Interview with Adrian Newell Păun
Adrian Newell Păun was born in Bucharest, in 1958. He is a graphic designer and gay rights militant. In 8th grade, he drew an anti-Soviet caricature on the blackboard. He was detained by the Vice division of the Bucharest Militia for homosexuality while attempting to pick up an undercover cop. In 1979, he was forced to give up his Romanian citizenship (which he regained in 1996). In 1980, he fled to the US as a political refugee. In 1984, he started working for Hayward Daily Review. He published poetry in local cultural magazines. Between 1987 and 1989, he travelled in Alaska, Canada, USA, Mexico, Brazil and Argentina, supporting himself by doing odd jobs and teaching English. In 1992, he is appointed coordinator of the Romanian branch of IGLHRC (International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission) in San Francisco. In 1996, he launched Romanian LesBiGays, the first gay internet page in Romanian, and he returned to Romania for 3 months. In 1999, he moved back to Romania. In 2000, he became the CI&D coordinator of ACCEPT Association. In 2005, he produced the first LGBT radio shows in Romanian, broadcast by online radio GayOne. He published articles and poetry in Tribuna, Observator Cultural, revista 22 and gave interviews on the gay community in Romania for Flacăra magazine and Ziarul Finanicar. In 2012, he launched the portal Ro Q Doc, dedicated to queer documentaries.
Where did you grow up?
I was born in 1958, on Petre Tina street, in Tudor Vladimirescu neighborhood, a proletarian neighborhood, close to “23 August” stadium. The street still exists, but the house I was born and raised in is gone. They demolished it in 1965. It was a lovely house. My grandma was a seamstress for the royal army. My mother was a worker and my father was a welder. Actual proletarians. The street was quiet, with many drinking fountains. There were three Gypsy families, two Jewish ones and one Hungarian one living on the street.
Tell us about a moment in your childhood or your teens which you remember fondly.
In 8th grade I had a classmate form a well-off family. His mother was an architect and his father was deputy director at a design institute and he received a Rothring drawing kit from Germany. Back then it was a big deal. I was already drawing by then and he invited me over to test the kit. He also loved drawing. We drew, we had fun, we cuddled, and then he told me: “Let me show you something!”. And he showed me a Paris Match from 1969, with an article on the Stonewall riots. It was 1974, so 5 years after the events. He read me the article. He read and spoke French well. That was the first time I saw gays marching and realized that actually, “faggots” were not that dumb. They were out there marching and had something to say. That’s when something lit up in me. This article was like a Godsend. The image of those American gays protesting remained in my head ever since. I wasn’t so afraid anymore. Without even knowing it, my classmate gave me courage. This was my awakening to who I was sexually and to activism. This is how I began to see that there was something else besides people waiting all day for “pick-ups”. That here was, indeed, more than that.
What happened next?
At school, I made a manifesto-drawing inspired by that issue of Paris Match. There was an article on the invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 and I saw a caricature of a Soviet soldier with his legs spread on two tanks. It had “CCCP” (USSR) written on the tanks. I copied the drawing in my own way on the blackboard, with white chalk. It was a disaster… the principal came rushing at me, screaming. He slapped me four or five times, pulled my sideburns and ears and dragged me into his office and locked me there. He called the Securitate, and they questioned me and my father for two straight days. I was underage, they couldn’t do anything besides lowering my Conduct grade. I had to repeat 8th grade. My father was pretty shocked by this episode. […]
About your sexuality…
I didn’t wish to be a homosexual. The concept of “pride” doesn’t mean anything to me. I’m not proud to be gay, as I’m not proud to be Romanian or proud to be a man. I had no contribution to either of these things, even though I don’t regret them, either. I don’t regret being Romanian or being a man or being gay. This is the hand I’ve been dealt and I try to do what is needed so that others feel good about themselves, as well. I have nothing to be ashamed of. What I regret is that we don’t really have a gay community in Romania. That’s because we, in Romania, have no culture of political activism. Being gay is a political act. It is a politically emancipating statement. There are many homosexuals, but there are few gays. And even fewer queers. Do you notice the nuances? One is about what I do. What do I do? I’m a homosexual. Who am I? I’m gay. That’s the difference. In Romania, this isn’t obvious. One defines what I do, the other who I am. And the third – being queer – defines my aspirations. […]
Interview conducted by PAUL DUNCA and MIHAELA MICHAILOV
 The Stonewall riots were a series of violent, spontaneous protests by the gay community in New York against police violence. They are considered to be the first major event in the history of the gay liberation movement in the US.