We are together, looking for the sky, looking to the earth, and what action will change this world, the injustice.... lesbians, queers, trans women, trans people, dissidents, Romani women from different countries — write this text to bring to light what emerges in places other than writing; to communicate our ongoing and specific life struggles, while at the same time relating them to all of our fights, ‘identities’, engagements
– against the profound interlocking of several dominant relations, we have in common a sense that radical and profound political, cultural and social change is needed; to assert our refusal of everything that tends to categorise us, and to make heard the singularity of our voices and common positions. Our liberation also encapsulates resistance to capitalism, wars, militarisation, violence, the rules of power, imprisonment, expulsions and expatriations, labour exploitation, trafficking in bodies; resistance to homo/trans/lesbophobia, sexism, patriarchy, colonialism, and to dogmas destroying freedom! Our liberation means the protection of ourselves, of those who are ours, of children, the environment, and in favour of sharing wealth!
– to simultaneously highlight the notion of independence and links with our Romani allies, with people of dissenting genders and desires, with anti-racist and decolonial feminists, with others who are oppressed in their struggle, we are receptive to and express our solidarity with all the minorities in the world and across time, who fight, just like us, on multiple fronts, always in the present.
Indeed, intersectionality and the specific interlinking and activation of different sites of struggle, in which we find ourselves living, is no luxury nor a simple intellectual viewpoint for us — it also embodies the notion of putting our ideas in the service of our causes, as well as conceptualising the various intersections of oppression in order to free ourselves from them in a manner that is critical for each and every one of us. This is our point of view which does not pretend to be that of everyone concerned.
While we are discriminated against as women, as people and as Romani people, as people who live non-binary lives and have dissident sexualities and desires, as human beings sustaining precariousness, exclusion on the basis of class and social status, we have an acute awareness of being the bearers of creative forces, of different creative forms of fighting for freedom from domination, alienation and estrangement, which are both exterior and interior.
We are transnational, possessing one central language that we have in common, Romani, and numerous other languages, amidst which we live, reside and move — in our different countries, jobs, in our families, our loves, our arts, in collectives in which we are active, we combat discrimination and injustice with determination; and before us, many other women, Romani women, often disregarded and unrecognised, nonetheless active, subversive and precious, have opened the way for us with their generous, strenuous and sophisticated voices.
We are Romani women, those who have been raced/racialised, not ‘more modern, more presentable, or more shameful, less savage’ than our sisters - our ‘non-conformist’ gender and sexuality has not made us betray our people, races; it is not a pathway to an ‘integration’ into the world of inequalities. We are not exceptions that prove the prejudice and stereotypes of the oppressors. We are not either a fetish or ornaments, masking those power relations that send our beings, our loves, our bodies and our struggle into fringes of society and non-existence.
Different states — starting with those in Europe — have all acted against our Romani people, constructing them based on a notion of the past that never comes to pass: feudal exclusions and slavery over the past centuries, fascisms, extermination under the Nazi regime (and by collaborating slates) — persisting structural Romaphobia — police violence — institutionalisation of expulsions and police violence, of inequalities, the legitimacy of forced sterilisations, illegal abortions, rape — the legacy of European and Community patriarchy... Invisibilisation based on power relations lying at the root of the struggles of Roma, those of Romani women and Roma of dissenting desires and genders does not happen by coincidence; it is about hiding them because they are in fact dangerous for those very power relations — struggles that are, nonetheless, permanent, poetic, and courageous. Perpetrated and exercised ‘externally’ by European states, colonial racism has been unleashed ‘internally’ as well, targeting several populations by means of killing. This goes on in relation to migrants, the poor and raced/racialised, foreigners or those assimilated, the ill, handicapped, vulnerable... Neocolonialism imposes its rule of law and market in humanity, promoting destruction of life and unleashing relentless ‘liberal’ predations. It continues to be disastrous against everything that is ours. We are de facto often deprived of our rights as scapegoats — but we also situate ourselves as elusive, different, obstinate and resistant to this violence that claims to integrate, cut, disintegrate, assimilate, divide, classify and exclude in order to better exploit, dominate, kill, rape and violate.
We maintain that alternative and different practices of organizing life - outside of heteronormative capitalism - are more egalitarian and freer and have always existed; collectively, we facilitate their transmission and development, as well of the advent of new forms.
Resistant to all forms of oppression, Romani feminists have always existed and waged a fight against dependence and incarceration, against the feeling of inferiority, against the notion of being a hindrance to culture, imposed on us by racist, sexist and class oppression. As women, lesbians, trans people, queers, Roma, we are deliberately situated within this transversality; just like our travels, expatriations, interests, our ‘anchorages’ lead us to engaging in a transnational and internationalist reflection.
The questions of health, education, background are key; heterocapitalist institutions dominate and often preclude us from accessing expression, knowledge while, at the same time, plundering our cultures. Folklorism claims to assign to us a single, paternalist representation, according to which ‘femininity’ is traditional or moderne, but always fixed, mutilating; other modes of our existence are despised. The system impedes the visibility of our many richnesses and wants to reduce us to an image, to nothing. In its patriarchal dimension, it asserts that the only way of living that Roma can follow is the heteronormative family with the attendant distribution of tasks, roles etc, and little access to work — to what we have created — in terms of transfer of care, studies... It is the threats, instability, xenophobia, contempt for the numerous competences that we have, and us being sidelined that contribute to imprisonment, leaving us only the urgent need to cope, stealing from us the time necessary for development, maturing and education that every human being needs. Our diversity in its richness fights for our auto-emancipation, as well as for the emancipation of women, of our people, our loves so that we can reclaim our right to the spoken word and, above all, our right to be heard.
From the outset, we have positioned ourselves in an active, intersectional reading of social relations with respect to race, origin, class, sexuality and gender, religion or philosophical allegiances, family and friendships; this brings us joy, as well as some victories… yet, it is a source of many difficulties for us as it concerns profound and long-lasting changes, changes in terms of power relations, of society. Other feminists, queer, anti-racist, especially afrodescendants, have opened voices - we hear them for our singular and common fights -
The tendency, even amongst activists and allies, to replicate the hierarchy of priorities and struggles persists and tends to mute, erase, water down our voices and to keep untouched the sexist pseudo ‘naturalness’ of heterosexuality and the notion of binary: the legacy of racialist patriarchies. The risk of institutional, as well as community recycling and reproduction of these forces is an important one; we are tired of seeing definitions being enunciated by others. Just like many Romani women, we are cultivated, creative and strong. Just like other lesbians, queers and trans people, we assume full responsibility for our lives, choices, affinities, eroticisms and non-binary cultures which are ours — even though ‘coming out’ is not alway the means through which we determine ourselves in order not to severe certain social and familial ties in order not to be exposed to masculine and group violence — even if despair is never too far. Our family ties are complex and even though they are not the only focus in our lives, they are nonetheless a major one — despite frequent partial ruptures linked to the refusal of who we are. We are aware that a fixed hetero way of living, at times violent, is still (partly) assigned to many other women as a result of fractures caused to our families by the dominant history. Many have been held hostage in order to incessantly repair the consequences of institutional romaphobic ill-treatment and to maintain living conditions and survival of their own, of their children. We do not act against our own people but always with, amidst and next to them — against all the oppressive constructions and alienating hierarchies existing both inside and outside.
We also know that appearance is misleading — lack of attention, deafness, ignorance into which people are submerged — by means of the cult of money, lies perpetuated by the media, by ideological intoxication imposed by states and armed multinational corporations, by terror, by the criminalisation of foreigners — produce noise distractions and blind spots in our individual lives and in our voices, voices of rebellion and freedom for Romani women, lesbians and trans people. Our voices do not speak in the same microphones. They are all simply made obscure, believed to be inexistant because they have not been heard, whereas they represent resistance, everyday actions and extraordinary strengths and forces working against dehumanisation.
It is in our awareness of these popular forces, of consisting of several centres, energies, of several places, of several circles and cultures, of being simultaneously different and singular, that we draw on our knowledge and multiple aspects of fight. These profound erotic, subversive and grassroots forces interconnect so that multiple oppressions cease to cut us into pieces. With others, we invent a different world, the struggle against the absurd will of patriarchal/capitalist/racist/dominant/sexist dominance is permanent, without respite: the commodification of human beings, of all living creatures, of the earth for an idiotic, genocidal profit.
There is no one way of proceeding in order to live our struggles, our lives, our friendships and our political desires and affections in a simultaneous and non-hierarchical manner. The need to exchange opinions, to meet each other and to unify manifests itself as potent; the need to express ourselves in relation to our matters concerning Romani women, lesbians and trans, feminists from all of our countries, and at times of several origins and people, allows us to make and contribute to intra- and extra-community alliances, which are fruitful, delightful and lucid. The invisibilisation of the political dimension of our lives needs to stop. The world needs us more than it realises. We and our friends know it.