Paula Dunker is somewhat of a legend in the nightlife of Bucharest. Everyone knows her, admires her: she’s present at every party where the ‘good crowd’ go - always in Control Club and Apollo111 Club, the best places in the capital to drink and dance. By ‘good crowd’ I mean to say the artists, musicians, students, hipsters of Bucharest - people you wouldn’t be surprised to see featured in an i-D magazine feature - the ones that keep the Eastern European city alive and moving.
Few of us actually know anything about Paula - that’s what makes her a legend. Only the ones close to her know. We see her as an entertainer at the queer parties of Bucharest, proudly wearing her bold make-up, colourful dresses and body hair. But I want to know more - who is Paula Dunker?
1. What do you do for a living?
I’m a maker, a physical queer activist and a love priestess. I work in the live arts sector. I’m also the mother of the new genre and lifestyle called ‘Techno-faggothique’.
I studied Choreography and Playwright, but I manifest in every context I can make myself useful in - from night clubs to the 4th Age Community Arts Center (established in the Moses Rosen home for elderly), getting on every possible stage I can, or performing in gallery spaces.
2. What pushed you to start wearing make-up and ‘femme’ clothing?
I don’t remember why and when I started wearing female clothes. I’ve been told by my father that as a young kid I would put sport pants on my head and wear them as long hair, pretending I was Snow White. I also remember trying my mother’s high heels whenever she was not home.
I publicly embraced my femininity step by step, and in 2016 ‘Paula Dunker’ was born, first as my musical persona - a DJ and the vocalist for the #FLUID band - and then slowly taking over other jobs.
3. What do you think people think when they see you dressed up?
I strongly believe people need to see someone as ‘gender-fuck’ as I am.
When we see someone we’ve never met before, our brain decides their gender in the first three seconds, and if we only know fe/male, a glitch will happen. I am totally up for that glitch happening. I believe gender is just a lie.
4. What do you believe about the Romanian mentality and the way politics and religion are still so very tied in this country?
There’s a lot of work to be done for the Romanian society and mentality. Even though we consider ourselves a European country, basic human rights are still to be fought for and the church still plays a strong part in politics. Let’s not forget we are the last country in Europe that made homosexuality legal, in 2001. This says a lot!
Homophobia is just a tiny part of the dark everyday picture here.
5. What are the pressures you feel everyday as a gay man?
I don’t identify as a gay man. I would present myself as a non-binary person or a queer soul with a fluid sexual orientation. Through this, I try to escape the homonormativity growing inside the local LGBTQIA+ community. In the last 10 years being gay has started to be more and more tolerated, but only if you’re not Roma or poor!
6. What would you change about the world you’re living in?
I strongly believe change is the only inevitable move there is, in the Romanian society, but also on this planet. What we’re experiencing right now is we finally have a deadline, showing us how old mindsets and habits don’t function anymore. That is so very clear!
I decided to not leave this country as I feel that I’m part of the change, and I try to not forget how important my part is when I wake up every day.
7. How do you think religion has affected your life and your relationship with your family?
I grew up in a very Catholic family and had to put that aside in order to explore and find my identity. It was a painful process, but recently I started to embrace my spirituality and build my own beliefs. That happened as a result of my religious education and I am grateful for that.
My religious parents had to accept my identity. They are very loving, and it also helped that I came out at a point when I was independent. For a few years now I made this pact of transparency with myself, which means I would not hide any part of myself from my parents. Even if they struggle, I see them changing little by little. What was difficult for me on my journey was not their beliefs, but rather shifting from what they taught me to who I am and accepting it whole.