"Thankfully, we’ve just celebrated Pride in Hungary...despite right-wing politician István Boldog demanding that the Budapest Pride March be banned"Christo

Content Note: This article contains detailed discussion, and examples, of homophobia and transphobia, including brief references to conversion therapy

Since the right-wing Fidesz party took over the Hungarian government in May 2010, there has been a concerning rise in conservative, nationalistic, anti-EU, and anti-democratic views in the country. One of the most troubling products of the views of the Fidesz regime has been the rampant growth of homophobia in public discourse. Whilst this situation is alarming for proponents of liberal values in Europe, as a Hungarian who identifies as LGBTQ+, seeing the normalisation of these views and the speed at which they are gaining momentum is terrifying. These views recently culminated in a speech given by László Kövér, the current Speaker of the Hungarian National Assembly and member of the ruling Fidesz party: only a week and a half before European Parliament elections, Kövér spoke about the elections, immigration, and the supposed threat to Hungary’s Christian culture.

To the question “How can we protect Christian culture in a world where liberalism is furtively gaining ground in every aspect of life?,” Kövér responded with a joke, poking fun at gender queerness:

“A liberal dad is pushing around his baby in a stroller. Someone goes up to him:

- How cute, is it a boy or a girl?

- They’ll decide when they grow up.”

He proceeded to mock countries that have introduced gender-neutral pronouns and gender-neutral toilets, while the audience laughed along with him, ludicrously ignoring the fact that the Hungarian language is not gendered. After gender queerness, Kövér targeted homosexuality by comparing same-sex couples who intended to adopt children to paedophiles and asserted that homosexuals should “not consider themselves undoubtedly equal.”

Photo taken right after the Budapest Pride march in July 2018: behind a supporter of the march, a counter-protester's Árpád striped flag is visible, a strongly nationalist symbol also associated with Nazi views. Orsolya Petocz

The fact that this speech was given by such a high-ranking politician in 2019 might be staggering, but, arguably, this would have been even more shocking a decade ago. 2009 was the year that civil partnerships for same-sex couples were legalised in Hungary, an act of legislation introduced by the then-ruling, left-wing party, MSZP. The new 2012 constitution put in place by Orbán’s party Fidesz, however, both prohibits same-sex marriage and does not guarantee any protection against discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.

This speech merely accompanies the blatant homophobia and transphobia of modern Hungarian media. A recent example of this is the TV programme “Ez itt a kérdés” (‘This is the Question’) that focussed on the International Federation for Therapeutic and Counselling Choice (IFTCC) Annual Conference held in Hungary in October 2018 — an openly homophobic organisation that promotes and uses conversion therapy.

We should remember to raise our voices and our rainbow flags all year round to speak up for equality.

In an absurd contrast with the reality of the struggles of growing up in a heteronormative society as a queer person, throughout the show, the guests — a Catholic priest and a journalist — implied instead that there exist pressures of a “homonormative” society, along with “compulsory homosexuality.” The priest talked about gay people as people who had been “pushed into a life that they do not agree with,” and the host of the show later asked the question “Is it possible that certain organisations’ interests lie in tilting young people who are unsure about their sexuality, towards homosexuality instead of heterosexuality?” With the skilful appropriation of LGBTQ+ terminology, the show portrays the conference’s “experts” as victims of oppression and the propaganda of (to borrow the words of the IFTCC) “mandatory, or the must-stay-gay culture.”


Mountain View

Allies have a responsibility to treat LGBT+ spaces with respect

While the recent hate crime committed against a lesbian couple in London was a terrible and senseless act of violence, it serves as proof that the ideas of a “homonormative” society, as well as “compulsory homosexuality,” are merely fictional. Even in the heart of the progressive and pro-LGBTQ+ city of London, queer people face risks for simply being themselves. While recent events such as the legalisation of same-sex marriage in Taiwan and Ecuador are huge victories on an international level, the battle for equality is far from being won — even in the UK, and let alone in Hungary.

The self-victimisation, appropriation of LGBTQ+ struggles and terminologies, seemingly politically correct turns of phrases such as the often-heard rhetoric “the catholic teachings do not condemn the person, only the homosexual tendencies” are nothing but a thin veil used as a cover for homophobic and transphobic views. More troubling, homophobia is not only omnipresent in Hungarian public discourse, but the freedom of expressing such opinions seems to be a point of pride: numerous people utilised this political climate to spurt out hate speech in relation to recent pro-LGBTQ+ Coca Cola adverts. Interestingly enough, whilst the number of non-Hungarian news outlets to report on the aforementioned TV programme and speech by Kövér were close to none, the media was quick to talk about the hate speech that the company was victim to, thus sparking a conversation on an international level about the hatred sparked by Orbán’s government.

Thankfully, we’ve just celebrated Pride in Hungary, and despite right-wing politician István Boldog demanding that the Budapest Pride March be banned, the March did happen and was a success. Pride month and the parades are the perfect opportunity every year to speak up against homophobia. Nonetheless, the conversation on equal rights should be constant and global. We should remember to raise our voices and our rainbow flags all year round to speak up for equality.

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