Kaska Paluch. Photo / Magdalena Łukasiak

Polish Stonewall? Are we fed up enough?

OPINION Recent events in Poland are a signal that the LGBTQ+ community no longer wants to be a whipping boy. The one who is afraid to stand up to his classmates beating him, because there is ten of them, and he is just by himself. Tired, frustrated, angry and desperate, driven by years of humiliation, aggression and discrimination, people took to the streets not to proudly march through the city. But to give back to those who beat them this time.

This attitude puts the entire LGBTQ + community in a difficult position, because there is no place for the anger of a gay, lesbian or transgender person, even among so-called allies. Those who so far “did not mind” now DO mind, because a rainbow flag hung on the sculpture of Christ (“profanation”). Or when an activist from “Stop Bzdurom” (“Stop the Nonsense”) stopped the van that has been spreading awful lies about LGBTQ+ commu-nity, yanked the driver out of the cockpit and blurred the insults on the tarpaulin. For many, it is an exaggeration, it is escalation, it is profanation, it is too much.

Those who are really on the side of LGBTQ+ are outdoing each other on social media in inventing ways to trigger empathy. “Imagine” – they write – “that a truck has been driving around Warsaw for weeks, on the tarpaulin of which it says that people with the name are mostly pedophiles raping children. You know it’s not true, there are even scientific studies to show it’s not true. You’re trying to intervene, report to the police – the van continues to drive around the city. How long can you take it before you yank the driver out and blur the crap out?” – they ask.

“Almost all of south-eastern Poland voluntarily adopted homophobic symbolic laws in order to protect against “destroying values, like a traditional family, i.e. a union of only a woman and a man”. The “LGBT-free zone” covers over 30 percent of Poland.”

I don’t know if it helps. Probably not, because more and more often I read comments like “I’m for tolerance, but destroying vans is an exaggeration” – also among my seemingly open, understanding and supportive friends. For me, too, any form of violence or aggression is something that should be avoided at all costs. In this case, however, we are not talking about attack, but about self-defense.

At least they don’t kill

One of the most read comments is that the LGBTQ+ community fighting for tolerance is in fact the most intolerant itself. Meanwhile, among LGBTQ+ people, the limits of tolerance were so stretched that it began to resemble the symptoms of the Stockholm syndrome. When the first, historic Equality Parade was crossing the street of Białystok, and the counter-demonstrators shouted “get the fuck out!”, a colorful parade called “come with us!”. When President Andrzej Duda said in the election campaign “LGBT is not people, it’s ideology” – we were showing “hey, we are people. It’s not an ideology, it’s the boy who showed you the way on the trail”. When another father beat the shit out of his gay son, he would not fight back – after all, it is the father. He lived under the same roof with his pur-suer or ran away and hid. When another lesbian was raped as part of a “corrective rape”, she resorted to mental illness, drugs and suicide attempts. We hide, we huddle, we pre-tend that we are not there, as long as we do not disturb, as long as they do not see us, as long as they do not hit us. We are starting to appreciate the very fact that we can live in hiding. You fear for holding your girlfriend’s hand, kiss your boyfriend? It’s nothing, it’s important that they don’t beat us. Our relationship will never be legal, in the light of the law we will always be strangers to each other? Well. But at least the neighbors don’t leave us crap on the doormat.

I don’t know when it started to build up. Was it when, after the Sekielski brothers’ film about the scale of pedophilia among priests, the counterattack of the ruling party and the Church was to equate pedophilia with homosexuality? Was it when Archbishop Marek Jędraszewski compared the LGBTQ + community to the cholera epidemic, talking about the “rainbow plague”? Or maybe when, during a football match at the stadium, we saw the slogans “Warsaw free from fags”. Or when, in Białystok, the Equality March was bru-tally attacked with the tacit consent of the authorities and less silent encouragement of the Church. When homophobia, aggression against non-heteronormative people, symbolic, verbal and direct violence crawled out of their channels and supported by the power apparatus, blind police officers, spilled in the street. By making the lives of LGBTQ + people not only unbearable, but downright endangered.

“We, the LGBTQIA community in Poland, are fed up with repression and intimidation, aggression by the Polish authorities and the police.”

I wonder which suicide – of those publicized by the media – of people who could not stand the homophobic torment, was the one that spilled the cup. Perhaps it was a teenage Kacper, who hanged himself on his own laces, because as a gay he had to “diagnose” himself using internet quizzes. Because someone threatened to beat him. Because in Poland, sex education is a fiction. Or when the transgender Milo jumped into the river be-cause she couldn’t live “like that” anymore.

30 percent of Poland is “free of LGBT”

Or maybe when the idea of introducing sex education to schools, the one by WHO guide-lines, was called an attempt to “sexualize children”, “learn masturbation”? Maybe because teachers who have tried to teach children to say “no” to an adult, or that homosexuality is just normal, could be punished even with imprisonment. I can’t tell.

I wonder if this anger started to pump into the hearts of the LGBTQ + community as cities, municipalities, and entire provinces proclaimed themselves “LGBT-free zones”. Because almost all of south-eastern Poland voluntarily adopted homophobic symbolic laws in order to protect against “destroying values, like a traditional family, i.e. a union of only a woman and a man”. The “LGBT-free zone” covers over 30 percent of Poland.

The scale of violence against LGBTQ + people in Poland is shocking. The Penal Code does not provide a penalty for an attack on a homophobic background. According to the data of the Campaign Against Homophobia for 2016, almost 70 percent of non-heteronormative people have come across some type of such violence (and the situation is getting worse year by year). Every second LGBTQ + teenager has symptoms of depression, almost 70 percent thought of suicide. There is no prohibition of pseudo conversion therapies in Polish law. Civil partnerships, marriages, and the adoption of children by same-sex couples are illegal – the latter, according to the promises of the President An-drzej Duda, is to be subject to a constitutional ban.

Inviolable homophobic truck

As a symbol of this festival of contempt, humiliation and hideous slander, a truck appeared on the streets of the Polish capital. The megaphone shouted messages about pederasts, about homosexuals raping children. The same slogans dazzled the eyes from the tarpaulin. After being reported to the police, the truck was escorted but returned to the streets. In the end, Margot with the activists from “Stop Bzdurom” collective, took matters into their own hands. For painting the tarpaulin with a spray and taking the driver out of the truck, the court decided on a two-month preventive detention. The arrest warrant was issued on August 7. That day Margot was waiting for the police at the headquarters of the Campaign Against Homophobia. Activists, MPs from the Left and the Green Party were also waiting. Margot went to the police to submit herself to the punishment voluntarily, but the police … didn’t take her. All the gathered people went to Krakowskie Przedmieście, where Margot was captured, handcuffed and hidden in a police car. The crowd surrounded the police car – people sat on the ground and chanted slogans of solidarity.

The police began to brutally disperse the crowd. Some people were dragged out and handcuffed. One of the MPs described how she had to cover a girl with her own body, who was knocked to the ground and then held by standing on her back and head. The detainees were transported to the police stations, the who and where was not informed, the immunity of the opposition deputies who came to the rescue was ignored. Lawyers and families were also not allowed. A round-up was organized and even more people were arrested. The Human Rights Defender Adam Bodnar and representatives of the Na-tional Mechanism for the Prevention of Torture were forced to intervene.

Last year, several thousand people took part in the Independence March in Wrocław. The march went 200 meters, after which it was stopped and terminated due to, among other things, anti-semitic slogans and the use of pyrotechnic materials. Firecrackers, bottles and stones flew towards the police. As a result, three officers were injured. 14 people were detained. “The most aggressive.”

Let me remind you that on Friday, in Krakowskie Przedmieście, the demonstrators surrounded a police car, sitting on the ground. Someone jumped on the police car. Over 50 people were arrested, including people from the round-up, some of them had nothing to do with the protest.

Your silence will not protect you

“What happened yesterday is not normal and is a clear violation of human rights,” we read in Campaign Against Homophobia’s statement entitled “Polish Stonewall?” – Yesterday’s riots are the result of a two-year campaign against LGBT people in Poland. The brazen homophobia of the authorities that did not hesitate to use any means of violence to intimidate us. We have experienced unprecedented abuses by the police and disproportionate direct coercion measures. The escalation of violence continues and we are being targeted. We, the LGBTQIA community in Poland, are fed up with repression and intimidation, aggression by the Polish authorities and the police”.

Is this already a Polish Stonewall? I don’t know, but it is certain that we have reached the turning point. The moment when the level of frustration can no longer be adjusted. I will watch with horror and hope what happens in the weeks and months to come. And even louder than before, the words of Audre Lorde echo in my head: “My silence will not protect me. Your silence won’t protect you”. Looks like we’re starting to get loud.

Photo / Magdalena Łukasiak

Á. Óskarsson
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