Tag Archives: Budapest Pride

Gay “freaks” threaten Hungarian values

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.

The heavy-duty metal railing is close to impenetrable

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….

July 6, 2017

A week of events organized by the Budapest Pride began last night

After the historic U.S. Supreme Court ruling, many well-known personalities, including Mark Zuckerberg on Facebook and Hillary Clinton on Twitter, displayed the rainbow flag to show their delight with the decision. This is how the resident of the White House showed his support for the American gay community.

white house

And in Hungary? Only about a month before the historic Supreme Court decision, Viktor Orbán announced that “Hungary is a tolerant nation” but that “tolerance … does not mean that we would apply the same rules for people whose life style is different from our own.” He expressed his gratitude to the Hungarian homosexual community “for not exhibiting the provocative behavior against which numerous European nations are struggling.” What exists now is “a peaceful, calm equilibrium” which should be maintained because otherwise anti-gay feelings will flare up.

The message was obvious: don’t rock the boat because there might be adverse consequences. Magyar Narancs summarized Orbán’s message well: “A Hungarian doesn’t harass anyone, unless he is forced to harass him in a tolerant manner with mercy in his heart.” In fact, Hungarian gays and lesbians suffer discrimination and harassment even without any “provocative behavior.”

So, let’s see how Fidesz politicians reacted to the news of the Supreme Court decision. The occasion was ignored by everyone except Máté Kocsis, mayor of District VIII of Budapest, and Zoltán Kovács, government spokesman. These two decided to cover their pictures on Facebook with the colors of the Hungarian flag.

kocsis-kovacs

What  kind of a message did these two want to convey? That a real Hungarian cannot be gay? Or, to flip the sentence and the emphasis, that gays cannot be truly Hungarian? Or, if I were feeling charitable, I might say that these two are just a bit confused. I doubt, however, that Kocsis is confused. Lately, he has been far too eager to prove to the world that talk of his alleged homosexuality is unfounded. As a result, he has sunk to the level of disgusting homophobia.

The only refreshing exception was the wife of Antal Rogán, the leader of the Fidesz parliamentary delegation, who decided to follow the example of many foreign celebrities and use the colors of the rainbow over her portrait on Facebook. The president of the Rainbow Mission Foundation immediately wrote her a letter and expressed the homosexual community’s appreciation of the gesture. She also extended an invitation to her and her husband, “if his schedule permits,” to the opening of the Budapest Pride Festival which took place yesterday. As far as I know, they didn’t attend.

We shouldn’t be surprised that homophobic skinheads and football hooligans take pleasure in taunting the mixed crowd of gays and their straight supporters at the annual parade along Andrássy Street when the mayor of Budapest, István Tarlós, doesn’t hide his antagonism toward the gay community. Only yesterday I wondered whether Viktor Orbán is really unaware of the fact that in better circles his racism and xenophobia are considered unacceptable and his behavior unbecoming, boorish, or much worse. In the case of István Tarlós there is no question: he is not at all ashamed that he is a homophobic boor. In fact, he advertises it. And yes, he is a boor.

On June 4 Tarlós was the guest on an early morning TV2 program called Mokka. Earlier Napi Gazdaság had reported that there was a possibility that the Budapest city council would move the Pride Parade from Andrássy Street to Budapesti Nagybani Piac, a wholesale marketplace almost 15 km away from Andrássy Street. So, the reporter wanted to know more about this alleged plan to move the Pride Parade to the outskirts of the city. Tarlós was happy to share his thoughts on the subject. Yes, he would like to move the parade somewhere else because “it is unworthy of the historic district of Andrássy Street.” In addition, he shared his “private opinion” that he finds the idea “unnatural” and gays “repulsive.” The brave reporter said not a word.

It seems that Tarlós is not familiar with the limits of the city council’s authority. Determining a demonstration’s location is not its job. Moreover, as TASZ, the Hungarian equivalent of the American Civil Liberties Union, argued, a public official cannot state his “private opinion” when he appears on TV. He is the representative of the city council, and he represents every inhabitant of the city of Budapest. His public statements must be in accord with the constitution. TASZ pointed out that at the moment Tarlós cannot be held legally responsible because in the civil code “sexual orientation” is not among the qualities protected by law, like ethnic groups or people of religious communities. But perhaps, they added, such a provision should be added, especially since in Hungary there is never any political consequence of such inappropriate statements and actions.

The organizers of the Budapest Pride were outraged at the mayor’s words, and a few days later they answered the mayor by wrapping the tree trunks along Andrássy Street in rainbow colors.

szivarvany Andrassy ut

The cleaning crew most likely appeared on the scene as soon as Tarlós heard of the attempt to desecrate Andrássy Street, which in his opinion is so important to the history of the city that “repulsive” gays should not step on its pavement.

The gay community doesn’t have any backing from government circles, but twenty-five foreign embassies announced their support of Budapest Pride. I guess no one will be surprised to learn that, with the exception of Slovenia, no former socialist country is among the sponsors. I understand that several companies also offered financial help for the close to 100 cultural events planned for the next seven days. I suspect that most of them, if not all, are multinational companies.

Last night’s opening was a huge success. The very talented theater director Róbert Alföldi was the keynote speaker. A video of the event is available on YouTube:

I haven’t had time yet to watch the whole one-and-a-half hours of it, but I listened to part of a very amusing, witty speech by Zoltán Lakner, a professor of political science, whom I consider one of the keenest observers of the Hungarian political scene.

I understand that  a number of politicians from the democratic opposition were present: Gábor Fodor, Magyar Liberális Párt; Bernadett Szél, co-chair of LMP; Ágnes Kunhalmi and István Ujhelyi from MSZP; and Péter Juhász, vice-chairman of Együtt. Several foreign embassies were also represented.

I fear that next Saturday the gay community and their supporters will once again be harassed by Jobbik and Fidesz supporters. Should we be surprised when Fidesz politicians egg them on?

Viktor Orbán: “Hungary is a serious country” where gays are patiently tolerated

First, some background to today’s post. May 17 is the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia. Governments in Europe and North America usually release a statement on the occasion, just as President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry did. Obama and the First Lady reaffirmed that “lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights are human rights” and said that they wanted “to underscore that all people deserve to live free from fear, violence, and discrimination, regardless of who they are or whom they love.” According to Kerry, “the human rights of LGBTI persons are fundamental and enshrined in the Universal Declaration,” and he reasserted the United States’s “unwavering commitment to advance the human fights of LGBTI persons here at home and around the world.” In Europe, similar sentiments were expressed by leaders of the European Union. Federica Mogherini, high representative of the European Union for foreign affairs and security policy, promised the European Union’s support for the LGBTI community. Vera Jourová, commissioner for justice, emphasized that “we are all born equal in dignity and rights.”

I assume that nobody will be surprised to hear that no member of the Hungarian government offered such pledges to the LGBTI community in Hungary. So, on May 18, a day after the International Day Against Homophobia, a reporter from Index decided to ask a provocative question of Viktor Orbán. I am using here a somewhat modified translation of that conversation, provided by the blogger of Congress of Baboons, an English-language site.

Index: As today is the International Day Against Homophobia, politicians worldwide, including conservatives, declared their “Respect for the Gays.” Your government did not make a statement on this subject. Therefore, my question is: As prime minister, what message would you send to the homophobes, and what actions will the government take to ensure that in Hungary non-heterosexual couples can hold hands in public without fear?

Viktor Orbán: This is a question that makes one want to joke around, but I should spare us from anything of the sort. So, . . . I would suggest that anyone who makes public statements about this matter . . . do so with reasonable care. Hungary is a serious country. It is fundamentally based on traditional values. Hungary is a tolerant nation. Tolerance, however, does not mean that we would apply the same rules for people whose life style is different from our own. We differentiate between them and us. Tolerance means patience, tolerance means an ability to coexist, this is the basis of the Hungarian Constitution which clearly differentiates between a marital relationship between a man and a woman and other, different forms of cohabitation. We are going to keep this. By the way, I am grateful to the Hungarian homosexual community for not exhibiting the provocative behavior against which numerous European nations are struggling and which results in an outcome that is the exact opposite of what they want to achieve. I believe that in Hungary, even though the constitution clearly differentiates between marriage and other forms of cohabitation, the people with lifestyles different from our own outlook on life are safe, they are given the respect of basic human dignity that they deserve. I believe that . . . foreigners don’t feel that in this respect Budapest is a dangerous city. This is good, this is how we can live together. If we … make more stringent regulations or the community of homosexuals starts being more provocative, I think that the current peaceful, calm equilibrium will be no more. No one would benefit from this. Everyone benefits from being able to coexist. I believe that as we now are, we can live together.

In brief, people whose sexual orientation is different from the “norm” are not equal to the heterosexual members of society. They are only tolerated, and they are tolerated only as long as they don’t rock the boat.

Orban Debrecen

Of course, Orbán didn’t answer the reporter’s question about the Hungarian government’s attitude toward the International Day Against Homophobia. Instead, in his statement, he tried to explain the place of LGBTI people in Hungarian society and their rights as full members of a national community. In this answer, which he delivered with obvious discomfort, he revealed that their status in Hungary is anything but comfortable. An umbrella organization of LGBTI people in Hungary, Budapest Pride, immediately announced that “the LGBTI people living in Hungary are not at all grateful to Viktor Orbán. Instead of joking about it, perhaps the Hungarian government should do something against the discrimination this community suffers.” Magyar Narancs summarized Orbán’s message well: “A Hungarian doesn’t harass anyone, unless he is forced to harass him in a tolerant manner with mercy in his heart.”

The above exchange prompted some interesting responses. Because of Hungarian intolerance, few people ever admit that they are gays or lesbians. One exception is Klára Ungár, former SZDSZ politician and a member of parliament, who, it seems, got mad enough to out two Fidesz politicians who are closet gays. She was heavily criticized for the indiscretion, but she doesn’t regret her decision. The conversation above also prompted András Léderer, another former SZDSZ politician, to “confess” his homosexuality. In the article he wrote for HVG he accuses Orbán of not too well hidden homophobia.

Orbán’s words also elicited explicitly homophobic outbursts. Zsolt Bayer, a great friend of Orbán and one of those handful of students who established Fidesz, wrote a most disgusting article in Magyar Hírlap, which was openly and viciously homophobic. The article begins: “I was a bit disappointed that he didn’t wear a sheer pink tutu, but I still liked it. It was truly European, and unfortunately there is no cynicism in this. Because today this is Europe.” Bayer was talking about the wedding of Luxembourg’s Prime Minister, Xavier Bettel. He is the first European prime minister to marry someone of the same sex.

The beginning of the article is actually mild in comparison to what comes afterward. “Let’s stop and say it proudly: The hell with the International Day Against Homophobia!” (In the original, “leszarjuk a homofóbia elleni világnapot!”) And, “we have as much right to be homophobes as anyone else.” The prime minister made a mistake by even answering this “European provocation.” The proper answer would have been: “I don’t send any message because I have nothing to do with it.” But because he didn’t tell the reporter to get lost, the “provocation was successful.” As a result, “the domestic Europeans are whining, seething, gnawing.”

A less vituperative article appeared in Napi Gazdaság, which is quickly becoming as unreadable as Magyar Nemzet was a couple of months ago. Péter Szikszai, a young actor, lists all those sitcoms and films with gay or lesbian themes. According to him, there is a steady pro-gay propaganda through television and movie theaters. It is spreading rapidly and occupies “the beachheads of the entertainment industry.”

Jobbik a few weeks ago wanted to forbid the Pride’s demonstration, coming up in July, but “forbidding Pride can no longer help.” And “the International Day Against Homophobia is neither here nor there.”

For the prime minister and his defenders, it’s always them (where the “them” are alleged to be somehow inferior) against us. Their problem is that the “them” are growing and the “us” are shrinking. Perhaps one day in the not too distant future individual rights will be respected in Hungary, not merely tolerated.

A medieval macabre show: Hungarian Jobbik member symbolically hangs Israeli leaders

Hungarians always complain that foreigners know little or nothing about their country. Well, lately they really can’t complain. Almost a week and a half after Viktor Orbán’s controversial speech the international press is still full of comments on it. Just today I encountered an opinion piece in The Moscow Times which concluded that something is indeed coming from the East “but it’s not the wind. It’s a virus. And with Orbán’s help, this virus has begun to infect the EU.” David Brooks in The York Times described Orbán’s speech as “morbidly fascinating.”

And now here is this effigy story. AP described what happened in Érpatak, a village of about 1,500 inhabitants. Mihály Zoltán Orosz, who has been mayor of the village since 2005, described Israel as “the Jewish terror state” that is trying to “obliterate the Palestinians.” Moreover, he is opposed “to the efforts of Freemason Jews to rule the world.” On the video below you can see a shorter version of the “public execution” where an executioner with a black hood over his face kicks chairs out from under the puppets of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and former President Shimon Peres, each tied to a gallows.

The whole scene reminded the journalists of HVG of a medieval macabre show. Who is this man? He is a Jobbik member, but in 2010 when he ran again for the position of mayor of Érpatak he called himself an independent. He is known for his bizarre outfits which are supposed to be traditional Hungarian fare, but they are all terribly exaggerated and therefore ludicrous. He also likes military uniforms. The last time he made quite a splash was at the Budapest gay pride parade where he appeared in a female peasant costume. I am sharing a few of his most “spectacular” outfits.

Of course, a lot of people think that Orosz doesn’t have all his marbles, which is a distinct possibility. But he seems to function quite well and rules the village with an iron fist. Law and order dominate in Érpatak. He calls his “system” the “Érpatak Model,” which he claims is a great success and which should be emulated all over the country. He boasts about the low crime rate, though his critics counter that he exaggerates on that score. And there are some people in the village who are not altogether happy with his activities and the circus he creates around town hall and across the country.

orosz2

His latest performance might have serious consequences. Israeli Ambassador Ilan Mor immediately expressed his outrage and said that in his opinion “the Hungarian government must act in order to stop these dangerous acts.” The Hungarian foreign ministry got the message. On Monday around noon they issued a statement in which they declared that what happened over the weekend “cannot be reconciled with European norms and with the rule of law. The mayor uses the war and its innocent victims as a pretext for spreading the propaganda of hate.”

Orosz1

How much do we know about Orosz? Not enough, I fear. We know from Professor David Baer’s Testimony concerning the Condition of Religious Freedom in Hungary, submitted to the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (the Helsinki Commission) on March 18, 2013, that Mihály Orosz “was affiliated with, or the founder of, at least four different groups registered as [bogus] churches.” Indeed, I found the names of three of these bogus churches in a recent article in Gépnarancs: the Order of the Heart of the Sun, Church of the Sophia Perennis, and the Order of the Eye of Heart.

Orosz4

We know that in order to apply for a job in Érpatak’s town hall the applicants have to fill out a form with 165 bizarre questions on politics and everything else under the sun.

Some people believe that it is time to put an end to Orosz’s activities. Among them is Gellért Rajcsányi, a young conservative publicist of Mandiner. He quotes an announcement from Érpatak’s website which calls attention to a demonstration for June 2014 in front of the courthouse in Nyíregyháza. At this demonstration they “symbolically hanged a criminal prosecutor and a criminal judge to show them what will wait for them after their death because of their activities against the world and the nation.” Clearly, Orosz likes to hang those with whom he disagrees. He led a group of people in front of the building that houses TASZ, the Hungarian equivalent of  the American Civil Liberties Union, where they verbally attacked the associates of the organization. The author calls for an end to the career of this wannabe Arturo Ui, a reference to Bertolt Brecht’s play The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui which chronicles the career of a 1930s Chicago mobster and his attempts to control the cauliflower racket by ruthlessly disposing of the opposition.

Orosz5

Well, the moment might have arrived. Ágnes Vadai in the name of DK urged Peter Polt, the chief prosecutor, to order an investigation. That in itself wouldn’t have prompted Polt to lift a finger, but then Israeli Ambassador Ilan Mor pressed charges because of “the anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic horror show” that took place in Érpatak. Suddenly, the case had international implications that the government and the prosecutor’s office couldn’t quite ignore. The prosecutor’s office in Nyíregyháza began an investigation into the National Network of the Érpatak and the Youth Movement of the Sixty-Four Counties. If Orosz and the other organizers are found guilty they may receive up to three years in jail. I very much doubt, however, that he will spend even one night in jail.

Viktor Orbán and the 4000-year-old history of marriage between one man and one woman

The Budapest Pride, a yearly parade of gays, lesbians, and their supporters, was held on Saturday. About ten years ago these parades normally took place without much to-do, but the growth of the far right changed all that. Instead of being a free-wheeling, joyous affair, it is now a “march” between a wall of policemen. Beyond the cordons are the frenzied, screaming neo-Nazis.

The parade itself went off peacefully enough. But once it was over and the crowd dispersed, three people were brutally attacked by a group of thirty skinheads dressed in black uniforms. Policemen arrived on the scene quickly. But instead of going after the attackers, they demanded ID cards from the victims. They simply let the attackers leave. Opposition parties are demanding a police investigation.

It turned out that Ulrike Lunacek, an Austrian Green member of the European Parliament, was among those marching in the parade. Readers of Hungarian Spectrum may recall her as the person who had a serious run-in with Zsolt Bayer, who talked about her on HírTV in a truly unspeakable manner. I often wondered whether Bayer knew that Lunacek is a lesbian. I suspect that he didn’t, at least at the time. Otherwise, he would have used even stronger and even less acceptable language.

In any case, while Lunacek was in Budapest she had a chat with a reporter for Népszabadság. The conversation soon turned to a discussion of Viktor Orbán’s performance in the European Parliament last week. In his speech Orbán tried to defend the Hungarian parliament’s decision to include in the constitution a definition of marriage as the joining of  “one man and one woman.”  Whatever you think of this definition, as usual he didn’t do a good job researching the topic of marriage from a historical perspective. He asserted that “marriage between one man and one woman is a Judaeo-Christian tradition going back 4,000 years.”

gender symbolsUlrike Lunacek pointed out that marriage in the sense of a civil contract is relatively new, starting only a couple of hundred years ago. She might have added, more to the point, that there is also something dreadfully wrong with the 4,000 years. According to most Biblical scholars, polygyny continued to be practiced well into the biblical period in ancient Israel. In fact, there were instances among the population in Israel as late as the second century CE. The Torah is full of laws governing the practice of polygamy, and we know of several prominent Biblical figures who had more than one wife. For example, Esau, Jacob, David, and Solomon. Even Herod with the special permission of the Romans.

In Greece the situation was the same. The richer the man the more wives he had. Marriages, just as in ancient Israel, were arranged. By the age of fourteen girls were married off to men who were usually a great deal older. The average marriage age for men in ancient Greece was about 30.

Rome was different. It was a strictly monogamous society. Marriage meant the joining in matrimony of one man and one woman. It was a very strict rule, and that’s why Herod had to get special permission from his Roman overlords to have more than one wife.

So, we can forget about the 4,000 years. Our views on marriage today come largely from the teachings of Jesus and the Roman practice of monogamy. I’m no Biblical scholar, so I can’t judge whether there was any connection between Roman marital mores and those of the Judaean society in which Jesus lived.

It is hard to tell from where this erroneous  information about the marital practices of ancient times comes from. But Christian Democratic politicians keep repeating this magic number, which is wrong no matter what calendar they use. The only thing I don’t understand is why Zoltán Balog, Orbán’s spiritual adviser who is after all a Protestant minister, doesn’t straighten him out on the subject. He, as opposed to the Catholic Christian Democrats, ought to be familiar with the Bible.