Local traditions


Lajos Romsauer
Lajos Romsauer
The idea of organizing the first gay festival came in the years following the end of communism. However, the announcement of Hungary’s first Gay Pride in 1992 was in vain: the event was cancelled because of lack of interest.

But the organizers didn’t give up. They started thinking about other kinds of gatherings, and they invited lesbians and gays to a picnic! The first Pink Picnic was jointly organized by the Gay Actionteam of ELTE, Homeros Association, Lambda Budapest Friends Association, the editorial staff of Mások, Miskolc Homeros and VándorMások (a gay hiking association) on the 13th of September.


The first gay film festival took place in the Toldi Cinema. In the years following the transition, the event was a sensation, as had been the Pink Picnic now seen as the forerunner of the festivals. The inspiration for the Pink Week organized by the Béla Balázs Studio from 26th November to 1st December was World AIDS Day. In addition to the films a conference on AIDS and about the relationship between gays and the media was organized, and the participants commemorated the victims of AIDS with a procession of lights.

The program of Pink Week can be found at pride.hu.


We had to wait four years for the second gay festival. It was organized in June 1997 in the Hunnia Cinema. Also, the Hungarian gays and lesbians marched for the first time in this year, on the 6th of September, 1997, instead of the traditional Pink Picnic. The march started at the Capella Cafe, and passed along the Danube promenade, to arrive at Vörösmarty square.

Balázs Pálfi (a journalist who calls himself a “public fag”) commented on the name of the march: “We are proud not of our gayness, but that in 1997 we have reached the point at which we can raise our heads, and showing ourselves, say: ‘We are here; this is who we are!’”

Local traditions
Local traditions
Close to three hundred proud gays and lesbians for the first time openly expressed their difference in the streets of Budapest – causing no small surprise to the citizens of Budapest. (And, of course, Zsiga, the leader of VándorMások, would never have thought that when, at the entrance of Capella Cafe, we gave him a placard that had been lying around, with the words: “It’s Good to Be a Faggot!”, that the next week he would get onto the front page of Magyar Narancs and push his own coming-out miles ahead…)

Sisso, the editor of Magyar Narancs called the First Budapest Pride the happiest festival in the period after the change of system, and “the fastest sand drift” (a play of words on “homokos" - an old Hungarian word for gays). We were really “the fastest sand drift”, because the fear in our guts made us march fast, and we felt intuitively that we had to get back very quickly along Váci street to the safety of the Capella Cafe. A variety of programs (film screenings, writer-reader meetings, roundtable discussions) were waiting there for the marchers.


3rd Hungarian Lesbian and Gay Film and Cultural Festival

Venue: Central European University

The festival, now expanded to four days, was held at Central European University; from this year the march also became part of the film festival. More than five hundred people marched with music, flags and banners. We can’t forget our first counterdemonstrator, who was waiting for the marchers with a sign labeled “BUZI GO HOME”. The route was far longer than in the previous year. It started from Central European University (CEU) and, passing the Basilica, and along the Kiskörút, through Astoria, Kossuth Lajos street and Váci street, it arrived at Vörösmarty square where Gábor Halmai, the famous constitutional lawyer, made a speech: he said that the only restrictions of rights which are acceptable for gays are those which also affect heterosexuals in a constitutional system. Then he spoke about how one day it would be needless for gays to engage in politics, when “the members of the gay community can just sit in a cafe and have a good time, instead of marching for their rights in the street.” Géza Juhász spoke at the end of the march, saying that “we hold ourselves equal and fully-valued citizens in every minute of our lives. We want to not only watch films about the freedom or beauty of love, but we ourselves also want to love freely and beautifully.”


4th Gay and Lesbian Festival, July 1–4

Venue: Central European University
Opening Speech: Iván Pető – SZDSZ party
Route of the March: CEU – Zrínyi Street – Bajcsy Zs. Street – Károly Boulevard – Kossuth L. Street – Váci Street – Vörösmarty Square

The members of the LGBT community gathered together at CEU this year, too. The central issue was the gay-excluding family policy bill, which the then-government had quickly snuck through Parliament. The number of marchers was similar to the previous year’s. While the number of participants in the festival had clearly increased over the years, the number of those who dared to march in the streets in front of TV cameras had not changed over the past three years. This was a signal that we were still far from the turning point, when homosexuality will no longer be a stigmatized taboo, when gays and lesbians will no longer have to deny who they are, in a society which excludes them.

This year the festival appeared on the Internet with its own website, at gaypride.hu.


5th Gay and Lesbian Festival, June 29–July 2

Venue: Trafó – House of Contemporary Arts
Opening Speech: László Rajk – SzDSz party
Route of the March: Olympic Park – Parliament – Freedom Square – Bank Street – Bajcsy Zs. Street – Károly Boulevard – Kossuth L. Street – Free Press Road – Váci Street – Pesti Barnabás Street – Romkert

“Take off your masks!” was the slogan for this year’s festival. The Gay Pride Day parade was held on Saturday, July 1st. Arriving at Kossuth square, the participants of the march, together with the associations organizing the festival, submitted a petition, as well as a statement by Bill Clinton, the then president of the USA, to the Parliament. More than one thousand people took part in the march, a significantly higher number compared to previous years. Capella Cafe had a crucial part in organizing the march that year; they contributed significantly to the excellent organization of Pride. They organized the opening and closing programs, and made the march the most spectacular one yet.


6th Gay and Lesbian Festival, July 5–8

Venue: Kultiplex
Opening Speech: Gáspár Miklós Tamás  – SzDSz party
Route of the March: Felvonulási Square – Andrássy Street – József Attila Street – Eötvös Square – the dock at Vigadó Square 

This year’s festival brought a change in the history of our country’s festivals: while previously the Lambda Budapest Gay Friends Association (the editorial staff of Mások magazine), the Háttér Support Society for Gays and Lesbians, the Labrisz Lesbian Association and other associations, groups and individuals had organized the event, now the Rainbow Mission Foundation, consisting of members delegated by the various gay associations, was specifically created to be the official festival organizer. The route of the March changed from this year on, as well: it began at Marching Square behind the Art Hall. At Vigadó Square, two inter-connected ships were waiting for the marchers for a late afternoon boating. The Pride March was opened by Alan Reiff, chairman of Interpride and co-chairman of World Pride Commission. Reiff was the organizer of the fourth New York Gay Pride Parade, in which 1.5 million people took part.

Because the parade came into contact with Heroes’ Square, right-wing or far-right groups, such as the Association of the Hungarian Political Prisoners, the Community of Political Convicts, the Committee of Historical Justice and the World Federation of Proven Hungarian Freedom Fighters, asked the police to ban the march. The Hungarian Catholic Bishops’ Conference and the Ecumenical Council of Churches in Hungary also took part in this debate. According to their joint statement to the press: “this kind of behavior runs counter to human nature, so it should be considered unnatural (…) and it is not acceptable that an unnatural behavior introduces itself to the public as a positive value.”


7th Gay and Lesbian Festival, June 27–30

Venue: Gutenberg Cultural Center
Opening Speech: Gábor Demszky – Lord Mayor of Budapest, SzDSz party
Route of the March: Felvonulási Square – Andrássy Street – Deák Square – Károly Boulevard – Astoria – Kossuth L. Street – Elizabeth Bridge – Tabán 

Local traditions
Local traditions
After a long wait, in the 2002 election year Gábor Demszky, the Lord Mayor, opened the four day celebration of LGBT society with the following words: “I say, quoting Bibo, that a citizen is one who is not afraid. You, my friends, do not fear. Your courage makes you citizens. Without brave, active citizens, this city would never have developed. You do not need to be accepted by the city; it is the city that needs you.” The parade was opened by Péter Gusztos, the leader of SzDSz New Generation. The young liberal had become known to LGBT people the previous year, when he stood beside us in the Sziget-case. The march, with more than 2000 participants, ended at the Tabán. The day was ended by the Rainbow Party, held at the Millenium Salon.


8th Gay and Lesbian Cultural and Film Festival, July 3–6.

Venue: Művész Cinema
Opening Speech: Joke Swiebel – EP representative (EP Parliamentary Group of European Socialists)
Route of the March: Felvonulási Square - Andrássy street – Deák Square – Károly Boulevard – Astoria – Kossuth L. St. – Erzsébet Bridge - Tabán

A critical change in the history of the festival was that this year the film festival lost its nomadic character, and instead settled into a more technically suitable, socially prestigious location: the Budapest Film group’s Művész Cinema.

This year too we succeeded in inviting many foreign guest to the festival and Pride, with the help of the Green Youth, among others. Joke Swiebel, the Dutch representative to the European Parliament, the EP’s 2003 reporter on Human Rights, and Chair of the Intergroup on Gay and Lesbian Rights, gave the opening speech at the Pride March. Katja Husen, a representative of the German Green party, and Farid Müller (Alliance ’90/The Greens, Germany), the Vice-President of the Hamburg Parliament and spokesperson of the German Green’s Gay and Lesbian Group, gave speeches as well. At the end of the Pride March, Gustav Fridolin, Parliamentary representative of the Swedish Green Party (Miljöpartiet de Gröna), greeted the participants.

The visibility of the Pride March grew this year as well, as several gay nightclubs and companies (Alibi Music Café, Arco Iris, Angyal Bár), as well as the main organizers of the festival, the Rainbow Mission Foundation, came to the march with decorated trucks. Afterwards, the second Rainbow Party welcomed tired marchers with a spectacular show.


9th Gay and Lesbian Cultural and Film Festival, July 1-4.

Venue: Művész Cinema
Opening Speech: Dr. Csaba Tabard - MEP (MSzP)
Route of the March: Felvonulási Square - Andrássy Street - Erzsébet Square - József Attila Street - Roosevelt Square - Chain Bridge - Lánchíd Street - Döbrentei Square - Tabán 

In 2004 the March once again aroused tremendous interest in the media. Around 2000 people took part. The March’s opening speech was given by a transgender activist, whose speech stressed how important it is that we pay attention to our own minorities.

Citing the traffic problems two years earlier, the Budapest Chief of Police granted a permit to cross the Chain Bridge instead of the customary Elizabeth Bridge. The good mood of the Marchers wasn’t spoiled by the fact that, shortly after the beginning of the March, a homophobic person standing on the sidewalk threw a stone at the procession, or that Attila Bégány, the MDF’s representative for the V. District, and a number of comrades began a counter-demonstration at Deák tér, in the name of “protecting children” (it might have done so, if there had been more than about eighteen of them...). And already at our event this year the “professional” provocateur Tomcat appeared, with his sign announcing “I’m Not.”


10th LGBT Festival, July 7-10.

Venue: Művész Cinema
Opening Speech: Kinga Göncz - Equal Opportunity Minister
Route of the March: Felvonulási Square - Andrássy Street - József Attila Street - Roosevelt Square - Chain Bridge - Lánchíd Street - Tabán

This year the Festival commemorated its Jubilee: the tenth time we had come together, to show ourselves and celebrate. The Jobbik for Hungary Movement called for the resignation of Kinga Göncz because she agreed to open the LGBT community’s biggest event. Now, after the previous year’s concerns about the Elizabeth Bridge, the authorities began to worry about the condition of the Chain Bridge, and its status as a monument. Finally the powerful officials consented to let us cross the Chain Bridge with our trucks. This time Tomcat attempted to bombard the Marchers with egg-bombs. He failed, but not because of the police: the remote control he had attached to the top of the Chain Bridge was set for Thursday instead of Saturday!


11th LGBT Festival, June 22-25.

Venue: Művész Cinema
Opening Speech: Klára Ungár (SzDSz)
Route of the March: Felvonulási Square - Heroes’ Square - Oktogon - Blaha Lujza Square - Baross Street - Kálvin Square - Fővám Square - Buddha Beach

Every year brought something new to the range of programs. One of the previous year’s big innovations was the Info Wall, where nearly all the LGBT organizations, social groups, and businesses were represented. In 1998 and 1999, gay tours of the city were organized for anyone interested. In 2002 a gay monument was established in memory of Károly Kertbeny in the Fiumei Street cemetery, at which, every year on the day of the March, the gay organizations lay memorial wreaths.

In the last 11 years more than 200 films were shown at the Festivals. Among these we have seen many prize-winning works - in some cases before their Hungarian premiere. If all these films were shown continuously, one after another, the film projector would run for nearly 210 hours.


12th LGBT Festival, July 5-8.

Venue: Művész Cinema
Opening Speech: Szetey Gábor - Secretary of State for Human Resources
Route of the March: Felvonulási Square - Dózsa György Street - Andrássy Street - Oktogon - Erzsébet Boulevard - Blaha Lujza Square - József Boulevard - Ferenc Boulevard - Boráros Square - Közraktár Street - Buddha Beach

2007 was a turning point for the Hungarian LGBT community in more ways than one. We both witnessed and were the victims of events which we never could have imagined in previous years.

On the festival’s opening day, Gábor Szetey, the government’s Secretary of State for Human Resources, came out publicly in the Művész Cinema. Klára Dobrev, Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány’s wife, Health Minister Ágnes Horváth, Environment Minister Gábor Fodor, János Kóka, the leader of the SZDSZ party, and well-known politicians Mátyás Eörsi, Péter Gusztos, Bálint Magyar, and András Léderer were all at the opening as well.

The second occurrence, which we remember less fondly: the Gay Pride March suffered violent attacks. Regrettably, the police failed to protect members of the LGBT community, either during the March, or at that evening’s Rainbow Party. As a result, that Saturday evening, extreme right-wing groups assaulted lesbians and gays openly in the streets.

The history of the film festival reached its own turning point in 2007: the 12th LGBT Festival’s screenings were the second most popular event of the year at the Művész Cinema!


13th LGBT Festival, July 2-6.

Venue: Művész Cinema
Opening Speech:  Katalin Lévai – EP representative
Route of the March: Erzsébet Square – Andrássy Street – Oktogon – Felvonulási Square

If 2007 could be called a year of turning points for the festival, it was even more true of 2008. Művész Cinema showed more films than ever before in one week, and the attendance remained high despite attacks against other gay establishments.  The organizers changed the name of the march this year to Gay Dignity March, and the opening ceremony started with the Hungarian Hymn. It was a kind of reaction to the extremists’ attack, so that the gay community could clearly show – in the face of the extremists’ attempts to monopolize national identity – that it too is Hungarian, as well as the dignity involved in standing up for rights.

Press photo by Zsolt Szigetvári
Press photo by Zsolt Szigetvári
Unfortunately, the most significant turning point this year was the intensification of aggression. Just before the festival, in an attempt to frighten people away, Molotov-cocktails were thrown into gay clubs. The march itself faced organized attacks: crowds of eggs were thrown at the dodging marchers; fireworks exploded among them; stones too, causing – thankfully – only minor injuries, were thrown; many people were sprayed with foul-smelling acids; and behind the police cordons people yelled constant abuse…. In addition, all the marchers who had gathered at Felvonulási square at the end of the March had to be escorted away: the police herded the crowd to the subway, and the trains stopped at the “clean” Bajcsy-Zsilinszky stop, from which people could safely disperse.

Besides all of this, however, perhaps never before had so many non-LGBT individuals and organizations participated in the march, which strongly signified their support for rights. Public figures and organizations reacted to the situation as well, and in the aftermath of the attacks several civil initiatives were launched, whose slogan became: “We’ve had enough of violence against minorities!”