Preaload Image

Interview with Dorota Kotas about queer life in Poland

What parts of the LGBTIQ* community do you identify with? What words describe who you feel?

I am a lesbian.

What are your first memories when it comes to realizing that you might be a non-heteronormative person? What emotions accompanied you back then?

I was very scared. I thought if I admitted that I was a lesbian everyone would hate me and I would never find a job or an apartment to live in. When the thought that I might be a lesbian deliberately popped into my mind, I was terrified. I remember telling my friend about it and crying in her car. She comforted me and said that I never have to tell anyone that I am a lesbian and that nothing bad would happen to me when no one finds out. At first, I felt ashamed. It took me several years to get rid of this shame. Now for me, the fact that I am a dyke is completely neutral information about me. 

What would you call the process that led you to identify with the LGBTIQ* community, was it emancipation or did it come to you naturally?

It was a difficult and long process. I grew up in a small town and a family with traditional, conservative views. I did not know any LGBTIQ* people for a long time, they were just not around me. I haven’t met any queer people until my adult life - at the university in Warsaw. I thought for a long time that something was wrong with me that I did not want to date guys and I did not care about them at all. Later I started opening up to my true self and getting to know that part of myself. Only many years later I finally accepted it. Now I'm a proud lesbian.

What might be the reason for the difficulty for parents when it comes to accepting their LGBTIQ* children in Poland? (80% of parents of LGBTIQ* youth in Poland do not accept their children who came out of the closet, statistics for years 2015-16)

I think the difficulty is created by the influence of the Catholic Church. The rhetoric used by the church, calling LGBTIQ* people a plague and their love a sin, shows the LGBTIQ* people as the incarnations of evil in the collective consciousness. The Church causes fears and prejudices and the use of untrue information, for example; connecting queers with pedophilia/perversion and suggesting that they should be sent to "therapy" to heal them from homosexuality - as if it was a terrible disease and not just one of many types of love. Parents who listen to these lies may feel lost and have many concerns, also about the lives of their children in Poland, when the mainstream talks about them in such a way.

What is the journey that Poland has been undergoing from the ’90s to the year 2021? In which place are we now?

I don't think anything has changed. LGBTIQ* people still do not have the relevant basic human rights. We cannot register our partnerships. We are victims of violence and hate speech - also by officials, church representatives, and politicians. There is still no anti-discrimination education in Poland and homosexuality is diagnosed as a disease. Homophobic, deceitful billboards hang in the streets and trucks drive through major cities, carrying false information stigmatizing LGBTIQ* people and abortion through megaphones. Nationalist circles are becoming more and more radicalized. On equality parades, but also in everyday life, there are attacks on LGBTIQ* people, also from the police and it’s all with the consent of the ruling party (right-wing PiS party, strongly connected to the church).

Are the Poles that you meet daily tolerant or intolerant?

I live in a big city and I surround myself with people who hold worldviews similar to mine. I feel quite safe in this bubble. I have limited contact with people who hold different opinions. I am not in touch with my family. I also don't go to places where I don't feel welcomed. The feeling of constant anxiety accompanies me daily. In the streets, I try to avoid large groups of football fans from a distance. I also stay home on November 11th, Poland's Independence Day. The people I meet daily are rather tolerant to me, with a few exceptions. But I try to avoid people that I'm not sure about their intentions.

You studied Polish philology, applied sociology, social anthropology, and cultural animation. Were the professors and the University open to the topics regarding LGBTIQ* issues?

When I was studying Polish Philology, I felt that my university was neutral towards LGBTIQ* topics. It was a rather absent topic and not given much attention. But there were subjects in my Sociology studies that dealt with queer sociology, women's rights, and gender. Then I felt that my University was on my side. The possibility of acquiring knowledge on these topics was very important to me, so I am thankful to the university (University of Warsaw) that allowed me to learn about the history of the LGBTIQ* movements from the substantive side. I think that the subjects that were in the sociology study program should be compulsory for all Poles.

What does the LGBTIQ* community need the most in Poland right now in your opinion?

What we need now is people in power who would resist the influence of the Catholic Church. A leftist power that would not be afraid to side with regular people. And also wise allies and education. We also need more content on LGBTIQ* cultural topics. We need books and films that would reinforce and would show the real life of LGBTIQ* people, also increasing their visibility.

What are your dreams when it comes to Poland?

I wish that Poland was something else, something different. I would like it to be a better place than it is now. That every person could feel safe and protected in this country and that people were friendly towards each other, did not make up invented enemies, and did not have bad intentions. 

 

Background:

Dorota Kotas is a Polish writer born in 1994 in the town of Garwolin.  She published two books and was awarded several prestigious awards for her debut “Pustostany” (the title has a double meaning, it can mean vacant properties but also feelings of emptiness). Her second book “Cukry” (also a double meaning - sugars or carbs) was published in April 2021. Her writing is queer, feminist, and post-materialistic. She is a young, vivid voice on the literary scene in Poland.  

She lives in Warsaw with her girlfriend and has an Instagram account on running an allotment: @oknonadzialke

Interview by: Kuba Urbaniak is a helping hand for the campaign “I’m not an Ideology”. Trained as an architect and intermedia artist, he worked and studied in Poland, Iceland, and Vienna. Based in Poznań PL. Currently developing his skills and interest in social campaigns with ENOUGH is ENOUGH! 

 

Enough is Enough Team