Anna Grodzka was the first transgender woman in the world to be elected as a Member of Parliament, where she serves in Poland. Her election in and of itself represents progression in Poland as Grodzka works towards gender and sexual equality.
Kasia Czernik for 429Magazine sat down with Grodzka to discuss her progress and plans for the future in Poland.
Kasia Czernik: When you got elected to the Polish Parliament in 2011, many people believed it was the beginning of the long-awaited moral revolution in Poland. Two years have passed and it seems like not much has changed, especially when you consider the inability of the government to pass a very basic version of the Civil Partnership act. Why?
Anna Grodzka: I think it was a revolution after all. The situation in which the Palikot Movement entered the political stage bringing with it the LGBT equality issues has started a debate in Poland which naturally also polarises. I’m seeing more and more favourable attitudes towards civil partnership and the idea of allowing someone to determine their own gender. Unfortunately I also encounter hate and malevolence. To bring it back to your question, I think it’s democracy – there has to be a breakthrough moment with over a 50% majority to be able to push for the issue of civil partnership in Poland.
Czernik: The motto of the foundation “Trans-Fuzja” that you co-founded is to educate people about gender and identity as well as knocking down stereotypes about transsexuals and transvestites. Are those the biggest challenges transsexuals have to face? What’s it like from the legal point of view?
Grodzka: “Trans-Fuzja” is the result of many people’s hard work, including Lalka PodobiÅ„ska, present here with me, who is the soul of the organization. The hardest thing to do is to change people’s mentality. Legal changes, especially those moving in the right direction, definitely help.
Czernik: So change needs to come from the top?
Grodzka: In order to free somebody from stereotypical thinking you need to equip them with knowledge. That is when stereotypes break. That’s why as members of Trans-Fuzja we try to teach people how to build favourable environment for transexuals, because this is what they need most. The first people that transsexuals come out to are their closest relatives and friends. Sometimes they’re still kids when that happens. That’s why their well-being depends on the reactions of their relatives.
Czernik: The US Supreme Court has just struck down the Defense of Marriage Act claiming it was unconstitutional. Great Britain is a step away from legalising gay marriage, while France has already done so in May this year. Do you think Poland will ever be ready to make a similar decision?
Grodzka: To achieve anything on those grounds we need to keep doing what we’re doing, and I don’t just mean the LGBT community, NGOs and people that have publicly come out and thus tried to have an impact on people’s attitudes. I also mean the people who so far haven’t had anything to do with the issue but decided to get involved now. Civil unions have become a social problem breaking through to a national political scene. The Constitutional Tribunal in Poland which tends to be very conservative on the subject has offered very ambiguous interpretations. Change is possible but it requires time.
Czernik: Can you see a link between the strong Catholic culture present in Poland and the instances of homophobia or is it just another simplification? Where is this fear among some groups of everything that is non-traditional and non-heterosexual coming from?
Grodzka: There is a serious problem in Poland with Catholicism. We do have many believers but it is the church’s activity, particularly of some of its bishops, that leads to ideological confrontations. The church’s stance on the subject of LGBT is very retrograde and what’s worse, it is further imposed on crowds which fill up churches. It is a conscious catechising of the nation which is supported by the government. The problem doesn’t just lie in teaching religion at school. It goes way beyond that. However, even within the same church we can see two different trends, with one of them being more open and modern. The political and sociological change is more rapid. It’s hard to say which way it’s going to go. The only thing I know is which side I’m on.
Czernik: Among people interested in the LGBT issues there is an ongoing debate about the strategy of achieving political goals. There are those who advocate for small steps while others, tired of waiting, support more revolutionary measures. Which argument are you in favour of?
Grodzka: You can’t plan whether the change will come through revolution or evolution. Everyone should just continue doing their own thing. It’s important to keep demonstrating your views and trying to convince others. If all of this brings about a sudden change for better, then I’m all for it. If the change is slower and more evolutionary, then it’s progress too. Usually with these sort of ideological issues we see evolutionary changes although I dream of a revolution, (laugh).
Czernik: What’s your biggest dream?
Grodzka: It depends. My personal dream would be to run away, retire and live somewhere on a beach…
Grodzka: (laughs) In Thailand…of course I’m not going to do it. As far as my political dream is concerned, I just want to see a move away from the sort of conservative politics we’re seeing in Poland right now. I’d like the people of good will to take over and run the country in a way that would allow everyone to live a normal life. Right now everything is heading in the direction opposite to what I’d wish for. I’d like to see it reversed.
Czernik: I wish you good luck then. Thank you.