Image description: Budapest LGBTQ+ Pride 2015
“Wonderland Is For Everyone,” says the title of an inclusive fairytale featuring characters from queer and ethnic minority backgrounds. “Not for us,” is apparently the answer of the Hungarian government.
The publishers, the Labrisz Lesbian Association, must now indicate through a disclaimer on this and future LGBTQ+ inclusive books that it depicts “behaviour inconsistent with traditional gender roles.”
A statement from the government office in Budapest last week (19.01.2021) criticised the deceptive cover design, describing it as a fairytale and thereby seemingly tricking the customer into thinking that they are buying a book portraying traditional relationships and gender roles.
It was exactly the aim to normalise the appearance of minorities in children’s books to teach young members of society the importance of respecting people from different backgrounds.
As indicated by Labrisz, it was exactly the aim to normalise the appearance of minorities in children’s books to teach young members of society the importance of respecting people from different backgrounds – an agenda which has now been cancelled by the queer content warning.
A lesbian Cinderella, a gay marriage of two princes, and a character named Leaf Brown (after the traditional Snow White) supposedly pose a threat to children, at least according to Hungary’s populist right wing government: back in September when the book first came out, it was already called “homosexual propaganda” and publicly shredded at a press conference by a far-right politician. All of the attention the book has gotten since then however, has in fact led to about 30,000 copies being sold, lots of them out of protest and spite.
It is no surprise, then, that Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán himself expressed his opinion on the fairytale, telling the LGBTQ-community: “leave our children alone.” The populist government under the right-wing Fidesz party has been pushing an increasingly homophobic agenda for a while. Their politics focus on promoting strong family bonds as the basis of the Christian-conservative state – something that the existence and rights of queer people apparently endanger.
Since May, trans people no longer have the right to change the gender they have been assigned at birth, and in November, the Christian-conservative government amended the constitution to close a loophole, now preventing LGBTQ+-identifying people from adopting children.
Not only does Orbán’s government flat-out deny the existence of the concept of gender independent of sex and see queer relationships as a threat for traditional marriage, because of its close friendship to Poland, Hungary also expresses its sympathy for Polish anti-LGBTQ politics. The so-called “LGBTQ-free zones” there have drastically worsened the life quality of queer people, exposing their mental and physical health to the threat of more frequent harassment.
The so-called “LGBTQ-free zones” there have drastically worsened the life quality of queer people, exposing their mental and physical health to the threat of more frequent harassment.
The situations in Hungary and Poland are extremely worrying for European LGBTQ+ people. What the governments fail to understand is that our community is not about “choosing” a certain “lifestyle” or an “ideology” (why would someone from a country like Hungary or Poland “choose” a life full of discrimination and violence?).
The rise of anti-LGBTQ+ right-wing parties in Europe has given a platform to people who still believe that harassment of minorities falls under freedom of speech. Even in countries such as the UK or Germany, many find themselves being exposed more and more to harmful comments as homophobes, transphobes and racists become more daring, fuelled by the hatred that these governmental parties have tolerated.
Meanwhile, in Hungary and Poland the situation has become so bad that many queer people have already fled the countries, with one saying: “When I read the news now about another homophobic law, at least I know I’m out of it.”
This January, the EU has come up with a new clause that could increase the cutting of funds for countries which reject anti-discrimination principles, and potentially put more pressure on Poland and Hungary.
However, many queer people think the EU should take more serious actions against open discrimination in its member states, fearing that any form of negligence in relation to the developments in Poland and Hungary could further encourage human rights violations through these, and maybe even more, governments.
Seemingly small acts of discrimination such as queer content disclaimers on inclusive media prevent us from getting to the root of the problem.
Besides the dangers of amendments that are actively taking the rights that we had to fight for in the first place away, seemingly small acts of discrimination such as queer content disclaimers on inclusive media prevent us from getting to the root of the problem.
Showing children a picture of two princes getting married will not magically “turn them gay” as the Hungarian government might fear, but open up their eyes to the beautiful diversity that our world has to offer and most importantly, teach them respect and kindness: a kindness that would be much needed coming from the governments that are supposed to protect – not violate – our human rights.