A shout out to Budapest Pride and everyone else

I remember the first year I walked the Pride Parade in Budapest. I was a Swedish chick on holiday in the city and thought it sounded like a fun party. But then I spoke to some Hungarian friends about it, and they tried to convince me not to go. They said it was too risky. Too dangerous. Our debates were ongoing. I was all like “How could you not join in, do you not support free love?!” And they were all like: “Sure, we support free love, Antonia, but this is not Sweden! It’s not all happiness and acceptance. The Pride week here is still a controversial issue. Walking that march might get you into serious trouble.”
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Well, I must confess. They got me scared. They made me doubt. I started googling and looking into their facts and found an extreme right-wing group on Facebook called “One million people against the Budapest Pride Parade”. This group planned how they would fight, trash and totally destroy the festival. How they would bring their weapons and batter those “fucking gays”to the ground. When I realised this aggressive group had more likes than the official Budapest Pride page, I got truly worried. Was the hatred really majority? And how could we let these angry voices win? This made me want to walk the parade even more! It made me want to shout my message even louder. And be there with the open-minded people, supporting with my presence, on the right side of the fence.

 

So what does the Budapest Pride crew stand for? ‘Cause it’s really not about who is gay or who is straight. It’s about human rights, equality and freedom. It’s about standing up for minorities. This is what they say about themselves:

“Budapest Pride is a society where homophobic, transphobic, sexist, racist, and other oppressive speech is not tolerated. Where no one is forced into gender roles and gender norms, where no one is the victim of harassment and violence, where we can live freely without fear. Where diversity is valued, where people accept themselves and others, where the importance of knowing yourself is recognized, and where people work actively to improve the world around them.”

 

Now back to my summer that year…

When the parade started there wasn’t a single bad vibe in the air. People smiling, dancing, holding hands. Positive energies. Excitement. Music. “Just like in Sweden”, I thought. But a lot less people, with just as much love. Suddenly, after about twenty minutes of walking, we got attacked. I didn’t see exactly what happened, but I heard screamings and a big group of people arrived from nowhere. Dogs barking, I heard yellings and sieg heils. All of a sudden the situation felt unsafe. In between us and the extremists were the cops, trying to restrain them. We got pushed back, forced to turn around and walk back to the starting point, where we were forced to stay. The area around us was blocked by the police. No one was allowed to leave, because the extremists were all around. We were there for an hour or two, waiting for everything to calm down. We didn’t do anything but wait. After what felt like an eternity, things calmed down and we were allowed to go. I guess the extremists left when they realised we didn’t do much. They got bored when they realised they won’t be able to beat up a “fucking gay” on that lovely summer’s day either.

So, that was many years ago. What happened after? I returned to Sweden when the summer ended. I moved to a forest and wrote music for a year. I travelled a lot. Barcelona, Berlin, Rome, London, Milano. But always returning to Budapest. And watching the amazing process that we can thank Budapest Pride for.

Honestly, I don’t really know how the social climate has changed in the big picture. Some say Hungary is a sinking ship and some say the future is looking brighter if we keep going forward. Well, I can only look at my surroundings and observe what I see. And what I see is something I didn’t see years ago. I see a lot more openness, a lot more support, a lot more active debates, a lot more diversity. There is a new tolerance and a new movement, that keeps growing. There is a lot more people that dare to be brave and speak up. And my friends who told me not to walk the parade a few years ago, they are now walking with me.

So I left Stockholm this year in March and moved to Budapest. When I got here, I knew I wanted to participate and do something for/with the Pride team, in any way possible. So when I got invited to sing at the festival and also talk in Tilos Radio about the event, it meant a lot to me. I don’t want to say that my contribution is making a huge difference, because it doesn’t. But it’s important to know, that it does make a difference, just like everybody’s contribution does. Piece by piece, bit by bit…

Sometimes people’s defence for not being more active is “I don’t see how my actions would make a difference.” And this is a recurring problem, I think. That we don’t dare to believe that we can be part of the change, or even be the change. As if our thoughts or actions don’t possess power. As if we’re not all a big chain reaction. We don’t have to be politicans to make a difference. The only thing we can do, is to keep our hearts open towards the people around us – and then see how far it reaches. And I really see this chain reaction happening the last year. Famous Hungarian actors, authors, politicians and other celebrities have openly stood up for Budapest Pride. And everytime someone stands up for a minority, I’m sure there is someone else going “If they can do it, I’m gonna do it too.”

I’m thinking of all the teenage girls and boys, who are lonely and lost in their own identity, searching and wondering if there’s anyone out there who might understand them and accept them for who they are. Where do these teens turn for comfort first? Probably the internet. So when this happens,  suddenly Facebook is a very important place. I’m thinking of that right-wing group I found a few years ago. How could we allow that to be what these teens come across first? Well, thank God, that these days it has changed enough, that these kids can google and find what Pride has done and realise there is a world for them too, – waiting with huge, accepting, open arms.

(And hey, while we’re at it, feel free to report groups that are filled with abusive material, like racism or homophobia. It’s anonymous to report and completely justified. This type of hate speech violates the Facebook Terms and are just a click away from getting removed.)

So, to sum this all up, next Friday, December 13th, I’m singing a few songs at Pride’s Year End Party. It’s a spontaneous little celebration of the process and all the achievements of this year. It’s a celebration for every person that has felt a tiny bit more safe. In his own city, in his own country, in his own skin.

So let’s end this year with a big fucking toast and hope to see you all there!

 

Much love,

Antonia