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Early Romanian Queer Activism

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Image from the second Pride march in Bucharest (Pride Fest), at the end of May 2005, on the route Piața Unirii-Bulevardul Cantemir-Parcul Tineretului

The beginning of LGBTQ+ activism in Romania was characterized by the lobby for the decriminalization of homosexuality. Consequently, there followed a self-colonizing direction by which activism in Romania was influenced by a 'civilizational' pro-European narrative. Due to the decades of silencing, Romania queer activists were tasked with learning and doing at the same time, hence the lack of critical reassessment of European activism. Statements such as "Romania is not sodomy" explain the moderation of the first generation of activists in Romania.  

Article 200 P.C. impeded Romania’s accession to the EU since both its application for membership and accession negotiations depended on Romania guaranteeing human rights to its sexual minorities. The Romanian government abrogated it in 2001, not out of a desire to improve the lives of homosexuals, but as a trade-off for EU membership and to deliver its economic advantages to Romanians. As a result, measures aimed at improving inclusion and diversity were virtually a legal fiction, at least from the perspective of the LGBT+ community.

"Homosexuals have request the abrogation of Art. 200 P.C." in Evenimentul Zilei, a daily newspaper, July 15, 1993

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Participants holding up banners at the 2006 GayFest parade

"Love has nothing to do with prejudices"

Romanian Traditionalism and EU Membership

LGBTQ+ identity in Romania challenges to this day the very notion of Romanian identity, as defined by a heteronormative society based on the integrity and health of the family. Andreescu (2011) explains that the legislative changes, which occurred prior to Romania’s accession to the EU and meant to promote equal social and civil rights for sexual minorities, failed to do so because these reforms were the result of strong international pressure and EU requirements instead of being informed by the majority’s true internalization of EU norms for sexual minorities.

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“Romanian Homosexuals Beaten by the Iron-Guardists [Fascist Group],” in Libertatea Newspaper, a Romania tabloid, 29 May 2005

Second Gay Fest (Pride), 2005

At the second Pride parade, locally known as GayFest, in Bucharest in 2005, members of the LGBTQ+ community heard shouted at them: “Don’t besmirch the Holy Mother’s garden [Romania],” “No to sexual perversions,” “Don’t forgot Sodom,” “Don’t destroy life and family.” Woodstock (2009) argues the 2005 and 2006 GayFests were the “containment of European diversity,” since LGBTQ+ individuals adopted the non-violent peaceful language of communication in front of the “Normality March” that responded back with violence. The LGBTQ+ community was, in Woodstock’s words, “physically forced out of visibility in the name of protection.” As long as they remained invisible, the Romanian state and the normative citizenry could demonstrate tolerance. The relative invisibility of homosexual individuals, the lack of a well-established gay community or clearly defined gay groups are other factors that Andreescu names as causes influencing the negative perception of homosexuals.

The Beginnings of the Adrian Newell Paun Queer Archives

Adrian Newell Paun is an LGBTQ+ activist from Romania who lived in San Francisco from the mid-80s to the mid-90s. He has immensively contributed to Romanian queer history in collecting artefacts from the community and creating the first, and to this day only, Romanian queer archive, the AQANP (Arhivele Queer Adrian Newell Paun). 

Early Romanian Queer Activism