Anna Grodzka entered Poland’s history books after being elected the country’s first ever transgender MP in last month’s parliamentary elections.
Grodka represents the left wing, anti-clerical Palikot’s Movement, which earned a surprise third-place finish in the national ballot after being founded only last June.
In a predominantly Catholic country known for its conservative politics, the 57-year-old’s election cannot be understated. She topped the Palikot’s Movement party list in the devoutly Catholic southern city of Krakow – once home of the Polish-born pope John Paul II.
When the Sejm, the nation’s lower house of parliament, meets for the first time on Nov. 8, Poland will also have its first openly gay person, Robert Biedron, a leading gay rights activist, and two black lawmakers.
Metro spoke with Grodzka about coming to terms with her historic feat and his plans as a lawmaker.
You are the only transgender MP in the world, elected in predominantly Catholic Poland. How did you manage to get in parliament?
It seems to be an irony. Krakow, the city I represent, is a conservative place but it’s also a university city with plenty of young people, artists and freethinkers. What’s more, the substantial part of the society is fed up with the Catholic Church’s dominance and its unjustified penetration into politics.
Some people said, “Enough is enough.” It all added up and reflected in the election result. But keep in mind I haven’t won the election. Palikot’s Movement gained 10 per cent of all votes. That was sufficient to secure a place in parliament.
Was the fact that you are transsexual a handicap on your route to parliament?
I don’t know. I openly communicated that I am a transgender person and 10 per cent of people in Krakow willfully voted for me.
Why did you decide to become a candidate? What do you want to achieve as an MP?
I want to fight for equal rights for everyone. Everybody, regardless of how he or she may be different, should feel in Poland at home. Poland lags behind other EU countries in adapting equality laws. And the time has come for sexual minority groups here to enjoy the right to legal partnerships. I also want to advocate for government support for in vitro fertilization and sex change procedures.
Do people recognize you in the streets? How do they react?
Polish society is divided and the reactions vary from enthusiastic to pretty hostile. Most of the time, ordinary people are nice to me. Since my election began making headlines I received hundreds of gestures of support: congratulations, handshakes, thumbs-up, friendly smiles and even hugs. None of the few hostile reactions were really dangerous. That proportion is proof of the growing maturity and tolerance of society in Poland.
The parliament meets for the first time on Nov. 8, but you’ve already spent some time with other MPs. Are they supportive?
None of the deputies I know showed me antipathy. There is a small minority that shows aversion by scowling but I haven’t gotten any other offensive remarks so far. In my opinion, the MPs who do not show respect to my identity do not respect human identity at all. I hope in the future voters will take that into consideration – do they really want to support the politicians who don’t respect another human being? We will see in four years.