The Ninio in the Room



For the first time in my life, I was actually hoping to see the police.

Dorota and I were walking through the streets of Kraków on a day almost like any other, slurping from a shared mie˛ty czekoladowe ice cream cone. But there were subtle differences: that day, the sun was blocked by a giant rainbow flag, and we were marching with a few hundred queers who were either half-naked or wearing extravagant costumes. Except for me in my navy overalls, it was Pantone overload. We were happy to give the March of Tolerance some legs, but angry not to see any cops there to protect us.

We marched behind a truck-sized banner that said NIE LEKAJCIE SIE. To get this made, we were told, the organizers had to commission a discreet printing service, one that had specialized in samizdat during Communist rule. (As you can see, they forgot the accents.)

We had no floats. This was, after all, an illegal parade. Lech Kaczyn´ski, mayor of Warsaw and leader of the Law and Justice Party, had been the first to ban a Polish pride parade. When angry Warsaw homos demanded an audience with him, he said he “refused to meet with perverts.” That’s okay with me. I wouldn’t want to meet with Lech, either, because I wouldn’t be able to stop myself from play-wrestling him to the ground and writing my name on his forehead. I have no problem being called a “pervert,” but if anyone’s going to violate my right to assemble, I want them to know exactly who they’re fucking with.

Unfortunately, Lech’s institutionalized hatred caught on, and it was no container of cherries.

Conversation gradually broke off as we left Universytet Jagiellon´ski and marched through the Stare Miasto. Chanting took over:

Nie le˛kajcie sie
Nie le˛kajcie sie

Kraków is a small town with ancient ideas. You can feel ridiculous shouting slogans to a garlic peddler sweeping the dust off her square of sidewalk, even though you know she’s part of the problem. Not joining the parade, we’re told, is her crime.

Nie le˛kajcie sie
Nie le˛kajcie sie

Do not be afraid

How edifying to hear this yelled in your ear by a queen wearing purple leotards and flapping a pair of chiffon bumblebee wings. We were an unstoppable force of human unicorns, fairies, and seahorses—as well as a disproportionate number of birds—screaming at old ladies. Really, though, we were behaving like elephants in musth, a condition in which they experience a sudden 6,000 percent surge in hormones.

As noon rolled by and folks left work and school for lunch, we attracted a thicker crowd of onlookers. Some appeared friendlier than others. Smirks were hard to read, unless they were accompanied by the following chants:

Pedały do gazu
Pedały do gazu

Zoologists cannot properly investigate the musth phenomenon, because even the most docile elephant, when in that supercharged state, may kill any human it sees.
Dorota and I spotted the first T-shirt about thirty minutes into the parade. A guerrilla team was throwing this latest fashion item to the marchers who begged most for them. The front had an icon of a pink elephant, and the back said BECAUSE GOD MADE ME THIS WAY. KRAKOW STAMPEDE 2005.

One size fits all

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