Polish drag queen fighting homophobia with Slavic pop warns Boris Johnson: ‘Don’t end up next to Poland in history books’
When Polka Dot left Poland for the red-bricked streets of East London seven years ago, things were “bad” in her home country. Now, “it’s even worse” – and Britain needs to be careful it doesn’t follow suit.
The drag queen, real name Robert, is one-third of SLAV 4 U along with the brilliantly named Polish Remove-Her and Alexis Saint Pete. They’re a triad of queens based in Britain, seeking to fill the vacuum of Polish culture in London’s drag scene.
On the sticky floors of nightclubs and pubs, they shimmy to Slavic pop songs and writhe with milk churns. It’s a lesson for Britons on Polish divas and culture – but also much more than that.
“I remember after one show a Polish girl came up to me,” Polka Dot tells PinkNews as she prepares for a socially-distanced return to the Clapham Grand Friday (October 23).
“She said: ‘Thanks, Polka, for what you did tonight. I felt like I’m back in Poland but with the difference that I can hold my girlfriend’s hand and won’t be afraid that someone will beat me up for that.'”
“That’s when I realised that what we created is actually needed. There are thousands of LGBT+ Poles emigrating to the UK, as back home they are not accepted.”
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SLAV 4 U is an open challenge against the homophobia that has gripped Poland, as well as a valuable space for the queer Polish diaspora.
“I, for instance, am a proud Pole and I do miss my country,” Polka adds. “SLAV 4 U gives me the opportunity to celebrate Polish pop culture with a queer twist. It allows me to celebrate who I truly am in a way I couldn’t back in Poland.”
Poland’s political leaders, coasting on a wave of populism, have used post-Communist rhetoric not only to erode LGBT+ rights, but to frame one of the most vulnerable and marginalised communities as public enemy number one. And their actions are having the intended effect.
“Poland has become way more homophobic,” says Polka Dot. “Politicians, like our current homophobic president, are sending a green light to homophobes — Poles see him as a role model to do exactly the same.
Witnessing political and religious leaders treat her community with such scorn prompted Polka Dot and countless other Poles to protest outside the Embassy of Poland in London in August.
“We just couldn’t stay still,” she said. “We wanted to show support to the Polish LGBT+ community protesting and being detained by the police.”
Polka Dot said that the demonstration, co-organised with Polish Rainbow, was vastly peaceful until a homophobe arrived and began “shouting all disgusting slurs”.
Such incidents are worrying to Polka Dot, who warns that Britain must express caution, or it, too, might slip into the grips of hatred.
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“Poland is only a one and a half hour flight from here and there are around one million Poles living in Britain.
“The British government should closely observe what’s happening in Poland and not only officially comment but also do everything possible that such things won’t happen here.”
Decrying the British government’s bungled handling of trans rights and its sluggish approach to banning conversion therapy, she continues: “I never thought things in Poland could get any worse and here we are.
“Britain, you don’t want to end up on the bad pages of history books next to Poland.”
For more information, as well as tickets, to SLAV 4 U’s show on Friday (October 23) at the Clapham Grand, click here.