This article originally appeared on VICE Poland
After the 2011 general election in Poland, Anna Grodzka became the first openly transgender MP in the country's history. As expected in a place as conservative as Poland, her election caused quite a stir, with both the local media as well as her opponents focusing on her gender identity instead of her political agenda.
Not that that did anything to combat her ambition. On the contrary, this past January, Grodzka announced her plans to run for president later this year. However, there is a chance that today these dreams might come to a halt. The politician has had trouble collecting the 100,000 signatures required by the Polish Electoral Commission to validate a candidacy and the registration deadline expires tonight at midnight. Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of sitting down for an interview with a still-optimistic Anna Grodzka.
VICE: What exactly was it that inspired you to run for president?
Anna Grodzka: The media has been focused on my transgender identity since I first got into politics. I completely get it but I am also set on showing people that my political abilities have nothing to do with my gender. A presidential campaign would be a great platform for me to do that—it would open up my reach and more people would get to hear my views and beliefs.
Are you prepared to be the president of Poland? Are you willing to represent all Poles—including the guys with the swastika tattoos?
There is no way a president can represent the whole nation—it's just not possible. Politicians have supporters and enemies. In my opinion, the most important thing for a president is to objectively recognize the needs of the citizens of his country. To me, it seems that our previous presidents have been mostly concerned with their own agenda and that they've tried really hard to maintain a neutral stance when pressed with questions about controversial issues. I believe it should be the other way around—the president should be a person who initiates the dialogue. An ambassador of their own ideals.
What is the ideal that Poland is in need of at the moment?
The most important issue that Poland faces right now is rampant inequality. But, to be honest, it's not only our problem. The whole Western world has to deal with that issue. One percent of humanity owns the rest of us. In Poland, people have jobs but they cannot sustain themselves on their income. Economic difficulties create social phobias, and make the world-views of a large part of the society more radical. That would be at the center of my presidential agenda.
There is a lot of unpleasantry aimed at you. How do you cope with that?
I cannot really deal with it, but I try to do my best. I don't read online comments—I try to ignore all of them—because I have a feeling that there's nothing of use in them. On the other hand, constructive criticism is much appreciated. Critical opinions on my words or my actions—I'll gladly accept those.
Have you ever been made to feel particularly hurt by someone's comment?
I remember being take aback by a hate speech by another Polish MP, Krystyna Pawłowicz. She said that I look like a professional boxer and that a person like myself has no right to even be in a public space. She said those things at a meeting in the town of Mińsk Mazowiecki. It was around the time that we were debating the issue of civil partnerships and same-sex civil unions in parliament. How is all that hate connected to freedom of speech? Should we encourage as unlimited freedom of speech as possible or control it?
If you're assuming that in Poland we have freedom of speech, I have to stop you right there. There is no freedom of speech in Poland. Sure, we can say almost anything, but in private conditions. It's impossible for an individual to take part in a civilized debate. There's evidently censorship at work.
The situation is almost worse than in the communist years. I was a book publisher then, and I can say that we had more options. You at least had the option of arguing with the censor face to face. To make him consider saving some fragments of a book or taking an author off the blacklist. Now, certain persons, events, and opinions are simply expelled from the public debate. In Poland, this is also largely the work of certain media.
According to the most recent polls, you're supported by only 1 percent of the voters. Why do you think your predicted position in the elections is so low?
Take a look at the amount of time the mainstream media gives me and the amount of time that other candidates receive. I can sit at the conversation table with any of my opponents—discuss any issues and my views—but I am never given that chance. Even when a channel finally invites me, they have no interest in my political platform, all they want to discuss is my transition. Polls are an entirely different case and they rarely get it right. In the last election, the polls gave the Green Party 0-1 percent and we got 10 percent. So, I don't worry about the polls too much and the fight goes on.
Thank you very much for your time, Ms. Grodzka.