Hungary has a long history of anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment through the current premiership of Victor Orban, who presents himself against certain vulnerable groups in society – notably immigrants and gay people, famously expressing this in a speech announcing that, in Europe, "we have arrived at the necessity of traditional values."
Recently, the item that has caught his eye on the agenda of cleansing the nation occurred at the National Museum of Hungary, concerning a collation of artworks by Filipino photographer Hanna Reyes Morales. Hungarian lawmakers lambasted her art as the exhibition was unlawful in its lack of adherence to a 2021 law banning promotion and displays of homosexuality in the media. Orban's government attempts to string the nation back to the past of stigmatising understanding of gay relationships.
The photos in question are of an elderly LGBTQ+ couple and individuals dressed in drag and wearing makeup, striking hairs to attention on the backs of many a Hungarian lawmaker. This shock is based on the presupposition that those in drag are dangerous and predatory to children. Yet these photos are not the least explicit in nature, and this is hardly promoting or encouraging same-gender relationships; more than anything, it fosters those who are gay to feel some sense of representation.
In addition, the gallery was stern about restricting entry to those under eighteen. Orban's government laments this is done for protection, assuming some inherent danger for children and instils the mythicised idea that those belonging to the LGBTQ+ community are immoral people – further building the assumption that gay people and their art represent degeneracy.
Having transparency in what children see in schools and parental discretion is understandable, but outright banning stretches the grey area of where governments ought to operate and govern. In the same way, we are cautious of what children are doing. They must be protected from sights that could harm their development; but ignorance is also harmful, and exposure to differing lifestyles is undoubtedly an important prospect. Children should be safeguarded, and policies should be secured against sights and images that can be disturbing. This issue represents neither of these.
We limit our perspectives and ability to understand those different from us by only viewing art representing those of a non-stigmatised background. By doing so, no art challenges world views. Understanding comes from education and produces a sense of tolerance. Art requires a level of relatability in a pluralistic society. Prohibiting this censors art, which is restrictive, reductionist and poses a perceived threat to the freedoms of what people can see, view, or understand. Its impact is all but gone in this world.