The third-biggest party in Poland’s parliament nominated a transsexual woman for the job of deputy speaker on Thursday, upsetting conservative lawmakers who said they would try to block the appointment.
The nomination of Anna Grodzka, a 58-year-old who completed a sex change three years ago, is to test attitudes in Poland, a devoutly Catholic country where traditional moral values often clash with new, liberal ideas about sexuality.
The opposition Law and Justice party said it opposed Grodzka because she lacked the experience need for the job. However, one of the party’s lawmakers had previously said Grodzka had a “boxer’s face” and questioned if she could really be considered a woman.
Speaking to reporters in parliament after Janusz Palikot, the leader of her ultra-liberal party, the Palikot Movement, announced he was putting her name forward for the role, Grodzka said she was ready to take on the challenge.
“I’ve been a member of parliament for over a year now and this experience is enough, I think,” Grodzka said.
A businesswoman with a degree in psychology, Grodzka was elected in October 2011, becoming Poland’s first transsexual lawmaker. The deputy speakership is a more visible role: It involves chairing sessions of parliament when the speaker is not available and carrying out occasional ceremonial duties.
As one of the bigger factions in the Sejm, or lower house of parliament, Palikot has the right to assign its nominee to take up one of the chamber’s deputy speakerships.
Law and Justice said it would push for a rule change that would, in effect, stop Grodzka taking up the post.
“This person has very little political experience to be carrying out such a role,” Joachim Brudzinski, a senior Law and Justice lawmaker, told reporters. “In the next few days we will announce a proposal to limit the number of deputy speakers. Not every parliamentary group should have its own deputy speaker.”
In video footage posted on YouTube, Krystyna Pawlowicz, another Law and Justice member of parliament, talked about Grodzka’s sex change.
Addressing a gathering of readers of a right-wing newspaper, Pawlowicz recounted how, when she had been on a radio show with Grodzka, she got mixed up about whether to address her as a man or a woman.
“Really, a boxer’s face. How can I not make a mistake?” Pawlowicz says in the footage. “I said: ‘Ms Grodzka, it’s not like when you stuff yourself full of hormones you become a woman. The genetic code decides this. Let’s do a blood test. Nothing will change that, no operation.’”