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If you are LESBIAN, GAY, BISEXUAL, TRANSGENDER or have some OTHER identity, acquaint yourself with the text of this project, paying attention to the language employed in it, and share your coming out experiences.

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Jerzy Krzyszpień
Gay, 67, Kraków, Poland, published: 2013-10-07

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I developed my positive gay identity, after a period of struggle, whilst on a scholarship in the United States in the academic year 1975-1976. The main sources of this new identity were contact with my pen-pal Michael and publications devoted to the lesbian and gay liberation movement. I had met Michael through a list of addresses of organizations printed in a book that I found on a “gay shelf” in a public library. Among the publications George Weinberg’s book Society and the Healthy Homosexual (1972) and Franklin E. Kameny’s essay Gay is Good (1969) acquired special significance for me. At the same time I felt a need to share with others the message of dignity and equality of all human beings.

 

I dared to come out there for the first time on my birthday in 1976. This was to my American friend Betty, who had come to visit me at the college campus. She in turn, with my permission, told her husband, Harold. Their reaction was wonderfully affirming. There were many warm as well as amusing letters and telephone conversations. In fact, our friendship acquired special depth. At that time, in general, the United States was far from being an oasis of acceptance of gays, but freedom of speech made the start of a public debate possible.

 

On my return to the non-democratic reality of the Polish People’s Republic, when I tried to publish something constructive on lesbians and gay men, I faced the barrier of censorship. The gay men I encountered, often with a clearly negative homosexual identity, generally took for granted a closeted lifestyle. But my new awareness told me that one should come out. So I have come out many times and with the desired effect. People still treat me with respect and some congratulate me on my frankness. Here I will focus on a relatively recent event.

 

In a growing number of countries, gender neutral marriage is already recognised, but in our country even a partnership union law (in fact treating some people as second-class citizens, not deserving to be married) is not available yet. On Tuesday 24 July 2012, the Sejm voted to exclude the partnership union bill from the order of the day. The bigoted rhetoric of the right wing and the political calculations of the centre did not allow even a debate in the Polish parliament. On that day I participated in a demonstration in Warsaw to express support for the bill. Before the session of the Sejm the demonstrators were joined by Anna Grodzka, an openly transgender Member of Parliament, and Robert Biedroń, an openly gay Member of Parliament. Although this legislative attempt failed, it was one of the steps on the road to equality. In a copy of his book Tęczowy elementarz (A rainbow primer) (2007) Robert Biedroń wrote a dedication for me: “Thanks to you I am who I am”. I am glad that some time ago in Warsaw I inspired him with a number of lectures on the lesbian and gay emancipation movement. At present, thanks to his and other activists’ efforts, LGBT people in our country are much more visible and increasingly vocal. Robert officially invited me as his guest to watch the parliament session.

 

A few days later at a gym in Kraków a tattooed beefy man by the name of Michał came up to me and said: “I’ve seen you in the Sejm on television. I also support partnership unions. Such a union would be useful for me and my female partner.” No hateful words reached my ears. A year later, at the same gym, an instructor by the name of Tomek apparently noticed lack of enthusiasm on my face as two men and one woman in a conversation were expressing disapproval of the coming out of LGBT people. After a while he approached me and said: “Don’t worry about what they’re saying.” So he, too, already knew about me and treated me with respect.

 

Observing how coming out favours respect for our human rights in the world, I have created the internet project Wychodzimy z ukrycia (We Are Coming Out) to facilitate such a process in our country. Many people are capable of solidarity with those who are treated unjustly. Many are able to agree that as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender human beings we have the right to dignity and a quality of life equal to that of other citizens.


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