Brussels is a place where I can be Roma, Muslim and gay.Together with a few friends, we have established a small NGO to help provide support to queer people who move here from Balkan countries.Photography and interview by Samra Habib Who: Raissa, Brussels My family knew that I was transgender since I was a child in Mali.
Growing up, I was kept hidden by my family so that no one would know that I’m trans.
When guests would ask about me, my parents would lie and say they didn’t know where I was.
I got really good at school because I couldn't have a social life.
Photography and interview by Samra Habib Who: Biser, Brussels When I was 20, there was a 17-year-old guy in my village who was also gay. I grew up in a small village in North-Eastern Bulgaria in a Roma Muslim community where my grandfather was the imam and had an important social position.
We never spoke about our sexuality because in my small community in Bulgaria, being gay is taboo. Men in the village knew that if they wanted to have sex and couldn’t find a woman who would sleep with them, they could just go to him. When he turned 17, his mother decided to marry him off to a girl. I am the only son in a family of six children, I have five sisters.
Everyone knew that it was because he was gay and didn’t want to live a straight life, but no one said anything, neither did I. I hope gay men will feel empowered to stand up for themselves in my community. I’m talking about this today because I feel strong enough to stand for something that happens in my country.Until I turned 34, I never talked about my sexuality with anyone from my community or family but then I decided to unload the burden and share with my parents.They asked me to keep it secret from our community.I now live in Brussels where I’ve met many gay Roma boys from Bulgaria.Some of them enjoy the freedom here while others have been pushed into prostitution because of poverty and for not having any support from their families.