Lubos left the Czech Republic over a decade ago with his family, while still a child. Self-conscious about being different from his family as a youngster – he never met his non-Roma father – he recalls a chaotic childhood where money was tight and they were frequently evicted from homes. At school he was then singled out by bullies and given daily beatings for being gay. When he came out to his mum she found it difficult to accept and he ended up homeless, staying with a succession of friends until being offered local authority support for the final few months before he turned 18. The Roma community is not an easy place to be gay.

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  • “My dad was Czech. I know nothing about him – my mum just told me that he had loads of tattoos and was often in prison. They had a short fling but then she went back to my sister’s father. When I was born it was quite clear that I had lighter skin than the rest of the family. At school in Czech the teachers used to call me things like ‘you dirty Gypsy boy.’ But then I got bullied by the other Roma kids, and at home when I was beaten by my brothers or mum or step-dad, they’d call me ‘gadjo’ – non-Gypsy.”

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  • “We moved to the UK when I was about eight, and I’ve never been back. I used to be very close to one of my sisters but not anymore. She says she accepts me but I don’t think she does – I think they are all just pretending. My sister always suspected I was gay – she always called me ‘faggot’ as a kid. But then I started going out with girls and it went out of their minds for a while. I thought I fancied them but I didn’t, I just didn’t understand what I was. I was 15 when I knew 100 per cent I was gay and started to accept I was born like this, that it’s who I am.”
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  • “When I came out to my mum, in 2011, she didn’t believe me. She said: ‘You’re not gay, no one in our family is gay.’ I was crying and telling her it was true. And then she got very angry and starting hitting me. She said I mustn’t tell anyone, that she was ashamed and didn’t want people to know. She didn’t speak to me much after that, and I moved out. The Roma community is pretty homophobic. People were calling me bad names and leaving horrible comments on Facebook about me. My brother-in-law thinks I will pass my gayness to his kids if I touch them. I only keep in touch with a few Roma people, and see and speak to my mum only now and again. My gay friends are my new family.”
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  • “Before I came out I was praying to God every single day for help. I read the bible, and I was going to church and kneeling in front of a Mary statue, asking her to help me. I talked to the priest as well, who told me of homosexuals who had been healed through prayer. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to be gay, but I really didn’t want to lose my family and be treated differently to everyone else. Then one day a thought came into my head: ‘You’ve been praying for a long time now and He didn’t help you – you still like boys. It’s not working.’ So I stopped. You can never ever turn straight, those people who say they are ‘cured’ are just pretending.”
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  • “I’ve stayed in a lot of different places since coming out. At one uncle’s they told me I needed to use my own plate, fork and glass. Then they said I had to bring a paper from the doctor’s to show I don’t have any diseases – that if I didn’t do that I’d have to leave, as they had a child. He’d say these things in a jokey way but if you say something 100 times it’s not a joke. Then they bought me my own cup. Eventually I went to the council for help and they said if I put myself in their care they would find me somewhere to live until I turned 18. So I did.”
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  • “The way I see it, women are like slaves in Gypsy culture, they have to do everything. If they don’t do what their men tell them, they get beaten up. Nearly all of my mum’s partners were violent towards her. I remember one of her boyfriends stepping on her head during one attack. Another threw her down the stairs during a drinking session. I’d shout at them to stop and put a pillow over my head so I couldn’t hear. Sometimes I’d try to separate them. I was always very worried for my mum but I’m convinced she must like this kind of life because I’d always be the one who was blamed if they broke up. She’d rather put up with this shit than end up alone, which I can’t understand myself. I’m happy that I’m gay and not straight, because I’m free of all that.”
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