Just as Hungary planned to end the legal recognition of trans people (what the fuck man), parts of Poland have declared themselves “LGBT-free zones.” But what does that mean, what are people doing to stop it and how can you help?
Poland’s “LGBT-Free Zones”
Since 2019, around 100 towns around Poland—roughly a third of the country—have passed resolutions and declared themselves “LGBT-free.” That phrase is virtually nothing but symbolic but has given rise to a new wave of homophobia, anti-LGBTQIA+ violence and hate speech, and left many queer people afraid and considering going back in the closet.
I put air quotes around that word because, to put it simply, there is no such thing as a zone that’s 100 percent devoid of LGBTQIA+ people. Your sexuality and identity is not a political ideology, and no one can abolish you, erase your identity or even change it. You and I are who we are and it’s beautiful.
In an episode of ABC’s Foreign Correspondent, reporter Eric Campbell visited some of these self-called “LGBT-free zones.” In one, the Archbishop of Krakow grossly compares queer people and the fight for LGBTQIA+ rights to the aggressive hold the Soviet Union and communism had on the country during the Cold War, noting “this time it is not a red but a rainbow plague.” According to the BBC, a right-wing magazine called Gazeta Polska is sharing stickers featuring a rainbow symbol and a black cross over it. Its editor, Tomasz Sakiewicz, boasts that they’ve handed 70,000 of them and were congratulated for it.
It’s reasons like this that queer people in Poland are afraid right now. As one gay man in a small town told Foreign Correspondent, these attitudes have led to an “increase in hatred spreading against homosexual people.” It’s turning someone’s sexuality and identity into a political weapon, and it needs to stop.
In July, Poland’s President Andrzej Duda, was reelected into power after a campaign riddled with homophobia. As the BBC reports, he recently launched a “family charter” of election proposals that include banning same-sex marriage, stopping LGBTQIA+ people from adopting children and even teaching about LGBTQIA+ issues at school—a stark contrast to when the country decriminalised homosexuality in 1932, before most European countries (and definitely here in Australia). It’s no secret that President Duda is a wicked and evil man.
And the European Union wants to put a stop to it and him
Last week, the European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen condemned Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party in her first ‘state of union’ speech. As she put it, there’s no such thing as “an LGBT-free zone.” Your identity is not your ideology and cannot be changed, these “zones” are nothing but “humanity-free” and, at the end of the day, they have no place in the EU.
“I will not rest until I build a union of equality,” Leyen said. “A union where you can be who you are and love who you want without fear and recrimination.”
“Being yourself is not your ideology, it is your identity,” she continued. “And no one can ever take it away. So, I want to be crystal clear. LGBTQIA+-free zones are humanity-free zones and they have no place in our union.”
Earlier this week, the U.S. Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden echoed Leyen’s comments, tweeting her response with his own message, “Let me be clear: LGBTQ+ rights are human rights—and “LGBT-free zones” have no place in the European Union or anywhere in the world.”
How can you help LGBTQIA+ people in Poland?
A joint campaign by LGBTQIA+ activist group All Out and local campaigners Kampania Przeciw Homofobii (KPH), titled We’re Under Attack In Poland, is calling on EU leaders to “condemn these acts of violence and discrimination” and to “pass legislation on hate crimes based on sexual orientation and gender identity.” Previously, they called for Leyen, who gave her indirect response to them last week, and now, they are “hand-delivering” their 340,000 signed petition to Helena Dali, the European commissioner for equality.
In a statement via Dazed, Matt Beard, All Out’s executive director, said, “Hate and violence against LGBTQ+ people in Poland has reached a boiling point. Polish politicians from the governing party have declared LGBTQ+ people ‘enemies of the state’ and denounce them as ‘an ideology’. Around 100 Polish municipalities have declared themselves ‘LGBT-free zones’.”
In this sense, the petition “represents a message of love and solidarity from across the world to the LGBTQ+ community in Poland: we hear you and we will stand with you.”
If you want to help the LGBTQIA+ people of Poland and put a stop to these “LGBT-free zones” and President Duda, you can sign All Out’s petition here.
Header source: All Out / Bea Uhart.