What was LGBTQ+ life like in communist Hungary? – PHOTO, VIDEO
How did members of the LGBTQ+ community find love before Grinder and other dating apps? And what other cute encounters were possible during the Dark Ages of Communism? What secrets did certain thermal baths hold after closing hours? Find the answers in our article.
In 1950s Hungary, loving the wrong person could make you a criminal. The subject of homosexuality was so little discussed that a person could be well into their teens before they even realized they were about to do something illegal. The communist regime was also characterized by the absence of a private sphere, as the state police and ordinary men who enjoyed momentary authority in certain contexts – such as the janitor, garbage collectors, neighbors and co-workers – easily access to the person’s private belongings. . Knowing this, members of the LGBTQ+ community truly had their hands tied as the threat of being arrested constantly lurked around the corner.
Although the gay liberation movement was still a far-fetched idea, the 1960s saw some relaxation of the law. A new bill has been added to the Penal Code that decriminalizes same-sex acts between consenting adults in private, which previously carried a one-year prison sentence. However, blackmail remained a common practice as secret state police often threatened to use their sensitive information against interrogates and detainees. Until 1989, State Security kept files on all gay men it knew and often forcibly recruited them as agents to report other citizens.
Read more: Vandalism and humiliation of a lesbian couple in the streets of Budapest – VIDEO
According to a LVH article on hot men by Mária Takács, documentary on the cold dictatorship on homosexuality under the Kádár regime (1957-89), the most frequented gay place was the Egyetem Presszó (university cafe) which was located on the Felszabadulás Square, now known as Ferenciek Square in downtown Budapest. During the day it operated as a regular cafe, however, after 10pm customers were checked by security. It was a one-of-a-kind concept at the time. Members of the LGBTQ+ community mostly gathered at house parties which also provided a platform for early transgender performances. These famous house parties often had more than 100 visitors and you had to have good connections to get an invitation.
Some baths in the capital, such as the Rudas Bath on the hilly side of Buda which gained a certain reputation, were also commonly frequented by LGBTQ+ people, especially gay people. On certain days of the week, Rudas only accommodated single men and gay couples. Bathing suits were not required, guests wore only tiny aprons around the waist, which facilitated lustful thoughts. It was not uncommon to see couples openly engaging in sex in the middle of the Turkish bath. Aprons had been regulated only a few years ago after numerous petitions and open scandals.
At the time, another popular meeting place was the Duna-korzó (Duna Promenade). While walking on the scenic shore, LGBTQ people should be careful when approaching each other. Usually they would resort to initiating conversation when they came to a more secluded alley. Public restrooms also served as strategic places to find romantic or sexual partners. The walls were covered with scribbles, secret messages and landline numbers that people from the LGBTQ+ community left for each other.
The 1980s brought important milestones for this marginalized community. In 1982 Hungarian director Károly Makk’s remarkable film work Egymásra Nézve (Another Way) was released, which was the first film portraying homosexuality in a positive light. It faithfully depicts the political and sexual repression in Hungary following the lesbian love affair between journalist Éva Szalancky and her married friend, Livia. If you were invited to a movie night by an attractive stranger that time, chances are he had more than friendship on his mind.
Moreover, the first registered LGBTQ+ organization had been created, a year before the regime change. The Homeros Association began its activities in 1988 after receiving state permission, which was probably granted so easily due to the spread of global HIV-related panic. The association, which was unique not only in Hungary but also in the entire Eastern European region, advocated for safer sex and AIDS awareness. They also regularly held events and gatherings that allowed LGBTQ+ members to mingle and get to know each other in a safe and supportive environment.
If you want to learn more about LGBTQ+ life in communist Hungary, the aforementioned 2015 documentary Hot Men, Cold Dictatorships might interest you. Below you can watch the trailer with English subtitles.
Read more: Sex and eroticism in socialist Hungary
Source: hvg.hu, socio.hu, 444.hu