In an exclusive interview with PinkNews.co.uk, Anna Grodzka, currently the only serving openly transgender MP in Poland, and the world, talks of the struggles that the trans community face in her native country.
Anna is currently in London because on Friday evening she will be giving the annual Kaleidoscope Trust lecture to mark International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.
Her election as an MP for the liberal Palikot’s Movement party in the Polish city of Krakow in October 2011 made headlines around the world.
Speaking at the time of her election Anna said: “Poland is changing and I am the proof, along with Robert Biedron, a homosexual and the head of an anti-homophobia campaign who ran for office in Gdynia (a city on Poland’s Baltic coast).”
In a central London hotel, having just arrived off the plane from Poland, Anna told me through an interpreter that her election in Krakow was all the more surprising given the city’s roots in Catholicism.
“I come from Krakow – home to former Pope John II – a very conservative city, but when I was running my campaign I was very surprised by how many people voted for me, and that means the general situation in Poland has changed slightly.”
However, despite Anna’s political success, she continues to encounter transphobia – not least from within the Polish Parliament.
Earlier this year, Krystyna Pawlowicz, a far-right MP, made a series of homophobic and transphobic remarks – many of which were directed personally at Anna.
But in stark contrast to her detractor, Anna is philosophical on why certain politicians are prepared to use transphobia as political currency.
“Krystyna is a very conservative person, therefore I guess I am probably just a little bit too much for her”, Anna says of Pawlowicz. “She has an imaginary idea of a [perfect] person who is supposed to go to church etc… in that case I ruin her picture, therefore it’s a reason for her to attack me”.
When asked on what life is like for ordinary Polish transgender people outside of the political arena, Anna says: “Generally it’s hard [for them] but this is why I am doing this, to help others to inspire others…it’s difficult but I need to carry it on…it does affect my private life, it’s quite hard to share my life with another person with so much going on, but at the end of the day this is my life and I’m happy.”
She adds: “I hope I can show other transgender people that life is worth living.”
As with much of Eastern Europe, Poland rates badly when it comes to basic equality rights, and efforts to legalise civil partnerships, which Anna continues to play a leading role in, failed in March.
Speaking of her disappointment that three separate bills were defeated, Anna says the Polish government is now working to implement new civil partnership legislation.
Poland’s constitution specially states that marriage is between a man and a woman, and it also fails to recognise transgender people.
Any new law proposed in Poland needs to abide by this outdated document, which makes implementing LGBT rights very difficult.
Securing legal recognition and protections for trans Polish citizens remains a key priority for Anna. Many transgender Poles find it hard to register their gender as they are required to get testimony from family and friends.
Poland’s healthcare service also refuses to publically fund gender confirmation treatments.
“Unfortunately Polish law excludes transgender,” Anna says. “There is no way that the Polish healthcare system could pay for it or even support doing the transition process – it has to be financed by the patient or the family or by any other options out there, but it is not supported by the government.”
Anna adds: “I am actually working on a new bill to change Polish law for the transgender community so that the Polish government will actually support people in this case and support them financially when it comes to their transition.”
As our interview draws to a close I am told that plans are afoot in Poland for a film to be made about Anna Grodzka’s life story. Before she went into politics, her background was publishing and filmmaking.
Anna says the Polish government has even provided some funding for the project and the script is currently being developed.
Before heading off to Soho – which she tells me is her favorite part of London – she adds: “It would be amazing to think one day my story could eventually be watched by people all around the world.”
On Friday 17 May, Anna Grodzka will be giving the annual Kaleidoscope Trust lecture to mark International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia at 7pm at the Commonwealth Club on Northumberland Ave, Westminster, central London.
by Scott Roberts
Source – PinkNews