Budapest prepares for Pride but for many LGBT+ people it is a worrying time to be in Hungary
Written by Hit Music Radio News on 23/07/2021
As she walks down the street to greet us, Dora Duro raises a hand of greeting.
She is quiet and friendly, a mother of four young children who jokes about the challenges of balancing childcare and work.
We talk about Hungary’s football team, of her efforts to speak English, and then the conversation swings to an altogether more contentious subject.
Mrs Duro has become a leading figure in Hungary’s far-right political movement, synonymous with her mistrust of the country’s LGBT+ community.
As we speak, Budapest is about to hold its Pride celebration (which she thinks should be cut back) and the country is digesting new laws designed to curtail so-called “homosexual propaganda”.
And while many, including European leaders, have berated those laws as profoundly offensive, Mrs Duro thinks they’re the least the country needs.
It was she who publicly destroyed a copy of a book, called Fairytale Land Is For Everyone, because it included gay and transgender characters.
She has long pursued a change to the law that would restrict education about LGBT+ in schools, or promotion of LGBT+ characters on TV or in adverts.
And now, that has happened – the very law she proposed has been enacted by Hungary’s populist prime minister, Viktor Orban.
Except she thinks it should have gone further, with tougher punishment on “gay activists”.
So why, I ask her, does she have such disdain for LGBT+ people?
She tells me that, while she accepts some people (“an extremely small part”) are “born as a homosexual”, she thinks that it generally comes down to lifestyle, which is why she sees the fairytale book as a nefarious piece of “homosexual propaganda”.
“It is very important how we influence the children, how we lead them to a way of lifestyle, how to live their life,” she tells me.
“These kinds of publications, or these kinds of events, obviously stimulate them to start to live this kind of lifestyle, to choose this life. We think this is a wrong way.
“No one has the right to falsify our fairy tales, to try to occupy Hungary, to settle here (as) migrants, and to make changes to our traditional social structure which is based on Christian family model, and which maintained our-thousand-year-old Hungarian statehood, and allowed the Hungarian people to survive.”
For many people, these views will be unpalatable – redolent of a homophobic streak that has largely disappeared from societies in Britain and much of Europe.
But in Eastern Europe, notably in Hungary but also in Poland and the Czech Republic (all of them member states of the European Union), there is a growing animosity towards the LGBT+ community.
In Hungary, that has manifested itself in the new laws. A referendum is planned for next year on “child protection” issues, with such leading questions as: “Do you support minors being shown, without any restriction, media content of a sexual nature that is capable of influencing their development?”
But is Mr Orban really so fearful of the progress of LGBT+ rights? Perhaps not.
His time as prime minister has in fact been peppered by battles – about migrants, or the Roma people, and always against what he sees as the pervasive rise of liberal values.
Next year, he faces another election and it’s apparent that the bedrock of his support lies beyond the country’s biggest cities and in its more rural, and sometimes less educated, areas.
And it is there where his anti-LGBT+ ideas have chimed loudest, and also where there is the greatest mistrust of the EU, which the prime minister portrays as a nest of interfering, expansionist liberal do-gooders.
Put simply, Mr Orban appears to see a sort of vote-winning virtuous circle – he castigates and vilifies the LGBT+ community, and gains more support from his loyal voters. Then he gets berated by Brussels politicians, which further endears him to his supporters.
And so it is against this backdrop that Budapest will start its annual Pride event. It will, of course, be loud, cheery and raucous. But amid the party will be a protest, tinged with great nervousness.
Among those there will be Emmett Hegedus, a transgender man who told me he is now angry and uncertain.
“Every time there is a new law, I think that it can’t get worse, but they always do.
“I’m afraid because, around the world, there are 70 countries that don’t want me to exist and I hope that we will not end up like that in Hungary.
“I really hope that it’s not going to get worse. But – deeply – I feel like I should run for my life out of here because it will get worse.”
© Sky News 2020