Saturday, January 5, 2008

And the beat goes on...

My blog has been dormant for months upon months. After the initial surge of activity surrounding the poster campaign, things died down. However the poster campaign lives on in different incarnations! Here are some examples: The Bulgarian national LGBTQ organization Gemini thought it might be nice to instigate a discussion in their country and decided to print postcards which are available for free at various bars and clubs. The Slovenes have also given the campaign some good press. Narobe is an LGBT magazine published in Slovenia. They first wrote about the campaign in their July 2007 issue. Then I wrote a "Letter from Abroad" about my experiences with the campaign. Here are some pics of the articles. Apart from that, I have also distributed some of the actual billboards which hung on the streets of Warsaw. When I offered them to my friends most were enthusiastic to get one....UNTIL they saw how freakin huge they are! Nonetheless, being the supportive and fabulous lot they are, many people did put them up. Eszter works for the Central European University in Budapest. She's wallpapered her office with my poster, to the various reactions of her coworkers and students. As she's in the Human Rights Law Department, it makes perfect sense to have me as Big Brother :-) Even the Americans have found a use for it, much akin to a pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey, you can use my poster as a party treat! Here my friends in Boston attempt to play the role of a Polish victim of hate!!

Monday, April 2, 2007

Going Once, Going Twice

Posters being Auctioned off Latest news from the poster campaign which in basically over now, is that copies of the posters are being auctioned off on the Polish version of Ebay called Allegro. So if anyone has $100 to spare, and wants me hanging over their beds, visit this site :-)

Monday, March 26, 2007

Duzy Format

I was interviewed by this gay-friendly guy from Gazeta Wyborcza (the largest newspaper in PL) last week and he wrote a fairly large report about being an lgbt teacher in Poland in their Duzy Format section. There are some really frightening stories from these teacher in public schools that makes it sound like we're living in the house of Anne Frank. There is also some cool stuff reporting how he called various schools to apply for a job and claims he's gay to gauge their reaction. Some good, some not so good. I don't have time tonight to translate my part, but basically it tells how when working as an English teacher one group asked not to have lessons with me when they found out I was gay. (though I must admit this homophobia was to my advantage since the group was filled with a bunch of assholes I didn't want to teach anyway! :)

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

International Support

BBC World Well I guess I had higher expectations for BBC World. But I was invited to speak in their program "Have Your Say". It turns out to be a show which was broadcast from Ohio yesterday in a "town meeting" style. They had 100 people together to talk about impeaching Bush for the first half hour. Then the 2nd half was to be on "freedom of speech for students". They unfortunately mixed together too many issues, as they wanted to speak about an Alaskan student who wants to be able to express "Bong hits for Jesus", veils for Muslim school girls in the UK, and firing teachers for homosexual propaganda. Not exaclty a tight discussion can come from this. So I had my say but naturally the audience didn't know (or care) to comment on this issue. Regardless, if you want to find this, follow the link . On the right had side is a link "Listen Again", listen to Tue. (or go to the archieves lower on the page and go to March 20). My comments are around 30 mins into the show. The international community is paying proper attention to this issue, luckily. Some links:

Monday, March 19, 2007

The Onslaught of Ignorance and Hate

Government Seems to Fancy a Belorussian-Style of Rule : The thugs in the Ministry of Education (namely Giertych and Orzechowski) just don't quit. After "coming out" with their plans to ban the "propagation" of homosexuality, they just kept on diggin their heels in, making statements that this is the best way to go and nothing's gonna stop them. Some doozies include:
  • At one point last week, Orzechowski said on the radio that "Teachers who reveal their homosexuality will be fired. That type of person is not fit to work with children"
  • Later he back-tracked, saying the next day that "I was misquoted, I meant to say that those who come out and propagate homosexuality won't be allowed to teach". (He claims this even though the radio host replayed the recording TWICE with his statements)
  • The Ministry's spokeswoman had to put out a statement covering his ass regarding his use of the term "deviants" to describe lgbt people. She says "He wasn't referring to people when using that term but to actions." (you have GOT to be joking)
  • Prime Minister Kaczynski claims that he has gay friends and he's not a homophobe (and I guess the Pope isn't Catholic??). He says that "there isn't a problem with homophobia in Poland because it's not a Polish tradition."

All these can be found in the press we've been gathering and translating at My take on this: seems like the Govt is using LPR (the ultra-conservative party with like 2% support) to say all the nasty things they want to say but know they can't, politically, especially with the world watching. So they let them run their mouths and then say things like "Oh that crazy Giertych! Did he say he was going to imprison teachers who say that being gay isn't something to get electroshock therapy over?? Silly him! But while we're on the's not such a bad idea."

The bill might very well never reach approval or come to life. At this point though it doesn't seem to be their goal; they know that they are stoking the flames of intolerance and hatred towards gay people which is what they want to achieve. And that's enough to be reminded of the times when Giertych's own grandfather, Jedrzej Giertych was a leading activist of an anti-Semitic organization simiarly sowing the seeds of fear and hatred towards another minority in Poland.

Youth Group Protests!

A few years ago I set up the Youth Group of KPH. One of our first "actions" was to protest in front of all the embassies which still have the death penalty for homosexuality. A valiant effort it was, though none of the embassies even opened their door or so much as looked out their windows at our "street theatre". Some press did come out and we had a tiny picture in the Warsaw paper.

Today, however, the Youth Group did a splendid job in organizing a protest in front of the Ministry of Education, reading out a letter they wrote about their perspective as lgbt youth in Polish schools. Bottom line: the Minister of Ed is not fighting the "promotion of homosexuality" but rather "promoting hate" himself. There were about 15 of us, and tons of media, which is good. Together with a Human Rights Watch statement on the issue and letter to the President, we're getting better press.

Here's a couple pictures of them (taken from the Polish Press Agency website):

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Governement Attacks!

It's got to get worse before it gets better? I suppose this proves the theory that for every action there is a reaction. The ultraconservative right-wing coalition party League of Polish Families has come up with a new way to deal with the 'homosexual question'. Their leader, Roman Giertych, as the Minister of Education has come up with a draft bill to punish teachers and school principles who "promote homosexuality". These two articles should speak for themselves. It's funny (not "haha" funny of course) that this government has proclaimed that it's building the IV Polish Republic built on morality and (here's the not haha part) it's becoming more and more like the III Reich. Strong words I know, but call a spade a spade, eh? Orzechowski: Kara za homoseksualizm i inne zboczenia
Orzechowski: Punishment for homosexuality and other deviance The Ministry of Education is preparing a draft law to “prohibit the promotion of homosexuality and other deviance”, confirmed the vice-Minister of Education Miroslaw Orzechowski. The morning press has reported on the draft law which foresees firing school directors who “allow gay organizations into schools”. Orzechowski confirmed the Ministry’s plans.”Whoever promotes in educational establishments homosexuality an other deviance of a sexual nature will be punished”, the vice-Minister said regarding the main idea of the draft law. The draft law will be prepared by the Ministry of Education within a month he claimed. Breaking this prohibition would threaten disciplinary expulsion from work, an even punishments such as a fine or imprisonment. ”Laws already exist for other deviance.” ”This language hurts me because I’m completely disgusted by it”, claimed the vice-Minister when asked if calling homosexuality a deviance or saying “pederasts” was appropriate. ”Regarding other deviance, there are laws already. Homosexuality is only one sphere”, he said in defense of the Ministry’s decision to concentrate on homosexuality. Homosexuality likened to smoking “I believe that every person has to live through their weaknesses internally and deal with them themselves, much like quitting smoking.”
Premier o "gejowskim stylu życia"
Prime Minister on the „gay lifestyle” Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski, when asked what he thinks about the draft law being prepared by the Ministry of Education which foresees among other things the punishment of teachers if they allow for the promotion of homosexuality on school grounds, replied that it would be “too much” to agree on the promotion of a “gay lifestyle” in Polish schools. The head of government argued that it’s one thing to tolerate homosexuality and another to promote it. „Promoting a gay lifestyle to young people in schools as an alternative to what’s „normal” is going too far. In no case do I believe that schools should do that. This type of activity should be curtailed because it’s one thing to tolerate and another to affirm”, underscored J. Kaczynski in a Tuesday press conference. [...] J. Kaczynski assured that he is tolerant when it comes to the issue of homosexuality. He warned however that “he doesn’t believe in any circumstance” that schools should promote it.He added that he’s against homosexual marriage. He argued that marriage is not a “tolerated institution” but rather one “affirmed and supported by the State.” „I don’t see any reason for this type of disposition to be expanded. There are people who are born with this affliction and that’s too bad. One can’t limit them because of that. If they were to be more of them, and I have reason to believe that that is happening now, at least it’s considered trendy, then nothing good will come of it”, claimed the Prime Minister. J. Kaczynski underscored that the issue of intolerance towards homosexuals „is not a Polish problem because it’s not a Polish tradition.” He drew attention to the fact that Polish lawmakers were tolerant towards homosexuals even before the second World War and that homosexuality wasn’t criminalized. “I can’t recall any persecution of homosexuals any more so than any other group during Communism; it wasn’t criminalized,” added J. Kaczynski. The Prime Minister said that the situation of homosexuals in Poland has changed since 1989. “There are gay clubs, there are many institutions, press, gay literature. I don’t really see any problem”, said J. Kaczynski. Vice-Minister of Education Miroslaw Orzechowski said at a Tuesday press conference that a special draft law will be prepared “no longer than in a month”, which would prohibit the promotion of homosexuality on school grounds and educational centers. He presented the tenants of the draft. He stressed that the law „will in no way effect the rights of homosexual individuals who are afflicted by this. It will preempt the promotion of this type of behavior in schools and educational centers”. As Orzechowski claims, those who will promote „homosexuality or other sexual deviance” in schools will be subjected to imprisonment or a fine. Źródło informacji: INTERIA.PL/PAP
I think that's enough said for the state of affairs.....

Friday, March 9, 2007

More Media Attention

Here's the poster I get to see everyday on my way to work in the morning. Yes, it's nice to see my lesbian counterpart spinning around in front of the church.

TV Events

Since Biedron wasn't able to capitalize on the offer to be on Teraz My we had to jump on anything else coming our way. That included Homofonia, mentioned in the previous post. Daria and I were there as the faces of the poster. Marta Abramowicz represented KPH as our psychologist. What we DIDN'T know was that the program also invited Franciszek, a member of the ultra-right wing All-Poland Youth organization. This would have been fine normally (they tend to have a cadre of dashing young men...much like Mormon missionaries) except that the hosts of the show claimed that they are "relaxed" on the show, no need to stress. Not that I was stressed, but what I did fear (and what happened) was that once Franek was introduced into the conversation, it turned into a "discussion" about where homosexuality comes from, how not to let it spread, and so on. I'm not particularly interested in engaging in nonsense. For example when Marta explained that science has shown that it is in fact not a sickness, he claimed that he "also has research".

We were also "present" at the show Co z tą Polską?, a fairly serious political talk show. The topic was abortion and homosexuality, in response to the statements made by Giertych in Germany (reminder: the Polish Minster of Education wants a European0-wide ban on abortion and the "promotion of homosexuality"). It really was a sort of depressing show in that the two "rightwing" politicians were in all senses of the word stupid. One of the is the vice-Minister of Education, a man who questioned evolution and thinks Darwin came up with it because he was vegetarian. And these are the people who might change the Constitution to outlaw abortion in Poland in ALL situations, even when a woman's life is at risk. It just goes to show how much the domination of women in the name of....whatever, but here mostly nationalism, leads to drastic measures. It's no coincidence that those who are most committed to the subordination of women are also the deeply homophobic.

False Friends?

Here's another example of those who claim to be allies. In Poland it remains that those who are "gay-friendly" really are often limited in their support. It's almost a "take-it-where-you-can-get-it" situation. This article is written by a TV/radio journalist, Konrad Piasecki entitled "Homofobia kontra homononsens" (Homophobia versus Homo-nonsense). (we can see where this one is going). Some of his more interesting statements include:

Registration for homosexual partners? I'm pro. Adoption of children by them?Against. Posters with gays holding hands? Why not? But aggressive "what are you starting at, dyke?" attacking me from a bus stop doesn't sit well with me.

[...] These issues need more normal discussion and less emotion, less getting worked up unhealthily, and gestures to the electorate. I'm for seriously considering the postulates of the homosexual community. If they really want registered partnerships, and will sensibly convince us of it, then it's worth thinking about. For now they're doing a terrible job convincing, attacking poor Warsovians with the phrase "what are you staring at, fagot" or becoming hysterical and hedonistic. They'll be met with neutrality in the best scenario. However I feel that treating gays and lesbians as second class citizens who deserve at most a shrugging of the shoulders is in the wrong direction. [...]

As the stereotypical gatekeeper of the Polish nation, a heterosexual man, Piasecki is kind enough to go so far as to "listen to our concerns and take them into account" (don't call us, we'll call you). As far as we're good gays and lesbians, sit quietly in our corner and do our own thing, then things are fine. Adoption is the darling of the right in Poland, it's always brought up to show how "far" us gays want to far as to permanently scar innocent Polish children, which evidently are not ours (much like the Jews needed Polish children to make their matzo).

His support of our previous poster campaign (an example of which is here) warms the heart. It's still in his comfort zone, that's ok. But drawing attention to the actual hate speech, discrimination and everyday reality of lgbt people steps over the boundary of good taste. Instead of insulting "poor Warsovians" who simply want to live normally and not think about the reality of intolerance which flourishes, we should grin and bear it (even by holding hands).

I agree with him that indeed we do need calm, rational debate on these issues. We need to put our emotions aside and not hedonistically consider only our personal situation. But where is Mr. Piasecki when we organize conferences? Where is he when we monitor hate crimes and meet with politicians? Where is he when our academic panel sessions are kicked off off college campuses because "this issue" isn't appropriate? Anyway, obviously he's not the worst one out there, just indicative of how much work needs to be done on all accounts. In the meantime, here are some more pics. Me by my poster hanging on the wall of a vegetarian restaraunt (one which probably supports the blasphemous theory of evolution!) and Daria's poster in front of the children's store, Smyk.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Few More Articles

There were a few more articles about us today and lucky they're much more fair and accurate. Gazeta Wyborcza published a small article in their Warsaw section entitled "Akcja przeciw homofobii" (Action Against Homophobia) with this picture.

Also, the right-leaning Rzeczpospolita newspaper also had a tiny article "Nienawiść boli, czyli gej na miejskim billboardzie" (Hate hurts, meaning a gay on a city billboard)...which admittedly sounds weird in English :-). They are pretty objective and report the issue well in this other than they got the female model's name wrong and they claim that I'm still an English teacher. However they did a good job in not making a sensation out of the "Kill the Fag" game or anything else.

TV Options:

Unfortunately we haven't gotten much airtime about the issue. TVN had invited Biedron to be a guest on a popular primetime debate show, Teraz My. He was already booked to be on a local show in the Polish mountains and told them he would offer them a replacement for him. But they wanted no one else other than him (probably knowing that he'll create a good show in terms of battling it out with the opponent, and also because the hosts are a tad sexist and are not as keen on having women guests). They evidently wanted him SO badly that they even offered to rent a HELICOPTER to fly him back to Warsaw! In the end it was too expensive for them and they couldn't arrange it but you gotta give them credit.

Otherwise, on Wed. and Thur. nights this week I'll be on a show called Homofonia, obviously about homo issues. It airs at 11.30pm both nights and can be viewed either online at:

Or for those with Polish tv: Cyfra Plus (kanal 64),Cyfrowy Polsat (kanal 73), Telewizje kablowe:AsterUPCSatelita: Eutelsat HOT BIRD 1

Our Following in the Right:

One last note for today. It seems like the Right is watching out step. As you might remember, there was a Global Village last Saturday at which I was representing my work organization OSCE handing out materials on anti-semitism, xenophobia and hate speech. During the event there was a very handsome young man taking photos the whole time. We all thought he was pretty hot and "friendly". Until today we happened upon the website, a ultra right-wing website with a photoreport of the event. And there we find out that our young friend, Jakub Szymczuk, is actually part of the ultra-conservative League of Polish Families (LPR) and was doing a photoreport on the event. here is the picture he took of me. In it I'm standing out our table with OSCE materials with a sign that says "Everything is for free". His caption to the photo says "Materials which promote unhealthy morals could be taken for free- financed by the European Union, of course." I found that a touch funny considering what the books were about (in fact none of them really mentioned lgbt issues, which I suppose he was referring to) and that he didn't seem to understand the difference between the EU and OSCE. We found his blog and I sent him an email asking him about these things. We'll see if he replies. In the meantime (although I don't encourage his blog to become more popular) I would like others to look at his work and judge if I'm the only one who detects...oooh, a little homoeroticism in it?!?!

(One of the captions to his male model photos is something like "I had to do this for class. It's not my "thing", but the photographic effects are satisfying".) Yes, Jakub, indeed they are.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Press Conference and Exhibition Opening

Press conference:
As the 2nd posters came out on the streets in many of the billboards, today was the official beginning of the campaign as a whole. I decided to walk to the conference from work to gather my thoughts and enjoy the amazingly mild weather. On my way I saw that the crew from Super Stacja (a new cable station) was filming some footage in preparation. This is a picture of them filming the "What are you staring at, dyke" poster which is right in front of the largest children's store (I can't believe they let us keep that one up!)

The conference itself was poorly attended. I suppose my theory that Giertych's statement will make the press interested in our case backfired since Giertych and the President had press conferences today so we couldn't compete. I was personally interviewed by TVP3, Super Stacja and radio Eska. But I haven't heard or seen any stories by them. The most enthusiastic was Al-Jazeera-Europe, who conducted a 20 min long interview with me for a series they're doing about the rise of the Right in Europe. We'll see how that story comes out.

The Shit Press We've Gotten: Not only were we barely written about in the online press or talked about in TV, but the stuff that is out there is complete shit! Two examples include one article , "Biedroń: poluj na pedała" from the general Polish website Wirtualna Polska that had this as their picture, first of all.

Second of all, probably more importantly, is the completely misleading and misrepresenting title which translates into "Biedron: hunt a fag". It refers to the fact that as part of our exhibition in which we wanted to show people different forms of homophobia, we also included a computer game that can be found on the Internet called Hunt Fags. Biedron (the leader of KPH) explained what our exhibition includes:the newspaper clippings, graffiti on the walls, visual news collages...etc. He mentioned the game ONCE as it's just one small element. Yet they had the audacity to title the article as if Biedron suggests that we should hunt fags.

Not much better was the article "Polowanie na pedała" ma promować tolerancję" from (the online version of the most widely-read newspapers in PL). I have to remind you all that is our MEDIA PATRON!!! Our freakin media patron. Yet THEY had the audacity to title their article "'Hunting fags' supposedly will increase tolerance". Not only is this again provoking the reader to think that we want them to 'hunt fags' in the name of tolerance, but the article text almost makes it seem like we came up with the game itself.

Anyway, the journalists approached us later and Daria and I had our few minutes to get whatever we wanted off our chests.
Exhibition Opening:
The opening of the exhibition at the Austrian Cultural Forum went really well.
Here, Lisette and I were greeting our distinguished guests, as they were treated, firstly, a wall of graffiti with slogans like the one behind Lisette which says "PRICKS".
The opening was well attended and was the people whom I spoke to found it very effective and well-done.

3,2,1....the Bomb Is Dropped

And here they 10.30pm, Sunday night, these two posters were already put up around Warsaw!!!!
So the cat's out of the handbag I guess! In the meantime a LOT has been going on so I'll try to recap.
In a typical cause and effect manner, the more I feel like we're doing to raise awareness and reach equality, the more I see that in fact there are many things going drastically wrong. In an sign of the Polish government's fabulously ridiculous coalition partners, Roman Giertych, leader of the League of Polish Family (ultra-conservative party), made some fabulously ridiculous statements CLAIMING it was the stance of the government, which is not true. The timing couldn't be better for us. What better way to show the kind of situation we're in than having an idiot like this give us so much to work with. Here an article about what he said:
Education minister causes media storm in Germany 2007-03-02, 15:18 Roman Giertych has caused a howl of protest in the German media after a speech where he demanded a European wide ban on abortion and homosexuality. Deputy premier and education minister Roman Giertych has said that the stand he presented at the meeting in Heidelberg is the stand of the Polish government. During the informal meeting of European education ministers in Germany Minister Giertych appealed to introduce a ban on abortion and spreading homosexual propaganda in Europe. At a press conference in Warsaw today Roman Giertych explained that his stand was earlier consulted with the European committee of the Council of Ministers and it has not been criticised. Minister Giertych underlined that his expose, which erupted such a buzz in German media contained quotes of Pope John Paul II , among them describing abortion as a barbaric act or calling a nation which kills its own children a nation without a future. A journalist of the German “Die Tageszeitung” Gabrielle Lesser said that the descriptions used by Roman Giertych did not bring to mind the late Pope but rather speeches of Nazi German leaders. Minister Giertych protested he feels insulted by the reactions of German press. The Polish foreign ministry does not expect any communiqué referring to the speech of Roman Giertych or the reactions of the German press.
SATURDAY'S EVENTS - Global Village:
The poster campaign, as explained before, is part of a project funded by the Council of Europe, Week Against Homophobia. Here is the poster that they designed and printed for the event (the picture isn't terribly in focus).
Saturday's event was a Global Village. It was basically a NGO fair. A large tent was set up in the middle of Plac Konstytucji in the center of the city and organizations which work against discrimination could display their activities. (There were men on stilts out side the tent...anything for a cheap thrill!)
It was organized by Lambda, another LGBT org in Poland. In fact many people came. I was representing the office I work in, OSCE-ODIHR as well as KPH. We also were able to pass out our postcards.
And here we have our favorite neo-fascist Młodzież Wszechpolska (All-Poland Youth) demonstrating against us. As you can see, not exactly too impressive.


Today was the annual "manifa" which is typically a feminist march on or around March 8, International Women's Day. This year, considering the above mentioned issues of abortion and what not, it was made a slightly different march focusing on those issues. We were there in support, since among other things, we are aware that sexism is the basis for homophobia.

There were over 1,500 participants, and about 100 counter demonstrators (also from MW). This is my favorite pic from the march: We also were at work handing out our postcards:


Tomorrow is our press conference and exhibition opening, which is making me a tad nervous. I could well be picked apart for being American rather than a Pole who was born and grew up here. Other than that, the things we've seen in the media so far havn't been particularly balanced or well-thought out I would say. Take for example this report from TVN (again, the station which should be most professional and progressive of the mainstream ones) which came out last week a few days after the first poster came out. The reporter starts the clip by saying "And now, here we have evidence that even acting for a good cause, you can go overboard." Later they show how people are offended by the posters and how experts claim that it's not an effective campaign. Of course all of these conclusions are made WITHOUT seeing the second poster (a crucial element to the campaign I would say) and the reporters know that.

On a personal note...I've been getting about 5-6 hours sleep a night. And it didn't help that Saturday there was an amazing party after the GLobal Village event in Mandala Club which kept me up till 3.30am (though well worth it after this week!). And slowly I'm coming out personally to some more family since I do feel guilty that they'll have to find out through the news otherwise. I just called my aunt (the mother of my goddaughter, Natalia) who lives in a small city in southern PL tonight to inform her of a "little thing I'm doing up here in Warsaw oh and by the way I'm gay. Did my mom tell you?...No? she didn't?" :-) Apart from the fact that I woke her up, I don't think she was doing cartwheels over this tidbit of info. Hopefully she won't take away visitation rights to my precious Natalia!

Saturday, March 3, 2007

First Sighting

Day 8:
Not too much to report on other than a former colleague of mine who I haven't seen for about two years called me up today to say that he saw my pic in a magazine regarding the campaign. And he was all for the shock value! We're Here, We're Queer, Be Nice to Us! :-)
(I'm not adding the pic of me's STILL supposed to be a secret even though it's in the magazine...don't ask about the logic)

Friday, March 2, 2007


Day 7: My favorite news for the day: evidently Al-Jazeera contacted us today to do a story about our campaign. Not too shabby. I'm not exactly sure what their motivation is, but hell, let's give it a whirl! Also, evidently we've been shown on Ukrainian TV. Apart from that we were on the "front page" of the website The article written is how homophobia is largely a problem of internalized homophobia and most homophobes are gayt themselves. There is a poll attached asking "How do you rate your tolerance towards homosexuals?"Last time I checked 35% were really high and as a whole, the "positive" responses were about 66%, so not so bad. Malwina's Curse: On this website and attached to other forums, people have been responding to this campaign. Like always, there are some extreme voices which claim to have agreed with Hitler on at least the issue of extermination of homos and that we have to hang gays from their balls. This kind of stuff I can kind of deal with. What gets me even more, however, is a posting like the one "Malwina" left . She is the epitome of those who are superficously gay-friendly. She writes that she's got a gay friend (you can ALREADY see where this is going). And that "I'm not prejudiced against anyone, seriously." In textbook style, she's already "outed" herself as a homophobe by trying so hard to prove to us that she isn't. In her opinion, the money for this campaign would have been better spent on psychologists who would help people accept themselves. Because she's slowly getting sick of this issue because if homos go out on the street and yell that they're homo then she demands a straight parade. We'll also will yell what we're allowed to do in the bedroom. She goes on, "I beg of you! Get a grip! And all you homosexuals, think about workshops to raise your self-esteem. You can change the world starting with yourselves. Best Regards!!" Yes, Malwina, best regards indeed. If I could only virtually roll my eyes at you, I would. Malwina is a bit frightening because she is like many young, urban, well-educated Poles I know (and Americans). They are nice to gays, hang out with them and will even go to gay bars (cause we dance so well). Yet somehow they just don't get it. They don't get that having an Equality Parade so that lgbt people have equal HUMAN rights is not the same as a hetero parade where you declare what you do in your bedroom. Last I checked, the right to not be harassed and beaten up on the street has little to do with my bedroom. Although it was very kind of her to offer us some wise advice as to the psychologist. After reading gems like her posting, I really start to wonder if it's me that needs the therapy. At least to drown my worries in something else other than alcohol.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Spreading the Word

Day 6: Spreading the Word
So the mighty staff at KPH have been slaving away today with their interviews and press releases and what not. Lisette Kampus, KPH's European Relations Officer (here she is, looking very concerned) , did a splendid job in drafting and sending out a press release. Here's the text:

[PRESS INFORMATION, FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE] "Homophobia, this is what it looks like!" - Polish gay rights organization launches its social ad campaign in Warsaw 28-02-07, Campaign Against Homophobia, a well-known Polish LGBT organization, has launched its social ad campaign within the framework of the anti-homophobia action week of Council of Europe's initiative All Different All Equal. The campaign will bring two editions of posters to the streets of Warsaw, with the aim to provoke citizens to feel the level of pressure and hatred that surrounds lesbians and gays and their friends and families every day. The campaigns teaser posters "What are you staring at, faggot!?" and "What are you staring at, dyke!?" are used as a symbolic summary of all the wide-spread forms of homophobia in Poland today – regular hate-speech from the leading politicians, growing intolerance and exclusion by the other groups of society, negative stereotyping by the media etc. The teasers are to evoke the feeling of being attacked, being insulted and create an understanding of what are the effects of homophobia and the whole campaign aims to combat negative attitudes and intolerance towards lesbians and gays. Robert Biedron, president of Campaign Against Homophobia, says: “We have received a lot of reactions from the citizens of Warsaw, at first people thought this is a campaign of a far-right League of Polish Families party and this is a good proof of showing that such language is known to belong to a government party.” . Biedron also says that the teasers are doing exactly what they are to do – making people feel shocked and insulted. “This is the feeling which lesbians and gays in Poland experience every day. When the president of Poland goes to Dublin and claims that homosexuality will lead us to the end of civilization, does it shock and insult me? Absolutely. When a leading politician of a government party claims that all homosexuals are paedophiles, is that shocking? Without a doubt. There are plenty of such and even more blatant examples of homophobia from the past years. Now we have these posters up in the city, and I must say that I am proud of the people that have been calling to Clearchannel [provider of surfaces for posters] to demand these posters to be taken down because they offend gays and lesbians. This tells us that in fact people do not accept homophobia, and the views of Roman Giertych [Minister of Education, far-right League of Polish Families] or Jaroslaw Kaczynski [Prime Minister of Poland] are not representing the views of Poles.” One of the aims of the campaign is also to encourage the citizens to speak up against homophobia more, not only in the extreme cases. “We as a society have a responsibility to protect the different groups within, and speaking out against all forms of prejudices, intolerance and discrimination is our most honourable task,” says Biedron, “we should not wait until we have more and more data on hate crimes or discrimination cases, we should react now to prevent all these things from happening.”. The main posters of the campaign will be seen on the streets of Warsaw from March 5th which is also the opening date for an exhibition on collected pieces of homophobia – newspaper articles, magazine covers, news clips and much more. All of the presented materials are collected over the past years and are in a way or another symbolically highlighting the amount of hatred and prejudices that gays, lesbians, bisexuals, trans-people and their families and friends are surrounded by. Sentences like “we will manage without tolerance,”; “when faggots begin to demonstrate, they should be beaten with sticks,” are part of the average every-day language of Polish politicians, officials and even government members. The exhibition picks out these examples from around us, puts them on a wall, and makes it impossible to pretend that such things do not happen and homophobia is not a problem in Poland. IN SHORT - Social ad campaign and an exhibition of collected pieces of homophobia in Poland - “Homophobia, this is what it looks like!”In Warsaw, Poland, from February 26-March 14, within the framework of All Different All Equal campaign of Council of Europe. ON THE ORGANIZER -Campaign Against Homophobia (KPH) is a nation-wide LGBT organization with branches in 7 cities over Poland. KPH has been actively involved in anti-discrimination work since 2001, and has mainly been focusing on public opinion, political advocacy and policy development work in relation to LGBT matters in Poland. MEDIA CONTACTS -For Polish press - Robert Biedron, President of Campaign Against Homophobia, +48 600 950 339, For international press - Lisette Kampus, European Relations officer, +48 888 550 244, PRESS CONFERENCE: March 5th, 12:00 in Austrian Culture Forum (Prozna Street 8, Warsaw)

EXHIBITION OPENING: March 5th, 18:00 in Austrian Culture Forum (Prozna Street 8, Warsaw)

Some Hard Evidence of Hate Speech:
The press release does a good job in summarizing our stance. Naturally more will be revealed soon. But the hate speech coming from politicians is very real. This youtube clip is an interview a few years back with a politician who is now a Europarliamentarian representing Poland. He claims that President Kwasniewski was then elected due to a strong gay voting block. The conversation is more or less:
-"Fag Organizations supporting him completely."
-"Wait, what kind of organization did you call it?"
-"You know, an organization of fags." -"Don't you find that offensive?" -"You know, that's what people call them. So how else am I supposed to call them? They're fags."
Amazing Level of Crap in the Print Media
This one is also good enough to translate (roughly) in whole. This guy is a real winner with his logical thinking. The article is found in Rzeczpospolita, a rather conservative leading nation-wide newspaper:

FATHER:WHAT'S A DYKE? "What are you staring at, faggot?", "What are you staring at, dyke". KPH, along with their president Robert Biedron, want to use these phrases to enlighten us on how much gays and lesbians are discriminated in Poland. They're found on posters around the city. Driving around the city with my kids in the back seat, I am nervously waiting for the day when my 10 yr old son and 7 yr old daughter will ask: "Dad, what does 'dyke' mean?" In preparation I've started to prepare the answer. And I just can't come up with the answer. Maybe Mr. Biedron can come up with the answer, maybe he has a ready-made formula. Or maybe the Council of Europe, which came up with the "awareness raising" idea, will publish a textbook for heterosexual parents called „How to get kids used to the word ‘dyke’”.

As an opponent of any sort of pornography in public space, whether visual or verbal, I would like an end to the attack of dykes, fags, as well as naked butts in Palmer underwear ads or breasts spilling out of Playboy billboards. If anyone is discriminated in Poland, then that includes children who are not able to leave the house so that they won’t be exposed to some nasty photos or vulgar statements.

A couple more of these “homocampaigns” and I will myself begin to clarify to my son what “dyke” and “faggot” mean. But then my explanation will rather not be the one Mr. Biedron has in mind.

Marek Magierowski

Are you F**KING kidding me?!? Our dear Mr.Magierowski has perfectly summarized a common stance here in Poland: "It is not gays and lesbians who are discriminated. It's us poor (Catholic) heterosexuals!! Look, now I'll have to face the truth and explain to my children what these words mean. And I have to do this ONLY because of a "homocampaign", not because my kids will here this everyday in the schoolyard, on the streets and in TV."
Furthermore, Magierowski simply can't wait to be pushed into the corner in which he will be forced to unleash his own version of homophobia by explaining who 'fags' really are. Hats off to you, a great father indeed!
Undaunted, We Plug Away
Luckily there are a good number of us working on this campaign, supporting each other on the way.
Here, the Man with the Plan, Oiko Petersen, entices members of the Youth Group-KPH to hand out postcards around town. Oiko came up with the concept of the posters and is the photographer (who might set my modeling career into action! :-)
Leszek and Ania contemplate their tasks. Ania has done a fabulous job with the website and upcoming banners which will be featured on
And later in the night, Tomik and I hit the ground running, spreading the word far and wide. (Ok this girl we knew, but still...we were getting the word out there!). All the bars we went into to leave postcards were rather friendly and had no problem with us distributing our propaganda. Viva la gay-friendly Warsaw bars!
Tomik is usually a happy activist. He might have had one too many postcards for tonite....

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Journalists descend

Day 5: Media Frenzy As expected, journalists flooded our headquarters today. I was (and will be) at a training for work all day and week so I was cut off from anything going on. According to Biedron however, there was basically a line of people wanting to interview him; from print media, radio and tv. My favorite was Biedron telling me about a reporter from TVN. (TVN is the largest private tv company, with a Polish version of CNN...usually they're fairly 'liberal'). This guy evidently asked Biedron "But why are you guys trying to provoke so much by using these words?" to which Biedron replied that it would make sense if another campaign tried to shed light on anti-Semitism or racism. "But you're not equating your situation with Jews or Blacks are you?", the reporter asked. He continued, "It's not really hate towards you. Maybe it's people trivializing you or a misunderstanding, but not aggressive hate. So why are you using aggression? It is an internal problem in your community, why not solve the problem yourself". (Lord have sweet mercy...and these are supposedly the "good guys"!) This example of stellar journalism will be aired on Saturday. Luckily I was told that another group of TVN reporters also came today and were very supportive. Biedron will be interviewed live on Radio PIN 102FM on Wednesday, 9.30 am if anyone is around. Otherwise, two newspapers have written about us today. Gazeta Wyborcza, who too is usually one of the most liberal mainstream papers (and the most widely circulated), wrote an article which was generally alright. But they included a little commentary by a specialist of advertisement language, Mark Kochan who says:

"This campaign which is supposed to be a protest against forms of aggression shouldn't be aggressive in style. I'm against ads which bring aggressive language into the public sphere whatever goal they serve. Billboards are supposed to grab the attention of the viewer, but not at any price. The message of the posters is missed; those who will get it, don't need it while those who should get it won't understand. This kind of poster could rather increase violence; is that what this is for? This campaign is unprofessional and not smart".

In my humble opinion...shouldn't the expert wait and see what the whole campaign is? But then again, who am I, right? Otherwise, Kasia (my roommate and friend) and I went to some bars and bookstores today to leave some postcards which are exactly the same as the posters. On the back is information about our gallery exhibition which is also funded in this project. At one bar, Jadłodajnia, we placed the cards in the bar and were about to leave. A woman in her 20's was sitting near by and immediately jumped up. She was desperate to know what the deal was with this campaign. She knew there was going to be another phase and was hoping to get the "secret". But we kept her in suspense, explaining that it would be out in a few days (which is a bit silly since both the 1st and 2nd posters have been printed in Machina...evidently not a widely-read magazine!). Still, she engaged in a discussion with us, since she studies Polish Language. In all she was extremely positive and impressed with the campaign. Plus one for us....from the streets! So that sorta put me at ease for a bit. My brother, who has never been an activist nor especially thinks this liberal stuff is something to support, sent me an email today saying it's a cool thing to do, but that I should watch out since there are a lot of nuts out there. You got that right, brother!

Monday, February 26, 2007

Let the Games Begin

So here it is. I felt like this event was large enough to get over my allergy to blogs and let you all have it.
(This picture is my favorite. It's in the square I live in, and yes, it's right across the street from the church!)
Here is a link to the whole campaign (only in Polish for now) Homophobia: This is What It Looks Like
The Campaign: "Co się gapisz, pedale/lesbo" (What you staring at faggot/lesbo) As most of you know, I've been volunteering for an LGBT rights organization in Poland since 2002, Kampania Przeciw Homofobii (Campaign Against Homophobia) Upon coming back to Poland in January, after having been away for basically 1.5 years, KPH was in the final stages of organizing a week of Anti-homophobia, funded by the Council of Europe. We were given money for a poster campaign so we brainstormed and came up with this idea for a "teaser campaign" where for one week a billboard is up with a simple phrase. The public doesn't necessarily know what it's about, who is behind the campaign etc. We came up with the concept in which we would have a harsh phrase for one week and then in the next show a woman/man, explaining that "These are the people who are the victims of hate speech and other forms of homophobia". We put out advertisements that we're looking for a man and a woman model as we we sure that we wanted real-live victims of homophobia here in Poland, not just anyone from a modeling agency. After a week, one woman replied, Daria. And no man. I happened to be in the office when this was being discussed....they wanted someone who wasn't too young, between 25-40, since we were criticized for our last poster campaign that we represented gays as mostly young and good-looking. (Niech Nas Zobaczą) They looked my way and I knee-jerk agreed. What Have I Gotten Myself Into? Two days later, my picture was taken to send the design to a monthly magazine. It all happened fast enough that I wasn't able to let my imagination get the best of me. I had worked on the Niech Nas Zobacza campaign for many years, traveling with it to places like Romania and Berlin. The campaign is often seen as a seminal event in the LGBT rights movement in Poland. A good friend of mine, Sylwek, was featured in the billboards then, in 2003 and I had always been impressed by his courage for having taken part in it. And he came out of it relatively unscathed...couldn't hurt to give it a try, right? The next day it hit me. Walking down the street I imagined what it would be like when my face would be around town. My mind raced, thinking about all the family members, family friends, and who ever the hell else who would find out and change the whole cosmic order of things for me - the typical coming-out drama that I thought I had conveniently packed away for so many years. In this sense I had rationally convinced myself "fuck it...I'm 30 yrs old, time to get real and walk the walk. We all know how easy things like that are to say though. So far I've been "gently reminded" by many of my friends that it may be better to come out to family personally rather than have them find out through the papers, or by seeing me on tv. In some cases yes. I told an aunt of mine here in Warsaw, 75 yrs old. And she was nice as pie about it. My gut instinct is, "tell the rest of the clan in the village and not a walk through a rose garden". Is it responsible? Maybe not. Is it mature? Debatable. Is it realistic reaction to some shitty homophobia? Bingo. And They're Off!: Days 1-4 We designed the posters and got Clear Channel to put them up for free (YES! The same Clear Channel that is owned by your friend and mine, Rupert Murdoch!) 150 in all, half with "faggot", half with "lesbo". We agreed to have them up on Monday, Feb.25, and then replace them with the version with our picture on March 5. But SURPRISE, Friday rolls around and Warsaw is already treated to black posters asking "what are you staring at, faggot". I guess Clear Channel got all giddy and jumped the gun. We didn't get any reaction to it over the weekend. By Monday however, Robert Biedroń, the president of KPH, had already gotten calls from about 10 journalists. A radio journalist told him that she saw them and was thinking about it all weekend, wondering what it was about. Lesbians and gays were emailed Biedron to complain that some ultra-right wing parties must be behind this. One very small newspaper on the Baltic coast of PL wrote an article in today's paper. This then "leaked" to a Warsaw paper which wrote a lengthy article. Excerpts:
"GAYS AND LESBIANS SHOCK WARSOVIANS WITH POSTERS" -Sexual minorities want to draw attention to how they are treated with these phrases -"I don't like that these nasty phrases are on the street" says a passer-by. When she is told that it's gays and lesbians who are doing this campaign, she replies "They're going overboard. They should fight for their rights but not in a vulgar way. This is not going to help them." -A 'specialist' of social campaigns also comments that "Simply shocking will get you no-where. These phrases trivialize homophobia. Instead of getting deeper into the problem they are offering a simplified way of thinking about it. This is not the way to do it".
When people started to find out that this was something that "us gays" were up to, most were not terribly pleased. Many are accusing us of increasing the violence against lgbt people. The forum on the article cited above starts with the entry "Fags...we have to chase away these perverts". Clear Channel is With Us??? We've also been getting reports from Clear Channel that a few establishments like housing communities and shopping centers have requested the posters to be taken down as they find them vulgar. One interpretation is that they too thought that right-wing organizations are behind this and they don't want to support it. The other option is rather that they aren't too keen on being bombared with hate speech especially regarding homos (one goal of the campaign, to get people to understand what it feels like to be a victim of hate speech, if only for 10 seconds). Clear Channel was worried that we would insist that they keep them up and put them in a bind. We of course didn't (they are doing us a favor after all). Much to our pleasant surprise, Clear Channel put out a press release:
Clear Channel Poland for KPH Clear Channel has allowed KPH to use their billboard space for a campaign. Posters in this campaign are up in Warsaw with the aim of fighting social prejudice. The campaign will be comprised of two stages: the first from Feb. 24-March 4, the second from March 5. The support for KPH is a symbol of Clear Channel Poland's principles, which is a respect for a person regardless of their status, orientation or need to promote the concept of tolerance. "We understand the power of an ad campaign which is why we are totally convinced in our participation of a project which aims at encouraging basic social norms. Supporting KPH's campaign, we are in line with one of Clear Channel's stated principles: respect for individualism", says Anna Nowakowska, Clear Channel Poland's marketing director. KPH is a public interest organization fighting discrimination. Their campaign's goal is to change society's attitudes towards homosexuality.
Now it's wait and see what tomorrow brings....I'm sure an avalanche of press attention....