Polish Buildings Lit in Pride Colors, Activists Say There's More Work to Do

by Kevin Schattenkirk

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Friday November 20, 2020

On Monday, buildings in several Polish cities were illuminated in rainbow colored lights as a gesture of solidarity with the LGBTQ community, Reuters reports.

Regardless of this show of support to mark International Day of Tolerance by the mayor of Warsaw, Rafal Trzaskowski, as well as those of other Polish cities, hostility toward LGBTQ rights has faced hostility in Poland, with politicians connected to both the Law and Justice party and the Catholic Church publicly decrying an alleged "LGBT ideology."

Among other things, Trzaskowski signed an "LGBT+ Charter" pledging to introduce education on the LGBTQ community in Warsaw-area schools. This was termed a threat by Polish Catholics, who have advocated for conversion therapy clinics in the country; and criticized by LGBTQ activists as not enough — as activists have said the mayor hasn't fulfilled a promise to create shelter for homeless, young LGBTQ people estranged by their families.

Hubert Sobecki, an activist with the organization Love Does Not Exclude, said "this is obviously a symbolic gesture and we welcome it when it comes from mayors of smaller cities and smaller towns. We expect more from someone who ... pledged to do something tangible for the community." Sobecki added that two years after Trzaskowski signed his "LGBT+ Charter," a gestural olive-branch of sorts, "there was absolutely no action from the municipality."

As Reuters notes, "a Warsaw city hall spokeswoman said the mayor was committed to the charter's proposals but their implementation" has been complicated and even halted by the COVID-19 pandemic. In the meantime, hostility toward LGBTQ people is rising in Poland with the implementation of "LGBT-free zones" and calls for Pride parades to be banned, among other things.

Bartosz Staszewski, a filmmaker and LGBT activist, inaction of the government to work on behalf of LGBTQ rights hits particularly hard. Seeing the bridge over the Vistula river in Warsaw draped in rainbow lights reminds him of a trans activist who died after jumping off a bridge: "I have such terribly bad associations when now the same bridges are simply rainbow-lit and nothing more will happen in Warsaw."

Kevin Schattenkirk is an ethnomusicologist and pop music aficionado.

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