by Știri pentru viață, 18 februarie 2015
In a scenario which replicates last year’s incident at the University of Bucharest, when Romania’s only pro-life students’ association, Studenti pentru viata, was withdrawn participation approval for an educational fair on the false grounds that it opposes abortion and it is politically incorrect, just recently, the same institution has denied approval to a another students’ association which proposed an academic and youth event on the subject of Gender Identity Disorder.
The Aula Magna of the University of Bucharest hosts many cultural events with speakers from all over the country and indeed the world, and only a few months ago it hosted a debate promoting compulsory contraceptive sex education in Romania’s public schools.
Yet, the conference „Gender Identity Disorder and the Future of Humanity”, which was to have as speakers Dr Virgiliu Gheorghe, bioethicist, and Andrei Dirlau, PhD candidate, authors of the book Fata nevazuta a homosexualitatii (“The Unseen Face of Homosexuality”), did not receive approval from the above-mentioned university’s Senate, on the grounds that the University cannot host events with speakers from outside the institution.
It is a scenario well-exercised (with more or less slight variations) in other countries as well, like the recently-cancelled debate on abortion at the Oxford University.
As the organizer was Societatea Studentilor din Bucuresti (SSB), a students’ association, they applied for the event to be hosted by Bucharest’s Students Cultural Center, a public institution coordinated by Romania’s Ministry of Youth and Sports. Here they received approval, but this only to be withdrawn at the last moment on the grounds that such an event was in conflict with the institutions’ functioning rules and with “youth public policies adopted by the Ministry of Youth and Sports” – as quoted by Accept, Romania’s main LGBT organization.
Moreover, the University of Bucharest insisted to delimitate itself from the event, by publishing on its website a short announcement in which it stated: “The University of Bucharest reaffirms its commitment to cultural diversity and opinion diversity and to the right to free speech. The university promotes an academic environment where the student’s, the professors and the administrative staff’s rights and human dignity are respected. In the meantime, the University of Bucharest supports an inclusive culture, where opinions and rights of all groups are equitably represented”.
In the end, with this last-minute change, the event had to be held at the conference center of a near-by hotel, which was far too small to host the approximately 200 persons who attended. About half of them remained outside.
Regarding the adventure of organizing the conference and book launch, Virgiliu Gheorghe (photo below), co-author of the volume Fata nevazuta a homosexualitatii (“The Unseen Face of Homosexuality”), stated at the beginning of the event:
I was a member of the Senate at the University of Bucharest between 1990 and 1993. At that time, we saw quite differently the future of the university and of the Romanian academic environment. Unfortunately, we are told today that it is us who do not have the right to organize events there. I have graduated two faculties within the University of Bucharest, so I should feel at home in the university, which pretends to be supportive of the right to free speech. Whose free speech, may I ask?
I am part of the generation who were students during the 1989 Romanian Revolution, in which some of us took part and almost died, thinking we were fighting for a better world, where at least we would be allowed to express our convictions. Because, in the end, it wasn’t for bread and circus, it wasn’t for Coca-Cola and pornography that fought and indeed died some of us – but for the freedom to express themselves.
And here we are, 25 years later, when we are denied the freedom to express our views, because they contradict ‘public policies’. This was just the principle on which communism was built, this is the principle of all totalitarian regimes: there are ‘truths’ on which the order of a whole political system is built and which cannot be questioned. Probably, the ‘truth’ that homosexuality is now seen as normal by society cannot be questioned.
Some 50 young protesters picketed outside the event location with makeshift signs saying the organizers were against human dignity and against the students. Nevertheless, in the conference room, the exchange of contrary opinions was very civil.
Remarking the opposition of public education and youth institutions, which should actually be the guarantees of an honest debate, we cannot help also noticing that the event was as diverse and inclusive as it could be. There were, among those attending, university professors, doctors, students, journalists, simple people interested in the state of family today, public persons, priests, a young man who declared he was gay and spoke during the debate, Roxana Marin, teacher and head of LGBT programs at the Bucharest’s “George Cosbuc” high-school, and representatives of Accept and Transform, organizations promoting LGBT rights.
The LGBT activists offered to send the book authors research (even locally made in Romania) which should counter the conclusions of the more than 500 American studies quoted in the book’s rich bibliography.
Maybe it would have been appropriate to come with those research reports (if they really existed!) at the event and share them with the media or – why not? – publish them on their websites before the conference. But this may be too much to ask from an organization which is so little transparent as Transform, whose web address is only disclosed on Facebook on request!
There were many questions from the audience, pro and cons and issues raised which proved the necessity of doing more debates on the subject. For instance, one question from the public was: „Why is it so bad that the institution of family change?”
Long after the end of the event, people were still queuing for autographs and in the lobby the gay young man was eagerly debating with a Christian Orthodox priest about the seemingly irredeemable differences between gay and Christianity cultures.