Politicized Christianity in Poland // The Observer
I was brought up in a Polish-Catholic family and religion was what we followed; everything the Church said was the right way to look at life. I learned that homosexuals only existed when I was 10 years old and my best friend had two fathers. I didn’t pay attention to it since her family meant as much to me as any other family. If she was happy and loved, what was wrong? Five years later, I revealed my mom was queer. My family initially tolerated my identity until I started dating someone who was not a man. They said I had been brainwashed and blamed the media and leftists for my inability to be straight. As soon as I stopped dating this person, my family thought I was “cured”, but that is not the way sex works; you cannot be healed of love.
My parents told me that my life would be over if I strayed from the “norm” if I fell in love with someone who was not a man, if I was not straight. This kind of reaction may be considered old-fashioned and absurd for Americans, but it is usual and even expected for Poles. Generations of Poles have learned that being gay is wrong, so it’s unsurprisingly difficult for many people to step back from what they’ve always known and come to terms with an entirely different point of view. But what culture should be rooted in the hatred of those born to love those of the same sex? In Poland, going out as queer is like signing a life contract to accept harassment, the removal of rights and life as the target of propaganda.
The use of someone’s sexuality as a means of political attack is an endangered practice in many European countries. Yet Poland only protected the ability to destroy a homosexual’s career. Many conservative politicians have used the country’s anti-queer propaganda and homophobia as a weapon for political ends. Famous writer and animator Mikolaj Milcke has been targeted every time he returns to his hometown in Poland. His friends received countless SMS locals asking him why they weren’t afraid to leave their children with him. It is not uncommon in Poland to refer to the LGBTQ + community as an “ideology”, especially something created by the Communist Party. These statements have led to a lack of education about gay people in schools as well as scarlet letters for anyone who identifies as non-heterosexual. Five of the 16 Polish provinces and more than 80 towns and villages across the country have even qualified as “without LGBTQ + ideology. “
Duda ran his re-election campaign specifically on limiting gay rights, claiming his parents’ generation had not fought against communism for 40 years. “for an even more destructive new ideology to emerge.” The Minister of Education also openly called so that people “stop listening to nonsense about some human rights or some equality. Those [queer] people are not equal to normal people. As a country ruled by hate, Poland’s rulers have a similar outlook to the majority of citizens, which makes the nation dangerous to anyone outside of the status quo.
Polish nationalism has a close relationship with the country’s religion, Roman Catholicism, and does not hesitate to enact laws based on Church doctrine. For Polish nationalists, LGBTQ + rights are seen as part of communism, which many Poles are terrified of because of the country’s past. During their years under the Soviets, the Church was the sole guardian of the Poles who helped them maintain their identity and protected them from the USSR. After the liberation of Poland, the paranoia and the aftermath remained. Even before the 1980s, Polish Catholics weren’t as heavily targeted as Polish Jews, so after World War II the Church became an institution that stuck with Poles in every disaster. The Vatican has made general statements about members of the LGBTQ + community regarding same-sex marriage, saying that God “cannot bless sin”, Which was approved by Pope Francis, although he has already done statements support people who show same-sex attraction. As a conservative country devoted to Vatican doctrine, Poland listens to what the Church values with politics and societal norms on a more ethical and practical stand.
Poland continues to be divided in politics, culture and everyday life, but this is not insoluble. Making marginalized peoples equal to those who have not suffered does not undermine the culture or tradition of the country, but rather improves them in the light of acceptance and advancement. Poland is a Catholic country that values its traditions and religion, but Christianity does not discriminate against humans because we are all children of God. LGBTQ + Poles deserve the same basic legal rights as anyone else. Ever since I learned what it’s like to love someone fearlessly in America, I look forward to the day when I can do the same in my home country.
Isabel Olesinski is a sophomore living at Johnson Family Hall studying Political Science and English with a concentration in Creative Writing. Fun fact, she’s a part of Notre-Dame’s first theater club, Not-So-Royal Shakespeare Company! Do not hesitate to contact her by email, [email protected], for any questions, comments or general inquiries.
BridgeND is a student-run discussion club committed to bridging polarization in politics and teaching how to engage in respectful and productive discourse. BridgeND welcomes students from all walks of life, perspective and experience who wish to strengthen their knowledge of current issues or educate others about an issue they care about. The club meets weekly on Mondays at 7 p.m. in the McNeill Room at LaFortune. You want to know more ? Contact [email protected] or @bridge_ND on Twitter and Instagram.
The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.