For so many of us, LGBTQIA+ acceptance is widespread, and largely mainstream. The western mindset toward same-sex couples, trans and queer individuals is much more accepting than that of Polish individuals.
I have briefly mentioned this topic in What the Polish Culture has Taught me blog, however, I wanted to expand this topic.
Because I do not live in Poland, I thought it was important to get someone's personal thoughts and feelings about the LGBT community in Poland.
Tomek (Tom) is a loud and proud 23 year old gay man from Gdynia, Poland.
No, not the Netflix series Karen.
Sex education is common throughout most developed countries. Recently, Scotland has become the first nation to put LGBT history on the curriculum, whereas countries such as Poland do not even mention the word homosexual, and most certainly not transgender.
"Honestly, we haven't been educated at all. Everything I know about the LGBT community and myself is through my experiences and Instagram. It's not just LGBT either, but basic stuff. I should have had at least one talk at school about sex and it never happened. They want this knowledge to be hidden for some reason. In Poland, our government wants all sexual education to be reduced to the absolute minimum and exclude any content about LGBT. They consent to posters that tell lies about the LGBT coomunity, for example that they want to molest children, or teach them to masturbate at a really young age.”
Homophobia and transphobia
Of course, I cannot speak about every single Polish person, however, as a culture, Polish people are intolerant toward same-sex couples and trans individuals.
Poland is one of the most Catholic countries in the world, which means that they take the Bible very literally. Poles are also extreme traditionalists, so the idea of two men or women being together is unheard of.
As I have mentioned in the What the Polish Culture has Taught me article, there are 'LGBT free zones' in Poland. Which means that you represent any part of the LGBTQIA+ community, you cannot enter these areas. Polish people say, it is to 'protect tourists', but I think it's simply discrimination.
"In middle school and high school, I was often called a fag or something like that. People were physically taking advantage of me and, simply, I was afraid of them. Sometimes it made me stay at home and not go into school, because I would be crying there, feeling like a fool. At uni, I did experience forms of exclusion and being treated differently, but what can I do? I'm quite happy that I have friends and family that love me.
Issues of homophobia and transphobia are so big, that 70% of Polish teenagers experience suicidal thoughts. I was in that group too. People may spit on you just because you are holding your boyfriend's hand (as it was my case). As I've said before, people don't react at all. Some people decide to hide their sexuality, because in some areas it's simply unsafe.
People were attacking groups of LGBT people in Białystok on pride in 2019. It says a lot about the country and police not reacting enough."
No recognition of same-sex couples
In Poland, same sex couples do not exist under the law.
There are no civil partnerships for same-sex couples, and certainly no marriages.
The only thing that same-sex couples can do to get as close to a marriage as possible, is change their partner's rights to access medical information and be named in their will.
"I'm studying law, so it's sad to look at it. Compared to Germany (which borders Poland) we look like a nation of primitives. Some of the politicians clearly want to break our society apart. I feel like I am persona non grata here, someone you don't want to see. For some people I must truly be disgusting as still people here think it's a sickness."
The Polish media
Most of us are accustomed to seeing LGBTQIA+ individuals in the media, it's just natural at this point.
However, in Poland - being openly gay in the media is not popular at all. No one wants to support a celebrity who supports or represents something the public believes to be 'wrong'. That's exactly why so many Polish LGBT celebrities are still 'in the closet', and I say this because some Polish celebrities have admitted to this personally. We obviously need more regulations and honestly, I don't know why the EU is not reacting. We just want to love legally and fully, like them.
"I agree, partly. You can almost divide our society in half, so it depends from person to person. In general, some aspects of the Polish media will push things, politicians will too. I know that I was complaining before, but I can tell you that I believe in a change for Poland. We simply need time for people to be educated and for the TVP (the national station) to change. Usually the winning party (left wing vs.right wing) will take over the control of the TVP, so I hope in next few years people will start watching quality content, which hopefully can educate them too."
The Polish Government
Currently, Poland has a far-right government with Andrzej Duda as president.
However, a slightly more liberal candidate, the mayor of Warsaw (the capital) has been show great support by the urban voters.
As the preparations for the presidential elections continue in Poland, one of Andrzej Duda's MPs said "These people are not equal with normal people" - speaking about the LGBT community.
You might think that the slightly more liberal approach of Rafał Trzaskowski (the mayor of Warsaw) would be better, yet even he said that he does not support adoption of children by same-sex couples, as he calls it "enslavement" of children.
"According to the government, we are bad, disgusting and sinful. People attack LGBT people on the streets and aggressive behaviour is socially accepted. In bigger cities the situation is much better, as we are more educated. In particular, people aged between 25 and 40 are quite understanding and nice. Young people seem to accept and like LGBT people, as they are a big part of Instagram and Tik Tok in Poland."
The future of the LGBT community in Poland
I would like to say, that attitudes are changing around the topic of LGBT acceptance in Poland, however, that isn't strictly true.
I am ashamed and embarrassed to even be associated with such a narrow minded nation.
There needs to be real and radical change in the Polish culture if we want to see our LGBT brothers and sisters live an open and happy life in Poland.
All I can say is, I am so grateful that I have been given the privilege of living in England. Of course homophobia and transphobia still exists, but people are much more tolerant and accepting.
Please never forget how lucky and privileged you are, simply by where you live in the world.
"My dreams are always big and surreal so it's a hard question. I do believe that it will change for the better in the next 8 years. Things are technically better now, but still it feels like we are not a socially developed country. Democracy fails and people are living in poverty, so how can we imagine this place to teach people respect?
I would love to feel wanted, safe and recognised here."