Patrick Brăila

The “event” that kickstarted my activism was when I had my first shot of testosterone, four years ago. Until then, I had an interest in helping others, yes, but I’d always thought that I wanted to hide my trans identity and live in secret; I felt too ashamed. Once I let go of the pain I had to carry with me for so long and started to enjoy life, I learned that I had what it takes to fight for other trans people, for my community.

My activism is quite personal — I do things my way, out of passion — from counselling to making films, traveling, talking at conferences and taking part at protests. I understand that the best type of activism is the one that applies to you, whether it’s talking about being trans over a beer or managing a project for several years. Whatever fits you best is enough. The only box to tick is love for your community. Currently, I am working part-time with ACCEPT on a one-year project meant to build and better organise the trans community. I will soon start to shoot a feature documentary with a trans-related subject. Besides that, I talk to trans people every day. My worry is that there might not be enough trans activists to join in, especially when it comes to lobbying and advocacy.

The trans community is invisible in Romania, and also carries a lot of stigma. That translates into poor-to-non-existent healthcare providers, legal advisors, protocols, and no gender recognition law whatsoever. The country’s population is almost 20 million and there is only one endocrinologist and one lawyer I can full-heartedly recommend. Whenever we have the chance to meet with the authorities, their response is sarcastic: “We don’t understand what you want from us. Work more on awareness and be more decent.” I have trans teens writing to me every day, from everywhere around the country. Most of them start off by saying: “I told my parents I’m trans. They beat me and threw me out of the house.” It’s a lot to take in. I don’t even know what to begin with the social, medical and legal difficulties. A lot of work needs to be done on all fronts.

A trans man who saw an interview I gave reached out to me and said: “Hey, brother, where have you been? I have been waiting for you for 14 years.” A trans teen girl read one of my blog posts and said: “Hey, thank you for that article, it literally saved my life when I was on the verge of killing myself.” This is my inspiration, this is what gives me fuel. I am absolutely amazed every time I see a person before and after starting HRT. To me, it’s like looking at a Renaissance painting being painted.

There is no such thing as “winning”. Winning would mean all people treated equally. That will not happen, it is not in our DNA. I only hope to have the strength to reach the goals I set: a strong community which is constantly growing, proper medical protocols and a network of good healthcare providers, an accessible gender recognition law and, while doing all this, constantly, carefully and intelligently working on awareness.