First transsexual and gay MPs take oaths in Poland

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A transsexual woman and an openly gay man took seats in Poland's newly elected parliament yesterday – historic firsts that reflect profound social change in the traditionally Roman Catholic country.

Anna Grodzka, who was born a man but underwent a sex change, entered the assembly hall to warm greetings. Several men and women shook her hand, while one male lawmaker kissed her on the cheek. Prime Minister Donald Tusk also shook her hand.

Ms Grodzka sat next to Robert Biedron, who is the first openly gay person elected to Poland's parliament. Both belong to Palikot's Movement, a new progressive party that became the third-largest in parliament in the election on 9 October. Ms Grodzka said she felt overwhelmed by emotion as the session opened with the national anthem and when she later took her oath of office.

"It is a symbolic moment, but we owe this symbolism not to me but to the people of Poland, because they made their choice," Ms Grodzka said. "They 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."

Palikot's Movement, led by entrepreneur-turned-politician Janusz Palikot, has vowed to push for liberal causes. It opposes the influence of the church in political life, promotes gay rights and wants to challenge the country's near-total ban on abortion.