WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland's first transsexual lawmaker vowed Monday to campaign for the rights of gender minorities and make predominantly Catholic Poland more receptive to transsexuals and homosexuals.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Anna Grodzka said the time has come for sexual minority groups in Poland to enjoy the right to legal partnerships, job security and state funding for medical sex change procedures.
"Enough of this concealing of the truth," Grodzka said. "This group of people, even if small, has its rights and they should be respected. They should not be pushed into oblivion."
The 57-year-old Grodzka made history in Poland by becoming the first ever transsexual to win a seat in parliament in elections on Oct. 9. Her election underlines the profound social change taking place in this deeply conservative and mostly Catholic country.
When parliament meets for the first time, Poland will also have its first openly gay person, Robert Biedron, a leading gay rights activist, and two black lawmakers.
Before World War II, Poland was a multiethnic society inhabited by Jews, ethnic Ukrainians, Lithuanians, Germans and others. But it became a homogenous society of mostly Catholic Poles after the Holocaust and the redrawing of Poland's borders after World War II.
Great social flux, however, has come in recent years, especially with European Union bringing greater contact with Western ideas. Many young Poles have lived for a time in places like Britain, returning home with reshaped views on sexual and other minorities.
Grodzka runs Trans-Fuzja, a foundation that supports some 1,000 transgender people in Poland, and decided to run for parliament to attract media attention to her mission. Founded in 2007, the foundation lobbies for legislation that would secure the rights of the group and offers direct help to its members.
Her group also tries to raise awareness of the plight of transgendered people — and her election so far has triggered numerous television shows in past days examining the issue.
So far, Grodzka has she has received many gestures of support from ordinary people since her election began making headlines.
During the interview at a Warsaw cafe, a young woman came up to Grodzka to shake her hand in a gesture of admiration and encouragement.
Grodzka also recalled how last week in Gdansk, a young mother showed her a thumbs-up and made her baby in a carriage also raise its thumbs.
She said that among hundreds of friendly gestures she has received only one hostile phone call, and believes that proportion testifies to growing a maturity and tolerance of the society in Poland.
She also noted the irony of being elected to parliament from a constituency in Krakow, a church stronghold where the Polish-born Pope John Paul II rose from priest to archbishop before he was elected pope. Today a church stands on nearly every street.
"But Krakow is also a university city with plenty of young people, of artists, of freethinkers," she said. "It all added up and showed in the vote."
She says the attention has detracted her temporarily from preparations to be one of the 460 lawmakers in the lower house, a role she will assume when it convenes Nov. 8. She was elected as a member of Palikot's Movement, a new left-wing party that won representation for the first time as the country's third largest party.
Grodzka had her sex change surgery in Thailand 18 months ago, the culmination of a lifetime of feeling that she was born the wrong sex. Before the change she was Krzysztof Grodzki, and had a wife and a son.
"I had a good life, filled with success and love, but this sense that I was not myself inside always accompanied me," she said.