Romania: Journalist speaks about country's struggle for LGBT rights

A Romanian journalist spoke out against radical United States religious activists' intervention in his country's politics with a planned referendum that could stall progress for LGBT rights in the Southeastern European country.

Gabriel Sandu, 29, is the founding editor of Brrlog and a playwright. He is visiting the United States this month to research LGBT teachers, discrimination, and how they protected their right to teach children as a part of a story he's working on about two closeted Romanian lesbian teachers who are a couple.

He was able to travel to the U.S. through a digital journalist program offered by the State Department. He is one of 16 other journalists from around the world working on their own projects across the country, he said. He returns to Romania October 21.

The Bay Area Reported had an opportunity to speak with Sandu last week about the anti-marriage equality constitutional referendum, anti-gay Kentucky clerk Kim Davis' recent tour of Romania, and attitudes toward the LGBT community and LGBT rights in the country.

Fighting for Romania's LGBT movement

Sandu, who declined to state his sexual orientation, has been on a mission to educate people about the LGBT community's issues. It's proved to be a challenge, particularly with the teachers he has talked to there. He didn't want to risk the teachers' careers, so he had to disguise many personal facts about them while remaining true to how they live and love while deeply closeted.

"They normalize living in the closet and lying about their private life," said Sandu.

Sandu explained there is no middle ground in Romania for LGBT people. They are either out as a "professional gay" or they are deeply in the closet, only out within their close circle of friends. People who come out are no longer seen as a person with a profession and a whole life, they are minimized to simply being gay by others.

LGBT teachers are protected by anti-discrimination laws, so they can't be fired simply because they are queer, however, once found out by administrators or families, alternative reasons are often used to terminate their employment, said Sandu.

"They will not fire you because you're LGBT and you work with minors – they will find something to fire you," he said.

"I need a way to let the public understand that the fact that these women are such 'ghosts' in the article is not all right," said Sandu. He was struggling with balancing not inadvertently outing the women in the article but getting the message across to his readers that these women aren't living openly and fully as who they are.

Yet, the referendum could be a blow to Romanian LGBTs if it's put to vote and passes. Read more via Bay Area Reporter