View profile

The “Rainbow, Goat and Stadium” Edition 🌈🐐🏟️

The “Rainbow, Goat and Stadium” Edition 🌈🐐🏟️
By Weekly Focus by n-ost • Issue #10 • View online
Hi and welcome to the 10th issue of the Weekly Focus!
Did you know that you can find our newsletters on Twitter? Follow us @n_ost and be sure to send us a DM. We’d love to hear from you!

Happy pride month. Europe’s LGBTQ community has faced a lot lately following the new anti-LGBTQ legislation in Hungary and a disappointing decision by UEFA to stand its ground about the “rainbow stadium” in Munich. Now, Poland is already dropping hints that it wants to adopt a similar policy of its own. And the Czech Republic’s president, who sided with Viktor Orban’s new law, is spitting transphobic comments.
The opposing views on the Budapest legislation have split Europe in half — between the east and west. Right away, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg denounced the legislation in a joint statement. In total, 17 member states out of 27 voiced their disapproval of Budapest’s latest legislation. How far will their resistance go in defending Europeans against this newest attack on their fundamental human rights?
But it would be naïve to think that homophobia and transphobia are solely symptoms of the East and rural villages — are politicians with even the most ‘progressive’ LGBTQ policies really doing enough to ensure that queer and trans people’s rights are being respected? In fact, some may go as far as to instrumentalise LGBTQ rights to push their own agendas whether that be in the right — or left — direction.
Lucy Martirosyan, this week’s Editorial Coordinator
Zsófia Fülöp (Budapest), Daiva Repečkaitė (Valletta), Judith Langowski (Berlin), Wojciech Karpieszuk (Warsaw), Anneleen Ophoff (Brussels).
Zsófia Fülöp (Budapest), Daiva Repečkaitė (Valletta), Judith Langowski (Berlin), Wojciech Karpieszuk (Warsaw), Anneleen Ophoff (Brussels).
🇭🇺 The birth of a new scapegoat
Another goat in front of the Hungarian Parliament. Photo: nol.
Another goat in front of the Hungarian Parliament. Photo: nol.
Choose an enemy, preferably a minority who can’t fight back effectively – this is the popular method of the Hungarian right-wing ruling Fidesz party, especially right before parliamentary elections. But since Roma people are not that unique anymore (their problems like poverty and unemployment became the problems of many others) and even the most vulgar anti-refugee propaganda gets boring at some point, the self-proclaimed ’saviors of traditional family values’ thought: why not LGBTQ people this time? 
“We don’t have that kind of law [on homosexuality], we have a law on defending the kids and the parents,” responded Viktor Orbán at last week’s EU Summit to the overwhelming criticism. But what began as a law against paedophilia ended up as an anti-LGBTQ law – similar to Russia’s “anti-gay propaganda” one.
In fact, the government gradually built up its new scapegoat one step at a time: In May 2019, Fidesz’ Parliament Speaker  compared  same-sex couples raising children to paedophilia; in May 2020, a new bill forbid transgender and intersex people to legally recognize their gender; in December 2020, the government made it harder for unmarried couples to adopt children and passed an amendment to the Fundamental Law saying ’the mother is a woman, the father is a man.’ (Fun fact: József Szájer, one of the Fundamental Law’s author was caught at a gay orgy in Brussels).
And the new scapegoat seems to be working already: The opposition that finally agreed to run unitedly in the next elections is already divided on the issue. And while 46% of Hungarians believe that LGBTQ people shouldn’t have the same rights as heterosexuals, the other half demonstrates on the streets and floods social media with rainbow emojis to show their support.
Ahead of the 2022 parliamentary elections, the ruling party will continue to split society and opposition as much as it can – because if they are united, Fidesz can be in trouble. 
Zsófia Fülöp (@zsofia_fulop) is a Hungarian journalist with a focus on health care, social issues and politics at the independent weekly magyarnarancs.hu. She is part of that 48% of Hungarians who agree that LGBTQ people have the same rights as heterosexuals.
Zsófia Fülöp (@zsofia_fulop) is a Hungarian journalist with a focus on health care, social issues and politics at the independent weekly magyarnarancs.hu. She is part of that 48% of Hungarians who agree that LGBTQ people have the same rights as heterosexuals.
🇲🇹 Number of the week: 1
GIF: Karolina Uskakovych.
GIF: Karolina Uskakovych.
For the sixth year in a row, Malta has ranked number one as Europe’s most LGBTQ-friendly country. But critics warn its LGBTQ policies may be serving the government’s ‘pink washing’ agenda.
In Malta, lesbian couples have access to In Virto Fertilisation (IVF), same-sex couples can adopt, trans people can change their gender without surgery, gay ‘conversion therapy’ is banned, and intersex children are not to be operated on until they can consent. This is in a tiny Roman Catholic country where divorce was illegal until 2011, and the state still obliges survivors to carry any foetus resulting from rape or incest to term.
To understand this paradox, we must look at Malta’s bipartisan politics. Both in the 1970s and after a subsequent long spell of the pro-clergy Nationalist party rule, the Labour Party opted to embrace LGBTQ rights and thus gain more youth votes. In 2017, I watched a cheering crowd greet a triumphant Prime Minister Joseph Muscat after the parliament passed the marriage equality law, a move my home country of Lithuania still hasn’t been able to do. But this was also the year when alleged kickbacks that politicians were storing in secretive offshore accounts resurfaced, and journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was murdered.
Two years later, Malta plunged into a political crisis after close links between Caruana Galizia’s murder suspect and Labour politicians emerged. Muscat resigned. But the Labour Party, which ran for European Parliament elections under the “the best in Europe” campaign prominently featuring LGBTQ rights, continues to enjoy voters’ unfaltering support. When Malta is under increased international scrutiny, its government turns LGBTQ rights and other liberal policies into a matter of national pride and uses them to deflect from corruption and ‘rule of law’ concerns.
LGBTQ people may enjoy more rights in Malta than in the other countries featured in this newsletter, but the movement’s achievements now serve to prop up a government that has much to explain.
Daiva Repečkaitė (@daiva_hadiva) is a Lithuanian journalist and podcaster who has been living in Malta for over four years covering human rights, the environment, and health. In her free time, she enjoys archery and volunteering at a turtle rescue centre.
Daiva Repečkaitė (@daiva_hadiva) is a Lithuanian journalist and podcaster who has been living in Malta for over four years covering human rights, the environment, and health. In her free time, she enjoys archery and volunteering at a turtle rescue centre.
🇩🇪 A pot of hypocrisy at the end of the rainbow
Tweet by the German online comedian Sebastian Hotz, also known as “El Hotzo”. Screenshot: https://twitter.com/elhotzo
Tweet by the German online comedian Sebastian Hotz, also known as “El Hotzo”. Screenshot: https://twitter.com/elhotzo
This widely shared tweet by comedian Sebastian “El Hotzo” Hotz not only touched a nerve for Germans in the LGBTQ community, but for me, too. As a German-Hungarian, I had mixed feelings about the “rainbow stadium.” Yes, the rainbow is a powerful symbol of pride for the global LGBTQ community. But in the context of German-Hungarian relations, it was used as a symbol of moral superiority by many German politicians.
Only, the discourse around LGBTQ rights in Hungary cannot be decoupled from Germany’s political and economic involvement in the country. After all, Germany is still Orbán’s biggest business partner, with automotive companies like Audi and BMW receiving bonuses to invest in Hungary
Even Bavaria’s Prime Minister Markus Söder, leader of the conservative CSU, tweeted – after the UEFA’s decision against the rainbow: “We have to stay strong against exclusion and discrimination.” Let’s not forget: His party was an important European ally of Viktor Orbán and repeatedly invited him as a special guest to party meetings while he was dismantling democracy at home.
And, while some German politicians condemn restrictions of minority rights in other countries, they aren’t doing enough for minorities in their own country, where they would have the power to change things. Only a couple of weeks ago, the German Bundestag had the chance to reform the transgender law, which would’ve given trans people self-determination. But the ruling coalition of Social Democrats and CDU/CSU voted against it – together with the far-right AfD party, by the way.
Lighting up a stadium is an easy way to show (moral) power. But besides looking pretty, it does not do much to protect LGBTQ rights — whether in Hungary, Germany, or any other part of Europe.
Judith Langowski (@the_langow) is a German-Hungarian journalist based in Berlin. She edits newsletters at tagesspiegel.de, Berlin's largest daily newspaper, and tries to explain Hungarian politics to Germans..
Judith Langowski (@the_langow) is a German-Hungarian journalist based in Berlin. She edits newsletters at tagesspiegel.de, Berlin's largest daily newspaper, and tries to explain Hungarian politics to Germans..
🇵🇱 Stop paying the homophobes
These are the stickers added to the right-wing pro-government magazine "Gazeta Polska" with the depiction: "LGBT free zone". It was published on June 24, 2019. Credit: wikipedia.org / CC BY-SA 4.0..
These are the stickers added to the right-wing pro-government magazine "Gazeta Polska" with the depiction: "LGBT free zone". It was published on June 24, 2019. Credit: wikipedia.org / CC BY-SA 4.0..
The Polish education minister Przemyslaw Czarnek told a right-wing magazine on Monday that “we should copy these regulations on Polish soil in their entirety.” He was talking about Hungary’s latest anti-LGBTQ law. 
Just a couple days prior, after Warsaw’s gay pride march, Czarnek said on state-run television:  “You saw people dressed bizarrely, a man dressed like a woman, are they normal people in your opinion?” In another interview Poland’s deputy justice minister, Michal Wos, admitted — probably accidentally — that the Ministry of Justice is already working on a law to ban “LGBT propaganda.” The government has not disclosed any details yet. After the public outrage, Wos withdrew his words
But I’m starting to think this is going to become our reality if we don’t take action soon. There will be no hesitation by the governing Law and Justice Party to implement a so-called LGBT propaganda ban similar to the one in Hungary or in Russia in the next two years for the upcoming parliamentary elections. In my opinion, it will pass through parliament for political gains.
In some ways, I’ve seen how this has played out before in last year’s presidential campaign. Polish President Andrzej Duda, who ran and won re-election, repeatedly used homophobic hate speech. He said during one of his rallies that “LGBT ideology” was worse than communism. In the 2020 presidential election, LGBT people were used as scapegoats, similar to refugees and migrants in the 2015 parliamentary election.
We’ve heard so many times that “the EU is deeply concerned about LGBT free zones in Poland.‘ The European commission president has said that “LGBT free zones have no place in Europe”. And now — after the passing of the Hungarian anti-gay law —  seventeen EU leaders signed an open letter vowing to fight discrimination of LGBTQ+ people.
But words are not enough. It is time for action. The EU’s institutions must stop member states from passing discriminatory laws that target minorities. The only solution is to cut European funds. We’ve seen examples of this working in the past: some Polish municipalities that had declared themselves ‘LGBT ideology-free zones,’ have reversed these declarations after not receiving millions of euros from so-called Norwegian funds.
The choice is clear and simple: European funds for European values.
Wojciech Karpieszuk (@WKarpieszuk) is a journalist at the daily Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza. He mostly covers social and LGBTQ issues. Based in Warsaw, in love with Gdańsk, he is waiting for marriage equality in Poland.
Wojciech Karpieszuk (@WKarpieszuk) is a journalist at the daily Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza. He mostly covers social and LGBTQ issues. Based in Warsaw, in love with Gdańsk, he is waiting for marriage equality in Poland.
🇧🇪 Imposter or Ally?
A photo from Brussels Pride in 2017, where Anneleen Ophoff volunteered. Credit: Anneleen Ophoff.
A photo from Brussels Pride in 2017, where Anneleen Ophoff volunteered. Credit: Anneleen Ophoff.
My first real girl crush occurred halfway across the world in the bar of the infamous Rwandan Hôtel des Milles Collines when I was 23. I came out to my then-boyfriend as bisexual just a week later and then… never (officially) again.
Born in a country that’s been ranked the second most LGBTQ-friendly EU country for the fourth time in a row with the first openly gay male head of state (Elio di Rupo) and first openly trans minister in the world (Petra de Sutter), my love for both boys and girls didn’t seem to matter all that much. Or at least, that is what I told myself.
Weaving my sexual identity into conversations rather subtly, I imagined people would just know — and not really care. But for years, internalised biphobia had me convinced I didn’t have any right to claim my space on the rainbow flag. In short, I felt like an imposter. Never gay enough, never straight enough. Never struggling quite as hard as queer people of colour or the LGBTQ community in countries like Hungary or Poland, subjected to instrumentalised hatred and legal hardships.
I am not the only one. According to a 2013 UK study by The Equality Network, 66% of all bisexual people don’t feel part of the LGBTQ community, or just a little. Recently, I’ve been wondering if that imposter-syndrome is keeping me — and possibly others — from being the ally the community deserves. If people never feel “qualified enough” to speak up, how can they raise their voices?
In the past year alone, we’ve seen this type of support matters now more than ever. When Poland created over 100 “LGBT freezones,” the European Parliament in Brussels declared the EU an “LGBTIQ Freedom Zone” in March. Last week, after the Hungarian Parliament passed the anti-LGBTQ legislation, Sophie Wilmès, the Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs, released a statement condemning Hungary’s new anti-LGBTQ law.
Seventeen EU member states backed the joint statement that reminded us of one thing: anyone has the power and responsibility to raise their voices, no matter what their circumstances are. Turning your privilege into action doesn’t make you an imposter, it makes you an ally.
Anneleen Ophoff (@anneleenophoff) is a multimedia journalist from Brussels, Belgium. She is the Head of Multimedia at the pan-European magazine areweeurope.com and just published a cross-border magazine on the LGBTQ landscape in Europe, called The Queer Issue.
Anneleen Ophoff (@anneleenophoff) is a multimedia journalist from Brussels, Belgium. She is the Head of Multimedia at the pan-European magazine areweeurope.com and just published a cross-border magazine on the LGBTQ landscape in Europe, called The Queer Issue.
5 examples of creative resistance by Europe’s LGBTQ community
1. Tomas Vytautas Raskevičius and a different kind of drag race
Lithuanian lawmaker Tomas Vytautas Raskevičius (left) and in his drag persona, Okeanidė (right). Photo: https://www.instagram.com/tomas_vytautas
Lithuanian lawmaker Tomas Vytautas Raskevičius (left) and in his drag persona, Okeanidė (right). Photo: https://www.instagram.com/tomas_vytautas
In socially conservative countries like Lithuania, showcasing the LGBTQ movement as orderly and unprovocative is usually a winning strategy. But Lithuania’s first politician to run for an election as an openly gay man, Tomas Vytautas Raskevičius, thought it was time to bring in the movement’s full colours into the picture, and so one of his campaign appearances was in his drag persona, Okeanidė. The young politician refuses to be bothered by the hate messages he has been getting, but in a recent interview he said he had no plans to appear as Okeanidė in his political duties.
2. “Mapa Rownosci” – Equality map for schools
Map of LGBTQ-friendly schools in Poland. Credit: https://maparownosci.pl/
Map of LGBTQ-friendly schools in Poland. Credit: https://maparownosci.pl/
Student Dominik Kuc with a team prepared The Equality Map, a ranking of LGBTQ friendly public and private schools. With increasing homophobia in the state, it is important to give LGBTQ youngsters a knowledge of what school to choose. There were 200 schools ranked, and 22 000 pupils took part in the survey. They answered questions related to safety and openness of their schools for LGBTQ pupils. The map is becoming more and more popular in Poland and some schools are proud of their position in the ranking. 
3. Frankfurt-Słubice Pride: Love knows no borders
“The Rainbow doesn’t offend” – participants of the cross-border Pride walking along the bridge between Frankfurt and Słubice. Photo: Peggy Lohse/Frankfurt-Słubice-Pride
“The Rainbow doesn’t offend” – participants of the cross-border Pride walking along the bridge between Frankfurt and Słubice. Photo: Peggy Lohse/Frankfurt-Słubice-Pride
Last year, more than 1000 queer people and allies marched for human rights and solidarity in the border cities of Frankfurt (Oder), Germany, and Slubice, Poland. This year, on September 5, the organizers are hoping that just as many will come out in support. The mayors of the two cities have also been invited. This unique cross-border pride march aims to create a bridge between the countries and calls out the dismantling of LGBTQ rights in Poland. 
4. “A család az család” - Family is family
As it became more difficult for same-sex couples to adopt children, some rainbow parents started a mostly-online campaign to show that “Family is family” no matter what. In addition to the appearance by gay and lesbian parents, experts respond to questions and comments The social media initiative was boosted by many big brands and celebrities, like Péter Gulácsi, the goalkeeper of the Hungarian national team. Family is Family recently also published a children’s book about rainbow families, after a similar book was already stigmatized by the government.
5. Science is drag
Illustration of a scientist dressed as a drag queen. By Eddie Stok. Credit: www.areweeurope.com
Illustration of a scientist dressed as a drag queen. By Eddie Stok. Credit: www.areweeurope.com
Underneath the white lab coats, LGBTQ scientists struggle to bring their humanity into the world of research. Now, a group of Glasgow scientists invite scientists to perform in drag, pole dancing about electron orbits, lip-syncing about environmentalism, or talking about the sex lives of penguins. Underneath all this fun, the events provide a real safe space to discuss the issues they face.
Production: Katya Kovalenko
Production: Katya Kovalenko
Hi. We're Weekly Focus by n-ost.
Weekly Focus is a collaborative cross-border newsletter by European journalists from our international n-ost network.
Each week, we bring together five journalists from different European countries to publish a newsletter on one European topic that affects or connects all of us.
We’re happy to hear from you if you have any questions, feedback or suggestions about our newsletter or n-ost. Just hit the reply button or send us an email to editors@n-ost.org.
Did you enjoy this issue?
Weekly Focus by n-ost

A weekly focus on one European topic brought to you by the international journalist network n-ost.

If you don't want these updates anymore, please unsubscribe here.
If you were forwarded this newsletter and you like it, you can subscribe here.
Powered by Revue