“We are normal people who can be found everywhere, in the store, on the street, in the office”
BY YAIZA CANOPOLI
On 21 July, Białystok’s first ever Pride march was met with violent opposition. As reported by Amnesty International, people were kicked to the ground, rainbow flags were burned, and insults were shouted aggressively at the marchers.
This behaviour is not new for the far-right, and Polish conservatives have been emboldened to act violently towards the LGBTQI community by the recent political discourse in Poland.
The current Law and Just Party (PiS), led by Jarosław Kaczyński, has been denouncing LGBTQI people as a “threat to Polish identity”, and the Prime Minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, has spoken out against the negative influence queer individuals have on children, warning parents about “homosexual tendencies”. National newspaper Gazeta Polska even circulated stickers for people to visibly state their disgust, the label reading “Strefa wolna od LGBT” – “LGBT-free zone”.
This rhetoric has gone so far as to affect people who are not overtly queer, but simply speaking out in support of the community. Przemyslaw Witkowski, a journalist and poet cycling in Polish city Wroclaw with his girlfriend, was beaten up when he expressed his disapproval of homophobic graffiti, displayed alongside white supremacist symbols.
Yet despite all of the overt homophobia, the attendees of Białystok’s Pride march stood their ground when the attacks rained down on them, and shortly after, a hashtag exploded on Twitter, calling to fight back against the right-wing hate. Thousands of people have since tweeted using #jestemLGBT (“I am LGBT”), sharing their day-to-day activities and jobs in order to normalise LGBTQI lives. Others have joined in with #jestemzLGBT (“I am with LGBT”) to show their support for the community. The original poster, Sebastian, tweeted that, “We are normal people who can be found everywhere, in the store, on the street, in the office”.
The ruling party have been attempting to push the narrative of queerness being a dangerous import at odds with the true Polish identity, a common political tactic used all over the world. This hashtag, however, has achieved much in showing that queer people do indeed exist in Poland. And they are not going down without a fight.
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