Per aspera ad astra. Through hardship to the stars.
That’s one of the many phrases Gosia Kot’s Polish language teacher taught her. This teacher is one of the people without whom she wouldn’t be where she is now. Her teacher was a mentor and friend, who repeatedly urged her not to give up, to go through hardships and believed she’d overcome every hurdle. It’s this teacher who showed her how important it is to have a support network that believes, encourages and lifts you when you fall. Her teacher, the Humanity in Action network, Campaign Against Homophobia and her closest friends are a significant part of her rhizome – a beautiful entanglement of steps she takes in life; and without them and their love, she wouldn’t even dare reach for the stars.
“If I were to say one thing, I’m certain to have learned about leadership so far, is that you shouldn’t do it alone as its bedrock is human connections; strength, love, inspiration, and mobilization that grow from every interaction we make.”
Gosia doesn’t make divisions between the academic, the activist, and the personal – it’s all one web. Having been raised in a very traditional surrounding with conservative approaches to sexuality, Gosia experienced a lack of knowledge and its influence on her perception of sexualities and understanding gender roles. Gosia found it intellectually and socially challenging that gender and sexuality, which play such an important role in our lives, are stigmatized, policed within socio-cultural norms and regulated by laws that don’t reflect today’s diverse society but rather bend them through oppressive hegemonic principles. This passion has been her fuel for the last ten years, and she has been dedicated to the subjects of gender and sexuality in academia whilst completing her PhD. Through years of coordinating projects and cooperating in volunteer groups, Gosia recognized a crucial aspect missing – a lack of a deeper consideration on what leadership actually entails. She began to wonder – am I a leader? What does it mean to be one? How does one do that, and do I do it correctly?
The month during the Warsaw Fellowship was the “kick I needed to recognize the responsibility that goes with leadership and rethink my position; acknowledge my privilege in having a voice that many are deprived of and identify and work on these shortcomings.”
Gosia’s passion for human rights and the urgency she felt in better understanding what it means to be a good leader drew her to the Humanity in Action Fellowship. The month during the Warsaw Fellowship was the “kick I needed to recognize the responsibility that goes with leadership and rethink my position; acknowledge my privilege in having a voice that many are deprived of and identify and work on these shortcomings,” she says. It was during this program, one of the most intellectually stimulating experiences she had, which Gosia made lifelong friends, learned about the world around her and took the chance to reflect on herself. In her words, the “Fellowship was the wind that filled the sail and inspired me to go further to new lands. Since then I’ve been cooperating with Humanity in Action Poland and I’ve become a co-chair of the Board at Campaign Against Homophobia, one of the biggest Polish organizations working for LGBTQI rights. During my Ph.D., I took research scholarships at Uppsala University and Yale University, which enabled me to scrutinize gender and sexuality intertwinings and flourish intellectually.”
“At some point I found it intellectually and socially challenging that such crucial aspects of our life – sexuality and gender – are stigmatized, policed with socio-cultural norms and regulated by laws that don’t reflect reality but bend it to oppressive patterns.
During the Warsaw Fellowship in 2018, Gosia was invited to provide mentorship to participants working on LGBTQI-focused initiatives, enabling her to come full circle into a leadership role she wanted to better understand and learn from. Humanity in Action continues to assist her development as an activist. “Humanity in Action Poland has supported my Action Project idea, actually – my dream of developing an interactive educational book about LGBTQI rights for young people.” Gosia is currently in the process of developing that book ‘From A to Z about LGBTQIAP. Interactive book against discrimination’ with Humanity in Action Senior Fellow Sylwia Vargas and a group of “incredible young people” dedicated to fighting for LGBTQI rights.
Published Works from Gosia: