For me, as for many others, being a lesbian in Budapest has never been easy. I always had trouble finding the places where I could really be myself, and when I finally found these, they usually soon closed or transformed entirely. In Budapest, there still isn’t a real, stable, safe space that will always welcome you home. But is it any better abroad? Is the community larger, are there more opportunities? Thanks to my studies taking me to Boston, I am able to make a comparison.
Walking on the streets
The people of Boston are much more colorful than in Budapest, and that goes for the gay and lesbian people as well. You see couples frequently, and they are easy to spot - they are able to show the outside world who they really are without any fear of atrocity. Gay couples can hold each other’s hands on the streets, but there are other frequent signs of gay people as well, for example a characteristic hairstyle or a more masculine appearance in case of women. In my experience, people in Budapest often shy away from anything that isn’t seen as “normal”, and women are often too afraid to publicly show their romantic relationship with each other outside the friendship circle. In Boston, however, the lesbian* community is visibly alive and well, out in the open. You can see rainbow flags in many windows, be that regular apartments or even churches. The people of Boston are also colourful in other ways: they aren’t only straight or LGBTQ+, but also Black, White, Asian, or Latinx. All the colours of the rainbow.
Going out - pubs, parties and entertainment
When you’re in Budapest, you might have to wait a long time for the next WOW or Ösztrosokk (parties specifically for lesbians*), and as other qLit articles have already pointed out, lesbians* do not have a permanent social space like Why not for the guys. While Boston doesn’t have bars or coffee shops specifically for lesbians* either, one of the city’s quarters (Jamaica Plain) is known for its lesbian* community - especially one specific coffee shop and a bar/restaurant. Most lesbian* parties are held in this neighbourhood, but they and other queer parties can be found all over Boston. In my experience, unlike Budapest, queer and gay parties in Boston aren’t only full of guys - here you can find plenty of women as well, although it’s still true that guys have more opportunities when it comes to partying. Still, while lesbians* are often invisible in Budapest, their presence is significantly more visible at Boston’s gay parties.
The LGBTQ+ movement
The LGBTQ+ movement, just like feminism and other movements focusing on tolerance and equality, is at least partly rooted in American history - which is significantly different from Hungarian history. In Hungary, the idea of women’s rights was introduced in the early 20th century by the socialdemocratic movement. At this time there was a surprising number of women in important political positions, including one of the most bizarre individuals of Hungarian history: Cécile Tormay, who was both an out lesbian and a dedicated conservative. Feminism in Hungary primarily became the legal fight of a minority group that could just be ignored by men. In contrast, in the US women were not allowed to run for office, they could participate in social issues only in writing. That’s why feminism in the US has been deeply phylosophic right from the start as to prove that women are people of full value intellectually and in their souls, though not yet legally. More and more intellectuals became attracted to the phylosophic deepness of the movement. By the 60’s with the help of the black civil rights movement a comprehensive intellectual and artistic mass evolved that proclaimed the equality of black people, women and homosexuals as a corner stone of society. Although the state was against these movements for a long time, the wide support slowly resulted in today’s widespread opinion that the acceptance of LGBTQ+ people is no question, at least in the big cities of the US. In Hungary this attitude is shared still by a rather small ratio of society, even in Budapest. Well, to be honest, New York, San Francisco or Boston are not the same as other regions of the US either, but still: if we compare Boston and Budapest, we see a huge difference.
Marriage and having children
Of course, this progression hasn’t been easy: It was only in 2015 that the Supreme Court ruled that states cannot ban same-sex marriage, and the acceptance of transgendered people together with non-white gays has never been that wide as that of white gays and lesbians. Legal status is different in each state - Massachusetts (where Boston lies) belongs to the more progressive states. Here same-sex marriage has been legal since 2004. The biggest obstacle in having children is more financial than legal. Both adoption and artificial insemination are very expensive. In many cases this oddly results in same-sex partners adopting non-privileged children from diverse ethnic backgrounds, who are often disapproved by racist family members. However, (in Boston) in schools I haven’t experienced discrimination against kids with same-sex parents or who come out early in their lives. I know from my students that this situation is probably much more extreme in other states of the country. Moreover, many results of the same-sex movement could be compromised now, with Trump becoming the president.
So then... is it better here than at home?
Yes. Taking every practical aspect into consideration, it is better to live in Boston as a lesbian. You can live out and proud, there are various programs for you, and dating is much easier here than in Budapest. So then do I recommend for LGBTQ people to move to one of the progressive cities of the US? No. Why? Because although there are many opportunities in Boston and you can be out without any humiliation, for a happy life we need to be understood by others, and that is not always easy abroad. But this is a different factor that I’m going to deal with in a follow-up article.
Translated by Alexa Sebők
Cover: Zsófi Szekeres