Friday, 31 March 2023 to Sunday, 2 April 2023

‘Never has any “minority” been as oppressed as this one’: Homoerots as Poles in the Empire of the Straight

Fri31  Mar04:15pm(20 mins)
Main Building Room 466


Kamil Karczewski1
1 Institute of Historical Research, UK


In 1932, soon after Poland decriminalised homosexual acts, a Warsaw-based magazine for men began to publish letters from its homosexual readers. One of them poignantly pleaded with the public – ‘Do Not Call Us Perverts!’ These men wanted to create an organisation that would help them to find and support each other. But in the letters, they also shared opinions on what they believed “homosexualism” was. Today, this collection of accounts offers us a unique glimpse of forgotten queer voices. They talk about the existence of an early homosexual subjectivity among men who wanted to be a queer community in interwar Poland.

When talking about the nature of their sexual desires, some of these ‘homoerots’ – as they frequently called themselves – drew on a notion that Tadeusz Boy-Żeleński, a journalist and activist for sexual reform, introduced into the Polish language in 1930. Referring to the League of Nations’ system protecting national minorities in Eastern Europe, he called queers ‘sexual minorities.’ Boy-Żeleński outlined numerous similarities between national identities and queer feelings. By comparing the past suffering of Polish nation to the persecution of homosexuals, he implied that these two communities were akin. Such a conceptualisation of ‘homosexualism’ could have major ramifications for Poland’s queers. It shifted same-sex acts from the realms of medicine and criminal law to the world of politics. Homoerots seem to have embraced it enthusiastically.