WARSAW — Rising up in a small metropolis in southern Poland, a part of a spiritual household and conservative group, Maciej Gosniowski was advised time and again that one thing was flawed with him.
“It might be higher if I modified myself,” he recalled lecturers telling him. “It might be higher if I behaved extra like a boy. It might make my life simpler.”
Mr. Gosniowski was crushed by different college students who used homophobic slurs he didn’t but perceive. He doesn’t need different younger folks to undergo as he did, so he welcomed the choice by the mayor of Warsaw to introduce a declaration final month geared toward selling tolerance.
However the backlash to the declaration has left him shaken.
Poland’s governing celebration, Legislation and Justice, has seized on the declaration and the problem of homosexual rights in its campaigning for European Union elections in Might and for nationwide elections this fall.
The place the celebration as soon as attacked migrants as a risk to the soul of the nation, homosexual folks have develop into its public enemy No. 1 in latest weeks.
It’s a part of a rising development throughout jap and central Europe, the place nationalist and populist events are more and more turning to cultural points — and assaults on homosexual folks — to rally their devoted.
From Romania, the place the federal government tried and failed to vary the Structure to ban same-sex marriage, to Hungary, the place homosexuals are vilified as a risk to conventional households, the letters L.G.B.T. are being scorned as a part of a broader battle towards what the nationalists and populists name “European values.”
Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the chief of Legislation and Justice and essentially the most highly effective politician in Poland, used the celebration’s conference in March to declare that this was a warfare Poland should win to outlive.
“It comes right down to, as we all know at present, sexualization of kids from the earliest childhood,” he stated. “We have to battle this. We have to defend the Polish household. We have to defend it furiously as a result of it’s a risk to civilization, not only for Poland however for the whole Europe, for the whole civilization that’s primarily based on Christianity.”
The celebration’s rank and file have rallied to the decision.
“I feel that Poland will likely be a area free from L.G.B.T.,” stated Elzbieta Kruk, who’s working on the celebration’s listing for a seat within the European Parliament. “I hope it will likely be.”
Different teams have echoed the assaults, usually in additional excessive language.
Followers of one of many nation’s hottest soccer golf equipment, Legia Warsaw, unfurled a banner throughout a match final month that used a homophobic slur. No motion was taken through the match. The membership later stated that it didn’t want to be introduced into “political and ideological fights” and that the banner “didn’t replicate Legia’s views.”
Main Polish figures within the Roman Catholic Church, itself reeling from revelations about sexual abuse by clergymen, have additionally joined in.
The Rev. Marek Dziewiecki, a well known Catholic priest and educator, advised an area radio station in a latest interview that the plus in “L.G.B.T.Q.+” stood for “pedophiles, zoophiles, necrophiles,” and that the last word objective was to “make folks into infertile erotomaniacs.”
When some 1,500 supporters of far-right teams got here to Czestochowa, Poland’s holiest website, this month, the Rev. Henryk Grzadko warned these gathered that Poland was experiencing a “civilizational invasion.”
“It comes right down to them waving a rainbow flag and attempting to steal our inner values like reality, love, human life, household primarily based on marriage, and morality primarily based on Gospel and Decalogue,” he stated throughout his homily at a Mass for the gathering.
Rafal Trzaskowski, the mayor of Warsaw, who issued the tolerance declaration, stated that whereas he had anticipated a cynical response from the federal government, he fearful in regards to the kind of propaganda state retailers had produced.
It was the identical sort of bile, he stated, that led a person to fatally stab the mayor of Gdansk, Pawel Adamowicz, on stay tv earlier this 12 months.
“They’re basing their coverage on concern,” he stated in an interview at his Metropolis Corridor workplace. “They began a number of years again with refugees after they painted this abysmal image that we’re going to be overrun by a whole lot of hundreds of migrants which are going to rape our ladies and introduce ailments into Poland. They’re now doing precisely the identical factor.”
However he doesn’t suppose it’s going to work. In 2015, when Legislation and Justice got here to energy, an awesome majority of Poles agreed with the concept that extra wanted to be accomplished to safe Europe’s borders from migrants.
That risk has largely handed, and the problem doesn’t have the resonance it as soon as did, based on a ballot launched this week by the European Council on Overseas Relations.
“Whereas migration is necessary for some voters, it’s not the one battleground for votes forward of the European Parliament elections,” the group stated in a press release.
Mr. Trzaskowski, the Warsaw mayor, stated he didn’t imagine attacking homosexual folks would show as efficient because the marketing campaign towards migrants.
“Nearly all of the Polish folks is not going to purchase the concept that homosexuals endanger our tradition or values,” he stated.
An brazenly homosexual candidate, Robert Biedron, fashioned a brand new liberal celebration and has discovered widespread help for his message, together with exterior city facilities.
A latest public opinion ballot carried out by Ipsos for the information outlet OKO.Press discovered that 56 p.c of Poles didn’t oppose civil partnerships; two years in the past, it was 52 p.c.
On the similar time, although, Poles stay steadfastly against adoption by homosexual , with solely 18 p.c help.
Oktawiusz Chrzanowski, 36, who performed a key function in serving to draft the Warsaw declaration, and his companion, Hubert Sobecki, stated one of the crucial insidious elements of the federal government marketing campaign was an effort to color homosexuality as a hazard to kids.
“Probably the most stunning and disgusting factor is how they’ll declare folks within the L.G.B.T. group are pedophiles,” Mr. Sobecki stated.
The Warsaw declaration requires intercourse training in colleges that follows pointers set out by the World Well being Group, and for a shelter within the metropolis for folks solid out by their household and group.
Mr. Chrzanowski stated he hoped that at some point quickly all colleges would have a “lighthouse keeper,” somebody college students may flip to for recommendation with out concern of judgment.
Mr. Gosniowski, who determined to return out not lengthy after he was crushed in highschool and works as certainly one of solely a handful of drag performers within the nation, stated he was now assured in his sexuality.
At lunch not too long ago at a Warsaw cafe, he wore a pink sweatshirt and large gold hoop earrings beneath his lengthy blond hair — a particular model assertion in a rustic the place nonconformity can nonetheless come at a price.
Younger folks usually ask him about popping out safely.
“I really feel I’m wanted right here,” he stated. “Individuals listed here are scared to stroll hand in hand on the street.”
Whereas the vitriol being directed at gays is alarming, he stated, he has additionally seen an outpouring of help that stunned him.
“The 2 wings of society appear to be spreading aside,” he stated. “I’ve discovered extra help than ever. But in addition people who find themselves extra hateful than ever.”