Full Disclosure: I was invited to participate in Experience Romania with no expectations of deliverables. I give my honest opinion of some of the events that occurred during this trip and draw a conclusion based on that. I afforded all parties involved the opportunity to give their input but received none. I welcome any organizer of the event or representative of the regions mentioned or Romania as a country to email me with their input and will be happy to include it in this article.
Traveling around the world is great fun and I can’t say I don’t enjoy my job. While it is a constantly developing endeavor, writing this blog, meeting all sorts of people, having incredible new experiences, and building something from the ground up is rather rewarding. As a result of how much I truly enjoy what I do, I often forget being a travel blogger is definitely a job. One of the most important aspects of my job is serving as a face for the LGBT+ Community within the international travel industry. As a result, when I received the opportunity to visit Romania, I jumped on it. Romania, and much of eastern Europe, has a bit of a reputation for not being gay friendly. So I wanted to experience the country and determine is Romania gay friendly?
Bucharest, Romania: Gay Friendly?
My reason for visiting Romania was to participate in a press trip with about 50 other bloggers during which we would explore the capital city of Bucharest as well as the northern part of the country. I visited Bucharest earlier in the year and absolutely loved the city so I thought exploring another part of the country would be an excellent opportunity. Not only that, it would give me the opportunity to represent the LGBT+ Community during this huge tourism event. All totaled, there were about four LGBT representatives so it was nice to be part of it. Exploring Bucharest for the second time afforded me the chance to learn and experience things I did not the first time. If I based my conclusion solely on the city of Bucharest, the answer to the question “Is Romania gay friendly” would be a yes. Of course, I wasn’t walking around flaunting my gayness or holding hands with a guy in public or anything of that nature. There aren’t very many gay establishments in the city and anything you might happen upon is all very hush-hush. It’s almost as though the city has a don’t ask, don’t tell policy in place. Nevertheless, I did meet plenty of gay people who seemed to enjoy their lives in the city and I never felt any kind of threat or anything. That’s more than what can be said for a lot of other places in the world.
But is Romania gay friendly? There is a bit more to this story…
After the Bucharest portion of this press trip, the organizers scheduled a conference where they could talk up the country, have representatives from different regions speak, and have a question and answer session with the bloggers and influencers in attendance. During this conference, we sat around basically listened to a lot of praise for the organizers and such which, at the time, I’d say was rightfully bestowed. However, in my opinion, everything can’t be all sunny days and butterflies so I decided to ask a question that REALLY needed to be addressed. I leaned over to my friend and said “I’m about to ask a controversial question.” I raised my hand and was handed the microphone and said the following to the panel consisting of a representative from the Bukovina region, the city of Sibiu, and Constanța.
Hi, my name is Jose Harvey, I’m from the United States, and write the blog My Normal Gay Life. As you can probably tell from my blog’s name, I write about travel focused on an LGBT audience. We live in a world where LGBT people are increasingly more and more accepted by society and this segment is a huge source of revenue when it comes to travel. Travelers tend to be more liberal-minded and I think it’s important to a lot of people here to understand what you all are doing/have done in your respective regions to promote diversity and ensure LGBT people are protected should they travel to your area of the world.
Then I sat down and it was quite obvious from the looks on the panel participant’s faces that they did not expect this kind of question. The head organizer allowed one of the panel members to address my question (verses each panel member addressing each question previous to this moment) before he basically cut their microphones and rushed the conversation forward to the next topic. Her answer was neither adequate nor appropriate. The representative from Constanța, said (obviously a bit paraphrased):
Well, you are all welcome in Constanța. [Great initial response and she probably should have left it at that but…] You will enjoy our beautiful beaches, our beautiful hotels, and our beautiful people. Constanța is waiting for you. There is a very nice hotel towards the end of one of our beaches for the people with your attitude. It’s a hotel perfect for the flower children. You are welcome in Constanța.
Now, this was kind of mindbogglingly insensitive. My understanding is the organizers of the press trip are endeavoring to paint and promote Romania as a tourist destination. Many, many of the other bloggers were also rather shocked and confused by this response as well as the lack of response from any one else. It sounded as though she was saying being LGBT is an attitude or choice and if we visited we should stay in one section of this area because that’s where we belong. Needless to say, I was not very thrilled by the response. Perhaps, it was all lost in translation or perhaps everyone in the audience understood her words incorrectly. I’m not entirely sure and it was never resolved. I tried speaking to this woman specifically after the panel discussion but she seemed to avoid me. In any case, this incident did not really paint Romania gay friendly.
The Rest of the Trip
During the remainder of the tour, I didn’t really feel unwelcome. Of course, there were definitely no LGBT establishments in any other region or city of Romania we visited. I’ve heard Cluj-Napoca has a great LGBT+ scene but we did not visit this city. Hopping onto Grindr, quickly demonstrated there at least existed a fairly large population of gay men, albeit mostly closeted and discreet gay men. There were moments when I noticed mentioning my husband seemed awfully strange and novel to the people I spoke with and in some villages I censored my language going as far as not mentioning the name of my blog.
Another issue which is indirectly related to a country being LGBT-friendly is treatment of women. For the most part, I felt women were treated equally. However, there were a few incidences which led me to believe misogyny is quite normal in Romania and it really did bother me. A situation arose where one of the organizers of this press trip would not stop pushing a female, American blogger to dance with him. At one point, he basically had her cornered and was bouncing his ass on her. We felt the need to guard our female colleagues against him and eventually we left to help our friend who lost it as a result of the organizers actions. This was sexual harassment. Period. He denied it ever happening, called everyone liars, and attempted to discredit anyone who spoke against him. Another thing which bothered me a bit was every time one of our female colleagues asked the organizers to pull the bus over for a bathroom break, the organizers would make fun of them for needing to use the restroom. It was like they didn’t seem to care about the needs of the women on the bus.
The last major thing that happened was an incident during which a female blogger’s equipment was destroyed by the main organizer’s dog. Any decent person would see the irrefutable video of the incident and agree to pay for the destroyed property. Instead, this organizer decided to publicly humiliate the blogger and refused to pay for her equipment to be repaired. He went as far as trying to discredit her and then acting as though nothing happened. I really did not like his attitude towards women or his actions. I’m not naming names. But this did, in fact, happen and many people witnessed it. I do realize these are just a few incidences by one person but it left a sour taste in my mouth. I don’t believe this is the norm but combining this with everything else would seem to indicate Romania is not quite gay friendly…or diversity friendly. But let’s continue…
Conclusion : Is Romania gay friendly?
Romania is an incredibly beautiful and underrated country. In my opinion, it will rise to prominence in the next decade much the same as Croatia and Slovenia have risen to become travel destinations not to be missed. The people are, for the most part, kind and caring. They’re hard working and they really want to see their country accomplish great things. In less than three decades, the country has really progressed but their is much work to be done. Attitudes in the country need to change to create a more open, accepting, and at the very least tolerant environment toward LGBT people, women, and diversity. I’ve visited this country twice and plan to visit again at some point in the future. While I would not 100 percent consider Romania gay friendly, I would not deem it anti-LGBT. Like I said, I believe the country has a lot of work left to do but that should not stop anyone from visiting and experiencing the wonders the country offers. Just realize visiting as an LGBT person, may mean adjusting your behavior a bit but that’s really no different than visiting any number of countries of this world. Always remember when you visit a new place, you’re in someone else’s home. That means adjusting our behaviors accordingly.
There may come a day when this is no longer necessary. But for now: Is Romania gay friendly? Yes (with caveats).
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Full Disclosure: I was invited to participate in Experience Romania with no expectations of deliverables. I give my honest opinion of some of the events that occurred during this trip and draw a conclusion based on that. I welcome any organizer of the event or representative of the regions mentioned or Romania as a country to email me with their input and will be happy to include it in this article.
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