Tuesday, July 5

Hungary’s classrooms are the last battleground of the new conservative wave against LGTBI rights

Last week, the Hungarian Parliament banned any representation of homosexuality or transsexuality directed at minors, in educational materials and on television. By including the measure in a law that protects children from child abuse, Hungarian President Viktor Orbán made an explicit connection between homosexuality and pedophilia.

In doing so, he resorted to the hoax that gay and trans people are a danger to children. For a long time, much of the world had dispensed with this discourse, but now it is experiencing a new and worrying resurgence in the global battle against the so-called “gender ideology”.

“The logic of the Government is to find an enemy and pretend to save the country from that enemy,” Tamás Dombos, Hungary’s LGTBQ + referent, told the United States Congress last week. Dombos described the new law as “a conscious and diabolical political strategy” by the government to divert attention from its chaotic response to the COVID-19 crisis. The legislation is also a first salvo in the face of the upcoming and tight elections, and an effective way of marking what I call a “pink line”: the nationalist barrier that protects, in this case, Hungarian “values” against the alleged immoral imperialism of George Soros and Brussels.

Putin’s anti-gay law

The Hungarian law thus echoes the “anti-gay propaganda” legislation promoted by Vladimir Putin in 2012 to counter the growing opposition he faced in the cities for his candidacy for a third presidential term. It is also a way of setting the stage to repeat, in Hungary, Andrzej Duda’s electoral campaign in Poland last year, which attacked the “LGTB ideology”.

It is ironic that these “anti-Western” politicians are following the strategies applied in 1977 in the United States by Anita Bryant’s campaign in Florida, “Save Our Children”, which sought to eliminate all reference to homosexuality from the curricula and was the origin of various laws across the country. Long before Russia and Hungary, Margaret Thatcher’s British government passed section 28, which prohibited the “promotion” of homosexuality in schools.

This law was not repealed until 2003 in England and Wales. In the United States, “non-promotion of homosexuality” laws remain in effect in four southern states, and two other states, Arizona and Tennessee, have recently come close to restricting student access to identity information. gender and sexual orientation.

Bolsonaro against “gender”

Meanwhile, in Brazil, President Jair Bolsonaro has promised that he will remove the word “gender” from the curriculum, as well as any talk about homosexuality or transsexuality. In more than 100 Brazilian jurisdictions they are trying to do it by law. Despite the fact that the country’s Supreme Court has already ruled against it in 11 cases, the process continues.

In Africa, fierce opposition from the religious right has caused several countries to abandon their commitment to UN-approved comprehensive sex education. Before Ghana’s 2020 election campaign, a religious pressure group was formed against what they called “comprehensive satanic education”, because it allegedly promoted LGTBQ + rights. The fear and hatred generated during this debate have fueled the repression in Ghana. In early 2021 they closed the first LGTBQ community center in the country. Last month, 21 youths attending a training event for paralegals were arrested on charges of “defending LGTBQ activities.”

A similar campaign against comprehensive sex education succeeded in Zambia, and is gaining ground in populated Ethiopia. Like those in Latin America and Eastern Europe, these campaigns use materials and tactics from the US “pro-family” movements, primarily Family Watch International (FWI) and the World Congress of Families (WCF). . Based in Arizona, where he led the anti-LGBTQ + education campaign, the FWI group has given momentum to the Ghana and Ethiopia campaigns.

In the Catholic world, these campaigns are linked with conservative organizations such as Opus Dei and, more recently, with the Polish Ordo Iuris. It is an influential organization of Catholic lawyers that has just opened a university in Warsaw as an explicit counterweight to George Soros’ Central European University. Eastern European conservatives say they are mounting a counterattack against left-wing orthodoxy on gender and homosexuality. As the Hungarian Viktor Orbán usually does, they also equate it with communist ideology.

Religious conservatives in the United States were already traveling to Moscow in 1995 to spawn the WCF with orthodox activists seeking political traction in post-communist Russia. Russian members of the WCF were crucial in getting politicians to buy into the idea of ​​anti-gay propaganda. Held in 2017, the host of its last congress was the Hungarian Government. Orbán himself inaugurated it.

Hungarian activists have no doubt that the law passed this week comes from these global connections. The reason these campaigns are so similar around the world, and so potentially effective, is that, in the words of Dombos, “human beings around the world have similar fears.” “They fear for their children, they want the best for their children, so when you tell them ‘these trans monsters are going to turn your child into a trans person you will never recognize,’ it resonates.”

According to polls, a majority of Hungarian citizens support LGTBQ + rights and those who oppose same-sex marriage only slightly outnumber those who are in favor. That is why Fidesz, the party that governs Hungary, links homosexuality with pedophilia in the new law. It does so six months after banning the adoption of children by people other than heterosexual married couples. After banning legal gender transition, she is now explicitly seeking to stoke moral panic over children.

Right-wing conservatives and their populist allies have spent the last few years provoking these fears around the world.

I myself have seen its destructive power with the case of the Russian trans woman who lost all rights to her son because a judge considered that she would be “promoting the homosexuality” of the child. There is also clear evidence of the way in which this link generates violence, from the increasing homophobic attacks in Brazil to the deadly pogroms that gay people in Chechnya are currently facing.

Hungarian law is part of this trend but it also sets a disturbing new precedent. As homosexuals have become more accepted in recent years, right-wing activists have tried to depersonalize hatred by speaking of “gender ideology” and “LGTB ideology”. But Hungarian law brutally turns its sword against real people, equating them to child molesters in the law itself.

Anita Bryant’s attempt to do so in Florida in 1977 was very important at the time for the mobilization for gay rights in the United States and sparked broad popular support for gay people. Something similar can, and should, happen now. In Hungary and around the world.

  • Mark Gevisser is the author of ‘The Pink Line: The World’s Queer Frontiers’ [La línea rosa: las fronteras queer del mundo]

Translated by Francisco de Zárate.