LGBTQ+ "Free" Zones in Poland -Finding Inspiration in Injustice
As someone who lives on the east coast of the United States, the homophobia that I have experienced is far different than what others in the world experience. I’ve seen mass shootings, healthcare discrimination, families being torn apart. While in your own bubble of trauma however, it’s easy to draw inward and close your eyes to everything else in the world. I urge you not to. If there is ever a time in which we should be paying attention to the world around us, this is that time. We need to educate ourselves on what our LGBTQIA+ siblings are going through, and we need to support each other from all corners of the world.
Poland, for example, is going through tragedy, and we should be talking about it. A third of Poland has been deemed an “LGBT-free” zone.
Yes, that’s correct. It is protected by law in Poland to have an “LGBT-free” zone.Now, as someone who has been lucky enough to never be considered illegal in the country I call my home, this news is jarring and difficult to swallow. But we must keep paying attention. We must never allow this to be the new normal, and we must keep holding our countries and each other accountable for what we deserve. As we continue on, I urge you to remember: We can only move forward from here, together.
So, Poland has “LGBT-free” zones. What does that mean? Of course, this has come from years of deep-seated ignorance and discrimination throughout Poland, laying the groundwork for this blatant discrimination to become law. First we must learn more about Poland’s historical homophobia. Equality parades are being attacked by anti-LGBT activists, such as a couple sentenced to only a year in prison after bringing 3 homemade explosives to a pride parade. After further inspection it was learned that if they were detonated, they could have killed or injured numerous people within a 25 ft. radius. There have also been unimaginable levels of violence last summer at a march in Bialystok. Opting to remain anonymous, a Poland native we talked with stated “There were rocks, eggs, glass bottles, and even firecracker things were used against the pride parade. “I’m scared for myself because of it – the LGBTQ+ situation is so bad, so much worse than it looks from the outside, but no one hears us.”* We must keep paying attention.
Poland has refused to lessen these beliefs that they hold, under the guise that homosexuality is a threat to their long-standing culture of Christianity. This LGBT-free zone was passed via a resolution, which is meant to “defend children, youth, families, and Polish schools from sexual depravity and indoctrination, which lead to many pathologies already existing in Western countries, such as accepting pornography, abortion, sexual criminality, the crisis of the family and many others” (Ciobanu). Essentially, the resolution is defending that accepting LGBTQIA+ human beings and supporting them would, in turn bring in all the other stereotypes we’ve been hearing for years. To remind you, just so this doesn’t become normal, this language and charter has not only passed, but is currently being defended by Poland.
Now this is not the only level of homophobia that is present in Poland – there’s always a middle ground, and this can be no different: there is a milder formed “Municipal Charter of Family Rights” proposed by Ordo Iuris, a legal conservative group based in Warsaw. This Charter steers clear of referencing LGBTQIA+ people explicitly, but instead attempts to streamline the protection of “traditional families,” thus allowing them to implement concrete measures to further discriminate against LGBTQIA+ people. The adoption of this Charter would give the government the right to exclude people or organizations from non-governmental organizations on the basis of keeping the “value of family and marriage.” Jakub Gawron thinks it would be detrimental as well to the LGBT+ community, even though it’s viewed as the less intense type of discrimination. Gawron says that while living there, “you are aware that in case violence happens, you are dependent only on yourself and associations operating in other cities. You know that the police will consider violence for homophobic reasons as unimportant. [You wonder] what these people would be capable of in an extreme historical moment*” (Ciobanu). Despite Gawron’s warning, 34 municipalities have adopted this watered-down Charter, and 100 Polish governments have claimed to be “free from LGBT ideology,” supporting discrimination and intolerance against our community. This is the new normal.
As is clear by the experiences and blatant discrimination in Poland, the LGBTQIA+ community needs each other. I often find myself avoiding the news because it hurts too much to see, but that hurt shows me that there’s something worth hoping for. You are all worth hoping for, and that is what we must hold onto.
Written by: Paige Schoppmann
*Comments have been edited for clarity