The Atlas of Hate, an interactive map delineating Poland’s “LGBT-free zones” (courtesy the Atlas of Hate)

Homophobia in Poland is on the rise with about a third of the country now declared an “LGBT-free zone.” More than 90 Polish municipal and local governments, covering an area larger than the size of Hungary, have announced themselves as “free from LGBT ideology,” coupled with local laws that encourage intolerance toward LGBTQ people. The Atlas of Hate, an interactive map of Poland created by local activists, delineates these anti-gay zones as part of the LGBTQ community’s efforts to fight the proliferation of bigotry.

The Atlas of Hate map is the work of activists Pawel Preneta, Paulina Pajak, and Jakub Gawron. It outlines regions that have adopted the “anti-LGBT declaration” (colored in red); others that have rejected it (green); and regions where extremist lobbying activities are being conducted to adopt the declaration (yellow). The map was launched in November of 2019 and continues to be updated.

In addition, users from other countries can check a spreadsheet to see if their city or province has a partnership with a Polish “LGBT-free zone.”

Gawron, a 38-year-old database administrator living in the city of Rzeszów in southeastern Poland, told Hyperallergic in an email that the project aims to “alert public opinion to threats coming from Christian fundamentalists.”

“We wanted to summarize the local governments’ resolutions in a simple and accessible form,” Gawron wrote. “The resolutions are dispersed, and too difficult to track by journalists who usually have too little time for that.”

From an LGBTQI march in the city of Rzeszow in Poland held in 2019 (courtesy Jakub Gawron)

The zones started in reaction to a declaration in favor of LGBTQ rights signed in February 2019 by Warsaw’s then-newly elected mayor Rafał Trzaskowski. The discriminatory motions are shepherded by the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party led by Jarosław Kaczyński.

Kaczyński, who in the past maligned migrants as carriers of “parasites and protozoa,” condemned the Warsaw mayor’s pro-LGBTQ declaration as “an attack on the family and children” and asserted that non-heteronormative relations are an “imported” ideology. Kaczyński was joined by Marek Jedraszewski, the archbishop of Krakow, who called the “LGBT ideology” a “rainbow plague.”

Protests holding posters of the Virgin Mary in the colors of the pride flag during the Equality March in the city of Częstochowa in 2019 (Wikimedia Commons)

In May of 2019, Polish police arrested human rights activist Elżbieta Podleśna for holding posters of the Virgin Mary with a halo around her head and shoulders in the colors of the LGBTQ flag during the Equality March in the city of Częstochowa. The activist was charged with “offending religious beliefs,” which is illegal in Poland.

In July of 2019, the conservative Gazeta Polska newspaper issued “LGBT-free zone” stickers to readers. Facing backlash from activists, Polish opposition and diplomats, the newspaper’s editor in chief Tomasz Sakiewicz defended the move, saying: “what is happening is the best evidence that LGBT is a totalitarian ideology.”

The Warsaw district court ordered the newspaper to stop the distribution of the stickers pending the resolution of a court case. Gazeta’s editor scuffed the ruling as “fake news” and censorship. The newspaper continued to distribute the stickers, but modified the slogan to read “LGBT Ideology-Free Zone.”

While unenforceable and largely symbolic, activists say the declared zones represent an attempt to stigmatize and exclude members of the LGBTQ community.

“The initiators of such resolutions do not want these people to be visible in public life, so they wrap the whole set of equality actions in the pejorative word ‘ideology,’” Gawron wrote.

“The purpose of these resolutions is pressure for local government workers to cease all anti-discrimination and pro-equality measures,” Gawron continued. “Such resolutions, combined with conformism, fear and lack of legal knowledge, can be an effective way of symbolically excluding non-heteronormative people from the public space, starting with educational institutions.”

On the 18th of December 2019, the European Parliament passed a resolution condemning the zones, describing them as part of “a broader context of attacks against the LGBTQ community in Poland, which include growing hate speech by public and elected officials and public media, as well as attacks and bans on Pride marches and actions such as Rainbow Friday.”

Gawron and his project partners used the Atlas of Hate to lobby for the resolution at the European Parliament. But the condemnation did not stop LGBTQ-free zones from expanding in Poland.

According to the map, most of the discriminatory zones are concentrated in Poland’s south-east. Big cities remain relatively safe for members of the community. “Warsaw and big cities in Poland are asylums for the LGBTI community,” Gawron wrote. “It’s where we have clubs, associations, friendly politicians, and marches.”

When asked how these resolutions affect his daily life, Gawron said, “Physical violence is rare but you are accompanied by a constant fear of it erupting, compounded by the suffocating atmosphere and verbal aggression. You know that the police will consider violence for homophobic reasons as unimportant.”

“You maintain superficial social contacts with most people because you assume in advance that they are homophobic,” Gawron continued. “You wonder who would laugh at you, who would treat you with a passive-aggressive saint-lecture, and what these people might be capable of doing in times of historical extremes.”

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Hakim Bishara

Hakim Bishara is a Senior Editor at Hyperallergic. He is also a co-director at Soloway Gallery, an artist-run space in Brooklyn. Bishara is a recipient of the 2019 Andy Warhol Foundation and Creative Capital...

7 replies on “An “Atlas of Hate” Maps Poland’s Anti-LGBTQ Governments”

  1. What is so beautiful and why we should tolerate sodomy when overwhelming majority are straight and loving traditional relations? What is so wonderful about the bottom homosexual act…the mixing of sperm with poop and often blood?
    I rest my case!

    1. I will never understand why heterosexuals always think about sex, as if feelings for another person don’t matter 🙄
      Maybe you guys are the perverted ones.

      Hetero couples also engage in anal sex, but yet, all of you people ignore that fact because it doesn’t fit your ideology. You’re doing anything to make homosexual couples look bad, stop grasping at straws.

      1. I love homosexuals!! You missing the point! It is the propaganda machine of the LGBT that is trying push its agenda on community. Keep your sex life private as the straight folks should do ! If your bring sex into the public its become scandalous. I have few homosexual friends who agree with me.
        If I force Jesus on you you wouldn’t like it to much or would you?…so fuck off with your sodomy as well!

        1. No, you do not love people who have homosexual orientations. Your hostility toward lgbt people stands in the way of your actually following Jesus. You do not want lgbt people to be private; you want lgbt people to be secret, hiding in fear of what you might do to them. Straight couples generally keep their sexual behavior private, but not secret. Instead, they usually have public weddings, with family and friends present to celebrate. That is private, but certainly not secret.

          Let go of your homophobia and choose to love.

    2. What proof do you have that this is not beautiful? Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, don’t you know? How do you know the overwhelming majority are straight – what others do behind closed doors is somehow of your business? What is so wonderful about sex at’s all body fluids….so somehow your sex is cleaner? You reek of prejudice and bigotry. Read your bible and learn about unconditional love.

      1. Ok Princess…you are the one mention mixture of body fluids. How does the mixing of sperm with shit and blood is beautiful..even in the eye of beholder? If that is the way you perceive beauty than you are one sick puppy! If I reek of bigotry I’m proud of it!! The meaning of the word bigot imply disagreement and I disagree with vomit and name calling as you project. I agree with you about one thing..the sex topic should be kept behind closed doors and be private..and everything would be fine as it was for 50 thousand years. The sodomite propaganda machine however keep yapping about it all the time and make it shameless ! . As for the overwhelming majority of being straight is just fact ..not my feelings! Be true freedom fighter..liberate the women who are trafficked , used and abused by the porn industry! You propagate freedom..that s wonderful , but freedom to do what? Think about it Princess!

    3. Love is beautiful. That includes the love that a gay couple share. You are confusing your own personal distaste with morality. Let go of your hate and choose to do as Jesus taught – love your neighbor as yourself. That includes your neighbor whom God created gay or lesbian or bisexual or transgender or intersex.

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