When I am meeting Barbara, she is coming to me with open eyes and a smile on her face. “We are supposed to meet, right?“, she’s asking, a bit confused though, because we’ve never seen each other before. Barbara is 25 years old, lives in Budapest and she’s a lesbian.
We are walking next to the Danube river. It’s evening in Budapest, the sun is slowly going down and a lot of people are rushing by. Rushing home, to the next meeting or date with a friend. Finally, we find a spot on a small wall next to the river. Barbara sits down and is looking at me through her black framed glasses. Now it is me who is a bit confused. I am not sure how to start the conversation. I don’t know that girl and I am going to ask her quite personal stuff. How it is to be a young lesbian in more or less conservative Hugnary? Do I have too many prejudices? Will she be offended by my questions at some time? I decide just to rush in. And Barbara answers me. Very openly.
“I am holding hands with my girlfriend on the streets and it’s not a problem.“ Really, not any problem? She looks up for a moment, puts her brown hair back behind her ear. “Well, ok. People sometimes ask stupid things, like: are you gay? Who is the boy and who is the girl? Why do you come and ask this? It’s stupid.“ Barbara underlines her words with gentle movements of her hands. She is a calm person, but her moving hands unveil a bit of her agitation.
“I can’t understand why people come and ask about this. I don’t go up to straight couples and ask: Are you together? Are you straight? It’s so stupid for me.“ Now, Barbara starts to grin. When I start to laugh, she joins in. Weird, annoying comments are one thing. But are there worse reactions than that? “People sometimes come and say rude things to me.“ There’s a calm look on Barbara’s face, no agitation at all. Really? “Yeah, this is normal.“ I am a bit surprised by Barbara’s calmness.
But there is a reason for Barbara’s really relaxed way of handling this topic. Her family and her friends are fine with her being a lesbian. She is thinking quietly before she tells the story of her coming out. “It was really frustrating for me, before I came out. Because I was in love with my best friend – so typical.“ She laughs, but quickly becomes serious again. “And I couldn’t talk about it with my friends or my family. It’s always difficult when you can’t talk about your feelings and you can’t be honest with your friends and with your family. But, yeah…you have to step forward and want to clear everything and want to be honest. But it’s a hard decision to make.“
Barbara is looking towards the river. She is hesitating, remembering the time of her coming out. “First, I came out to my gay cousin. This was easy and my first step.“ After this, Barbara told her sister. She was studying at that time in Budapest and asked Barbara what she was up to. “And I told her: I went out to a party and I met someone…she’s a girl. And my sister asked: Oh, so you’re a lesbian? That’s fine for me, you’re still my sister.“ It was only difficult with her mother. Barbara had to talk to her a lot about it, to answer many questions. “And she got used to it. I guess I am lucky.“
Barbara appears to me a brave girl. She’s really open. Showing in public that she’s a lesbian, talking with everyone about it who wants to know. And she does all that with this really calm attitude. But maybe the situation for LGBT-people is not as bad as I’ve always thought? “Oh no, it isn’t fine at all.“ And she tells me stories.
Of her gay best friend, who was threatened by hooligans. The mother of her girlfriend who can’t handle the fact that her daughter is a lesbian. Friends who are afraid of holding hands in public. And the legal situation in Hungary. “You know, I want to have kids.“ Barbara’s hands are moving again. “The legal situation right now is not allowing this. There are some small loopholes, how you can manage it, but it’s still not the same.“ Her eyes turn to the ground. Then, really fast, her sight gets stronger again.
“We just have to do things and be there, go to the elections, to the pride, to the events. I think this is what we have to do.“ Barbara herself organized the Eurogames in 2012, a LGBT sports and cultural event. She volunteers for the Budapest Pride and a member of the Hungarian LGBT-Alliance. She’s an activist – for as far as her schedule allows it. So, all in all, it’s not that bad to be a young lesbian – if you’re just willing to work for a change yourself? “I am totally positive. I can see how it should be, but…yeah, you have to work on it and that’s all. I think I’m positive because of my supporting family and friends. Because I don’t have problems. But there is a lot to do.“ She stops shortly. Looks down. Then she chuckles. “It could be worse!“