Homophobia in Poland is another major reason of Polish immigration to the UK. Who would have thought? In fact, gay Poles decide to book a one-way flight ticket to London to escape discrimination.
Gay Poles in UK say they are not planning to return to their country because they felt too humiliated and irritated by the hate speech and anti-gay discrimination in Poland.
In a recent study I conducted among young Polish students and young professionals, it was shocking to find that many young Poles dissociate themselves from their country because of homophobia. 66% of London-based students (of any sexual orientation) from Poland think anti-gay speech in their country is a common phenomenon and 75% considers UK a more gay-friendly society.
I decided to reach UK's student LGBT societies across UK in order to hear from gay Poles' experiences and opinions. All of them volunteered to share with me their experiences.
Kamil, a 20-year-old former IB student from Gdańsk, is now studying Medicine at the top ranking University College London, awarded one of the leading gay-friendly universities in UK, according to Stonewall's Gay by Degree. Two weeks before moving to London he was walking home from his school. Three Polish teenagers broke his jaw and beat him up because 'he looked gay'. 'It was absurd to be scared to walk in my own neighbourhood' said Kamil.
75% of young Poles in UK admit there is hardly any support for student LGBT rights at Polish universities. Ela, student of Psychology at University of Westminster, praises the facilities and organisations that show real support. 'You can find a helpful LGBT Student Union in each London university. In Poland, only few have similar unions who are still under a lot of public pressure.
People who shared their stories with me come from different social backgrounds. All of them have different stories but one thing in common: positive expectations for their life in UK.
A young, recently graduated Polish gay couple from Warsaw told me their low income was not the main reason why they decided to move abroad. They said it was difficult to live in one apartment as a gay couple. They had to change properties several times because of their neighbours' offensive attitude. They moved to Peterborough and found a job within two weeks. Their next dream is to move to London to find a job in their profession.
Robert Biedroń, first openly gay MP in Poland and former leader of KPH (Campaign Against Homophobia), said that 'it is impossible for gays to be themselves in Poland'. The country does nothing to protect young,ambitious LGBT students. They choose to live in cities like London because it is one of the most gay-friendly cities in Europe.
Poland's on-going discussion on same-sex marriage and gay adoptions has been condemned by Church authorities who have strong influence on the public opinion. Public figures put a lot of effort into their speeches and media campaigns that put sexual minorities in the same categories with 'perverts and paedophiles'.
The recent 'anti-gender' campaign against so-called 'Western gender ideology', promoted by members of Polish government and some members of Polish Catholic Church, accuses freedom of sexual orientation of being a threat to family values and Polish identity. The attempt of Polish anti-gay campaigners to 'defend family and religious values' compromises basic human rights and encourages a massive Polish intellectual emigration.
My study had been turned down by many individuals and organisations. I almost regret not having done a survey on how many people told me it was 'shameful' to talk about homophobia in Poland to foreign media because it would 'jeopardise Poland's reputation'.
I believe nobody should feel eligible to offend and discriminate young, ambitious people because of their sexual preferences. If that happens, my commitment to speak out and write about it continues.