There was some sniggering in the newspapers and on television last week. Very understandable by the way because it is not every week that you catch a homophobic Hungarian MEP at a gay sex party in Brussels. The fact that the party was organized by a Brussels native with Polish roots and that the guests initially thought the invading officers were part of the “entertainment” only made the story spicier.
Most of the media focused (rightly) on the hypocrisy of Mr. Szájer, who turns out to be the author of anti-LGBTI+ legislation in his own country but still enjoys himself at gay sex parties in Brussels, far from his wife and child. They could also have angrily reported on the sex party itself because there were clearly too many people together and it didn’t really look like they had kept a meter and a half distance. And safe sex was clearly not on the agenda either. But what made the news headline-worthy was still the MEP’s double standards.
The Rainbowhouse in Brussels, to my surprise, stood up for him. Conservative homosexuals should not be ‘outed’ either, they said. In this case I do not agree. Don’t get me wrong: I’m against outing people, against making someone’s LGBTI+-ness public against his or her will. Whether you as a man talk openly about your husband and as a woman show your cuddle pictures with your wife or just don’t, that should be your own choice. You may find it hypocritical for a man to be married to a woman and at the same time enjoy gentlemanly love but that is his business. And that of his wife of course but also in her place I cannot decide. It is also your right as a lesbian woman to be against same sex marriage for example. People are free to think what they want.
As an LGBTI+ community, by the way, we should cherish this freedom of expression. If we were to give the impression that we want to dictate how people should behave or what they can think and say (if it is within the law), chances are that we ourselves would be the first victims of that. It is not so long ago that contact ads for gays and lesbians were banned from some magazines, and conversion therapy is not yet banned in Belgium either. Nothing stops us from discussing with those people, trying to convince them or make it clear that we find their behavior hypocritical but it would not be a good idea to force them to open up. Because that is sure to come back like a boomerang.
It is therefore more efficient to put your energy into making society LGBTI+-friendly and thus creating a safe atmosphere that will perhaps encourage the closet gays and lesbians to be themselves openly after all.
Only this applies in two directions. You can keep your rainbow side quietly in the closet but you must also allow me my freedom. And that, of course, is where Mr. Szájer’s shoe pinches. Because he was not just a mandatary for a conservative homophobic party, he was one of its leading figures. He also boasted of having personally written anti-LGBTI+ laws and he even had the power to get them approved. At the same time, in the much detested LGBTI+-friendly EU capital, he did appropriate the privileges and freedom that he denied the gays, lesbians, bi, trans and intersex people in his own country. No group can be forced to tolerate so much hypocrisy.
Some people pin his homophobic behavior on his so-called unprocessed homosexuality. Indeed, it is said that the biggest homophobes are often gay or lesbian themselves. And it is true that there are quite a few examples to back this up. Just think of the American McKrae Game who for years promised to “cure” gays, lesbians and trans persons and has since come out of the closet himself. Or Jorg Haider, the party leader of the extreme right-wing and homophobic BZÖ, who after his death turned out to have had a relationship with his successor. There has even been research into this although it doesn’t really come to one conclusion. There are studies that conclude that those homophobic people “probably feel threatened by other, openly gay people because they confront them with their own, similar feelings when they actually want to suppress those feelings.” But there are equally others who see no connection.
Looked at this way, one should indeed rather feel sorry for Jozsef Szájer who, apparently because of his inability to accept himself, wants to act extremely heterosexual by behaving as homophobically as possible. I do wonder to what extent someone who participates in gay sex parties with total strangers and, by his own admission, organized one himself, is really tangled up with his orientation. Then again, I’m no shrink so who knows.
Within the LGBTI+ community, there are those who hope that this could be a gamechanger for Hungarian politics. If even key Fidesz party members are clearly not behind their anti-LGBTI+ program then they better throw their program in the trash, said for example Dimitri De Vreeze, president of Belgium Bear pride. The Hungarian opposition party DK also held such a discourse. It would be nice if that were the case. But a day later we were all the wiser …
It is not Jozsef Szájer’s so-called internalized homophobia that is the main reason for the anti-LGBTI+ policy that he and his crony Viktor Orban drew up with the Fidesz party. They were mainly concerned with power: the power to be able to determine how you should behave, how you should dress, who you can be in love with and who you can’t….
Dictatorships do not like people who deviate and groups who question the establishment. By pursuing anti-feminist and anti-‘gender’ policies, Fidesz is trying to create an atmosphere in Hungary where they marginalize and stigmatize anyone who might be a danger to their politics and thus make them harmless. If you want to be able to express yourself, just do it at home, in back rooms or abroad. The mistake that Jozsef Szájer made is not that he is gay but that he allowed himself to be caught.
Union of Equality
The EU, meanwhile, has understood this well and recently published ‘Union of Equality: LGBTIQ Equality Strategy 2020-2025’, a strategic paper on LGTBI+ rights in Europe. A first! Because the member states suddenly think LGBTI+ rights are so important? I’m a big supporter of the EU but I’m not that naive now. They are not very concerned about the LGBTI+ community but they can clearly see that we are the canaries in the coal mine. Where freedom is under threat, gays, lesbians, bi, trans and intersex people are the first victims, the first to be blotted out of the picture. If the EU wants to remain the union of freedom, it cannot let this happen. So one could argue that we owe the first European LGBTI+ strategy paper to Viktor Orban.
Will this also change anything? Well, that remains to be seen. Hungary and the EU are currently on a collision course, the LGBTI+ note is just one of the shots being fired. As it often goes, people are now looking for compromises. Will the EU rainbow policy die a quiet death as a result or will it be further developed into one of the pillars of the free and happy Europe? We will see if another Hungarian politician is ‘caught’ at a gay sex party: will it be front page news again or will he (hopefully) not make it beyond the gossip column?
>> Please note that this is a machine generated translation. A more correct version is coming soon.