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Pride Month Sermon

 

Mati Kirschenbaum

Being an LGBT person in Poland is a sport discipline requiring a will to fight and fortitude. A few years ago I would have compared it to a 3000m steeplechase race. It is an exhausting athletic discipline, but after the first lap around the stadium you already know what to expect, the obstacles do not change. Thanks to this, despite the growing fatigue, subsequent laps are technically easier.

However, over the course of the past two years the number of obstacles faced by LGBT people in Poland has increased and it’s still increasing. Five voivodeship and dozens of smaller local government entities have passed resolutions deeming themselves “LGBT ideology-free” zones or simply “LGBT-free” zones. Last year’s equality march in Białystok was met with a wave of violence and the opponents of the march in Lublin brought home-made bomb to it. All this happened with the support of the Catholic Church, which called LGBT people the “rainbow plague”.

This year the condoning of discrimination and violence has moved to the national level. On June 13th, while defending the homophobic rhetoric of the government’s representatives, President Andrzej Duda stated that “they are trying to convince us [Poles], that [LGBT persons] are people, when in fact it is simply an ideology.” A member of his electoral campaign, MP Przemysław Czarnek, echoed his words, saying: “Let’s stop listening to this nonsense about some human rights or equality. These people are not equal to normal people.”

Within less than two weeks from President Duda’s words Poland has witnessed a wave of assaults on LGBT people; among others, Andrzej Duda’s former barber was beaten up. At least one person committed suicide because of the rhetoric of the President of Poland. For two weeks now I’ve been obsessively reading articles about these incidents. At first I didn’t know why I was so shaken up by them. Only yesterday did I realize that the reports full of descriptions of verbal and physical abuse have reminded me about an event in my life that I would rather erase from my memory.

On New Year’s Eve 2008 I got beaten up by three thugs in the center of Wrocław. The assault’s motive was robbery, but while my assailants were kicking me (everywhere, including the head, luckily along the skull), they were yelling homophobic slogans. Covered in blood I came back home, from where my friend’s father took me to the hospital. At the hospital a helpful doctor manually realigned my displaced nose without anesthesia (yes, it hurt) and he prescribed me painkillers and tranquillizers. I was really lucky that no one kicked me in the head from a different angle – or I might not be here today.

Why am I writing about this today?

Because most Polish LGBT persons are facing either verbal or physical abuse.

Because while you cannot beat up “LGBT ideology”, you can definitely beat up a person – for example me.

Because when I reported the assault, the policeman said that the accompanying homophobic shouts were not relevant to the case, since Poland does not prosecute homophobia- and transphobia- motivated crimes. And then he refused to mention them in the case file.

Because Poland does not treat homophobic motives for violence on par with  other groups at risk of violence.

Because I find it terrifying that 12 years later the situation of LGBT persons in Poland has not improved.

Because I don’t want to be treated as a second-class citizen as a Polish LGBT person.

Because I want to show today’s LGBT youth that one can still lead a good life following such a trauma.

Because discrimination, fear and lately also violence is something Polish LGBT persons face every day. And this won’t change unless you undertake actions to help them. Here and now, in the last days of the Month of Pride in being an LGBT person; the pride that Polish LGBT people often have to hide.

Mati Kirschenbaum

Translated from Polish by: Marzena Szymańska-Błotnicka