Staying or going? – Hungary, 2021

I’ve been witnessing for years now that more and more of my acquaintances and friends leave Hungary and I’ve been asked over and over again: why do you stay?  My generation generally speaking has greater chances abroad for a better life: bigger salary, better education, better health care - but this is especially true for members of the LGBTQ+ community. Our chances for a full life in Hungary are even worse. Let’s think about events of 2020: the introduction of Section 33rd, which makes it impossible for transgender people to change their sex or name; or the legistlation changes passed which makes adoption by single people or same-sex couples very difficult. The anti-gay propaganda and atmosphere defined last year.

My reply for the above question for 10 years has been the same: I’m staying because I want to prove that you can do it - you can live openly, have kids and family, have a full life as a gay person; and I’m staying because my circumstances are relatively good, that’s why I’d like to get the most out of my staying here and try to improve things where I can.  

Unfortunately, this answer is getting invalid. To be honest, I crumbled a little bit during 2020.

It’s disappointing that we have to fight to have children and raise them with dignity while state aid and benefits are abundant for straight families. It’s also frustrating that at the level of government communication, gay people are openly targeted and stigmatised. Even so, I still think it might be worth staying in Hungary.

Besides, like many of us, I have my family and friends here, I built my life here, not all hope is lost yet. This article is not intended to be a lengthy analysis of the situation and to spread despair. Rather, I want to write about what we can do to make us feel better and, most importantly, what we can do to change the situation.

On the one hand, let’s look at how we can feel better in the current circumstances. It’s crucial to surround ourselves with people who understand us, whose closeness brings us joy. Sadly, not all us are fortunate enough to have their family as the bedrock that provides security, reassurance, and emotional support. If you’re so lucky that it’s all part of your life, then you have a good starting point.

The workplace is also a very important factor, as most of us spend 8 hours a day in close proximity to our colleagues or our boss (unless a virus is raging around the world), and it greatly determines how we feel in our daily lives. QLit is not an HR portal, so we won't go into details on how to find your dream job, we just want to make a point that if you have the opportunity, try to find a workplace where you go every day not only because you need your salary, but also because it makes you feel good. Either because the work is interesting or satisfying, or because you get along well with your colleagues and you can have a good conversation during a coffee break.

For many, the most important anchor in their lives is their friends. Making friends in adulthood isn’t always easy (okay, not even in childhood), but it’s important to build a family of friends for yourself as well. We at qLit try to help you with this, but many other organizations also create programs where you can meet and make friends with LGBTQ people. Due to the pandemic, unfortunately such activities are on hold now, but do not be discouraged, this situation will not last forever! Moreover, there is something that you can start even in the current situation: volunteering. This is one of the best ways to make new friends. If you choose an organization that deals with issues that interest you (these could be dogs, cleaning rivers, LGBTQ issues, whatever), it’s a sure thing that you’ll meet people with similar interests and working together is a great way to forge your relationship.

What can we do to make things better in the long run?

I discourage anyone to believe that they can’t do anything - that’s not true. You have the power to make your immediate surroundings better, and you have the power to make changes in this country.

You can volunteer at a gay or women's rights organization (I hope you can see how qLit has managed to bring small or larger changes even in many people’s lives), volunteer in the district where you live to make your own environment better, but you can easily become an activist for political parties. At qLit, we don't usually talk about politics openly, and we still won't tell you which parties to choose. The point is, you can make a difference, too, and participate in the work until the April 2022 election - just over a year left! A lot of people and a lot of activists are needed.

During the municipal elections in 2019, we once experienced the power of activists, actively engaging people on the streets - knocking on doors, picking up trash, spreading the news among their acquaintances, convincing their mom and girlfriends to show up at the polls.

Don’t underestimate the power of this, and don’t underestimate your own strength or significance in this process.

To answer the question in the title: I won't tell you to go or to stay. I just want to stress again: don’t think you can’t do anything to improve your quality of life. It’ll be quite the challenge, but believe me, it’s also a very tough commitment if you’re willing to build a new life for yourself in a foreign country. We will discuss the issue again in May 2022. 

Translated by Emese Balog

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