Poland swears in first transsexual and gay MPs

image captionAnna Grodzka represents Poland's Palikot anti-clerical party, the third largest in parliament

Poland's first transsexual member of parliament has been sworn in, in what has traditionally been a socially conservative country.

Fifty-seven-year-old Anna Grodzka was previously a man, known as Krzysztof, before having surgery in Thailand.

Poland's first openly gay MP was also sworn in, following the general election in October.

Analysts say the electoral success of the party they both represent is a sign of the waning influence of the Church.

The party, the Palikot Movement, has taken a strong anti-clerical stance, criticising Roman Catholic priests who get involved in politics.

It surprised many observers by winning 10% of the vote in the general election, making it the third largest political grouping in the Polish parliament.

Anna Grodzka, quoted by the Associated Press, said the voters "wanted a modern Poland, a Poland open to variety, a Poland where all people would feel good regardless of their differences. I cannot fail them in their expectations."

image captionAnna Grodzka (right) sat next to gay MP Robert Biedron in parliament

Palikot campaigned for the legalisation of abortion, gay marriage and marijuana.

Church power challenged

Many people have argued that its success shows the Roman Catholic hierarchy is out of touch with Polish youth.

"It's a real signal, especially about young people, that the form of religion presented sometimes in Poland by the Catholic Church is not well addressed to young people," says Maciej Zieba, the former head of the Dominican Order.

"Obviously it's a challenge, it's a problem - not how to fight with anti-clericalism but how to preach the Gospel."

Anna Grodzka says the response to her election has been mixed.

"When I've met people on the streets, I've mainly had a favourable reaction."

"Of course there's also been aggressive behaviour too," she says.

"It's been a little worse in political and media circles that don't always understand the problems of transsexual issues and they try to use the fact I was a man against me."

Robert Biedron, Poland's first openly gay lawmaker, has said he will campaign for legislation to tackle discrimination against gay and transsexual people in Poland, and to legalise civil unions for gay couples.

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