Contending Narratives: The Role of LGBT NGOs in Political and Social Change in Poland

Session #3  Panel Discussion  | Wednesday, June 26  | 12:00-13:30
Auditorium Maximum JU (Aula Mała)

Sub-theme: The shifting borders of inclusion/exclusion: Europe as a space of change

Olga Brzezińska

illustration by Pink Plastic Bag

The democratic transition in Poland and process of European integration have triggered unprecedented changes and exposed the state and society to a whole new reality with values and norms which contrast with the domestically rooted beliefs and attitudes. The pre-established social classifications and codes of behaviour had been challenged due to free movement of people, goods and services as well as increased exposure to new ideas, lifestyles, values and norms. This paper discusses the process of contesting boundaries; in particular, the contestation of a monolithic national identity and the development of rights-based conception of civic membership. I concentrate on opinion-making non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that are challenging the existing boundaries to civic membership for disadvantaged groups.

Political transformation in Poland and integration with European organizations opened a window of opportunity for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people to organize, institutionalize and further a movement for the advancement of their rights. LGBT NGOs in their day-to-day efforts contribute to breaking the national monolith that has dominated post-transformation Poland. They contest the barriers to full civic participation, the boundaries of civic membership, and even the definition of Polish identity. This study discusses the role of NGOs in facilitating political and social change in Poland. Not only do these organizations demand that the state uphold the shared European value of inclusive equality, but they also change public perceptions and challenge collective identity of Polish society by propagating LGBT rights.


Olga Brzezińska

She is a PhD candidate in the Department of International and Political Studies at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków and holds an MA in European studies from the same institution. In 2007–2011 she was a Research Fellow in the RECON (Reconstituting Democracy in Europe) Integrated Project supported by the European Commission's Sixth Framework Programme. Her research interests include collective identity formation in Europe with a special focus on sexual minorities, democracy and politics in the European Union. E-mail: