Coming outInspiration

Coming out in old times – part 3: Lenke Szilágyi

Looking for and reading the things and feelings going on inside of you in a psychiatric book for the first time is pretty scary. You can feel alone and sick and it doesn’t help that you don’t have any other source of information, your father rejects you and you would like to meet society’s expectations. Back 30 years ago all the above things weren’t unique, no matter how different we all think about love and sexuality. You can read more details in the interview with Lenke Szilágyi.

In 2008 Labrisz Lesbian Association started a lesbian herstory project, making interviews with lesbians above 45 in order to create the basis of an archive and an edited volume. "Secret Years", a  documentary based on 11 interviews was shown in the 2009 LIFT Festival, the volume of interviews with a similar title was published in 2011 with 16 lesbian life histories. The five more interviews with women who already lived their adult and lesbian life (accepting themselves and trying to find relationships, communities) back in the Socialist era, are only in the book. We are now sharing the stories of these five women.

Lenke Szilágyi: Mum knew it; dad... it’s a problematic question, since we weren’t ever on really good terms. Moreover, this whole thing’s actually an absurdity for me; I can’t believe I had any relationship with someone like that at all! Let alone having him as my father! So I can’t feel any community with him. Once he snooped into my stuff, and found some mail there, which I vehemently denied right away, saying it was just a kind of literature quotation. Which he either believed or not, but there was a fight about it anyway, yeah. After that the topic never came up again.

Anna Borgos: So there wasn’t really a coming-out or any kind of announcement to them.

LSZ: There was to my mother. But she was a completely different character. So she didn’t interrogate me, she was just surprised, and asked some questions about it.

AB: Were you on good terms with her?

LSZ: Yes. So nothing, only my old man, he was an insignificantly average guy in my eyes, who proved to be an egoistic, petty creep in every crisis situation. Which I don’t think I have anything to do with. At any rate, these two sides of our family are like night and day...

AB: Do you have siblings?

LSZ: I have a younger sister.

AB: Have you ever talked to her about it?

LSZ: Not really, but she still knows about it, and did in the past, but she is a tolerant type. She lets everyone be who they are. Just like me.

AB: Do you have a story in your life about recognizing it and trying to deal with it?

LSZ: I do, I knew already at the age of three what the situation was. A lot of people imagine you choose to be like that for yourself, but not at all, it’s just a given, and that’s all. Those who say this isn’t natural, of course for them it isn’t, because they aren’t like this. But those who are like that, it’s natural for them. 125 Until my adolescence, I didn’t really encounter this live, so to speak. I found some hints and allusions in books, but not so many. Particularly that my mum was a psychologist and she had books at home that I could look up.

Lenke Szilágyi. Photo by Judit Szabó

AB: What kind of books were these?

LSZ: For example there was a thick and heavy book titled Psychiatry that I remember. Plus parents have the habit of dealing with these kinds of uncomfortable topics by putting some sort of sex education books in front of the children reaching adolescence so that they could look the awkward matters up there. Of course, the children talk about the topic among themselves, too. But naturally, I never mentioned this to anybody, I treated it as highly confidential matter and with great secrecy, in fact I have always looked on it as a private matter, so why let others know about it. And these sources also contained only a few lines mentioning that this thing does exist.

AB: What were these, can you recall them?

LSZ: I can’t remember them any more.

AB: But did you recognize at the time that these were referring to what you were?

LSZ: Yes. I did, and then I had attempts too, of course, when I was an adolescent, to live up to the expectations and standards of the world. But obviously out of curiosity too, one or two things happened with boys, but I always felt that wasn’t me. Truly, I don’t know how to interpret it or define or name it all. So my emotions are quite mysterious even to me. This whole love thing has always been on the level of poetry for me. So there have been huge crushes and unrequited longings and those kinds of things. I even managed to fall in love very passionately with a man, in this platonic way.

AB: Did these people know about it then or not?

LSZ: In my childhood they didn’t at all, but later, after my adolescent years there were times when people figured it out. I had some long-term I-don’tknow-what, emotional storms. It usually came to light in one way or another; we got along well, but still… I don’t know. Rather not! Never mind. So these physical matters, so to speak, have always been prosaic pragmatic issues for me. For some reason I have never felt comfortable with them. Or I didn’t feel the whole thing was mutual enough and equally balanced enough to be worth it – and without that, if it’s kind of asymmetrical, you don’t feel comfortable. I wouldn’t say there was nothing at all, since I have had some affairs. But at any rate, after a while, let’s say, after thirty, you can judge how your life path is going. And I got the picture that love relationships were not only far from playing a central role in my life, but they didn’t play any at all. However, I feel comfortable with that. After I thought through why waste such an enormous amount of time and energy for unreasonably exalted emotions that supposedly wouldn’t ever lead anywhere, I decided to stop it. So I would rather set up goals and objectives and deal with other things.

If you are interested in the life stories of these 16 women, you can access the volume of interviews "Secret Years" here.

To contact Labrisz Lesbian Association, you can write them here:

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