Being gay in Poland – what I learned from two young bright lesbians

Photo of the steps of the United States Supreme Court building on the morning of June 26, 2013, hours before the court overturned the Defense of Marriage Act.

You meet interesting people on trains and so I did on a recent trip from Germany to Poland: two bright, articulate, young Polish women who, as it turns out, are a couple. We got to chatting during a long train ride and the topic somehow moved onto the subject of the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decisions in June that strengthened gay rights. The women talked about how heartened and moved they were by the advances in gay rights in the U.S. – and then gradually mentioned that they were a couple and had few such rights in Poland, in part due to the pervasive conservative influence of the Catholic church.

One woman, college-age, said she could not tell her parents she is gay because they are very conservative (anti-gay, anti-Semitic  and definitely would not approve. The other woman, slightly older, said she’d told her parents and was surprised and pleased that they accepted the news reasonably well. I felt for them – and it reminded me that the fight for gay rights in the U.S. is being closely watched by gays/lesbians elsewhere who, alas, have an even tougher fight.  Interestingly, this conversation took place after a young guy who was also in our train cabin  left for a bit. When he returned, the women and I exchanged a quick knowing look and changed the subject.

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