Poland’s first transgenderMP has lost out in a bid to become a deputy speaker in parliament after other parliamentarians voted to keep the incumbent in place.
Anna Grodzka, who attracted huge attention
when she was elected in 2011, garnered even more headlines in recent
days when she became a potential candidate for the post.
though the job appears out of reach for now, the 58-year-old has already
had a huge impact on the political scene, becoming perhaps the most
prominent symbol of liberal change in a traditionally conservative and
largely Roman Catholic country.
Ms Grodzka became a candidate for
a deputy speaker post after the current holder of the post for her
party, Wanda Nowicka, drew the ire of its founder and leader, Janusz
Palikot, for accepting a bonus of 40,000 zlotys (€9,567) for her work as
a leader in the legislature last year.
The bonuses have been
controversial because they come as Poland’s economy faces a slowdown and
the government raises taxes and forces other austerity measures on the
Politicians, however, voted overwhelmingly against a
proposition to dismiss Ms Nowicka. Ms Nowicka then addressed the
assembly, saying she was encouraged by their support and that she would
not resign. A prominent activist who has worked for years for women’s
causes, Ms Nowicka said there was no merit to the case against her and
that she still had work to do for women and her constituents.
Ms Grodzka had sex change surgery in 2010 in Thailand after a lifetime of feeling she was born the wrong sex.
news magazines have featured her on their front covers, with analytical
pieces examining the role of gays and other sexual minorities in
Ms Grodzka said before the vote that she is still
sometimes surprised that she garnered 20,000 votes in her conservative
home city, Krakow, to win a seat in Parliament for the Palikot Movement.
People have attacked her office, throwing things at the windows or
ripping her rainbow flags. But all in all, she feels a growing
acceptance from society.
She is aware she is a symbol of historic
change in Poland, she said, and is trying to meet that challenge by
doing the best work possible as a parliamentarian.
“I am above
all trying to be a normal politician, like any other person, but maybe
even better. I am really trying so that people who observe me will know
that transgender people are no worse in any way than any others,” Ms
Poland’s social transformation has been visible in
other areas too, including growing support for the state to fund IVF,
despite conservative Catholic opposition. But it is particularly notable
for the new attention given to the rights of sexual minorities, an
issue suppressed in communist times and after the fall of communism in
1989, as many Poles looked to the powerful Catholic church for guidance
through the economic and social turmoil.
The church’s role was
long bolstered by its reputation for standing up to the communists and
because of the authority of the late Polish Pope John Paul II. But its
influence has waned since John Paul’s death in 2005 and as Poland joined
the EU in 2004 and became more closely integrated with the West.
key turning point came as a new progressive party – Palikot’s Movement -
swept into power in 2011 as Parliament’s third-largest force, one
fighting for gay rights and against the church’s traditional influence
over public life. Its representatives include Ms Grodzka and Poland’s
first openly gay MP, Robert Biedron.