Trans community in Poland prepares for political attacks ahead of elections | Poland
Poland’s transgender people are bracing for a hate speech onslaught from politicians ahead of next year’s parliamentary elections after the ruling party’s chairman used several meetings with supporters to launch attacks on them .
Jarosław Kaczyński, President of Law and Justice (PiS), first broached the topic in late June, the same day as the biggest Polish Pride Parade took place in Warsaw, when he met supporters in the city of Wloclawek.
“We have elementary knowledge in biology, we know that sex is determined at the level of the chromosomes… In extreme cases, an operation must be carried out, but that does not mean that after this operation a man will be a woman and a woman will be a man,” he said.
Pointingly looking at his watch, he told the crowd that people on the left believed that “it is now half past five, before I was a man but now I am a woman”.
Since then, Kaczyński has returned to the topic numerous times, sneering at situations where someone with a male name wants to change it to a female name, and claiming to feel compassion for transgender people while describing them as ” abnormal”.
He also launched personal attacks on Anna Grodzka, Poland’s first transgender MP, who served in parliament from 2011 to 2015.
This is not the first time that the Polish government has targeted the LGBT community. Two years ago, PiS-aligned president Andrzej Duda led a successful re-election campaign based on a fight against so-called LGBT ideology, although there was rarely a focus on trans people.
“For a long time, ‘gender’ and ‘LGBT’ were just used to mean ‘gay’,” said Maja Heban, trans activist and writer.
But polls suggest there is a growing tolerance for gay people in Polish society, perhaps making transphobia the next political strategy. Heban said Kaczyński appeared to be “working” the material to see if it resonated.
Emilia Wiśniewska, from Trans-Fuzja, a Polish trans advocacy organisation, said: “A lot of people already know someone who is gay or bisexual, and it’s hard to get people to hate their friends or their neighbours. Trans people are even less understood and less accepted and that makes us a better target.
Although it is difficult to measure hate crimes against trans people because Polish law does not classify them as such, Wiśniewska said there has been an increase in cases of violence and hate speech over the past few years. last two years.
Krzysztof Śmiszek, an MP for the opposition New Left party and leader of the parliamentary group on LGBT+ equality, agreed that “homophobia no longer resonates as it used to” among large swaths of Polish society. He said Kaczyński was happy to sow hatred if he thought it would bring political gain, noting the rhetoric used by the PiS during the 2015 refugee crisis.
“Poland in 2022 is not so easy to manipulate with homophobia… Kaczyński did not consciously choose the whole LGBT group, only transgender people,” he said.
Rightists around the world oppose trans rights. In Hungary, traditionally the PiS government’s closest European ally, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has led an attack on “gender ideology”, and his government banned legal gender recognition on official documents in 2020.
One of Duda’s first acts when he became president of Poland in 2015 was to veto a bill passed by parliament that would have made it easier for trans people to be recognized legally – which, Currently, can only be achieved by using a loophole in which a trans person sue their parents for assigning them the wrong sex at birth, an often long and difficult process.
Since the PiS came to power, trans activists say they have stopped all government advocacy, believing it to be unnecessary at best and counterproductive at worst. Instead, they focused on raising awareness and empathy in Polish society.
So far, other members of the ruling party have not joined Kaczyński’s anti-trans rhetoric, and it has not been widely picked up by pro-government media, suggesting that a decision n It may not yet have been decided whether to make it a main pillar of the campaign for next year’s parliamentary elections.
Heban said she believed that, ironically, the lack of progress on trans rights in Poland might be the thing that saves trans people from being the target of a full-fledged government campaign.