Poland just had its first gay inclusive prom at the Bednarska High School in the capitol city of Warsaw.
Like their US counterparts—many Polish LGBTQ high school students face bullying and other forms of assault from their fellow students which contributes to a cycle of psychological abuse.
“Seventy percent of LGBTQ youth in Poland have tried or considered suicide, ” Equality Parade told Towleroad , “so we cannot overstate the importance of not only holding the prom but the story reach the rest of the world.”
Parade is a Warsaw based LGBTQ advocacy group that has been holding the annual Pride parade in the Eastern European nation’s capitol since 2001.
“The situation of young LGBTQ people is exacerbated by the fact that school is the place where they are most likely to experience violence towards them. This, together with feelings of loneliness and a lack of acceptance, is the main cause for depression and suicidal thoughts amongst LGBTQ, which is experienced by 70 percent of them. One might expect that support can be found at home, however, this is not always the case. Lack of acceptance from loved ones can result in feelings of loneliness. There is, however, a ray of light: 76 percent of students in Poland are aware of violence against their LGBTQ peers and are against it.”
The Equality Prom Dance included same-sex couples who are now in their senior year at Bednarska.
“For many of these kids–this is the first time they feel seen, whereas often, to show their disapproval and refusal to conform to heteronormative events–leads to them simply not showing up. And that then often leaves them alone and acerbates their depression–so we started thinking–how could we change their perception of the school. And we invited the whole student body to have a voice and open debate in this matter with our students is grounded in the values and tradition of our school,” Wanda Łuczak, Headmistress at Bednarska told us.
“For years we have aimed to treat our students as partners in discussions, shape their attitude towards hatred and social exclusion and most importantly – make sure they feel safe and teach them to respect human dignity. Hence, when they asked us to help them support LGBTQ people, we, as the authority of the school, knew we should help them. We hope that this gesture will give LGBTQ students courage and make them feel safe and accepted and will widen the understanding for their dilemmas,” Łuczak added.
The event also received support by the Miłość Nie Wyklucza (MNW) Association (“Love does not exclude” in English), Wolontariat Równości Foundation (Volunteering for Equality), and Ben & Jerry’s.
Hubert Sobecki, co-chairman of MNW, indicates that people “who know at least one LGBTQ person, are in favor of the idea of same-sex marriage or civil partnerships more than people who do not know an LGBTQ person.”
“We have also seen that support for LGBTQ partnerships among people who do not know any LGBTQ person reaches 29 percent and among those, who know of someone in such a relationship – rises to 62 percent. This explains why the presence of LGBTQ people around us, for example during the otherwise heteronormative prom, is vital. If truth be told, most probably everyone knows an LGBTQ person, but not everyone is aware of their sexuality. We are expected to be invisible and act heterosexual, and the tradition of dancing the Polonaise during the prom is one of the little things that make this principle stronger,” Sobecki concluded.
Photos by Michał Murawski