Can you introduce yourself?
I am Patrick Braila, film director, trans activist and co-president of the ACCEPT Association.
Can you describe your work for human rights in Romania, more precisely the rights of the LGBTQ community?
My work as an activist began more than 6 years ago, when I started hormone replacement therapy, when I was about 28 years old. The joy of succeeding, after much effort, but without proper medical support, along with the memories of the difficult years of dysphoria, brought me to a place where I publicly assumed my trans identity and started talking about myself, hoping that I will alleviate the pain of other people who feel the same way.
I joined Sasha Ichim and the TRANSform movement, the first movement for the emancipation of trans people in Romania. Together, we began bringing people together, to form the community, and we felt that, most often, the community takes the place of the family. I continued to speak publicly about myself, in the press, at conferences, in front of the authorities, in universities and embassies. Although I failed to support myself from this work, I did my best to stay consistent. In 2016 I created “Pieptis”, an autobiographical short film, which helped me combine my two professional paths: art and activism. Since 2018 I have been part of the ACCEPT board of directors, and I am currently filming an autobiographical feature film, “Corp Delict”.
After 6 years, I can say I notice that, first of all, the community grows organically, people easily find their way to other people like them, I notice that awareness works, that the authorities are more aware that we exist, although they are not yet able to support us, that there are more doctors willing to consult us, that the sensationalism in the press has decreased, that the number of journalists willing to treat us with respect has increased, that since 2019, there is a a 30-meter long trans flag at the Pride Parade, that more and more trans people proudly assume their identity.
What do you think makes Romania stagnate compared to other European countries when it comes to LGBTQ + rights and discrimination against members of the community?
I dare to say that Romania is not stagnating, but that, perhaps, it is moving unreasonably slowly. This is the geo-political context in which we find ourselves. I don’t think we can align the level of Eastern European countries with Western ones, because the history is different, societies are different. But we can see the steps forward.
The fact that at least 10,000 people participated in the 18th Pride in Bucharest, the fact that the Referendum for the Redefinition of the Family failed miserably, the fact that, at the European Court of Justice of the EU, the Coman and Hamilton case won, the fact that at the European Convention of Human Rights they are judging two important and extremely relevant cases for the LGBTQIA + community in Romania, it all means important steps forward. Why don’t things move faster? Because there is no political will, because there is a lot of corruption, because the secularism of the state is more theoretical, because, because...
What do you believe about the Romanian mentality and the way politics and religion are still so very tied in this country?
I do not dare to describe the Romanian mentality in any way, nor to blame anyone other than the political class and the state representatives. Religion is just a way to organise and control people, the same way as, let’s say, the police or technology. It can lead in the right or wrong, which means it can bring people together or it can pit them against each other. This depends only on those who deal with the management of the institution. As long as the leaders are more interested in power and gold, and not in people, freedom, solidarity, then we will not be able to easily take steps forward. That is, we will not have a healthy society too easily. A society is healthy when its most vulnerable members are well. In all this equation, no God is to blame.
How do you think a change could be created in the country? What change is needed?
The change is happening. It’s true, it happens slowly and it may seem invisible, but it does happen. For example, in the ‘80s,’ 90s, not even in the 2000s, I, Patrick, as I am now and as I write these lines, could not have existed. I felt things were changing around me when I changed, when I gained the strength and courage to learn that we all have the same rights and that I can no longer be impassive to injustice. But I know that I am privileged, because I had access to education, because I did not face poverty, because my health (including mental health) is good, because I am not Roma. And precisely because I am privileged, I understood that it is my duty to be with and fight for the less fortunate. When you have a hard life, when you are born in a ridiculed social category, you struggle to survive, not to turn society into a better one. The responsibility for change primarily belongs to all leaders, but this responsibility must always be verified and its absence sanctioned by the most privileged of us.
What motivates you to fight for LGBTQ+ rights?
Many people have asked me if I am thinking of leaving the country, or why am I not leaving the country if it is so difficult for a trans person to be here. My answer came naturally, I always said that this is my home, and it is more important to me to be well at home. Home means both the space and the people I live among. That’s about it, I want to be well at home.
What are the pressures you feel every day as a queer individual/ member of the LGBT community?
I guess the best answer is the one that fits right now. Right now the biggest pressure is the burnout, and I try not to pressure myself to get out of it. I try not to put any pressure on myself, and to be well again. If I’m well I can calmly face all the external pressures that come, like when I have to show my National Identification with feminine first names and the sex marker F, the pressure to wear a binder every time I leave home, the pressure of my identity not always being respected and all sorts of other trifles.
If you could change something in the current world you live in, what would you change?
Nothing. Not even me.