LGBT struggling to find a voice in Budapest

Budapest Pride 2011

In kindergarten I had a boy in my playgroup who continuously tried on girls’ costumes, so the kindergarten teachers ended up hiding those. At the age of 5 I found it quite frustrating, and as a grown up I find it outrageous.

People who say they don’t have any gay friends lie, maybe unintentionally, but they do. I had gay friends at elementary school, at high school and I am lucky to have them now as well. Some of them are proud to be different, some of them hide, and others just came out and cannot decide what to do. As gay right movements are getting more and more attention, I asked a few questions to my friends about their experiences in Budapest.

I had three interviewees, a boy (20) who is working two-part time jobs at local supermarkets, because he was kicked out from home, after coming out at the age of 16.

A university student girl (21), who is ambitious yet she went public about her identity.

And another university student (21) who after struggling a lot admitted her identity to herself, and now has a successful life and happy relationship.

Let’s call them The Little Prince (TLP), Ambition and Cinderella.

 

Does your identity mean any limitations or advantages?

Ambition: I have never thought of my identity as a restriction nor as an advantage.

TLP: Yes, there are homophobic people who make my life harder, but there are others who help.

Cinderella: Nobody ever asked about my sexual identity at my workplace or at school. I don’t think it affected me in a positive or negative way. At my job, only hard work matters and at my private life, I surround myself with people who can accept me.

Do the people around you know that you’re different from them? If they don’t know why didn’t you tell them? If they know, was it hard to come out?

Ambition: The ones who don’t know, they don’t know because it’s not written on my forehead. I think I’m pretty open about this, but I don’t start every conversation with it. When it comes up in a conversation, I don’t deny it, as I don’t consider it as a highly radical thing.

TLP: Basically everyone knows. My prerogative is that people just shouldn’t look at me if they don’t accept my identity. This makes it a lot easier.

Cinderella: I haven’t told anyone for a long time. The hardest part was to admit it to myself, you know. I’d tried to convince myself for years, and forced a role on myself who isn’t me. And I was consciously working on changing my feelings, to have a happy heterosexual relationship, like other people. Finally, when I found my mate in a girl, it wasn’t hard to admit it anymore. It felt so liberating, if I knew, I’d have done it earlier. I felt so much joy, happiness and freedom that nobody could force me to keep it deep in myself.

In general how is the reception when you let people know?

Ambition: ‘Wow, I couldn’t tell!’ or ‘I’ve always suspected it.’

TLP: I get more negative reception than positive. But I don’t like this so usually I just make a face or remind them that I am a human being just like them. Of course it offends them and they start calling me names.

Cinderella: Positive. I haven’t got negative reaction so far. It creates shock and awkwardness, but after that there’s only kind questions coming.

With one word only, how do Budapesters treat gay people?

Ambition: Sh*t.

TLP: Intolerant.

Cinderella: Developing.

Do you think that the gay society has enough attention in Hungary? If yes, is it positive or negative?

TLP: Sure we get enough attention. I feel like everyone wants to beat us up.

Ambition: I think we get way too much attention. Gay people tend to over mystify the question. If we are really equal, then why are we craving for more attention to remind people?

Cinderella: Hard to say, as the hater minority can be the loudest – so we could feel them more dominant. I still consider the Hungarian society conservative, so I think when it gets some attention, people just prefer to ignore it, and pretend we don’t exist at all.

If someone says anything offensive to you about your identity, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind?

Ambition: They don’t really say anything offensive to me. If they do, I just try to do my best and ignore them.

TLP: I’d just punch them in the face. How come they don’t realize I’m also a human being.

Cinderella: I pity them from the bottom of my heart. They must have an unhappy and miserable life if their biggest concern is the private life of people they don’t even know.

What I see, is that gay people are very likely to get picked on. What do you think?

Ambition: I haven’t been picked on because of this, really. Probably it’s because, even though I don’t keep it as a secret, I’m not walking around with a huge bling around my neck saying ‘I’m gay’. This country most certainly has a bunch of idiots, but I don’t think that everyone is picking on gay people. Maybe I have this opinion because I’m living in an intellectual environment, surrounded by relatively liberal people.

TLP: I get picked on quite often. Although I don’t agree either, that everyone wants to pick on gay people in general.

Cinderella: Personally, I haven’t ever been picked on for this. We all agree, Hungary is filled with stupid people, and of course there’s a lot of people collectively picking on gays. My experience from my micro-environment is, that if people are satisfied with your work and you are in good terms with people, they won’t bug you for this, even when they now the truth. Fortunately, there’s a lot of reasonable people, who are clear with the fact, that sexuality is just one part of us. The ones picking on us are just a show-off minority.

How hidden do you consider your sub-culture? Is it hard to find a gay event for you or would it be hard for me to find one? (Asking you counts as cheating)

TLP: It’s not hidden at all. There are a bunch of gay parties around the city all the time. You can find these on the internet.

Ambition: I also, don’t think it’s hidden. The internet makes it quite easy to find these events, through certain organizations. Of course there are few underground events, but it’s not a certain “gay thing” of course.

Cinderella: I can’t really say anything about this, because I haven’t ever been looking for gay events. I’ve never felt the need to surround myself with gay people in particular. Sexuality is small, but important, yet it shouldn’t be the criteria for making friends. I’ve heard of 1 or 2 gay bars, so I think it shouldn’t be hard to find one, not even for you.

How often do foreigners show up on these events?

Ambition: Lately I haven’t been to these events. But when I was going, the ‘co-ed’ events had lot of foreigners, mostly guys. On the other hand, at „girls only” events I met relatively few foreign people.

TLP: They find these events via the Internet. I party a lot and I can tell there are a lot of foreigners. They adapt quite well, although it’s hard for those who don’t speak our language.

I know its relative, but how recipient is Budapest’s gay community?

Ambition: The Budapest lesbian community is an inbred mess. If one attends to these LGBT events on a regular basis, there is always 1-2 or 3 familiar faces. I think girls don’t really have “those” kind of people, so they are more recipient.

TLP: Not really. They aren’t happy to have me, for example.

Cinderella: If its about the gay community, then it’s very recipient.

How recipient are you, when it comes to foreigners?

TLP: One hundred percent. Foreigners are, of course, so much different than us. Most of them are more tolerant.

Ambition: In person, I’d jump around of happiness, if I had a reasonable, foreign lesbian in my circles.

Cinderella: A hundred percent.

With all this knowledge you have now, how would you try to fit in as a foreigner?

Ambition: I’d just try to move around my natural environment, ergo the university.

TLP: Just simple stuff. Get to know people, make new friends, and make friends with their friends.

Cinderella: Probably I’d do the same as I did before, I don’t feel such a big difference. For me what matters is living in peace with my girlfriend, without being picked on and without living in secret. There is nothing more needed to be part of the Hungarian gay community.

What do you think gay foreigners experience when coming to Hungary?

Ambition: I don’t think we have a huge discrimination, but getting to know the Hungarian law system, they will realize soon enough that this whole thing is nothing but a big fat joke.

TLP: Homophobia. The just can’t walk around holding hands without getting picked on.

Cinderella: Probably the same to what we experience. But of course it depends on where is he/she from. When they come from a country where eg. gay-marriage is legal, they might experience shock and disappointment. But let’s not neglect the fact that there’re parts of this world compared to which, our little country may seem the Eden of freedom.

How active is the Hungarian gay community when it comes to political changes?

Ambition: Way too over-reacted. From what I see, the activists are exactly those people who have absolutely no idea how to be equal. People like me, who think we don’t have huge discrimination, just try to live every day without making a fuss.

TLP: Maybe a little. I don’t know. I don’t really care.

Cinderella: People from my environment could be persuaded to take part. Of course I have other acquaintances, who are afraid to go public, so they won’t even participate or stand up when it comes to politics.

If you have the opportunity to change one thing in connection with the Hungarian gay community on a VARÁZSÜTÉSRE, what would it be?

Ambition: The show-off, über-activist gay people, who think they change the world by running around at Budapest Pride in rainbow shirts.

TLP: People should know me first, and judge later.

Cinderella: Total acceptance from the society, and informing children. I find it quite important for children to know, it’s not a bad thing nor a disease that has to be surpressed. We could spare them mental diseases.

And last but not least, a cliché: what would you suggest to foreign gay students arriving to Hungary?

Ambition: They don’t have to prepare, it’s not that bad.

Cinderella: Just come, and don’t be afraid. We can’t demand acceptance from society if we are afraid to let them know who we are. Gandhi once said that “we need to be the change we wish to see in the world”.

TLP: Use protection.

 

After reading this interview, it should be clear to everyone that the LGBT people are the same as us. They have the same problems in a relationship like arguing on which part of the toothpaste tube to press and looking at other boys or girls. They are not different, they are just like us.

By the way, that little boy, I was talking about at the beginning, today is an aspiring designer who has his own clothing line.

“Life finds its way”, as it was once said on Jurassic Park.

– Fruzsina Katona

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