The LGBT Movement In Poland
The growth of the LGBT movement around the world, predominately in the Western Hemisphere, can be seen with the progression of equal rights and freedoms for LGBT persons, as well as the spread of LGBT alliances, organisations and movements.
Western Europe, known for its democratic values, laws, freedoms and liberties is now one of the leading centres for the LGBT community.
Most recently the LGBT movement has made significant progress in France and the United Kingdom where further equal rights and the legalisation of homosexual marriages was made legal after many other countries. As the LGBT movement develops further its model of LGBT rights, the tolerance and acceptance will inevitably knock on Central Eastern European doors, as well as the ones of EU candidate countries.
While many argue that Polish civil society and government is less tolerant and has made little progress with the LGBT movement, we believe otherwise. Poland has continually, since the 1950s become more exposed to the LGBT movement issues, demands and activities, and this exposure has allowed a greater understanding, tolerance and acceptance of the LGBT community, which then can be linked to the development and growth of rights and freedoms of LGBT persons in this country. The case of civil unions is addressed most frequently since it has become one of the most popular and prominent issues in Poland.
Politicians, public opinion, the Catholic Church and the media have been increasingly reacting to and discussing topics and issues concerning the LGBT community, which we believe signifies its growth and importance. Tolerance has grown, as can be seen by Polish public opinion polls and the political discourse about civil unions has increased in the Polish Sejm. Yet, civil unions are the only LGBT movement related issue that has made it to the level of political proposals. Common accommodation, property relations and inheritance have only been discussed by certain political parties, mainly Sojusz Lewicy Demokratycznej (SLD) and Ruch Palikota (RP).
Starting in the 1950s, the Polish LGBT movement in Poland remained weak and disorganised during the communist era, rising in number only during the 80s the movement began to rise in number. After the collapse of the Soviet Union the LGBT movement really began to organise and gain influence. As it grew their collective goals were being drawn up as well, such as fighting against stereotypes, improving the public image of homosexuals, promote the equalisation of their rights and rise awareness in the fight against AIDS.
Since the turn of the century, the LGBT movement has risen in strength, numbers and media coverage, all which can be contributed to organisational factors, publications, marches and political activity. We could say that the LGBT movement is now in its adolescent phase, and the rest is left for us to see.
However, Poland is a country which is strongly influenced by faith, tradition and church. A majority of Polish people consider themselves Catholic and the Church combined with conservative laws continues to create a major roadblock for such a movement. The Church, a majority of political actors and most of civil society do not want to see new laws, introduced which will change the Civil Code and the status quo.
The most developing front concerning the movement for and against the LGBT movement can be seen on the internet. While the internet has helped the LGBT community to integrate with sites like chomiki.pl, gejowo.pl, fellow.pl or kumpello.pl help to build networks attract partners, and also friends and working colleagues, it is also used by groups against the LGBT community activism such as the Fundacja Mamy i Taty.
The picture of the situation of LGBT movement and civil unions in Poland would not be complete without gauging media coverage. The media taken collectively has a rather neutral journalistic approach to the LGBT community. In the last few years the media has been interested in the issue of civil unions; since it is one of the hottest topics in the political debate, media and public opinion. The LGBT movement is most commented/interesting for journalists when something special happens – for instance: LGBT rights changes in other countries or during controversies, civil unrest and demonstrations.
While for many Polish society may not be becoming more tolerant to LGBTs, the fact remains that it is starting to think more about it. Our estimates are that between 15-20 years could be needed for a significant change into legislation promoting equal rights and for the tolerance to develop in the Polish civil society. It is true the number of LGBTs and individuals who know LGBTs is increasing. However, Polish society has a history of gradual changes, and seem to not like sudden, drastic changes of ideas, beliefs and policies.
In addition religion continues to be the largest obstacle for the LGBT movement in Poland. The attitude towards sexual minorities in the Roman Catholic Church, which has a huge influence in in the political and social dimensions of the countries through its opinions and recommendations, eliminates the chances of making civil unions possible in the present moment.
As we have come to believe the media, politics and public opinion is one inseparable system which to a large extent reflects only mainstream ideas. This is why the Polish nation still shows concern towards the LGBT movement and rather as a whole has a homophobic approach. Analysis of the media shows that the main trend in journalism among the Polish media is far away from a neutral and professional coverage of the issues related to LGBT movement and the establishment of civil unions.
Towards future achievement
In the last two decades one can observe a trend to provide equal opportunities and rights for everybody regardless of their sex, race, belief or inabilities, this research proved that although the Polish society is rather conservative in the LGBT matter. There are nonetheless evident changes in morality, consciousness and notions and this will probably bring more openness and hence more rights for everybody including LGBT persons.
Regardless, the LGBT activists in Poland should be ready for new challenges, obstacles and patience, because public opinion in Poland is slowly changing and becoming more liberal, as the younger generation is become more exposed to Western ideas and other European countries are slowly hinting for Polish society to change its mindset concerning LGBTs.
Nevertheless, the LGBT movement is growing in strength and numbers and technology is aiding this growth. These factors have caused Polish society to become more open and tolerant to discussing the topic of LGBT and a as result governments, willing or unwilling, are having to deal with the LGBT topic. This growth of in number of claims and draft of laws written turns into a vicious circle of LGBT in the media, civil society and government.
However, in order for LGBT movement and Polish society to develop peacefully out of this circle, political discourse, media coverage, civil society and the academic world need to collaborate to reshape the society’s perception of homosexuals. While the LGBT movement has come a long way, it still has a long way to go.
Patrick Kozakiewicz is a student at the University of Wrocław. He holds a BA in International Relations and is currently attending a Dual Masters in Political Science, between the University of Wrocław and the University of Bruxelles ULB.
Julia Rokicka is a MA student studying Political Sciences at the University of Wrocław.