In November last year, the Polish artist Przemek Branas completed his latest performance piece, “Miner’s Kiss.” The work centres on the twentieth-century writer Jaroslaw Iwaszkiewicz and a homosexual lover he had lost in his youth, echoing a largely forgotten queer history of communist Poland. While it is a slight departure from the religious iconography and pop elements seen in Branas’s previous works, the central theme has not changed: the homophobia modern-Poland has come to reckon with, prompting many to feel disenfranchised in their own country.
In early 2019, a previously unknown resolution, to declare certain areas “LGBT-free zones,” became a political agenda in Poland’s conservative heartland. Two years later, around a hundred municipalities in the southeastern part of the country have embraced the statement. This has sparked fury at the European Union, with Brussels doubling down on its vow to make sure democracy is upheld with no exception across the bloc. Meanwhile, leaders and communities beyond the country’s borders have also started urging action against this homophobic practice.
The resolution does not bear a legal status, and the frequent legal complaints filed by the LGBT community demonstrate its damaging effect. According to research conducted by the Polish human-rights organisation, Fundacja Równości, in 2018, 84 percent of the LGBT community interviewed in Lesser Poland had faced hatred in the previous three years, including slurs, social stigmatisation or bullying in schools. Subsequently, in the 2020 ILGA-Europe Rainbow Map, an annual ranking of European countries on their LGBTI equality laws and policies, Poland was ranked lowest.