Jan 28, 2015

Gypsy Men

Most likely the first time I heard the term "gypsy" was on a 1966 episode of The Andy Griffith Show: when Andy tries to eject a band of gypsies, they put a curse on the town of Mayberry. Jamie Farr, later Corporal Klinger of MASH, played Greco.

Or maybe in a 1969 Harvey comic in which Little Dot visits her uncle in an Eastern European country and becomes embroiled in a complex plot involving a deposed king and gypsies.

Certainly by the summer of 1969, when I was watching Dark Shadows in the trailer in the deep woods.  The story arc, set in 1897, featured Grith Grayson Hall as Magda the Gypsy, who put a werewolf curse on Quentin Collins.

"Don't ever go near a gypsy," Aunt Mavis cautioned.  "They steal boys and take them away."

"What do they do with them?" I asked.

She gave me a vague, noncommittal answer.  Maybe she didn't even know their intent.  Wasn't it enough that they grabbed boys, stole them from their beds, whisked them away to never be seen again?

A few years later, I was told about swishes, who also lurked in the shadows, waiting to grab boys.

Swishes and gypsies had many parallels, as if they were two names for the same sinister species.
1. Traveling around, with no permanent home.
2. Wearing flamboyant, feminine costumes, with many rings and chains.
3. Untrustworthy, always conniving, grifting, stealing.
4. Violent, passionate, sexual.
5. A particular danger to children.

The actual Romani people originated in India and still speak an Indo-Aryan language.  They began traveling through Europe around 1000 AD, where they were feared and derided as much as Jews, Turks, and gay people. They were accused of poisoning wells, sending plagues, curses, heresies, and especially kidnapping boys.   They were expelled from many countries.  The Nazis put them in death camps.  In America they were run out of town.

For all of their parallels with gay stereotypes, the Romani actually have a very homophobic culture. In Gypsy Boy, Mikey Walsh writes of his experiences growing up gay in a gypsy community in Britain.  He couldn't tell anyone -- his father or another male relative would have killed him instantly.

At age 15 he left and went undercover.  He cannot be photographed, and writes under a pen name.  He says that he has reconciled with his father, but his other male relatives still want to kill him as an affront to the family honor.

See also: Albanian Boys.