After some small talk about where we are from and what we study he finally pops the question, “and er… do you know what kind of party this is?” He nervously plucks his tie. “Of course,” I say, “it’s a gay party.” He starts to laugh and tells that’s what he likes about Dutch people: no-nonsense, direct and especially their tolerant attitude towards homosexuality. András, 19, and his friend Mátyás, 20, both students in Sopron, came to Budapest to visit Garçons: an LGBT party in one of Budapest’s newest ruin bars KIOSK.
When they tell me they traveled for four hours by train today I am surprised, and they are surprised by my surprised reaction. “There are no gay bars or parties in our hometowns where we can go. It’s very common for gay people to go to Budapest just for a night of partying or to visit a gay bar. We just don’t have other options. It’s not like The Netherlands where you have them in every other city.” According to András, Hungary is not ready for that yet. Even in the metropolitan Budapest, the people aren’t unanimously enthusiastic about having the parties in their city; “they’re probably scared.”
We go inside and Garçons – “a party for fashion junkies, posers, models, art heads and other freaks” – pumps its beats past our eardrums. For a couple of hours András and Mátyás step into a world that is quite the opposite to that of their daily life: a world where it’s the norm to be gay and nobody treats you differently. They raise their hands in the air as the UK DJ duo Little Boots lets confetti rain over the crowd as the beat drops. It’s time to celebrate.
It seems like a paradise of freedom, but not everyone is as enthusiastic about the parties as András and Mátyás. In town I meet Gábor, 23, for a coffee and a chat. He explains that he went to these parties once or twice but that he’s fed up with them now. “It’s just all so superficial. Everybody is so occupied with their own looks. It’s all about being seen and blending in with right people. And if you’re not well-dressed or you don’t comply with other people’s opinions about the latest Lady Gaga album, you won’t blend in. You’re forced to live up to the stereotype. In that sense it’s very unfortunate that there are no real alternatives.”
Dan, 22, whom I meet on a later occasion, agrees. “Of course, there are gay bars, but they aim at an older crowd and are very vulgar. And I mean very vulgar. Parties like Garçons and Hello aim for a younger crowd, but it’s just the same faces there every time. There’s no excitement. The scene is post-communist gay.” Dan here refers to the gay scene in Lubiewo, a novel by the Polish author Michal Witkovski, in which the young gay scene is very exuberant and active, but also quite superficial and all about sex. “I just long for a normal gay club, where you can just go with your friends to party and nothing more. Like straight people do.” He bursts out laughing. Sometimes gay people are just normal people too.