‘Apparently I haven’t struggled’
Is Helena queer enough?
It’s not easy being a queer student from Poland. Back home rights of the queer people are violated on a daily basis, alongside rights of ethnic minorities, alternative communities or even women. ‘The more queerphobic you are, the more votes you get’, says the student of arts, culture and media about her country led by populist right-wing politicians with strong Catholic values.
Therefor being able to go to the Queer Pride Groningen on the Grote Markt – the first Pride in her life – meant a lot, she says. However, here she faces struggles she did not expect. While being bisexual herself, even her queer friends in Groningen sometimes joke around that she’s straight because she has a boyfriend now.
‘I’m not saying gay people don’t have struggles with their orientation, but bi people get stigmatised and stereotyped by other queers, too’, she says. ‘I’ve been told so many times that I’m not welcome in the LGBTQ+ community. That’s why I was ashamed and a bit scared to go to the pride, because apparently, I’m not queer enough – I didn’t struggle enough.’
‘While I was Christian, I also felt like Jesus loves you anyway no matter what – that’s what a religion is about. My grandmas are Christian, but they also say Jesus loves you no matter what you do.’
As a result, she often feels her queerness as a bisexual is not taken seriously by other LGBTQ+ people. That’s why she was also unsure about going to the Queer Pride demonstration at all, this Sunday.
Helena first liked a girl when she was twelve years old. At that time, she didn’t know anything about girl-to-girl relationships or bisexuality. She thought there was nothing in between – you could be either gay or straight. Now she knows it’s possible. But the fact that her friends disregard her sexuality by labelling her as straight because of her boyfriend certainly doesn’t help her feel as if she’s a part of the LGBTQ+ community.
In Poland, Helena only came out to her mom, sisters, and close friends. Now that she’s here in Groningen, she doesn’t hide it at all. ‘I don’t even feel the need to come out because it’s been a part of me since always’, she says.
In her Polish school, Helena had mandatory Catholic religion classes. If a student wanted to sign off, they’d have to make an application to stop attending religion. ‘As I got older, I realised I don’t believe in God anymore. But my mom said: “You were raised Christian, so you have to stay Christian.” And so, I couldn’t do anything about it and had to attend the class for six years.’
What’s more, Polish schools barely teach kids about straight relationships, let alone queer ones, says Helena. They even had a proper marriage course in high school where she and her classmates were told that it’s bad to use condoms or that a wife must keep her man satisfied and always be available for him in bed. ‘Religion was always a lesson for me to sleep or be on my phone.’ And what she truly wanted to know, she had to find out on the internet.
In her purple ‘uniform’, Helena joined the marching pride crowd, not far from where she lives. She marched with the rainbow to Grote Markt..
However, there was a time when she decided to speak her mind because a priest teaching the class was being homophobic. Helena and her friend spent two hours explaining to him that he was wrong about accusing gay people of spreading the HIV virus and thus disadvantaging them. Instead of attacking him with curse words, these students aimed for a cultural discussion with a result. ‘At the end of the lesson, he was finally convinced that queer people are not evil’ remembers Helena.
It’s an odd paradox that in Poland, Helena felt more secure about her sexuality than she does in Groningen. In Poland, people claimed her as a part of the queer community, although through hate speech and insults. In Groningen she feels less part of the community, because it feels like bisexuality doesn’t count as queer. ‘Here, people are supported to be open about their sexuality, but when I tell someone I’m bi, they respond that everyone is and so I feel less valid.’
However, Helena decided to attend the demonstration anyway because her queer friends were going, too. Also, she wanted to feel that she finally belonged in the LGBTQ+ crowd. ‘I wanted to take my boyfriend if he wasn’t busy. But had we gone together, I feel like I would not have been welcome as someone who’s in a heterosexual relationship.’
At the pride, she spotted a colleague from her part-time job. ‘At my work, we also have a queer community where we talk about boyfriends and girlfriends and there’s no need for a huge coming out. We’re just cool with each other, you know. If I was announcing everywhere that I’m bi, I feel like that’d be my only trait.’ Helena wants this experience for everyone, so that all queer people feel accepted and normal about their sexuality without the need to officially come out.
She loved attending Pride and can’t wait for the next edition. ‘In the end, I felt safe there and finally a true part of the LGBTQ+ community. I’d love for more bisexual people to be seen on pride events,’ She says while proudly wearing the bisexual flag in the middle of Grote Markt.