Hungary’s new anti-LGBTQ law looms over drag queen competition near Budapest

In a back room of a dilapidated former factory outside Budapest, contestants wearing huge fake eyelashes and glittering dresses prepare for the annual Hungarian drag queen competition, hoping it won’t be the last.

“Let’s party hard while we still can,” drag queen Bonnie Andrews shouted to a cheering crowd as she took the stage in a black evening gown and tiara.

Hungary’s parliament passed legislation on June 15 tightening rules against pedophilia and banning the distribution of content in schools that would promote homosexuality and gender reassignment.

The law will come into effect next week and artists, guests and organizers of the contest said they feared its impact on Hungary’s LGBTQ+ community.

Contestant Katheryne Taylor said she feared the law could encourage those intolerant of the LGBTQ+ community.

“We are afraid to get on the tram. When we do, we put our hands in our pockets to hide our painted nails. However, we have always done this,” she said.

Hardline nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who faces elections next year, has become increasingly radical on social policy, cracking down on LGBTQ+ people and immigrants.

Orban came under fire at the EU leaders’ summit last week over the law, which the German minister of European Affairs said clearly violates the values ​​of the European Union. A Swedish minister called the legislation “grotesque”.

“I don’t think we should be confused with it, and I don’t think anything like this should happen in the 21st century,” said Myra Pixel as she prepared for her performance.

Competition organizer Tamas Doka said he had tried to ensure no demonstrators showed up that evening, and that the site – a converted factory on a crumbling industrial estate on the outskirts of Budapest – was chosen partly for safety reasons.

“They are afraid. Afraid of … extremists who start throwing things at them, of being verbally hurt,” he said. “The location allows us to let guests in, lock the door and then someone else has to ring the bell. We’re isolated here.”

Under the new law, drag shows will not be banned, but must begin after 10 p.m. with no minors in the audience.

All the artists Reuters spoke to said they were concerned about the new legislation but hadn’t had any negative experiences so far.

Last year’s winner, Valerie Divine, said most Hungarians accepted the LGBTQ+ community. “I feel very happy in that regard.”


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