Gay Warsaw

Centuries of hard-core Catholicism matched with provincial attitudes have conspired to create an atmosphere where homosexuality is still regarded as morally incorrect by much of the population. Warsaw does however offer far more tolerance and understanding; 2010 saw several thousand people march in Warsaw in the first EuroPride event to be held in Central or Eastern Europe. That said, the local government received a petition with over 50,000 signatures demanding the parade itself be cancelled.

In the past both the former prime minister, Jarosław Kaczyński, and his late twin, President Lech Kaczynski, stirred discontent; the latter by proclaiming homosexuality as ‘unnatural’ and the former for stating homosexuals should be banned from teaching posts. Harsh sentiments, but not nearly as malignant as the ones voiced by LPR politician Wojciech Wierzejski, whose memorable rants reasoned ‘gays should be bludgeoned… they are all paedophiles and members of the mafia’.

Yet inroads into bigotry are being made. In 2004 Poland had its first gay wedding (not officially recognised), and the following year Warsaw’s public transport body became the first company to officially acknowledge homosexual relationships by giving gay employees and their partners the right to free transport. Although Warsaw, as yet, offers no natural centre for the gay community this can’t be taken as a sign of something more sinister - even the straight scene struggles to boast any area that can be regarded as a true nightlife hub such as Barcelona’s Las Ramblas.

While public demonstrations of affection are at best tolerated, at worst dangerous, the city offers numerous gay friendly venues; whether they be the trendy Między Nami café (C-4, ul. Bracka 20), the expat Tex-Mex favourite the Warsaw Tortilla Factory (B-4, ul. Wilcza 46) or full on techno hangouts like Luztro (C-4, Al. Jerozolimskie 6). For gays in Poland the road ahead remains a long one, but for a country that still listed homosexuality as a disease up until 1991 the nation has already started cautiously edging forward. For further info on gay life in Poland click to the English-language website www.gayguide.net.


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