Antonella Lerca has become the first transgender person to run for office in Romania, campaigning on a message of female empowerment and sex worker rights.
The candidate launched her campaign this week as an independent candidate for the capital city Bucharest's Local Council from District 2 in the election to be held September 27.
Lerca, a sex worker, states on her website that she's focusing on several issues, including women's rights and fighting discrimination, public services and social protection (including investments in social housing and capping rents), and implementing environmentally-friendly policies citywide.
Last month, the Romanian Parliament advanced a bill that would prohibit pro-trans messaging in schools. While President Klaus Iohannis opposes the legislation and has asked the nation's Constitutional Court to annul it, the measure lit a fire under LGBTQ+ Romanians. Undoubtedly, it inspired Lerca to rise up.
"I'd had enough of rich white privileged men making decisions for vulnerable communities in Romania, like the Roma community, transgender community, and sex worker community -- the three communities I am part of," she said to Pink News. "We don't have anyone from the LGBT+ community in Romanian politics."
"I've met a lot of vulnerable communities. My entire life experience has given me the power to make this decision," she continued, adding of the global pandemic, "I take this step in politics today because I am willing to accept a huge responsibility in this crisis period. The crisis will increase and will affect the most vulnerable communities, which need their voices to be heard and represented in local politics."
In order to get on the ballot, she must collect petition signatures from 0.5 percent of her district's voters -- about 2,000 people. Her campaign has now launched crowdfunding efforts.
"Like many people I am witnessing with fear and anxiety continuous attacks on many communities around the world -- women, LGBTI, and in particular trans people, Black people, and people of color, Roma, migrants to name a few," Lerca supporter Luca Stevenson writes on the crowdfunding platform Fundrazr. "It is a very tough time and made even worse by the uncertainty about our future due to pandemic and climate crisis."
Stevenson continued, "One thing that really [lifts] me up is seeing amazing and courageous individuals take a stand and fight back against all forms of oppressions. One of these people is Antonella Lerca! I met her a couple of years ago at a conference on human rights in Bucharest and have been lucky to work alongside her since then to improve sex workers' rights in Romania. She is an amazing woman and powerful community activist. With her colleagues in Romania she has done so much for her community: bravely speaking in media, coordinating campaigns and protests and working tirelessly for the rights of Roma, LGBTI people and sex workers and for a better society for all. Her ferocious activism has even led to members of parliament attacking and threatening her publicly."