Ideologia LGBT

By Daniel Andres Ordenes
All photography by Krystian Lipiec

Humans in the EU is a project that curates portraits of European people and gives them a platform to tell their stories. One of the stories that are dear to our heart is called IDEOLOGIA LGBT, which is Polish for “LGBT Ideology.” The title of the story is a deliberate repurposing of hateful remarks by the Polish government party, which has used the slur to undermine the LGBTI+ community in the country.

The creators of the story wanted to show the faces behind this “ideology”. The people who live their lives despite the adversity and do so with pride. Behind every letter are thousands of individuals and, the makers say, even reclaiming the letters LGBT does not do justice to the wider LGBTI+ community in all its diversity. Humans in the EU wanted to share this story with you to amplify their voices and tell the stories of what it’s like to be non-heteronormative in Poland through the decades. 

L: Yga, 47 years old

Yga remembers the 90s and how LGBTI+ was becoming more accepting with its first LGBTI+ film festival:

“The first LGBT+ film festival in Poland was organized in the 90s, and that’s also when LGBT+ clubs started opening. I used to go to LGBT+ summer camps organized in Olsztyn. There were not many places where you could meet other people until the internet arrived”.

Since then, this attitude has changed and the LGBTI+ community has faced challenges:

“Poland in the last 10 years has changed for the worse in many ways. When I became an activist in the 90s, we had the feeling that things were slowly changing for the better. All of the indicators showed that there was more acceptance for non-heteronormative people and that there was more discussion around the topic.”

However, there are lights of hope with prominent figures getting into important institutions such as the Polish parliament and the European Parliament:

“These days, people are talking more about the LGBT+ community because of Robert Biedron, who is an openly gay politician, and Anna Grodzka, who was the first and only transgender person in the Polish parliament. Now there is also a non-binary activist known as Margot”.

G: Mateusz, 40 years old

Mateusz remembers moments during his youth where he had ways to express his sexual orientation and identity:

“I guess I came out when I kissed a boy for the first time. It was at a high school party. The high school that I attended encouraged us to be open and express ourselves. We felt free to understand ourselves as we wanted, and homosexuality wasn’t seen as a problem.”

He felt a change between the period from high school to college:

“My high school was very open-minded, but when I lived in Lodz as a student, it suddenly turned out that most people were more conservative than when I was a kid. When I started making homoerotic art in college, I received a lot of negative feedback from professors, but I still stuck with it.”

He points out the government party with the Catholic Church has contributed to the negative attitudes towards the LGBTI+ community:

“The current government [Law and Justice, PiS] could not push their anti-LGBT+ propaganda without support from the church. It’s a targeted campaign that is threatening the situation of the LGBT+ community in the country.”

However, there is hope with the capital, Warsaw, and the younger generation being more tolerant and even engaging in LGBTI+ activism:

“Warsaw really developed into an incredible city in the last decades. But Poland regressed when it comes to its mentality. Maybe not a full 100%, but still, we are taking big steps back.”

“I really enjoy seeing young people being so engaged in LGBT+ activism. This is a really brave, young generation.

B: Karolina, 29 years old

Karolina grew up in a conservative family with a conception of getting a husband:

“I grew up in a small town just 30 kilometers from Warsaw. I had a conservative upbringing… They cherish traditional values, which growing up for me meant the following: “when you are older, you will have a husband, children and you will live close to your parents.”

During her youth, she felt there was a negative attitude on the LGBTI+ community:

“Sexual education in Poland is virtually non-existent. My sex education classes were called “Education for Family Life,” where we were taught that homosexuality is a deviation. But it was always in the context of two men—because who talks about lesbians, right? There was no mention of the possibility of being non-binary or transgender. For that type of knowledge, my friends and I had to turn to support groups, NGOs, or the internet.”

At the same time, she felt the LGBTI+ community was not a topic of discussion, but this changed drastically in recent times:

“Ten years ago, LGBT+ people, or refugees, weren’t a hot topic in Poland. The minority topics did not fire up the public debate as they do now. Maybe it’s because the internet has exposed many people to these topics as well.”

“Poland is getting worse for minorities. I don’t know if it’s because the prejudice and police brutality is just becoming more visible, or if it was always like this.”

T: Igor, 18 years old

Igor did not hear about the LGBTI+ community growing up before exploring through own initiative:

“At the age of eleven, I felt that something didn’t fit for me, so I started thinking about my childhood and the things that I liked. I also started looking around on the internet. Living in such a small town, I didn’t have anyone to talk about these things. This is when I became more aware of being transgender. I managed to find people like me, went to meetups in other cities, and I befriended a guy who was also trans. It was him who really helped me become more aware of who I am”.

Igor feels there has been a change in Poland, by which Polish people has become more negative towards the LGBTI+ community:

“Over the past decade, Poland has changed for the worse. We have never been a tolerant country, but I feel like Poland used to be more open. At the moment, there is a lot of anti-LGBT+ campaigning going on. There is a debate as to whether LGBT+ is a good or a bad thing. Non-heteronormative people are being referred to as part of the so-called “LGBT ideology,” rather than human beings.”

However, Igor has an important message; the LGBTI+ community is not an ideology, but human beings:

“If I had to tell Polish people something about the LGBT+ community, I would explain that we are not an ideology like they say on the news. We are human beings just like them and they shouldn’t be this scared or prejudiced towards us.”

Humans in the EU want to amplify this last quote, the LGBTI+ community is NOT an ideology. The stories by Yga, Mateusz, Karolina, and Igor demonstrate the changes in Polish society, and how fast they can happen. We shared this story to give a voice of hope because the important message throughout this story is that there exists hope for a better future.



IDEOLOGIA LGBT   by Jarek Oleszczynski, Marcelina Kieskiewicz Dvorak, Toon Vos, and Krystian Lipiec and produced by Are We Europe. Humans in the EU curated this multimedia story to highlight the experience of non-heteronormative people in Poland.

Humans in the EU

Humans in the EU is a project supported by the European Parliament that aims to tell personal, human stories of people across Europe. Our goal is to amplify the voices of the people of Europe, with a particular focus on those who are underrepresented or misrepresented, such as people of color, the LGBTI+ community, people with disabilities, and women.

Are We Europe

Are We Europe is an award-winning media outlet, bringing you borderless journalism from the next generation of storytellers, in print and online.

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