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    • It can be quite interesting indeed. I remember being in Morocco and getting worried for a couple of men who were walking hand in hand. Then I recalled in their culture that straight men can show affection with each other freely.

      Being reminded of the challenges in Romania has certainly forced me to rethink it as a possible long-term base. We both love it there, but I really don’t relish the idea of feeling like I have to live in the closet again. And it’s already hard enough finding dating prospects as it is much less in a culture like this.

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    • Romania is still in the dark ages and they need to come into the 21 centry, I feel very deeply for the gay people more for them than the rest of Romania people. the government of Romania is so bad, as is the any one in power, they take from the poor and keep the money for them self’s as any one in government. I know several people that live there, the government is killing it’s own people, if you don’t have money and your sick they will let you die instead of helping you. when your salary is only 250 dollars a month how do you live. Then their the gypsy’s they rob steal and kill if you give them any trouble and it is said they just pay the government and get any thing they want. The Romania people need help and to be eduacated so they can have better lives.

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      • John, i’m not saying that our country doesn’t have issues, corruption is a very serious one and our health system has a lot to improve on but saying we like in the dark ages based on things you’ve heard is a bit of a stretch and slightly offensive.
        Romania is a country of contrasts, welcoming lovely people and bigot uneducated assholes. While i hope the later group will diminish in time can you truly tell me that any country is free of them?
        @Talon, your post is old and who knows if you’ll ever read this but i felt the need to point something out. I’m a 30 year old woman from Cluj-Napoca and in my not so short existence i’ve seen the change, from not even knowing that gay people exist to meeting a few, or seeing some on the street ( oddly enough only girls). I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to want to act normal and show affection just like anyone else is free to do in public, and i understand gay people are hesitant to do so for safety reasons, but i can’t help to think that it’s a sort of public education that you could to to make things better. My point being that if two men holding hands or kissing is an odd and unusual fact people will pay attention, and idiots will act against it. But when this becomes more common the haters will be less prone to act out of fear of the rest of the population who shoes tolerance and acceptance.
        One last thing, the USA and other countries have had decades of “free country” culture, the acceptance of LGBT people was a long and tedious process. Romania has come out of communism 20 years ago and is trying to catch up but there is only so much change you can do in that much time. Things will get better.

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