Marina Csikos about the initiative to start a Romani Gender Expert Collective
My name is Marina Csikós, a Hungarian Roma feminist gender professional, working on the intersection of activism, art, and policy.
I think the first moment I became conscious about my Roma identity, was one in the elementary school during an argument my best friend shouted to me: dirty Gypsy! That moment I understood how people look at me.
As a small child, many times we do not even understand what being ’different’ means until people treat us differently. The moment I was told I am a Gypsy I knew that people do not have good opinions about us. In order to keep my dignity and mental well-being, I developed a kind of copying mechanism: not letting anyone to change my mind about our worth in the world.
In practice it meant that I tried not to interact with people who were racist, had bad behaviour towards marginalized communities (including LGBTI, Muslim, Black people, etc.).
Somehow, I tried to always create my own little world where I am not disrespected because of my ethnic identity. Of course, it does not mean that I was not aware of the discrimination I or other Roma faced. But consciously choosing my friends and the people whose opinion matter to me is something which is important for me till nowadays.
No matter how hard you try to hide your identity, one way or another it will always come to the light. We teach people how to treat us by how we treat ourselves. So, if you want to be treated with dignity and love, then first you should love yourself for who you are.