Poland’s LGBTQ+ community celebrates right-wing election losses: ‘We’ll fight for the future’

Bart Staszewski pictured holding a Pride flag outside after the election in Poland.

LGBTQ+ people in Poland are celebrating after the country’s right-wing government lost its majority in a landmark election, paving the way for long overdue progress on queer rights.

There was a sense of relief among Poland’s embattled LGBTQ+ community on Monday (16 October) as exit polls after Sunday’s election indicated that the anti-LGBTQ+ Law and Justice party’s time in government could be over.

With a massive 72.9 per cent turnout, the Law and Justice party is expected to win more seats than any other party, but crucially it’s expected that they won’t have enough to form a government. 

It is now predicted that three opposition parties will come together to form a coalition, ousting the Law and Justice party from power after a turbulent eight years.

Bart Staszewski, an LGBTQ+ activist who has tirelessly fought the government’s anti-LGBTQ+ policies for years, tells PinkNews that the election should put an end to the right’s “political games”.

“After eight years of horrible right-wing government that was targeting the LGBT minority like never before, now we wake up to this [reality],” Staszewski says.

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The last few years have been hugely challenging for LGBTQ+ people in Poland, he says. He speaks of the infamous LGBT free zones and of efforts to “intimidate” queer people. He personally knows of people who have died by suicide as the climate has become increasingly hostile for his community. 

Pride parade in Krakow, Poland on 20 May 2023
LGBTQ+ activists in Poland are celebrating after its far-right leadership failed to win enough seats to form a majority. Pictured, is a Pride parade in Krakow, Poland on 20 May 2023. (Klaudia Radecka/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

“There were horrible attacks, horrible quotes from Polish politicians like Andrzej Duda who said there is no LGBT people, there is an ideology… This is just a small part of what we have suffered from, and this was our reality on a daily basis.”

He adds: “I felt like a second-category citizen, and we were treated like second-category citizens. The government is telling you that you don’t deserve equal rights, that you are not creating families, that you are an agent of the west trying to fight family values or tradition.

“The atmosphere was hostile. We felt that they don’t want us here, but we still were here, we still were fighting for our country because we are part of it.”

He is now urging the parties that form the next coalition to focus on “restoring” human rights to Poland’s most vulnerable communities.

“We know it will be a tough game with politicians who always have something more important do, but I can promise everybody we will fight for the future of all LGBTQ+ people in Poland.” 

Like Staszewski, LGBTQ+ activist Rémy Bonny is now hopeful Poland can take its place as a “European democracy” once again as the Law and Justice party potentially moves into opposition.

Rémy Bonny pictured outdoors.
Rémy Bonny, an LGBTQ+ activist, is celebrating after the Law and Justice Party were defeated in the elections. (Supplied)

He also hopes the result will give other queer people across Europe hope that the tide might finally be starting to turn against hate.

“After the scapegoating of LGBTIQ+ communities in Hungary, Italy and the UK, it’s really significant for everyone that wants a democratic and inclusive Eurpe that Poland is finally again on its progressive path,” Bonny tells PinkNews.

“The [Law and Justice] government used the LGBTIQ+ community as a scapegoat to demolish democracy in Poland. The fact that democracy will be restored now will lead to much more freedom for the LGBTIQ+ community to organise themselves and advocate for a more inclusive future.”