We Are Family – Patrick Braila, ACCEPT Romania

Patrick Braila (he/him)
Co-President of ACCEPT Association, the oldest LGBTI+ organization in Romania.

Patrick Braila is a trans activist and film director living in Bucharest, the capital city of Romania. Since 2013, he’s been working on building and strengthening the trans community in Romania. 

In December 2018 he became co-president of ACCEPT Association, the oldest LGBTI+ organization in Romania.

I sit with Bianca, her mother and her mother’s partner in the small library of our organization’s office, at a round table. Bianca is 19. Her mother is so angry she could rip my head off. Her mother’s partner, an engineer as he proudly presents himself, acts like the patriarchal figure of authority, forcing his opinions on his family. They want to hold me, or anybody really, responsible for their daughter being trans. They both refuse to hear medical, sociological, personal arguments about gender identity. They want to know who were the doctors that allowed Bianca to start HRT, who ‘told her that she was trans’, to challenge them. They scream, they shout, they think we are abominations.

I first met Bianca at the support group for LGBTI+ people taking place every Friday evening at our organization, ACCEPT. She was extremely shy and talked a lot about seeing no way out except suicide. Somehow, she found the strength to continue coming to the support group and then joined the support group for trans people. She slowly started using her female name and pronouns. I saw her again some weeks later and there was something about her. There was a light in her eyes, an aura surrounding her, she was relaxed and cheerful. And then she confessed she started HRT. But her mother found out, and hell broke loose, resulting in the round table meeting.

Cain called me one Sunday to say that his parents were furious and cut his hair. That was their understanding of how they should punish their trans son. He asked if we could all meet. I sat with them that Sunday afternoon, and after 3 hours I left with a massive headache – but they seemed to be more accepting. Only seemed to be. Cain was 15 at the time and they still didn’t allow him to start transition. He battled dysphoria and depression for the next 3 years, lost one year of school and tried to come to term with his parents. He turned 18, went to see the endocrinologist, bought online illegal testosterone and I witnessed the happiest day of his life, as he puts it – the day of his first T shot.

Neither Bianca’s family, nor Cain’s accept their transition.

Peter is 22 and, when he came out as trans, his father beat him up and kicked him out of his home; he is now living with his girlfriend.

The same happened to Andrei, who is now working in a clothing store to support himself.

Alejandro was dragged by his mother to have genetic tests done, worth 1000 Euros (two months’ pay in Bucharest) to prove that ‘he is a girl’.

Amelie left her home to live alone and support herself and is waiting for her 18th birthday to travel across the country to Bucharest and get her prescription for hormones. She’s doesn’t want to quit school and is preparing for her future contests in robotics.

I’ve been meeting with people like Bianca, Cain, Peter, Andrei, Alejandro and Amelie for the last 6 years. We share pain, advice, food, T shots and clothes. We support each other. We are family and I am humbled by their strength.

In Bucharest, the capital city of Romania, the only endocrinologist who would see us has moved to Italy. We buy our testosterone from websites that sell steroids, it is our only source. There are no medical protocols for transition and no legal gender recognition laws.

We are invisible and when we stand up, we face rejection, bullying, hatred. But we are family.

And we fight. We formed a trans advocacy group with all trans activists across the country to strategize and act together. We bring communities together in cities outside Bucharest, we teach them how to act with medical and legal professionals to find support in their transitions. We knock on authorities’ doors to remind them we are here and we enable them to have the knowledge and skills to respect our rights. We do resilience workshops. We talk to (and educate) the media to properly tell our stories. We go to Pride and proudly wave our flag. We laugh and are prepared for the anti-gender movement, thinking that their actions are like a poor joke compared to our struggles.

We are growing, because we are family.

ACCEPT Association is the first non-governmental human rights organization in Romania to promote LGBT rights  at national level.

The priorities of ACCEPT are lobbying and advocacy, combating discrimination, education and health. Lobbing and advocacy activities include: influencing public laws and policies affecting LGBT communities; lobbying for anti-discrimination legislation; and strategic litigation.  Health activities include creating the Sexual Health Education for teachers and school counselors and collating and disseminating information on sexual health, HIV/AIDS and the LGBT community. Media activity includes: monitoring Romanian media coverage of the LGBT community and sending daily feedback as well as useful information to journalists on how to deal with this topic in a professional and non-discriminatory manner; and creating campaigns to reduce LGBT-phobia, educate the general public and increase political consciousness during Bucharest Pride and LGBT History Month. Community development involves: supporting LGBT and LGBT-friendly groups to register as NGOs, and providing organizational development support; supporting direct action from grassroots organizations to increase political conscience of the LGBT community; and, since 2011, organizing LGBT History Month, an annual festival promoting personal histories and human rights culture.

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