I decided to join the Roma movement in Romania in the late 90s; after a few years I realised that the leadership of the Roma movement was quite disheartening, and I became more involved in LGBT activism. During my years with the Roma NGO Romani Criss , I had become friends with an LGBT NGO, Accept . In the mid-90s, gays and Roma people were seen as the worst minorities in Romania, so had solidarity with each other from the onset. Now I think things are finally settling — my Roma and LGBT activism are blended quite organically.
I have a small informal group, formed mostly of alumni and students of the school where I teach, as well as an assortment of fellow activists. We support youth and development through activities such as extracurricular clubs, conferences, exchanges. we support kids and youth in disadvantaged areas by providing help with homework and tutoring, as well as counselling and survival support in crisis situations; among these kids some are Roma, some are trans, or gay, or treated unfairly or violently by schools or parents. We are registered with a public notary, not with a court of law as a “proper” NGO. I am a grassroots activists who strongly believes funding should not be a part of the discussion about what activism is. Activism cannot be a paid job.
In the past couple of years I have been concentrating on support for transgender people, especially high school students and young adults. What is extremely difficult in this is the invisibility of the issue in Romanian society in general, correlated with the incredible transphobia at all levels of society, including. The schools do not cooperate, nor can we contact them without the consent of the parents, who are often non-cooperative and transphobic. Legally, our hands are tied by the absence of any legal protection. Romania has no gender recognition legislation, for instance. We are trying to put together a project to hopefully put this up for discussion for legislators, but things are hardly moving, and it is very discouraging. If gender dysphoria is depathologised, this will be a turning point in all our advocacy and consequent lobbying efforts for gender recognition legislation.
I draw inspiration from every person I try to give support to: from kids in the ghetto to transgender kids or the children of transgender parents. The daily challenges they face are something I know I couldn’t deal with. So even though it is sometimes emotionally draining, working with these kids is always emotionally nourishing. I think I’ve always been an activist. If you have empathy and hope, you too are an activist. Don’t be hard on yourself for not being able to do too much. It takes many drops to make an ocean; we are that ocean, and you are a drop in it. We are all brothers and sisters.