As far as LGBTQ rights are concerned, we've seen extensive progress in America. There's obviously plenty of work that still needs to be done but we enjoy so much freedom that it can be shocking when we hear what's going on in other countries.
In the middle of April, legislators in Poland were set to debate a "stop pedophilia" bill. If passed, the law would penalize anybody who "promotes or approves sexual intercourse or other sexual activity by a minor." On the surface, this sounds perfectly reasonable — such material is clearly inappropriate for minors, so not allowing others to expose them to such things makes sense.
However, it's what these legislators consider "sexual activity" that is the real problem.
Many LGBTQ activists feel this is a thinly veiled attack on the rights of LGBTQ people and I can't say I disagree with them. If I'm being honest, I don't see the point of this law. Pedophilia is already a criminal offense. What purpose does this bill serve that isn't already being served? Shouldn't promoting sexual intercourse and sexual activity to a minor already fall under such an umbrella? Why do we need a separate bill for such a thing?
The reason feels like a homophobic one. It's the same bill that caused the LGBTQ community in Russia to be tortured. Gay men were being persecuted for simply walking down the street holding hands — that's what the Russian government considered promoting sexual activity to minors. If this bill is enacted in Poland, I fear it will turn out the same way. LGBTQ people will be punished for things straight people are free to do. Nobody says a straight couple is "promoting sexual activity to minors" by holding hands in public.
Gay men in Russia were lured into traps under the guise of hookups. They were then kidnapped and tortured. These incidents became far too common, so much so that videos of the incidents were being broadcast online. Those who took part in these kidnappings were using the pedophilia law to justify their actions.
Believe it or not, some still think LGBTQ people can influence children to be gay.
There are a lot of people who still think being gay is a choice. From my own experience, I can tell you that isn't the case. What makes this argument even stranger is the fact that most gay people come from straight parents. My straight parents haven't influenced me to be straight. So how does their reasoning make any sense?
We also need to address the fact that pedophilia and homosexuality aren't the same thing.
Back in the '50s, Americans seemed to get the two confused. There are even "educational" films from that time warning kids about homosexuals, when in reality, they were talking about child molesters. Obviously, America has come a long way since then. But it doesn't seem like Russia and Poland are as educated as we've turned out to be.
Things need to change. Education on a basic human level is needed more than ever right now. Backward thinking will only lead to history repeating itself. Stereotypes need to be proven as false. Restricting the expression of entire groups of people will not make this happen.
As a gay man who is half Polish, the possibility of this new law seriously disturbs me. Especially since we've already seen the damage it's caused elsewhere. When it comes to LGBTQ rights, I hope and pray that Poland ends up on the right side of history.