In a sign of the Catholic hierarchy’s waning influence over Polish politics, the nation’s first transgender legislator nearly assumed a top government office earlier this month.
Anna Grodzka was elected in 2011 to parliament from a conservative district in Krakow. Her election stirred anti-transgender opposition from fellow legislators. Several refused to acknowledge Grodzka’s gender identity while other members publicly disparaged her, and citizens have vandalized her offices.
Opposition has failed to stop Grodzka’s assent in Palikot’s Movement, Poland’s third-largest and progressive political party of which she is a member. The party’s leadership recently nominated Grodzka for deputy speaker of parliament, considered the second most powerful position in government. ABC News reports on the outcome:
“She lost that chance [for deputy speaker] on Friday when lawmakers voted overwhelmingly to keep the incumbent [Wanda Nowicka] in the job…
“Grodzka, who has expressed admiration for Nowicka’s work, was among those who voted to keep Nowicka in place. After the vote, she said she was not upset by the outcome.
“’I don’t regret it — believe me,’ she said.”
Grodzka’s election from a district in Krakow, where former Pope John Paul II was once archbishop, and her rise in national politics illustrate a further shift from the Catholic Church’s once-powerful control of the direction of government.
Her party, Palikot’s Movement, is raising its profile with an agenda of LGBT rights and resistance to traditional church influences. ABC News notes the significance this transgender member of parliament has had:
“Even so, the 58-year-old has already had a huge impact on the political scene, becoming perhaps the most prominent symbol of liberal change in a country that has traditionally been deeply conservative and overwhelmingly Roman Catholic…
“The social transformation has been visible in other areas too…But it is particularly notable for the new attention given to the rights of sexual minorities, an issue suppressed in communist times and after the fall of communism in 1989, as many Poles looked to the powerful Catholic church for guidance through the economic and social turmoil.”
LGBT progress in Poland is a reality, but Grodzka and others quickly point to the failure to pass a measure that would extend legal recognition to unmarried couples of any orientation as evidence that Polish bishops continue to bear weight and the nation is not equivalent to liberal Western nations yet. For now, Grodzka focuses on serving her constituents:
“’I am above all trying to be a normal politician, like any other person, but maybe even better. I am really trying so that people who observe me will know that transgender people are no worse in any way than any others.’”
We congratulate Ms. Grodzka for her courage and fortitude and for her shining example!
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry