Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
Sunday, May 26, 2024
The Observer

Love through hate: Politicized Christianity in Poland

In the past 10 years, the U.S. and many European countries have legalized gay marriage. This past year, though, Poland has been more outspoken and adamant about LGBTQ+ rights during conservative president Andrzej Duda’s campaign and reelection. He is one of many who have turned the right to choose one’s partner without fear of persecution into a political gambit to gain more power over the government and citizens. Duda’s recent re-election has ignited thousands of protests across the country as well as support from many queer people in nations such as the U.S. to combat the hate that has spiraled because of someone’s gender identification and sexual orientation.

I was raised in a Polish-Catholic household and religion was what we followed; whatever the Church said was the correct way of looking at life. I only learned that gay people existed when I was 10 years old, and my best friend had two dads. I didn’t pay it any mind since her family made just as much sense to me as any other family would. If she was happy and loved, what was wrong with that? Five years later, I came out as queer to my mother. My family tolerated my identity at first until I started dating someone who wasn’t a man. They said I was brainwashed and blamed the media and leftists for my inability to be straight. As soon as I stopped dating that person, my family believed me to be “cured,” but that is not how sexuality works; you cannot be cured 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 wasn’t a man, if I wasn’t heterosexual. This kind of reaction might be considered old-fashioned and absurd for Americans, but it is customary and even expected for the Polish. Generations of Poles have been taught that being gay is wrong, so it’s unsurprisingly hard for many people to step back from what they’ve always known and accept an utterly different point of view. But what culture should be rooted in the hate of those who were born to love those of the same gender? In Poland, coming out as queer is like signing a lifelong contract to accept harassment, the removal of rights and life as a propaganda target.

Using someone’s sexuality as a means of a political attack is a fading practice in many European countries. Still, Poland has only protected the ability to destroy a gay person’s career. Many conservative politicians have used anti-queer propaganda and the country’s homophobia as a weapon for political gain. Celebrity writer and broadcaster Mikolaj Milcke has been targeted whenever he returns to his hometown in Poland. His friends received countless text messages from locals asking why they weren’t afraid to leave their kids with him. It’s not uncommon in Poland to refer to the LGBTQ+ community as an “ideology,” particularly something created by the communist party. These statements have led to a lack of education on queer people in schools as well as scarlet letters for anyone who identifies as non-heterosexual. Five of Poland’s 16 provinces and over 80 towns and cities across the country have even branded themselves as “free of LGBTQ+ ideology.”

Duda ran his re-election campaign specifically on limiting gay rights, saying his parent’s generation did not fight against communism for 40 years “so that a new ideology would appear that is even more destructive.” The minister of education has also openly called for people to “stop listening to idiocy about some human rights or some equality. These [queer] people are not equal to normal people.” As a country governed by hate, Poland’s leaders have similar perspectives to the majority of citizens, making the nation dangerous for anyone outside of the status quo.

Polish nationalism has a close relationship with the country’s religion, Roman Catholicism, and doesn’t shy away from enacting laws based on Church doctrine. For Polish nationalists, LGBTQ+ rights are considered part of communism, which many Polish people are terrified of due to the country’s past. During their years under the Soviets, the Church was the sole guardian for Poles that helped them maintain their identity and protected them from the USSR. After Poland was freed, the paranoia and aftereffects remained. Even before the 1980s, Polish Catholics weren’t as heavily targeted as Polish Jews, so after World War II, the Church became an establishment that stayed with Poles through every disaster. The Vatican has made blanket statements about members of the LGBTQ+ community regarding same-sex marriage, saying that God “cannot bless sin,” which was approved by Pope Francis, even though he’s previously made statements supporting individuals that exhibit same-sex attraction. As a conservative country devoted to the Vatican Doctrine, Poland listens to what the Church values with politics and societal norms over the more ethical and practical stance.

Poland continues to be divided in politics, culture and daily life, but this isn’t unsolvable. Making marginalized peoples equal to those who haven’t suffered doesn’t detract from the country’s culture or tradition but instead enhances it in light of acceptance and progression. Poland is a Catholic country that values its traditions and religion, but Christianity doesn’t discriminate against humans because we’re all children of God. LGBTQ+ Poles deserve the same fundamental legal rights as anyone else. Ever since I’ve learned what it feels like to love someone without fear in America, I look forward to the day when I can do the same in my home country.

Isabel Olesinski is a sophomore living in Johnson Family Hall studying political science and English with a creative writing concentration. Fun fact, she is a part of Notre Dame’s premier theater club, Not-So-Royal Shakespeare Company! Feel free to contact her by email, iolesins@nd.edu, with any questions, comments or general inquiries.BridgeND is a student-led discussion club that is committed to bridging polarization in politics and educating on how to engage in respectful and productive discourse. BridgeND welcomes students of all backgrounds, viewpoints and experiences who want to strengthen their knowledge of current issues or educate others on an issue that is important to them. The club meets weekly on Mondays at 7 p.m. in the McNeill Room of LaFortune. Want to learn more? Contact bridgend@nd.edu or @bridge_ND on Twitter and Instagram.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.