When I saw Damien Byrnes hurrying down Camden High Street on the afternoon of Saturday 18th July, it was as if I was watching the 🐇white rabbit from Alice in Wonderland.🐇🐇🐇 It was hot but I quickly gave chase, asking him what his banner was about.
Damien politely stopped and proceeded to explain that the Polish presidential candidate Andrzej Duda was banning gay rights; wanting to create transgender free zones across the country. I was shook. In 2020? He explained that he, in fact, lived with 5 Polish people and his call to action was not aimed against the people but instead their very draconian policies. Despite this having no direct impact on Damien’s life, his empathy was quite something. He was also concerned with how such dangerous laws, could have a wider impact on the safety of the gay community around the World.
As someone who previously worked with a gay Polish manager, unable to come out for fear of ostracization, I was really saddened by the need to reduce people down to hated and provocative stereotypes. Damien’s one man protest was more significant as he was alone, fighting for his rights as a gay man but also the rights of others.
What the pandemic has done has been divisive. On one hand there are people who have chosen to switch off, while governments around the western World seem to be passing evidently fascist laws, restricting our human rights. And on the other hand a new wave of activism and freedom fighting has emerged. The danger is that we seem to no longer be evolving but instead closing ourselves off to each-others differences. Cherishing the idea of my freedom, I know which side I support.