Poland has become an increasingly unwelcoming place for the LGBTQ community. Fifty diplomats hope to change that.
- An open letter, signed by 50 ambassadors and NGO leaders, asked the Polish government to respect LGBT rights.
- The Polish Government responded by denying the implied discrimination exists.
- Poland has been deemed the "worst place to be gay" in the EU in spite of this.
Of all the countries in Europe to have a right-wing, authoritarian turn over the last few years, one would have thought Poland to be one of the least likely candidates.
After enduring a brutal invasion by Nazi Germany, suffering under the military regime imposed on them, and seeing millions of their countrymen die, Poland experienced fifty years of soviet-style dictatorship which ended only with the revolutions of 1989. Few nations have endured so much in living memory.
Despite these hard-won lessons, Poland has taken a turn towards authoritarianism over the last few years. As with all such turns, an enemy is designated as the implausible source of potential national decline and a threat to a decent way of life. In this case, it is LGBT+ individuals.
The stigmatization of LGBT+ individuals in Poland has been increasingly vicious, with several provinces, covering nearly a third of the country, having declared themselves "LGBT Free Zones." While of dubious legality and mostly unenforceable, the declarations seek to limit things such as pride parades by declaring the polity in opposition to "LGBT ideology." Despite the limited legal ramifications of these declarations, life for LGBT people in these zones can be unpleasant.
In response to this, more than 50 signatories, consisting primarily of ambassadors to Poland, have endorsed an open letter speaking to the need for all people to be able to enjoy their rights and the duties of governments to protect them.
Strongly worded letters, the weapon of champions.
Organized by the Embassy of the Kingdom of Belgium in Poland, the open letter was signed by the Ambassadors of 43 nations representing most of Europe and all of continental North America, as well as several countries from Asia, Africa, and South America. Representatives of various international organizations, including the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, also signed.
The letter pays tribute to those working for LGBT+ rights in Poland and affirms the dignity found in each person "as expressed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights." It goes on to remind the reader that "respect for these fundamental rights, which are also enshrined in OSCE commitments and the obligations and standards of the Council of Europe and the European Union as communities of rights and values, obliges governments to protect all citizens from violence and discrimination and to ensure they enjoy equal opportunities."
It ends with the declaration, "Human rights are universal and everyone, including LGBT+ persons, are entitled to their full enjoyment. This is something that everyone should support."
The American Ambassador to Poland, Georgette Mosbacher, retweeted the letter and added, "Human Rights are not an ideology - they are universal. 50 Ambassadors and Representatives agree."
The Response of the Polish Government
The Polish Government was less than pleased with the letter and its implications.
The Prime Minister of Poland, Mateusz Morawiecki, rejected the letter and its implications, saying "nobody needs to teach us tolerance, because we are a nation that has learned such tolerance for centuries and we have given many testimonies to the history of such tolerance."
This sort of rebuttal is nothing new; just last week, when American Presidential Candidate Joe Biden tweeted that "LGBT-free zones' have no place in the European Union or anywhere in the world," the Polish Embassy in the United States was quick to say the tweet was based on inaccurate information, to reassure the world that there are no such zones, and to restate their belief there is no place for discrimination in society.
A quick fact check demonstrates otherwise. Several places in Poland have declared themselves to be "LGBT free zones," violence inspired by anti-LGBT+ propaganda has taken place, leading government figures have declared homosexuality to be a "threat to Polish identity, to our nation, to its existence and thus to the Polish state," and the President of Poland, Andrzej Duda has declared the LGBT movement to be more dangerous than Communism. Surveys show nearly a third of Poland's people believe in a grand conspiracy against them involving "gender ideology."
It is also worth repeating that Poland has been declared the worst place in the European Union for gay rights. Same-sex unions of any kind, including civil unions, are still illegal, and gay couples have no right to adopt children. Laws against hate crimes and conversion therapy are also notoriously lacking. Though to their credit, gay men and bisexuals can donate blood in Poland with greater ease then they can in the United States.
Despite having a first-hand understanding of the dangers of authoritarianism and intolerance than most nations, some in Poland continue to use the LGBT+ community as a boogeyman. While it is not the first time such things have been done, perhaps it will be one of the last.
Mexico City, already progressive, takes more steps to protect its LGBT+ citizens.
- Mexico City has just issued a ban protecting its citizens from "conversion therapy."
- "Conversion therapy" is a loose term covering a wide variety of "treatments" which claim to alter a person's sexuality.
- With the law, Mexico City joins a small club of countries, provinces, and municipalities with such a law.
In a win for LGBT+ individuals, the regional congress of Mexico City passed legislation banning conversion therapy throughout its jurisdiction. The vote took place virtually due to the current pandemic, and the bill enjoyed multi-party support. A medical practitioner who provides conversion therapy will now face five years of jail time for doing so, and more if they attempt the treatments on a minor.
The legislation is being celebrated as a win for the LGBT+ community. With it, Mexico City joins a handful of countries, states, provinces, and municipalities that have explicitly banned these dangerous procedures.
The ashes in the dustbin of history, examined.
Conversion therapy refers to a wide array of procedures that ostensibly alter a person's sexual orientation. These can include anything from trying to "pray the gay away" to aversion therapies that border torture. Variations of the idea of curing homosexuality have been around since the dawn of modern psychology. The amount of acceptance that the concept enjoyed waxed and waned as our understanding of sexuality evolved.
Sigmund Freud famously declared homosexuality "nothing to be ashamed of, no vice, no degradation" in a letter to the mother of a gay man who sought his help in "curing" her son. In the same letter, Freud expressed doubt that any therapy could reliably alter human sexuality in a meaningful way.
His daughter, an influential psychologist in her own right, felt differently, suggesting that such a treatment could exist and describing homosexual tendencies in terms of neurotic illness. In the United States, several psychologists argued that such behavior could be "cured" through a variety of procedures, such as electroshock treatment, lobotomy, aversive conditioning, and confrontational therapy often indistinguishable from abuse.
After Stonewall and the rise of modern views of human sexuality, most psychologists and their associations stopped considering homosexuality as a disease.
In the 21st century, the American Psychological Association asked its members to "avoid misrepresenting the efficacy of sexual orientation change efforts by promoting or promising change in sexual orientation when providing assistance to individuals distressed by their own or others' sexual orientation." Similar actions have taken place around the world. Recently, the United Nations' expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identify called for a global ban on the practice.
Despite these efforts and others like them, some forms of conversion therapy continue to exist, and a few people still preach its benefits.
This is rather dangerous. While no widely accepted study demonstrates the effectiveness of conversion therapy, credible studies show its adverse outcomes. People who undergo these discredited treatments are at a higher risk of suicide, anxiety, depression, and drug use.
Who isn’t as progressive as Mexico City yet? Where is progress being made?
Areas in dark blue have issued bans on conversion therapy. Light blue signifies a case by case ban. Areas in yellow are/have considered bans. The grey areas offer no protections against conversion therapy.
By Stinger20 - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=66533359
The above map shows the various places around the world where conversion therapy is banned, legal, or being challenged. Many of the locations shown in yellow are making significant progress towards a ban of this harmful group of procedures. As you might expect, the details of the laws in effect vary by location. Some of the prohibitions are de facto rather than explicit, some only apply to medical professionals carrying out these procedures, and some are enforced not by law but by the mutual agreement of psychologists.
The United Kingdom has taken substantial steps towards a ban, with the NHS and the major psychological and counseling associations of the UK condemning the practice. The government has promised to study the issue in detail before moving forward with legislation that could end the practice. Several organizations continue to advocate for law immediately settling the matter.
In India, Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil revealed that he had endured electroshock therapy as a young man after coming out to his less than supportive parents. Since coming out in 2006, he has worked with various charities to help LGBT+ individuals and even opened up his palace grounds for those who were forced out of their families for who they are. His opening up comes alongside protests in India against the practice.
In the United States, discussions of a ban have taken place in many areas not currently protected by one. LGBT+ organizations in those states without bans are actively campaigning for them. The state of Minnesota attempted to pass legislation to that effect last year, but that portion of the bill was cut out. Activists have taken to the local level as they prepare to try again.
Mexico City's ban is entirely in character for a city with a reputation of a protector of LGBT+ rights. In 2009, it was the first place in Mexico to legalize gay marriage and institute a variety of legal equalities. Gay Rights have been slower to gain respect in the rest of Mexico, though its Supreme Court stands ready to protect the rights of LGBT+ individuals in states that have dragged their feet on adopting federal law equalizing marriage.
If gay people could unite America enough to win the right to marry, surely an entire society can borrow from that playbook to get the US back on track.
For four decades, gay rights activists and couples who appealed to the courts for the right to marry their partners were fighting against a legal system. The real battle, however, was against public perception. Evan Wolfson, founder of the national bipartisan organization Freedom to Marry, outlines the strategy that transformed public understanding and led to a triumph in the Supreme Court in June 2015. It wasn’t the legal appeals or height of the headlines that brought marriage equality to gay people, Wolfson says, rather it was millions of quieter, more personal conversations "around coffee tables and living rooms and water coolers in offices" that became the necessary engine of change. It’s much more difficult to deny a person a basic human right one on one, face to face. Wolfson opens his strategic playbook to Americans in a time of cavernous political division. "The elements of success [of Freedom to Marry] are very applicable and adaptable... for other causes, other organizations, other countries, other ways of moving our society forward, getting our country back on track, and making a better world," he says. Wolfson and the marriage equality story are the subject of the new documentary The Freedom to Marry, in cinemas now.
Author and robot expert Dr. David Levy explains how marriage with robots will come in the next several decades as technological and societal transformations take place.
The pool of potential romantic partners is about to increase dramatically. Author and robot expert Dr. David Levy thinks that before 2050 we’ll be marrying robots.
“Sex and love with robots at a human level may appear to be a long way off, but the future has a way of laughing at you,” said Levy.
Speaking recently in London, Dr. Levy, author of the bestselling book ‘Love and Sex with Robots’, proposes that robots will have a number of advantages over human partners. They will be “enormously attractive” and feature advanced artificial intelligence that could adapt to you intellectually and sexually.
Like all our adaptations of technology, it might happen all of a sudden and could easily become commonplace.
“We’re being forced to contemplate what human-robot relationships will be like a generation or two from now,” he said. “As love and sex with robots becomes more commonplace, we should come face to face with the very real possibility of marriage with robots. When robots are sufficiently human-like, sufficiently appealing socially, to the point where they can act as our companions, why not extend that companionship to marriage if neither party is against the idea?”
But how will societies, already having a hard time dealing with human outsiders, adapt to such a transformational change?
“As more and more people come to accept the concepts of sex and love with robots, so societies will develop laws that govern human-robot relationships," stated Dr. Levy. "By the time there are no laws to prevent human-robot marriages, robots will be patient, kind, subjective, loving, interesting, truthful, persevering, respectful, uncomplaining, pleasant to talk to and showing a sense of humour. And the robots of the future will not be jealous, boastful, arrogant, rude, self-seeking or easily angered, unless of course you want them to be."
He does consider that there might be a civil-rights struggle for AI lifeforms initially but with time any restrictions “will begin to fall by the wayside just as laws preventing interracial marriage did in the 1960s and same sex marriage during did in the past decade.”
Dr. Levy sees three criteria for robots to marry humans - consent, understanding and ability to make decisions.
Given the advances in artificial intelligence technology, these might be met quite soon.
Cover photo: A Robot 'Tiro' acts as master of ceremonies at a wedding for Seok Gyeong-Jae (L), one of the engineers who designed it, and his bride in Daejeon, 130 kilometers (78 miles) south of Seoul, 17 June 2007. AFP PHOTO/CHOI WON-SUK (Photo credit: CHOI WON-SUK/AFP/Getty Images)
Visionaries know why they get out of bed each day. Do you? Ethnographer and leadership expert Simon Sinek explains how to find direction and fulfillment in your personal and professional life.
Do you know why you get out of bed in the morning? According Simon Sinek (ethnographer, leadership expert, and the official mascot for optimism), answering "because I have to" isn’t quite cutting the mustard.
Finding your purpose in life is an insurmountable task – worse than that, it’s a motivational poster catchphrase that’s difficult to find any authenticity in. Which is why Sinek doesn’t recommend you jump from zero to visionary in one leap. He’s the first to admit it’s daunting, and in this video he calls us out for being obsessed with visionaries. From Steve Jobs and Elon Musk to Ariana Huffington and Bill Gates, we have to crane our necks to look up at these cultural gods of innovation who have changed and are changing our world. How do you even step one foot up a mountain that big?
What if, at the outset, purpose wasn’t about finding yourvision, but finding a vision? In Sinek’s view, we are under no obligation to be great thinkers and leaders, but we are almost bound by a contract of respect for one another to find a person, a company or a cause that we believe in and can help build, to improve the lives of all society. Is it amoral to aimlessly live out our life expectancies when we could be contributing?
Sinek is passionate about something usually only patriots, politicians and historians get hyped over: the Declaration of Independence. He adores this document because it doesn’t just announce the fact that America exists, but it declares exactly why America exists, something Sinek says most companies overlook. There are likely to be at least a thousand other companies doing what you do, making the same product that you make, but one company’s reason *why* can be the thing that sets it apart.
Perhaps we’d benefit from drafting a personal declaration for the ‘why’ of our own existence – or more realistically, at least, for this coming year. Find a vision that makes you get out of bed every morning with a fire in your belly. Follow someone else's great lead, do what excites you, and an original vision may come from there.
Simon Sinek's most recent book is Start with Why How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action.