„Rózowy jezyk”/Pink Tongue report

June 15, 2018

The first part of the Polish milestone event took place on June 9 at the University of Warsaw. The event, called “Rozowy jezyk” (Pink Tongue) was a one-day workshop devoted to the terminologies and linguistic practices related to queerness. The language of the workshop was Polish and the discussion was focused on Poland and on the Polish language, with some speakers using a comparatist approach.

Six speakers gave longer papers: prof. Mariola Bienko (University of Warsaw [UW]) discussed the results of a sociological survey on attitudes toward homosexuality whose participants were asked to list and characterize terms they use and/or know that describe queers. She offered an analysis based on such factors as education and age of respondents. Piotr Moszczenski, psychologist and activist with the Stonewall Group in Poznan, spoke about the use of the terms “homophobia” and “heterosexism” in public discourse and the arguments and strategies underpinning these terms. Jan Szpilka, doctoral candidate at UW, spoke about the Polish BDSM scene and the terminologies it uses in its practices and to describe itself.

In the second session, Ludmila Janion, doctoral candidate at UW, spoke about the terms used for homosexual and transgender persons at the time of the post-1989 transition and the concepts which these terms suggest. Matthias Foit, a scholar based in Berlin and Wroclaw (Breslau), spoke about some German terms used for homosexual and transgender persons, emphasizing their similarity to some Polish terms. He gave a number of examples from personal ads published in the German-language papers in Wroclaw (Breslau) in the interwar years. Karolina Morawska, doctoral candidate at UW and member of the CRUSEV team reported on her research on the language used in same-sex personal ads in the Polish press at the cusp of the 1970s and the 1980s, as well as in other press publications.

The final session was a panel discussion with CRUSEV team members: Agnieszka Koscianska (also acting as moderator), Karol Radziszewski, Krzysztof Zablocki, Jedrzej Burszta, and Tomasz Basiuk. Each of them gave a very brief presentation of their research. Koscianska focused on the language used by sexologists and in letters addressed to sexologists. Radziszewski described his research on Ryszard Kisiel, especially Kisiel’s ways of expressing his queer identity and his efforts to preserve the memory of the sites of queer sexual activities from the Communist era. Zablocki spoke about aspects of his work as translator of Jean Genet and Andre Gide. Burszta discussed his oral history interviews, emphasizing some subjects’ resistance to contemporary identity labels. Basiuk presented some findings from his archival research at the HOSI Wien archive, which includes letters sent to the organization by Polish gays. A general discussion followed on identity categories and identifying codes and practices directed at the queer community, as well as addressing the straight majority, and on the tension between these two approaches.

The workshop was attended by about thirty people, including scholars, UW students, and LGBTQ activists.

The Warsaw Equality Parade, the city’s annual pride event, took place in the late afternoon of the same day, directly after the CRUSEV workshop closed.