While Poland is one of the few countries in which homosexuality has never been punished by state law, do not for one moment think that this is a gay friendly nation. Centuries of hard-core Catholicism have created an atmosphere where being gay is still regarded as ‘wrong’, and even in an increasingly westernised, hip and happening city such as Kraków you’ll find gay life buried very much underground – this was after all the city where the a Tolerance March in 2006 was ambushed by football hooligans and religious extremists, resulting in bloody street battles. Though the 2007 march (which was better organised, with plentiful police officers in riot gear ready holding back hostile crowds) went off without too much incident, the event has failed to earn much sympathy from city authorities (rerouting it away from the market square and main thoroughfares, for example) and has yet to establish itself as an annual event with any regularity.
Faced with such closed attitudes from local government and the general public it’ll come as small surprise that homosexuality was officially listed as a disease up until 1991, before which communist authorities dealt with the 'problem' by denying that it existed in PRL Poland. In the years since democracy returned to Poland, politicians have been all too eager to go on record against homosexuality, with late president Lech Kaczyński proclaiming homosexuality ‘unnatural’, while his twin brother Jarosław, the former Prime Minister, was moved to declare that gays should be banned from teaching in schools. Unpleasant sentiments, but not nearly as malignant as the opinion of LPR politician Wojciech Wierzejski whose many rants included the immortal words, "gays should be bludgeoned… they are all paedophiles and members of the mafia."
Surprisingly, the age of sexual consent in Poland is the same for homo- and heterosexual relationships - 15 - and there are signs of changing attitudes. 2005 heralded Poland’s first gay marriage (not officially recognised, mind you), while the previous year saw Warsaw’s public transport body become the first company to officially acknowledge homosexual relationships by giving gay employees and their partners the right to free transport. More recently, the October 2011 elections saw Poland elect not only its first openly gay member of Parliament, Robert Biedroń, but also its first openly transgender MP, Anna Grodzka.
As attitudes towards LGBT people have improved in recent decades, so has the country's gay scene, especially in the major cities. In Kraków that scene is still relatively small, and very much underground, as anyone who visits the venues listed below will discover. Also note that for years the Planty Park, specifically the area behind Słowacki Theatre between ul. Lubicz and ul. Kopernika, has been notorious for cruising, but be careful; we hear trade can be rough and gay bashers are sometimes lurking as well.