The current Prime Minister of Hungary, Viktor Orbán, has signed a law banning the discussion of LGBTQ+ people in schools, in materials for schools, and on television shows intended for an audience under 18 years of age. The law passed the Hungarian parliament by a vote of 157 to 1 and went into effect in early July 2021. It has been compared by many to a 2013 law passed in Russia, which similarly bans the discussion of LGBTQ+ issues in schools. The European Parliament has voted to condemn this new law in Hungary, stating that the law is a “clear breach of EU values, principles and law.”
The story of LGBTQ+ people in Hungary is centuries old -- even the word “homosexual” was coined by a Hungarian man. In the late 1860s, writer Károly Mária Kertbeny invented the term “Homosexualitat.” He combined the Greek word “homo” (which means “the same”) and the Latin word “sexus” (which means “sex,” as in male or female). At the time that Kertbeny invented the word, Hungary was one of the only countries in continental Europe that still criminalized sodomy. Kertbeny also invented the word “heterosexuality,” which as late as 1923 had a negative connotation: it was defined by Merriam-Webster as “morbid sexual passion for one of the opposite sex.”
In the decades following Kertbeny’s invention, Hungary gradually began to accept homosexual activity, and by 1961, it had been decriminalized. In 2008, Hungary legalized same-sex civil partnerships. Gay men in Hungary have been allowed to donate blood through various systems for most of the time since the 1980s. Yet Hungary has also long been a site of controversy over its treatment of LGBTQ+ people, and its current government, under Orbán's leadership, has quickly reduced freedoms for LGBTQ+ people.
Right now, it is impossible for a Hungarian to affirm their gender in government records. LGBTQ+ couples are not allowed to adopt a child together, and lesbian couples are not permitted to use state resources to conceive children through donor insemination or in-vitro fertilization. The Hungarian government has also participated in events and advocated for policies that are anti-queer, it has embraced homophobic rhetoric and even hosted anti-queer hate groups.
Hungarians are protesting this new law and all of Orbán's other anti-queer policies. Teachers are pledging to continue teaching lessons on LGBTQ+ people and their rights, citing the importance of those lessons for LGBTQ+ teenagers. Thousands of people marched in the annual pride parade in Budapest, Hungary, at the end of July, a parade that a spokesperson identified as not only a celebration of the LGBTQ+ community but as a protest of Orbán's anti-LGBTQ+ agenda. To help these Hungarians resist, you can donate to Háttér Society, a well-known LGBTQ+ organization in Hungary that has pledged to continue helping LGBTQ+ Hungarians amidst the Orbán administration. You can also donate to ILGA-Europe or the Transvanilla Association.
Want to read more? Here are the sources for this lesson:
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