Nejdem - I’m not going. An example of one of the campaigns against the Slovak referendum
February 7th, 2015.Sitting with my friend at a vegan restaurant in Warsaw, I recap those24 months between 2012 and 2014 when I lived in Slovakia. I moved forlove and research. Both ended, leaving me richer for knowledge and
experience in social sciences and what we currently consider ‘life’.
Romantic reminiscing does not come without context. It is the day of
the national referendum, deemed by human rights experts as ‘an
exercise in how far can lack of common sense go’.
Slovakia’s citizens were supposed to decide on three social issues,
which, as properly described by a number of legal advisors, should
not ever be considered referendum-worthy. The questions posed were as
Do you agree
that the word marriage
should not mean any other form of a relationship than that of one
man and one woman?1
you agree that couples or groups of same-sex persons should not have
the possibility to adopt and raise a child?
you agree that schools should not force children to attend courses
where sexual behaviors or euthanasia are discussed, when the parents
or kids themselves do not agree with the content of these courses?
it is to be expected, the main force behind the questions
was (and still is to some
extent) a self-proclaimed
christian group “Alliance for the Family”, which,
as I was informed by friends in Slovakia, consists of organizations
created directly by the catholic Church.
With groups like these I usually use the phrase “self-proclaimed
christian”, because even though I’m an atheist, I did read the
Bible on a number of occasions
in my life and can definitely say that Jesus Christ did not advocate
for anything that these groups tend to push as their religious
agenda. With Slovakia’s referendum, it’s even worse. The agenda
was not pushed as religious per se, it was framed as the best
interest of the nation, something every
citizen (although preferably straight, cis and white) should
be concerned about.
Saturday, we learned that this crucial, most important and absolutely
necessary referendum that would apparently prevent upcoming change of
society and keep the nation free of enemy ideology2
by a whopping 21,41% of the nation of
which 94,5% answered “yes” to the first question, 92,43%
supported the second question and 90,32% confirmed that they do not
want state-forced sex-ed (which, by the way, is almost non-existent
in Slovakia anyway)3.
In other words, this social endeavor (costing 6,5 million euros of
tax payers money and more than 2,5 million euros in “Alliance for
the Family” pro-referendum campaign), aimed
to become a firm voice of neoconservatism, proved what was obvious
from the start. It’s not the general population who targets
same-gender unions, diverse families and sex-ed. It is a loud and
be honest though, these numbers do not exactly show that Slovakia’s
citizens are all welcoming to relationship, parental and educational
diversity. What they are is a strong diagnosis of a country where
even the most heteronormative referendum does not receive enough
votes to pass. And why is that? Because Slovaks, like other nations
in Central and Easter Europe, stopped caring. You can see this when
looking at statistics of other referenda. In 2010 a referendum aimed
to change a number of issues with the Slovak Parliament ended up with
22,84% of votes cast, which is still over 1,4% more than this year’s
voting. In 2004 – 35,86% participants and, finally, in 2003 the
referendum to join the EU concluded with 52,15% attending. (In
comparison, in Poland a similar initiative took place the same year
with 58,85% casting their vote and it was the last state-wide
referendum to date).
frightening for those who
campaigned for the referendum to pass, is that even these issues did
not convince a simple majority to leave their homes to
cast a vote. This put “Alliance for the Family” in jeopardy.
Claiming to represent “a healthy majority”, it was them who found
themselves in a minority position. Neither big budgets nor big names
helped the initiative. Whatever
“family” the Alliance represented, it wasn’t
the everyday Slovak family. Reading media coverage of the issue and
searching trough Facebook
I found a few comments by different people who have underlined where
they think lies “the family problem”.
is “destruction of family” that is being so strongly pushed by
neoconservative agenda and why should it be connected to broadening
of its terminology. Shouldn’t alcohol consumption, violence
(physical, psychological, economic and sexual!), harassment, denying
of resources, economic crisis, governments not willing to cut back on
their own expenses be first to blame? Shouldn’t the families be
protected from the inside? It is not just trust and love that need to
be there. It is commitment, it is a basic understanding of what it
needs to care for one another
and the fact that when a problem occurs, one needs to deal with it on
their own, with a help from a professional (individual or
institution) but not blame it on any other groups.
a brief moment, a minority ruled the whole nation. It had its
the radio (TV outlets denied
to stream them), in
newspapers and even on receipts. Contrary to usual campaigns
(especially those aimed to
shed some light on an important, yet invisible issue), this one was
filled with allegations, misinformation,
misconception and lies4.
And the people didn’t like it. Not one bit. Both online and offline
anti-campaign(s), websites, Facebook pages, avatars popped up,
creating a sense of community. An actual opposition. Although I was
physically not present in Slovakia, I could feel the energy of those
openly stating that they will not go vote. “Nejdem” (“I’m not
going”) became my favorite word for a few weeks. More and more
Facebook friends changed their avatars to show that they will not
even think about
a vote when human rights were at stake.
dare to think that the anti-campaign had to do something with the
final result, it not only brings hope to our European struggle with
neoconservatism, it gives us back our dignity. Dignity that we have
lost numerously, trying to convince others that we have human rights
and are, therefore, human.
waiting for that 6,5 million euros bill to be sent to “Aliancia za
rodinu”, though. You wanted it, now you can also pay for it.
always wondered whether christian organizations endorsing these
kinds of referenda actually realize that they could be endorsing
relationships of bisexuals, but I guess they come from the same
understanding of bisexuality as a number of LGTI people, where a
fact of being in a different-gender relationship makes it already a
“straight” relationship. A little hint, it doesn’t.
is not a joke, Slovakia (along with Poland) was one of those Central
European countries where the “gender ideology” discourse
promoted by the catholic Church and the Vatican became part of
general discussions among the public. Today, this incredible shift
results in hilarious academic situations, when one tries to explain
the subject of gender studies to their students, which in reality
means to explain why these are actually studies and NOT an ideology.
Transgender privacy is no privacy – a few notes on a right-wing attack on Anna Grodzka
The cover of today’s issue of “W sieci”. The text reads “A transsexual in the Parliament, privately lives with a straight woman”
January 27th, my co-worker and the Vice-President of Trans-Fuzja Foundation, Lalka Podobińska, receives an email from Andrzej Potocki, a right-wing journalist working for a semi-political semi-tabloid paper “Wsieci”. The content of the message leaves us laughing for days andmakes a terrible Tuesday at the office quite bearable.
Here are some of the
What is your
relation with Anna Grodzka?
How long have
you known each other?
Do you live
together and do you share a common household?
Do you eat
Do you drive
the same cars?
Do you own
Are you in an intimate relationship?
Are you, as
it states in “homopedia.pl”, a heterosexual person?
a screenshot of the message to its Facebook fan page for the world
to see. It is one of the most-shared updates coming from the
organization. We laugh but dread at the same time. Because we know
that public-shaming of extremely bad reporting never made a
journalist pass on an occasion to humiliate a public figure.
Especially if that public figure is a representative of a certain
minority. A minority, nonetheless, misunderstood and prone to
becoming victims of violence and murder. As a number of threats posed
to Anna Grodzka have proven, being a public figure does not create a
situation when one can feel safe as a trans person, especially a
here we are, it’s February 2nd, just a few days from that
uncomfortable email, a new issue of “W sieci” is available, and
it is worse than one could have ever imagined. It’s not just an
invasion of a person’s privacy. It actually is bad enough to question
Grodzka’s gender identity altogether because she apparently “lives
with a heterosexual woman”.
pretty sure to say that Lalka Podobińska and her husband, Piotr
Podobiński, are going to have a lot of fun when they file a lawsuit
against the publisher, especially given the fact that the journalist
left out Podobińska’s husband from the story entirely and created a
new romantic epoch of two women who fell in love, lived through the
other one’s transition and are now a happy couple. The funniest thing
– Andrzej Potocki claims that this would be an indication that
Grodzka is only faking being trans to gain a lot in Polish politics.
Apparently, being a lesbian would actually be a form of “faking
being trans”. Because, you know – gender identity has SO MUCH to
do with your sexual orientation.
must be a great expert on transgender and the situation of
transgender people in Poland if he thinks that a very catholic and
very conservative country would actually encourage someone to go
through gender recognition to start a career in politics. Especially
that this process can take even up to two years, when one counts
diagnosis, legal issues, a civil court case where you are forced to
confront your parents (more on that in this
report). Potocki must also be extremely well educated on the
general situation of trans people in Poland and Europe in, and he
also must have familiarized himself with the Hämäläinen
v. Finland case at the European Court of Human Rights. How else
would he be so knowledgeable on whether a straight woman could be in
a relationship with a trans woman?
the Polish part of the 2012 FRA European LGBT survey 45% of trans
people feel they have been treated with less respect than other
people, 59% are not open about them being trans in their work
environment and only 11% claim that they are open about them being
trans to all of their friends. In a country where so many people are
simply afraid of just telling their story, the publishers of “W
sieci” are trying to trick the public into believing that someone
would be comfortable to “fake being trans” for political gain and
that a person’s sexual life (even if it was absolutely staged for the
purpose of the article) is a reason to doubt their gender identity
is a new media low we found ourselves in and I just hope that we will
not have to sink again in the future.