Propaganda is a sensitive buzzword that is likely to incite violent emotions, particularly when used in the context of gay issues. In fact, the very display of homosexuality seems to be a provocative gesture for a number of deeply rooted reasons.
But can homosexuality really be “promoted?”
This past year, the usual debate erupted around the Gay Pride Parade in Budapest — if not about the fact itself but about possible routes and destinations. Andrássy Avenue and Erzsébet Square were OK, but Kossuth Square was declared off limits. Apparently, the significance of occupying symbolic spaces is recognized not only by Parade participants but by law enforcement as well, even if the officially cited reason is the obstruction of traffic. Pertinently, the point of such a parade is precisely to “obstruct regular traffic.” Its form of appearance and topography are just as critical as its purport and general mood.
Among the various minority groups, sexual minorities are distinguished by two features. First — contrary to a publicly and privately held misconception — alternative sexual orientation is not necessarily visible to the naked eye. Whether this is to be welcomed or lamented is a matter of perspective (and social climate). Hence the problematic of invisibility and public display. Being hidden equals protection but also disappearance. It is this inevitable blending in that a gay parade seeks to symbolically counter by putting difference on display, if only for a few hours. Often intentionally conspicuous and excessive, this display will be offensive to many. In fact, even the most restrained and self-effacing gay parades tend to elicit repulsion. This is why a gay parade will always remain something that frustrated crowds will want to throw things at, and the powers that be will want to ban or at least render as invisible as possible.
The second distinctive feature is related to the first. It is the quality of being linked to sexuality, a primal and intimate experience, which makes the issue extremely sensitive and loaded with reluctance, for those involved as well as for outsiders. A case in point is the rhetoric that invokes “naturalness” and the “protection of minors” in an attempt to fight what they call “the promotion of homosexuality.” This is at the root of the in public/in private conflict. “I don’t care as long as they do it behind their walls.” Do what? Look at each other? Or the gay movement itself? Nobody wants to take their sexual life to the street, let alone “promote” it. However, a certain degree of expressing emotions and discoursing about one’s partner (or the absence thereof) forms a “natural” part of generally accepted (heterosexual) norms. And if you regard homosexuality as a human rights issue, the question is no longer that of sheer sexual preference. Homophobia is not a private affair. This is what a “pride march” highlights — “What exactly are they proud of?”, many ask — while enabling participants to show themselves in public as they are, safely and freely, no matter how briefly. In this sense, a gay parade is not unlike an utterance or representation by any other minority. In fact, it makes no difference that the discrimination here is based on sexual orientation, even though this clearly has an impact on the substance of the identities and the nature of prejudices involved. The issue has infiltrated public institutions, demonstrating that more than just private discretion is at stake. For instance, the mingling of public and private affairs has been in evidence at several registry offices, where the officials have composed novel welcome addresses since July 2009. Who knows how long they will carry on?
Translated by Peter Lengyel