It was twenty years ago, in 1997, that the gay community in Budapest first celebrated “the day of pride.” Shortly after I started Hungarian Spectrum, I wrote a post about the annual event that took place on July 7, 2007. The 2007 Pride marked the first time that the march was not entirely peaceful. Jobbik, then still a very young, small party, organized a counter-demonstration whose participants soon enough were throwing eggs, tomatoes, stones, and beer bottles at the marchers. Several people were arrested. At that time it was estimated that about 2,000 people took part in the celebration. Last year the Budapest Pride put on a show on Andrássy Boulevard with 20,000 participants.
Ever since 2008 the celebrating crowd has been squeezed between miles of metal barricades. The police claim that otherwise they are unable to protect the Pride marchers.
I remember how humiliated some people inside those barricades felt. They complained bitterly, but in the intervening years nothing has changed. The police plan to erect the barricades again this year. But this time around the organizers are rebelling. Not only, they argue, is the arrangement humiliating, but people cannot join the march along the way.
The Hungarian LGBTQ community is becoming increasingly and openly dissatisfied with the situation in Hungary. By the way, about a year ago an article published in Népszabadság called attention to the growing number of gay and lesbian couples who decide to escape abroad from the widespread discrimination in Hungary.
Although the actual parade will take place on Saturday, July 8, the Budapest Pride Week officially began on June 30 at the Tesla Budapest Cultural Center. Kriszta Székely, director of the József Katona Theater, was the keynote speaker. It was a good speech, personal and moving. Although she kept saying that she doesn’t want to give a political speech, there was no way of avoiding mention of the wretched state of Hungarian society where “unhappy people without a future are being manipulated.” The palpable hate that has spread in Hungarian society is truly shocking. “Life has come to a standstill. There is only a black hole.” She talked about a country that has no brain and no heart. She complained about her fellow citizens who “tolerate a situation in which [the government] treats refugees or its own Roma citizens as if they were animals. Has everybody lost his mind and heart? … Hungarians wake up!”
These events have been providing plenty of fodder for the government media. Echo TV spent almost half an hour on an interview with one of the leaders of Momentum, the new political formation, which urged people to attend the parade in order to show solidarity with the LGBTQ community. The interview was, I suppose one could say, educational. The ECHO TV journalist confronted Edina Pottyondi, an articulate, intelligent member of Momentum’s leadership. She handled the interviewer well, but even she was somewhat stymied when asked: “Why doesn’t Momentum work on leading gay and lesbian people back to heterosexuality?” Yes, I’m afraid this is the level of discourse in right-wing circles about homosexuality in Hungary.
The homophobic Pesti Srácok tried to convince its readers that Hungarian gays have nothing to complain about because “in comparison to some other parts of the globe” they “have it easy.” Here they are–“their greatest problem seems to be the presence of metal railings which are set up for their own safety.” And then the article lists all those countries where gays have it much worse: “Turkey leads in the prohibition of Pride,” “Putin has no mercy,” “In Serbia one couldn’t march for years,” “The situation is not rosy in Bulgaria either,” “In Chechnya there are concentration camps.” Our man just compared his own country to a group of countries he most likely considers inferior to Hungary.
But at least this particular Pesti Srácok article was not vicious, as was the one written by “Ratius” on the same site. He calls LGBTQ people “freaks” (torzszülött). “The majority looks upon these people with pity, perhaps loathing or fear … and definitely not with swooning respect or yellow envy.” These people are the opposite of everything we consider beautiful, good, and correct. “They are ugly, evil, deformed with perverse desires” and society shoves them aside in order to maintain the desirable life strategies, identity for the normal members of society. There are times when “deviance” spreads in society to such an extent that its members even opt for “terrible dictatorship, hoping to curb the rampage of abnormalities.” Our man doesn’t leave us in doubt for long. Yes, he is talking about Nazi Germany. Perhaps the Nazis went too far, but “the existence of marginalized communities is not justified. They don’t have to exist. Single people, gays, Down Syndrome idiots, cannibals, religious fundamentalists, and militant animal rights activists don’t need to exist.” He kindly adds that their destruction wouldn’t be justifiable, but “the revolt of the freaks threatens our values and through that our society.” This is not dubious social engineering. “It is just common sense that we refuse human experimentation, and accordingly we lock up the insane in loony bins and send marginal communities, strange physical and spiritual gnomes where they belong.”
Pesti Srácok is a heavily subsidized government publication. Should the Hungarian government be supporting fascist or Nazi talk? Of course not, but then….