Attacks on LGBT+ rights in Poland, where towns are declaring themselves LGBT-free zones, are “absurd,” said Queer Eye star, Antoni Porowski, an actor with Polish roots, who on Tuesday called on the country to respect its gay and trans citizens.
The actor and reality TV star has been promoting a petition from advocacy group, All Out, that asks the European Union to condemn the crackdown.
The petition, with more than 300,000 signatures, was delivered on Tuesday to European Commissioner for Equality, Helena Dalli, the same day the small Polish town of Krasnik voted itself ‘free from LGBT ideology.’
It is one of dozens of municipalities making similar declarations in Poland, where President Andrzej Duda is a vocal critic of gay and trans rights and campaigned against same-sex adoption and LGBT+ education in schools.
“If Poland wants to be part of the EU, then they have to behave accordingly,” said Porowski, who was born in Canada to Polish parents. Poland has been an EU member since 2004.
“To have its own people excluding its own population, it seems so absurd and counterintuitive to Polish history,” Porowski told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an interview.
LGBT+ rights are divisive in Poland, where the ruling Law & Justice party and the powerful Catholic church have denounced them as a foreign “ideology” threatening traditional values.
The issue has become increasingly contentious among Poland’s more progressive European neighbors.
Norway said last week that none of the nearly 100 Polish municipalities that have issued LGBT-free resolutions would be getting grants under a program funded by Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein.
Porowski, who grew up in Montreal speaking Polish at home, said the conflict contradicts Poland’s proud history.
“I remember my father telling me that Poland wasn’t on the map for 400 years, yet they kept their faith, they kept their country,” he said. “(Now) they’re fighting against their own. For me it’s incredibly frustrating.”
The 36-year-old actor admitted he wasn’t always proud of his ancestry. Working in New York, he said he felt pressure to anglicize his last name, something that would have left his father heartbroken.
But after his success as the food expert on Netflix’s makeover show, Queer Eye, Porowski began to embrace his heritage and speak up for LGBT+ people.
Hearing about rocks thrown at protesters at a Polish gay Pride march last year, Porowski said:
“I feel like I have a responsibility.”
“When you hear personal stories like that, it makes it a lot more difficult for me personally to turn a blind eye, and that’s where you feel like you have to do something.”
Porowski, who lives in the United States, also said he is concerned about what the upcoming presidential election could mean for LGBT+ people.
The administration of Republican incumbent, President Donald Trump, has sought to ban trans people from enlisting in the military, tried to walk back health-care protections, and argued against workplace discrimination.
“I’m worried about my rights as well,” Porowski said.
“What’s going to happen if we have four more years of that?”
-Oscar Lopez – Thomson Reuters Foundation