Activist Tina Kolos Orban on serving the Irish trans community amid increasing hateful rhetoric

As part of the #StrongerTogether initiative, activist Tina Kolos Orban spoke about TENI and serving the trans community in Ireland.

Activist Tina Kolos Orban, looking at the camera and smiling, wearing a light brown jumper.
Image: Hazel Coonagh

As we celebrate Pride Month across this island, we must confront the harsh reality that our community faces; a rising tide of disinformation, scapegoating and hate. It’s time again for us to channel our collective pain and anger into action for social justice. As part of the #StrongerTogether initiative in collaboration with the Rowan Trust and the Hope and Courage Collective, GCN interviewed CEO of TENI Tina Kolos Orban, who spoke about how TENI supports the trans community amid increased hateful rhetoric.

Originally from Hungary, Tina Kolos Orban is the head of Trans Equality Network Ireland (TENI), appointed to the position in April 2022. The CEO has numerous years of abundant experience in leading development and management of trans groups across national and international domains.

Speaking about their role within the non-profit, overseeing general operations and deciding how best to lead the organisation, Orban said that they are “the face of the organisation; I’m the one who connects TENI to the outside world mostly. At the same time, I’m the one who must make sure that we do everything that we have to do. That has been quite a large part of my journey since I arrived last April.”

Tina Kolos Orban described their long-standing admiration for the organisation that they are now the head of, saying that it has been a role model establishment for other groups on a European level. Following TENI’s progress since 2012, the chief has viewed the group as one that is looked up to and followed by many people.

Orban’s robust commitment to trans rights has found them in what they describe as “my dream job, if I may say that. I feel like it absolutely fits me, I’m really hopeful that TENI and I are a good match. I hope that I can serve the organisation and the broader Irish trans community with the work that I do.”

That aforementioned work is achieving rights and advancements for the trans community here in Ireland, through providing vital information and resources. TENI coordinates support groups for trans people and their families, while also assisting community members or professionals working with trans folk.

This crucial provision of education and support does not cease, especially in light of rising anti-trans and far-right narratives. It is imperative to the head of TENI that the association’s focus will not be skewed, despite increasing vitriol and attacks. The recent phenomenon of rising anti-trans rhetoric is something that they think is where “we need to adapt, because it’s a new situation.” They take the stance to not directly combat with these aggressors; rather the goal is to signpost to the community that TENI is there to support them.

Tina Kolos Orban said: “It affects us personally, it affects us as an organisation, and it affects us as a community. Our first point is that when we try to adapt, we want to make sure that they are not telling us what we do. So, we don’t focus on those attacks, because TENI has a role. We are here to do something for the community. We are not here to fight any anti-trans actors or any anti-trans movement, we are here to best serve our communities.

“I’ve been fighting the far right and anti-trans voices for many, many years. The best way to cope with this, I have learned, is just not to let that touch us. Because they want to disrupt. They want us to deal with them, instead of doing what is our job.”

With that in mind, it is important to know that the work done at TENI involves connecting members of the community. Tina took last year’s breakfast event during Dublin Pride as an example, saying: “It was a great event for us. That breakfast we had was a moment where we had loads of participants come into us the morning of Pride. It was great to meet the people there and spend time with them. I think that was a moment that we all cherish.

“I think every time that we connected with the community – that was the most important thing for me in the past year.”

Thankfully many moments like this do occur, irrespective of the other hardships the community face.

A report from Transgender Europe (TGEU) published in October 2022 named Ireland as the worst in the European Union for trans healthcare. This is sure to calibrate TENI’s priorities for the coming year, with Tina concluding: “There are big issues for our community. If we want to name one, there is no competition; it’s going to be healthcare.

“Our community is suffering. But our approach to reform gender-affirming health care is ready, we have a plan. I’m hopeful that we can go down the path that we chose to go through, and we can bring some good changes for the community.”

This story originally appeared in GCN’s Pride issue 378, as part of an ongoing feature on solidarity that was created in cooperation with the Rowan Trust and the Hope and Courage Collective. You can read this interview with Tina Kolos Orban and other activists in the full issue here

Want to be featured in this special campaign? Share a message of solidarity using #StrongerTogether, tagging GCN or email [email protected].


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