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A club for all
Poles

A club for all
Poles

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"Right-wing organizations loathed me and my club. Le Madame was so popular that people stayed until the last possible moment. We waited until the police came with a warrant, and they had to drag us out."

I'm a 27-year-old Polish black man. This is an explosive combination in itself--Poland has a very small black population, so I stand out. Of course, being gay in a Catholic country isn't a bed of roses either.

Many straight people in Warsaw have misconceptions about gay people. That's because the city's gay population cocoons within a gay ghetto where there are more than a dozen gay clubs. I felt like it was time to mix things up, so I opened a club for anyone and everyone who was open-minded. Debuting two years ago, Le Madame quickly became a vital hot spot on the map of Warsaw, providing office space to ecological and human rights organizations by day and by night hosting alternative bands, theater companies, and patrons wanting to drink, dance, or engage in rigorous late-night political discourse.

Le Madame became a major hub of intellectual life in Warsaw. One of the public-TV channels even chose it as a setting for its book review program. We proved that gay and straight people could flourish in the same space and participate in the same cultural, artistic, and political events--without intolerance or homophobia.

But people in radical right-wing organizations loathed me and my club. And when the Conservatives won the presidential election last October, the city council had the political backing it needed to close it down. Le Madame was so popular that people stayed until the last possible moment. We waited until the police came with a warrant, and they had to drag us out.

The club contradicted the Conservative view that gay people are deviant and a source of evil. They couldn't close all the gay clubs, so they closed the one that openly admitted it was gay-friendly. Public and gay, what a disgrace!

Now we are back to the gay ghetto, exiled from the public space. But Polish tolerance toward gay and lesbian people is on the rise, and things are getting better. A decade and a half ago there was only one gay club in Warsaw. Now new gay clubs open every year. Five years ago Warsaw gay pride was a small group of people who read a declaration and went home. Last year it was a crowd of thousands--both gay and straight. There is hope.

--As told to Michal Rolecki

30 Years of Out100Out / Advocate Magazine - Jonathan Groff & Wayne Brady

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