A Polish soccer game on Friday night was soured when Warsaw homophobes unfurled a long banner reading “keep Warsaw free from faggots.” The banner also featured an LGBT acronym with a red line drawn through it.
Those responsible were fans of Legia Warsaw, reigning champions of Poland’s soccer league, a club with a notoriously far-right following. So far, neither the club itself nor the Polish Football Association has made any response to Friday’s homophobic action.
Historic LGBT+ Declaration Faces Backlash
This incident comes just two weeks after Warsaw’s mayor, Rafał Trzaskowski, made history by signing the first LGBT+ declaration in central-eastern Europe. The declaration is said to guarantee basic rights for Warsaw’s LGBT+ community and to empower local administrations to provide what the Polish government has failed to put into practice. It includes promises of an LGBT+ hostel and community centre, a local crisis intervention system and anti-discriminatory sex education in Warsaw schools.
The declaration represents the culmination of eight months’ negotiations between the mayor’s office and national LGBT+ coalition Love Does Not Exclude. A spokesperson for Love Does Not Exclude, Oktawiusz Chrzanowski, expressed delight at the result of the coalition’s efforts. “Aside from implementing specific solutions to the issues of our community,” he said, “today is about joy and pride about living in Warsaw.”
This pride, however, wasn’t shared by all. Soon after signing the declaration, Trzaskowski began to receive backlash from Warsaw homophobes and anti-LGBT+ groups. Opponents portrayed the LGBT+ community as a threat to society due to “high HIV infection rates,” and claimed that the community was being given special treatment.
The head of the Regional Education Board in Krakow equated homosexuality with child abuse, claiming that the proposal for inclusive sex education was “promoting paedophilia.” Several media outlets, including the pro-government public news network, aired programmes adding to the homophobic rhetoric.
“Rhetorics of this kind are nothing new to us,” said Hubert Sobecki of Love Does Not Exclude. The coalition, representing the LGBT+ community in a country in which homophobia is rife, is used to such comments. However, Sobecki added, such rhetoric is “new to city officials who are not used to being on the receiving end of homophobia.”
Sobecki emphasised that this hateful response must not be allowed to stop the implementation of the declaration. “The goal of the right-wing media and activists is to cause a chilling effect, blocking implementation of the Declaration and stopping us from repeating our success in other cities,” he said. “We won’t yield to this hate.”
Mayor Trzaskowski agreed, saying that “the sea of hate could take over,” but that the LGBT+ declaration “broke records.”
Love Does Not Exclude has encouraged LGBT+ allies in Warsaw to write to the Mayor’s office and counter the homophobes’ comments with words of support. “We know they are currently being flooded by homophobic rants and we need to show that there’s a need for basic protection in this city,” he said.
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