September 1, 2017
My relationship with Daniel is a long-distance one. Fortunately, we’ve managed to spend more time with each other lately. After one of our meetings in Warsaw more than six months ago, I sent my mother the following text message:
“Hi! I’ve landed. It was an important trip for me and the next stage in my difficult journey. I feel that a large part of it is behind me. I hope there will now be fewer storms and bends in the road with various fears lurking beyond them. I don’t know how hard it still is for you and dad, but it would be best if we all fully accepted the current state of things and remained open and focused on the present and future. For the good of our whole family. It is how it is, and not how it used to be. My relationship with Anna is over. Don’t worry about the girls, they have loving, devoted, committed parents. Feel free to write to me about how you and dad are feeling. I’m sending hugs and kisses! A.”
My mother was reluctant to respond to this text message and felt compelled to write: “We’re just worried about how all of this is going to turn out, and we realize we don’t have any influence on certain decisions. We’re mostly worried about the girls.”
I just spent two weeks with Daniel. When I met my parents at the end of that time, they didn’t ask me a single thing about my life or how I was feeling. Mum told me trivial stories about other people’s lives, most of which I can’t even remember anymore. We talked about the delicious taste of Thai beer, my parents’ upcoming trip, the Poland-Denmark football match, their purchases in the shopping mall, Melania Trump’s hairstyle and Paris Hilton’s dogs. When I called a taxi to take me to the dinner I was supposed to have with my partner and my two daughters, my mother didn’t ask where I was going. This was unlike her. In the past she had always asked me questions and was overprotective, often too controlling. This time my wise, caring and loving mother didn’t feel the need to ask me about my life or about what was important to me. This made me sad. Discouraged by her behaviour, I decided not to impose information on her. I loaded the girls into the car and off we went.
This is how homophobia manifests itself in the people closest to me. It has been deeply-rooted in them for a long time. I’m just beginning to understand how ruthless and destructive it is… The film Floating Skyscrapers – about a swimmer (Kuba) who falls in love with a man (Michał) while in a relationship with a woman (Sylwia) – shows the various faces of homophobia. I see my parents, former in-laws and neighbours in Kuba’s parents, Sylwia, Michał and their neighbours. My parents avoid the subject, just like Michał’s parents. When the film’s protagonist comes out to his family at the dinner table, his mother, father, brother and sister-in-law act as if nothing has happened and continue to talk about sports and health. Maybe a bit more anxiously than before. It reminds me of my in-laws’ reaction and the text message I received from them: “We beg you not to tell your children. Hide it as long as possible, you don’t have to be gay right away.”
But my mother’s homophobia hurts the most, hidden beneath her warm, tender, wrinkled hands. It’s in her touch, glances, gestures and words that I seek true understanding and acceptance. In Floating Skyscrapers there’s also the homophobia of thugs and football hooligans living in the neighbourhood – I’m physically afraid of this all the time. It’s why I always check my surroundings carefully before I hold Daniel’s hand for a moment in Warsaw. These expressions of homophobia add up. Sometimes they’re an unpleasant accent, taking joy away from moments, and sometimes they even take lives.
I’ve already managed to identify the various faces of homophobia (greetings to my therapist). I’d also like my mother to recognise them, but she doesn’t want to put any effort into it – she refuses to attend workshops for parents of LGBT people organised by the Campaign Against Homophobia (KPH). I would like it to be different. I’d like her to start thinking about it and to recognise her internalised homophobia, like a grandfather did in Mine Is Different, a KPH documentary film about the mothers, fathers and other loved ones of LGBT people who talk about parenthood, the love they feel for their children, and homophobia. This former soldier who’s over seventy years old has an approach that is as far from homophobia as possible. He says:
“Nature creates something. A nice example comes to me: clover has three leaves, but from time to time nature produces a four-leaf clover. We commonly consider it lucky to find a four-leaf clover. And so, if nature has produced something such as a gay man or a lesbian, it’s as if it has produced a four-leaf clover.”