Pride in a Conservative Corner of Europe

Owing to the month of Pride, several countries around the world hold bubbly, colourful demonstrations to publicly celebrate that love is love, no matter one’s gender. How does this idea born out of liberal thinking reconcile with the self-proclaimed illiberal and conservative government of Hungary?

It doesn’t. Even though events such as Pride, which go totally against what the government-operated media platforms proclaim are allowed, are managed similarly to anti-government protests. They let them happen so that people can feel like their rights are not violated; this year there weren’t even cordons surrounding the demonstrators, only around anti-Pride counter-protesters. Nevertheless, these events remain without proper response — the politicians of the ruling party don’t take them seriously. However, that doesn’t mean that such topics aren’t part of their show on their media platforms.

Many fear that Pride is only an expression of narcissism and that its meaning has blended with love without any borders, and therefore, that participants of Pride are marching for pedophiles as well. Hungary’s well-known media empire operated by the government (thus the governing party, as it can practically be regarded as a one-party state since other parties have no chance to advance their interests) once even declared that homosexuality is a disease which ought to be cured. On top of that, the speaker of the Parliament claimed that if homosexual couples wanted to adopt children, they are not different from pedophiles, and that ‘these people’ should accept that they cannot be equal to the rest of society. When conservative parties come across organizations that promote tolerance, they regard it as liberal propaganda that aims to spread this worldview, bolster the members of the LGBTQ community, and punish those who think otherwise. 

They have exerted a massive influence on the public. Many people believe that if they hold less liberal views, then they will get called ‘homophobes’ or ‘racists’, so in their eyes, they become the victims. Consequently, all these terms lose their meaning. Following this narrative of the media, the state has achieved that nobody takes these terms seriously anymore. If they do, in the state’s view, they are just intoxicated by liberal propaganda. Nevertheless, according to a survey of Budapest Pride and Integrity Lab, Hungarian society moderately accepts LGBTQ people — as 60% of the respondents say, members of the LGBTQ community should have equal rights like any other citizen. However, if the questions are worded a bit differently, the answers vary as well. When asked, 36% of the respondents said they support and 56% object marriage between same-sex couples. The numbers vary when it comes to views on adoptions, then 46% of the respondents think that the LGBTQ community deserves the same rights. Regarding the views of the public, leaning left or right on the political spectrum and holding religious beliefs are the most determining variables. 

In Hungary, Pride is not only about the celebration of love. It is also about injustice.

Same-sex couples cannot get married, and they cannot even adopt children. Whilst the government’s media campaign about family support goes on and on, many couples remain without children and the support of the government. In addition, hate crimes against the LGBTQ community don’t happen once in a blue moon, but most of them don’t get reported, which is a serious concern in the country. Some civil society organizations have taken the initiative to inform the public about these issues, but there is no such program operating on the state level. 

I believe that the case of LGBTQ rights in Hungary can bring about crucial conversations regarding hate crimes, freedom of speech and conservatism that are prevalent all over the world. It all boils down to the lamentable reality of inefficient, superficial policies and miscommunication. It is contingent on all of us. We need to let people ask questions that we might find offensive or uncomfortable at first glance; but the very reason why these questions are asked highlight the salience of these discussions. Furthermore, if governments took the effort and presented these marginalized communities in a positive light in the media, educated the youth in schools about their situation, and provided accessible mental health care to those got hurt, maybe those words condemning hate crimes on paper can turn into reality. 

Júlia Bálint

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