I keep running away from Polish homophobia. Geographically, I've left five years ago. But online? I'm trying not to read the news, not to engage with homophobes on Twitter, I'm unfollowing Polish accounts…
But I can't keep it up. The extent of queerphobic hatred, especially recently, is terrifying. I can't just idly watch my queer siblings suffer.
There's a presidential election coming up next week. And PiS, the ruling, right-wing, antidemocratic party, doesn't want to lose their puppet in the presidential palace.
So they found a scape goat to sacrifice on the altar of scoring cheap political points: us.
One MEP tweeted that “Poland without LGBT is the most beautiful”. And one senator defended those words in a TV interview, claiming that “LGBT are not people, it's an ideology”, after which he got immediately kicked out of the studio.
It's quite a common talking point in Poland, actually. There's been a newspaper distributing stickers saying “LGBT-free zone”. There's been multiple cases of local goverments declaring themselves such zones. The excuse has always been the same one: we're not against those people, we're against the ideology.
After that senator has denied queers their humanity, the current president decided to defend him by doing exactly the same at a campaign rally!
Yes, the LGBTQ+ community members are not considered human by the sitting president. That's the level of homophobia we're dealing with.
And it gets worse. Last year's Pride in Białystok was physically attacked by neo-nazis, and Pride in Lublin was a target of a terrorist attack attempt when a (straight, of course) couple brought a fucking bomb to the event.
Prides, despite being overwhelmingly peaceful, positive and colourful, despite being victims, not perpetrators, of verbal and physical violence, despite being really careful with not expressing more sexuality that maybe kisses or hand-holding, and despite not taking place at all this year due to the covid-19 pandemic, despite all of that Prides are still being quoted by homophobes as reason (or rather excuse) not to guarantee queers equal rights.
They are posting explicit pictures from events like Folsom that didn't even take place in Poland, as a proof, that all LGBTQ+ are “perverts” who are “exhibiting their genitals”. That same president, right after getting elected, was asked if he would hire a gay man in his chancellery. He responded with “I can't imagine anyone parading naked through the corridors”. Really.
This country is freaked out about the taboo on nudity and sexuality. The vast majority has never seen a naked man in public in their lives, but still use their idiotic fear that someone might have a better sex life than them as an excuse to deprive them of their fundamental human rights.
There have been multiple tragic deaths of queer youth in the recent years. The picture above shows three of them. Dominik & Kacper were both just 14. Fourteen! They were bullied into suicide for being gay (or even just “seeming too gay”), before they even had time to fully figure out their own sexuality. Milo was agender, like myself, and using “ono” pronouns, a Polish equivalent of “they”, or rather “it”. The linked article about their life and death is the only one that I've seen that does not misgender them, but consistently uses “ono”.
An activist, Bart Staszewski, visited president Duda and gave him the pictures of those tragically dead queer teens. Duda didn't care. Bart asked about the terrorist attack in Lublin and the violence in Białystok. Duda claimed he has no idea about such things taking place. Imagine the hatered required for someone to decide they would rather face the humiliation of not being aware of a terrorist attack attempt that took place in the country he rules, just in order to pretend that queer problems don't exist! Bart asked about the “gays not being human” statement. Duda claimed that it's free speech and he can say that. Bart just left.
And it's not just the ruling party. The biggest opposition party and their supporters are a bunch of homophobes pretending to be allies. Their party, PO, used to be in power for eight years before PiS, and they killed off any attempts to legislate even civil unions, let alone any true equality.
Yes, according to the ILGA Europe report, it was during PiS's rule that Poland became the country with the most homophobic laws in the EU, but during PO's times it wasn't much better either. They are no saints. Their city mayors have repeatedly tried to outlaw Pride. They are consistently objectifying LGBTQ+ people, selling them empty promisses, and screwing them over. Recently, they aren't even promissing anything, not even an open declaration of doing the first steps towards equality. Their main promise is, I shit you not, “we'll get rid of PiS”.
But their politicians are nothing comapred to their toxic base. Yes, toxic. I would honestly prefer open homophobic hate than what the vast majority of PO's “#SilniRazem” are doing.
They are reguarly gaslighting us, trying to make us believe that Poland is actually a very open, tollerant country. That we aren't really discriminated. Even though we live this reality, they have the audacity to claim that the world hunger doesn't exist because they just ate breakfast.
They keep queersplaining to us, what our problems really are, and what would be better ways to fight for our rights. It's not just right-wing PiS shaming us for daring to organise Pride, it's also many of the “allies” rooting for PO. They have the audacity to tell us that we should be “meek” and “likable”, that we should organise some volunteer work to help farmers, in order to earn our human rights. They didn't have to earn their cishet privilege, but our human rights have to be earned.
And they keep victim blaming us. Whenever we dare to call out a centrist politician or journalist for their homophobia, there's a bunch of #SilniRazem coming to tell us how we, victims of PiS, are responsible for PiS being in power. How we should stick our human rights demands up our butts, and just endorse whoever they tell us to, on the sole promise of them being slightly less homophobic than PiS.
In reaction to president Duda's comments, a group of LGBTQ+ activists gathered in front of his palace with rainbow flags and just danced. By the police they have been chased down and fined for “disorderly conduct”, and by the internet they were accused of… blasphemy, because that date coincided with a Catholic holiday. Yes, apparently the liturgical calendar takes precedence over the consitutional freedom of assebly. An it wasn't really the right wing complaining! It was mainly that “tolerant centre” queersplaining to us that this happening was a mistake, because now the homophobes from PiS will start hating us. Start…
And lastly, there's a huge problem with internalised homophobia and acceptance of one's fate as a subhuman minority. I've seen gays trying to convince others that it's better to just stay low, hide, be nice, be meek, ask politely, wait patiently, do realpolitik. Many consider it the best and only way to win any human rights, to just accept any tiny breadcrumbs of equality they can.
And I understand that sentiment. The closet feels safe. Freedom seems scary. I used to represent that approach myself. I was waiting with my coming out to my former family until I was 21 and could financially support myself, if they kicked me out. And yes, it's absolutely okay not to come out if you're not ready or if it's safer for you!
But what I am worried about is that even some people who are out and proud have fallen for that thinking that's it's better to be nice to the oppressor rather than fight. It's a frightening mentality. They started believing that equality is not a human right that they deserve, but a privilege that they must earn. Decades of gaslighting have led to that.
I could go on and on. But I won't. It hurts. It hurts fighting that fight, it hurts thinking about my queer family who didn't find their safe haven abroad, as I did. I can't help but cry every time I see pictures of those teens who left us way too early.
My husband is still afraid to hold my hand in public, even after five years of living in Western Europe. Our marriage is still null and void as soon as we cross the border. In the 21st century. In the heart of Europe.
It's a luxury, not worrying about what happens back at
home our birth place. But we can't afford that luxury. You know why?
Because even though we were lucky enough to be born after the acceptance towards the LGBTQ+ people started growing already, even though we were lucky enough to move out of that country right before the biggest wave of hatred hit the Polish queer community, even though we were lucky enough to be able to escape our homophobic, abusive families quite early, even though our “Polish” live pretty much stays in the online world, it still hurts every time something bad happens over there.
We're lucky enough to live here and be accepted for who we are. And yet, it still hurts us whatever happens over there. I can't even imagine how it feels for the people back there.
Polish queerphobia is systemic. It's both spilling from the top, and it is rooted deeply in its catholic conservatism. It comes from both the government and the biggest opposition. It comes from church. It comes from ignorance and indifference. It's omnipresent.
Please, whoever you are, help them however you can. Engage. Show the Polish queers your love and support. They need your virtual hugs. They need your petitions. They need your donations. They need your voice and your social media coverage.
They need your outrage.