Perverse Frictions: Pride, Dignity, and the Budapest LGBT Marchby Hadley Z. Renkin



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Perverse Frictions: Pride,

Dignity, and the Budapest

LGBT March

Hadley Z. Renkina a Central European University, Budapest, Hungary

Published online: 05 Mar 2014.

To cite this article: Hadley Z. Renkin (2015) Perverse Frictions: Pride, Dignity, and the Budapest LGBT March, Ethnos: Journal of Anthropology, 80:3, 409-432, DOI: 10.1080/00141844.2013.879197

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Perverse Frictions: Pride, Dignity, and the

Budapest LGBT March

Hadley Z. Renkin

Central European University, Budapest, Hungary abstract Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) marches are critical and contentious events throughout post-socialist Europe: key sites of emerging sexual politics, shifting tensions between national and transnational meanings, and competing visions of citizenship. Since 1997 a ‘Pride March’, in 2008 Budapest’s LGBT march was renamed the ‘DignityMarch’. Taking this change as its focus, this paper explores debates within and outside Hungary’s LGBTcommunity about the meanings of ‘Pride’, ‘Dignity’, and sexuality. I argue these debates reveal competing efforts to negotiate the perilous boundaries between national and transnational discourses of identity, politics, and belonging. Situating them within Hungary’s shifting political context, including recent violent attacks on the March, I suggest the move from the politics of Pride to the politics of Dignity has failed to escape the frictions of intersecting global and local discourses, instead invoking new cultural–political tensions, exclusionary boundaries, and dilemmas of identity, belonging, and politics for Hungarian LGBT people and activism. keywords Pride, dignity, post-socialism, sexual politics, globalising sexualities,


On 4 September 2010, in an event of some notoriety, widely publicisedas the ‘Hetero Pride Day March’, a small group of right-wing, nation-alist demonstrators marched through the centre of Budapest,

Hungary. Demanding a ‘Faggot-free Hungary!’ and bearing banners with anti-gay slogans and the right-wing’s signature red-and-white-striped A´rpa´d flags, the marchers, mostly skinheads in black combat boots, camouflage, and neo-Nazi gear, followed the traditional path through Budapest of the city’s annual Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) March, long known as the Pride March. In their speeches, the organizers and participants of ethnos, vol. 80:3, 2015 (pp. 409–432), # 2014 Taylor & Francis

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Hetero Pride – including Elo´´d Nova´k, well-known Parliamentary representative of the right-wing Movement for a Better Hungary (Jobbik Magyarorsza´ge´rt Mozgalom – known popularly as Jobbik),1 resplendent in folk costume, and his wife and fellow Jobbik representative Do´ra Du´ro´, spectacularly feminine in miniskirt and red high heels – proclaimed that, after years of being forced to tolerate the ‘deviance’ of LGBT Pride marches, it was high time heterosexuals in Hungary expressed their pride. Arguing that LGBT ‘Pride’ was just ‘exhibitionism’, and not true political expression, they ended the march by publicly demanding that Parliament deny homosexuals the right to assemble or demonstrate in public spaces.2

Ironically, just two years earlier, in the spring of 2008, an event of a different kind took place: with little fanfare, the name of Hungary’s LGBT March was officially changed by its organisers, the Rainbow Mission Foundation, from the ‘Gay Pride Day March’ (Meleg Bu¨szkese´gnapi Felvonula´s) which it had been called since its inception in 1997, to the ‘Gay Dignity March’ (Meleg

Me´lto´sa´g Menet).3

Both these events were responses to increasing tensions in Hungary over the public visibility of LGBT people, including a dramatic surge in public homophobia in the last several years, most visibly manifest in violent attacks by nationalists and neo-Nazis on the Pride March beginning in 2007. Yet both were also responses to long-standing debates over the meaning of the Budapest