I came out in '89 in San Francisco, surrounded by bearfags and leatherdykes. Lucky me. A lot of people dream of such a thing.
Years and time...moved to Seattle, spent a year and a half there before moving to Europe. Spent 5 years in Amsterdam. It felt several years behind SF in terms of dyke scene, but still better than what a lot of homos get. 8 months ago I moved to Warsaw.
Poland is a country that considers itself 95% Catholic, and we all know what a nice accepting man the pope is, despite his penchant for wearing velvety dresses.
Last year at the first ever Polish Pride march in Kraków, there were heaps of "Polish Youth" (political/religious youth branch of the biggest right-wing party) and various other hooligans throwing rocks and bottles. There was even a cop who had acid thrown in his face, presumably for intervening and trying to keep the dickheads from seriously injuring anyone. This was the first march specifically for homos in Poland; the Warsaw march, which had been planned a week or two later, was banned by the city, and the various organizers (like, three or four small groups) agreed to call it off. There have been things like film festivals and so on, but even this is quite new -- only for a couple of years.
OK. This year's Kraków march was planned for a week or two after the Pope died, so the organizers -- once again, and despite a lot of arguments from and willingness on the part of many people -- called it off, for fear of having it perceived as "provocation" by the general population. Several of the other events for that weekend went on as planned, but the on-the-streets march was cancelled.
Which brings us to Warsaw. Like most other places, you have to have a permit to have a march, or for more than 15 people to gather. Theoretically a group should also submit a plan for rerouting traffic during the march. So what. The president of the city, who is running for president of the country on his openly gay twin brother's political party, denied all the homo permits. Yet the permit for the gathering against pedophilia, in the same place, at the same time, was granted. Hmm. That means that it's technically illegal for more than 15 queers to gather in public on Saturday.
Yeah. This Saturday, at noon. While there will not only be lots of civilian visitors from neighboring countries, there will also be various political hoodiehoos, as well as observers from places like Amnesty International (I know, but still...) and the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, and heaps of media (after all, conflict makes great copy). The observer's jobs will be to make sure that the cops don't give the queers any shit, as well as to document the behavior of assholes and hooligans.
Because it's an "illegal" gathering for the homos, there is a chance, however small, that cops will round us up and arrest us. The general feeling is that it won't happen, and if it does they will take people's data and let them go after a couple hours, at the most. With my passport, and the fact that they'll be obligated to find a translator to explain why they'er holding me, I won't be ni long at all. Even so, it's considered a violation of human rights to deny people the opportunity to gather and/or arrest queers simply for being queer.
How would various among you feel about flooding the various consulates with emails and/or phone calls?
— Contact Information —
U.S. Embassy Warsaw
Al. Ujazdowskie 29/31
Tel.: +48/22 504-2000
Fax: +48/22 504-2364
What's probably more important is to hit the Polish consulates nearest you...if you're in the states snd go to www.polandembassy.org, you'll have to find the appropriate link for the area you live in. When you do, make them an email telling them that their treatment of queers in Poland isn't cool. For all you Canucks, pick one of these:
Consulate General of the Republic of Poland in Toronto: email@example.com
Consulate General of the Republic of Poland in Montreal: firstname.lastname@example.org
Consulate General of the Republic of Poland in Vancouver: email@example.com
Finally, for Brits: Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Arrest, eggs, paint, sticks, stones, bottles and acid: they've been telling me anything is possible in Poland ever since I came here. So, it's also possible that everything will be mellow cool and it'll be rather like a yelling match between Fred Phelps and the SF homo brigades on the last Sunday of June. One can hope.
Enjoy your freedoms this month, and the fact that the gatherings and parades and parties will be easy. Once these gastherings can happen here with minimal threat of arrest or injury, I'll start working on the poopy attitudes of a lot of local Llllezzzbyans toward those freakish Drag Kings...