Gay Pride Parade in Hungary

Well, if it resembles the "happy occasions" of the last two years it will be anything but a "gay" event. It is interesting that while in the past the marches went off without a hitch the situation drastically changed in 2007 and 2008. I assume that this sudden turn in public behavior is not caused by some huge transformation of attitudes toward homosexuality but rather is the result of an acceptance of violent behavior by certain groups. As long as outright vandalism is explained by the opposition party as "understandable" because of the criminal behavior of the government and the police, these groups believe that they can do practically anything because they are the defenders of public morality.

Meanwhile Hungary's reputation is sinking deeper and deeper with the effective assistance of the Christian Democrats and, with some qualifications, of Fidesz. Fidesz has perfected the fine art of double talk. The most accomplished master of the normal form of double talk–using words with ambivalent meanings–is Viktor Orbán himself. But there is another kind of double talk. A Fidesz parliamentary member or someone high in the party says something that later is disavowed. This time around a Fidesz parliamentary member, Ilona Ékes, who happens to be a member of the parliamentary committee on human rights, asked the police chief of Budapest to forbid the Gay Pride Parade because this march is "such as to cause fear in people" and because "it may endanger the healthy development of minors." She gave a press conference during which she expanded on the theme: she called the march "provocative" and instead suggested "a professional dialogue" about the nature of homosexuality. Ms Ékes, who was a kindergarten teacher before she became a politician, has her own opinion: "it is a mental defect."

We know enough about party discipline within Fidesz that we must suspect that Ms Ékes didn't act without the blessing of the party. Yet Fidesz immediately announced that Ilona Ékes spoke only as a private person and was in no way expressing the party's opinion on the subject. I suspect that with the utterance of this "private opinion" Fidesz wanted to initiate a public discourse that will call attention to the event and heighten opposition to it in certain circles. The faithful ally, Zsolt Semjén's Christian Democratic Party, immediately joined the "dialogue."  Zsuzsa Halász, the party's spokesman, outlined what the Christian Democrats expect from the participants–decent behavior. They are also worried about the youth, but otherwise they are not questioning the rights of the gays and lesbians to demonstrate. Soon enough the other side spoke up. István Nyakó, spokesman of MSZP, demanded the resignation of Ilona Ékes from the committee on human rights. Of course, nothing of the sort will happen but it sounds good. Not only the parties but media personalities joined in. One of my least favorite, Henrik Havas, opined that it would be best not to hold the march. Moreover, all his gay friends are staying home.

Within a few days the atmosphere became sufficiently tense that a statement was released by the embassies of Australia, Canada, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The statement read in part: "we express our support for and solidarity with the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities in Hungary. We support the right of these communities to use this traditional occasion to march together peacefully and lawfully, in order to epxress their desire to end the silence surrounding the specific issues that affect them." The statement ended with these words: "Our governments' policies in this area are in accordance with the principles set out in the Joint statement on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity delivered at the United Nations General Assembly on 18 December, 2008." To find among these thirteen the Czech Republic and Slovenia is really a slap in the face and shows how low Hungary has sunk even in the region. Today Mátyás Eörsi (SZDSZ) expressed his gratitude for the support of these countries. In addition Whoopi Goldberg, who knows and loves Hungary dearly ever since she spent some time there while filming and who jokingly said that she wouldn't mind being the U.S. ambassador to Hungary, was so worried about the Hungarian situation that she sent a message to Hungary via YouTube. Apparently, the video was reposted on an internet paper where it received a spate of hideous, degrading comments. I simply don't understand how Hungarian "moderators" allow such comments to appear. I guess they have a rather peculiar interpretation of freedom of speech.

As for Hungarian society's attitude toward homosexuality, the think tank Political Capital concluded that Hungary is a "moderately prejudiced country in the region." The majority view is that gays can lead their own lives as long as they are not visible. Thus, the number of gay people in the closet is very high in the country. In Hungary only 6% of the people claim that they know someone who is gay. In the Czech Republic that number is exactly double. Otherwise, according to one international survey 42% of Hungarians think that "one ought to give gays the opportunity to lead their own lives"; 25% would deny that right. Yet tomorrow not only will Andrássy Street be closed but so will the side streets. There will be hundreds of police present. I am just wondering who will be able to view the parade if the whole area is hermetically sealed. Mind you, I saw an ad on the web site of TV2 announcing that the Gay Pride Parade will be broadcast live. It will be only a click away! And what will happen to the children?

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Paul Hellyer
Guest

Hungarian prejudice towards their gay community is yet another example of rejection/resistance towards what one may call ‘modernity’. We live in a world where diversity is regarded as a good thing, a positive, an essential part of modern society. Indeed many corporates, including the one I work for, actively promote and support their Gay, Lesbian, Bi-sexual and Trans-gender communities. They do so in recognition that it is good business to do so and also because it is the ‘right’ thing to do. They recognize that talent does not know gender boundaries and that organizations that make the best of all talents of all employees, are the most productive and the most likely to survive and prosper.
Hungarian prejudices towards its gay citizens, is not only sad and pitiful, but will prevent Hungary from reaching its potential as a nation. Sadly Hungarians anti-gay prejudice is the same side of the same coin of anti-Roma, and anti-Semitic prejudices: an intolerance of diversity and a narrow, constricting sense of what in means to be Hungarian.
It hard sometimes not to despair at the current state of things in Hungary.

Öcsi
Guest

I totally agree with Paul Hellyer’s comments.
It’s so ironic that those Hungarians who loudly decry the treatment of ethnic Hungarians in neighbouring countries are the most violent opponents of Hungarian Queers, Hungarian Jews and Hungarian Roma.
Here is the promotional video for this year’s Pride Parade in BP:
http://tinyurl.com/nymeya

Öcsi
Guest

The whole world was watching Budapest today. Here is a message of support from two queer Canadian MPs (there are 5 in total who are out). In this one minute message of solidarity, Bill Siksay comes out and declares his Hungarian background.


Sandor
Guest

Ocsi, it is not so much ironic as rather stupid and parochial.
These are the sort of things that drive me bonkers: there isn’t anybody to explain to these dolts that they are in permanent contradiction in whatever they say or do. Not that anyone would listen.
By extension, it is also a “certificate of poverty” of the Hungarian public, being unable to unmask and expose the idiots at their posturing.
It seems as if the entire country were half asleep all the time, waiting for the messiah to come and “liberate” them from the shackles of Reality.

Sandor
Guest

Ocsi: “Bill Siksay comes out and declares his Hungarian background.”
That is funny! He makes no bones about his homosexuality, but he decided ti hide no longer and came out of the closet about his Hungarian origins.
A courageous man.
I am sending him a smily.

Öcsi
Guest

Sandor wrote: “It seems as if the entire country were half asleep all the time, waiting for the messiah to come and “liberate” them from the shackles of Reality.”
Great line, Sandor. May I borrow it?

Sandor
Guest

Ocsi, it’s yours free of charge.
Thanks for the compliment.

Psz
Guest

Public revulsion at the gay pride shows in Hungary have very little to do with homophobia or else people like Cseh Tamás wouldn’t be so hugely popular. (Jobbik’s Vona even is widely understood to be homosexual.) ‘Hetero pride’ parades conducted like the 207/2008 gay marches were conducted would be received with the same disgust.

Katalin
Guest

I had a great Pride Parade this year. I was uneasy about going because of last year’s attacks, but it turned out a great event. Lots of supporters I had never seen there before, Hungarians as well as international visitors. The police did a good job, the protesters were so far away we hardly saw them, only on Oktogon I got a whiff of tear gas.
They wanted to get us so badly and couldn’t, so they attacked the police. This is what “the public” should be revulsed and disgusted about instead of a few drag queens. This year there weren’t any, not even one (probably because of the közízlés-issue), and I missed them.
So much for now, just to counterbalance the previous comment.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Katalin: “I had a great Pride Parade this year. I was uneasy about going because of last year’s attacks, but it turned out a great event.”
I’m so glad that you can be happy about the fact that this year’s Parade was not as bas as last year’s. That’s the spirit! However, I am still very very sad that Hungary is becoming one of those countries where 3,000 police men must defend about 1,500 peaceful people walking down Andrássy út.

Katalin
Guest

Of course. But in this situation more and more people seem to understand they have to do something about it, and join a parade they otherwise wouldn’t have joined, and this is where people start meeting and talking to each other. I saw quite a lot of people who were so totally not part of the LGBT spectrum, and they wore rainbow flags too, smiled and waved to the (very few) onlookers, most of which also smiled and waved and obviously wanted to be there and see us, I saw a few NGOs I would never have expected there, a homeless shelter and a Roma rights group, and I was so happy they were there. Also I think this year showed that something is actually working, police did their job well, and next year’s event will be compared to that. I don’t think Fidesz wants to risk the international bad press if next year we get even less than this. So yes, of course it’s sad, but considering the circumstances I still think there are small successes on grassroot level, and lots of good people around.

Psz
Guest

Katalin: “They wanted to get us so badly” Come on. People saw the march isn’t the public orgy it was in 2007 and 2008, the outrage subsided, and the march went off again without a hitch like before and after as Eva’s original piece correctly mentions. “a few drag queens” A few drag queens? Wow! Isn’t that an understatement for men dressed as priests http://bit.ly/AhhY7 performing live sex acts on carnival floats. Again, the controversy about this strange, zillion forint Mardi Gras is not about Hungarian attitudes toward homosexuality at all. And they are brought to a starving and suffering Hungary at huge effort and expense which in itself is repulsive. I wonder who is backing it so hard and why.

Katalin
Guest
Psz: “the outrage subsided” There were a few hundred on Oktogon and Deak ter, and they were pretty vocal about what they wanted to do to us, if the police had let them. But the police did a good job. The picture you and most of the Hungarian right wing press refer to is from 2007, it was this one guy, and I guess they will use it for the next 20 years to get themselves worked up. The media focuses on certain aspects and distorts the whole picture. This year, HirTV even showed images of previous years’ parades to get people’s blood pressure up, as there was not enough scandal material (no drag queens). Anyway, I won’t argue about this one, though I could – I was raised catholic myself and I can relate to the need some people feel to express their problems with the church in sometimes drastic ways. “Zillion forints” could rather come IN from international Pride tourists, if only they could feel that it’s safe for them to come. As for the costs of securing the parade: Not the queers are expensive, the ultra right wing idiots are, and those who back them. First they… Read more »
Psz
Guest

Kata: “those who back them” (morally of course, since their finances are not nearly as healthy as your ‘underfounded NGOs’) are often as homosexual as you are such as Mr. Vona, so, may we safely assume that their aversion has nothing to do with your sexual orientation? “Budapest Pride It’s not about party politics” Which we can tell by Gyurcsány ( disgusting! 🙂 and the other pros camping it up with you guys. Yes?

Katalin
Guest

Psz, I’ve made my points above. You just keep doing your thing, if it makes you happy.

Anonymous
Guest

Bravo Katalin!

Anonymous
Guest
I attended Budapest PRIDE 2009 as a foreigner concerned with democracy and human rights within the EU and I certainly spent quite a lot of Forints, which I hope will benefit the Hungarian economy. A friend reported that a right wing TV station didnt actually show footage of the Parade because we were far too normal so the journalist invented tales of obscenity and offensive placards and reported he had “seen” them. One Hungarian media person arrived at the parade and asked “Where are all the lesbians and gays?” apparently we all looked too normal to be lesbian or gay…not what he was looking for? A similar thing happened at Blaha Lujza there was an elderly woman and a teenage boy screaming abuse at the club where they thought the “faggots” were. They were actually wasting their efforts because the club was almost empty as it was far too early! They took a break to explain with great vehemence how offensive these faggots and queers and perverts to a camera crew…who were all lesbians! The fantasy monsters they had built up in their heads were clearly nothing like the reality of the ordinary professional working lesbians they gave their interviews… Read more »
Eva S. Balogh
Guest

The foreigner at the Gay Parade: “The fantasy monsters they had built up in their heads were clearly nothing like the reality of the ordinary professional working lesbians they gave their interviews to.”
All very interesting. Perhaps I mentioned in the blog that very few Hungarians claim that they know any gays or lesbians. Sure, because most of them are still in the closet. Then comes the big surprise! Rather laughable. They don’t even know what they hate.

Katalin
Guest

psz: “Nor do I know what “my thing” is.”
well yeah, obviously 🙂 No point in enlightening you, my boy.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

I deleted three comments because of their inappropriate style. Two from psz. I just want to warn psz that every comment in which he doesn’t hold to civilized behavior will be gone.

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