‘We Want To Live a Happy Life’: LGBTQ People Are Leaving Hungary

An alliance of opposition parties is trying to end authoritarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s grip on power in elections where LGBTQ rights are literally on the ballot.

BUDAPEST – Boldizsar Nagy is packing his bags and leaving Hungary. He and his boyfriend have had enough of Hungary’s attitude towards their relationship. 

But with an election this weekend that includes a referendum on LGBTQ rights in Hungary, things could be about to get much worse. 

Over several years, Nagy, a writer, and his lawyer boyfriend have built a home together just outside of the capital, Budapest. They were excited for their future together in Hungary: pouring money and time into creating a beautiful new home.


They’ve dedicated entire rooms to collections of toys and books ready for their future child. But Hungary’s anti-LGBTQ stance, which includes a law making it almost impossible for gay couples to adopt in the country, means they’re leaving it all behind. 


Boldizsar Nagy. Photo: Mikhail Galustov

“When we moved to this house, we were just two, my boyfriend and me. But then we decided that we'd like to have a family and some kids, so we built some new rooms. I started to buy toys, and kids’ books, and board games,” Nagy told VICE World News. 

“Our plan was, this would be my room and this would be the kids' little room so we will be next to each other,” he said, showing me the perfectly crafted spaces in their beautiful house.

“But now there is this new law that actually bans same-sex couples and single people to adopt kids kids in Hungary, so we plan to move from here. Not just because of the adoption, but you know, this whole situation in Hungary.”

Put simply, LGBTQ rights are being destroyed in Hungary.

Autocratic incumbent Prime Minister Viktor Orbán is pushing to stay in power, but he faces a serious challenge from an unlikely alliance of opposition parties. The election’s on the 3rd of April, and is being held on the same day as a referendum on a law passed last year that prohibits teaching LGBTQ topics in school

Fidesz supporters attend a pre-election rally. Photo: Mikhail Galustov

Fidesz supporters attend a pre-election rally. Photo: Mikhail Galustov

The law created a huge backlash, with protests in the nation’s streets, signs of solidarity at Euro 2020 matches, European leaders speaking out, and calls for Hungary’s position in the EU to be reviewed. But things have only gotten worse. 

There are four questions on the referendum voting sheet, including "Do you support showing sex-change content to minors?" and "Are you happy with kids being shown sexually explicit media?"

Orbán’s government has already outlawed gay marriage, labelled gay men paedophiles, and banned trans people from legally changing their gender. LGBTQ people are attacked in the streets, and Hungarian police take no action. 

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán pictured in Poland in 2020.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán pictured in Poland in 2020. Photo: Omar Marques/Getty Images

The new anti-LGBTQ education law is so vague, TV channels worry it could limit them showing popular movies and shows. In other ways the impacts are already evident:  a parliament member recently shredded a children’s book featuring diverse fairytales and gay princes. Orban also found time to hate on it.  

Nagy, the writer leaving Hungary, is the creator of that same book – Fairyland is for Everyone. It sold out in its first week, but book readings were cancelled after right-wing protests, and the publishers received death threats.

Nagy took VICE World News to one of his favourite book stores in Budapest, where his anthology of diverse fairy tales is stored 9 feet in the air and wrapped in plastic, so that children can’t see it or browse it. 


“It wasn't here before it was among the other children's books. But you know this, since this new law came, they had to put it in a separate place,” he said.

“It feels like my childhood when I don't feel that I am like any of the others. It's the exact (reason) why we did this book – for these kids who feel different, too, to feel that they are not different.”


People take part in Pride, in Budapest in 2021. Photo: Akos Stiller/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Asked whether his positive book being dragged by politicians has been the final blow, and the reason for packing his bags, he replied: “We started to think about moving when the new LGBTQ laws came out. And since the book has been published and all of these scandals around it, there are just more anti-LGBTQ laws, so, we are stronger than before in our decision that it's not our place.

“Even if the opposition will win, I think [it will take] years and decades to really change society. We don't have time because we are getting old and we want to live a happy life.” 

Prior to Russia’s invasion of Hungary’s neighbour Ukraine – Orbán has long been seen as Vladimir Putin’s strongest ally in the European Union – the build-up to this weekend’s general election was dominated by anti-LGBTQ views, masked as “traditional values”.


Luca Dudits (centre) and other activists from the Háttér Society, Hungary’s biggest and oldest LGBTQ organisation. Photo: Mikhail Galustov

Fidesz, Orbán’s hard-right populist party, is still ahead in opinion polls, and LGBTQ people across Hungary are scared about what that means. 


VICE World News saw Orbán speak at a rally where thousands of people cheered as he said his party would win the referendum, adding: “We're going to stop the gender madness, and we won't let our children get molested.”

Luca Dudits is trying to do something about the negativity queer people face here. She’s the leader of the Háttér Society, Hungary’s biggest and oldest LGBTQ organisation. 

We joined her team as they launched a roadshow, getting out of the capital city and into more remote areas of Hungary. The first event was in Pecs where two gay men, both doctors, were attacked less than a year ago, after kissing at a club night. One was left with a concussion, the other with a broken chin. 

Dudits told me that she thinks the referendum being on the same day as the general election is a way to get more people out to vote. 

"Fairyland is for Everyone" Photo: ATTILA KISBENEDEK/AFP via Getty Images

"Fairyland is for Everyone" Photo: ATTILA KISBENEDEK/AFP via Getty Images

“I think they see this as an opportunity to kind of fuel people’s will to vote [because] the questions are so controversial and manipulative. The government has been using social minority groups as scapegoats for the last five years, it has been Roma people, homeless people, refugees and migrants, and since 2019, I think that's when the the fear and the panic around the refugee crisis kind of died down and they had to pick a new enemy.”

She opened up about what it’s like being LGBTQ in Hungary in 2022. 


“In Hungary, LGBTQ people are unfortunately very much discriminated against in their everyday lives… So these assaults do happen. And unfortunately, since the anti-LGBTQ legislations have started, they have become more and more regular because I think that this very homophobic and transphobic minority feels very much encouraged by the government's propaganda.”

Since 2010, Orbán has been sliding Hungary toward authoritarianism, proudly championing Hungary as the model “illiberal democracy.” He’s practically eliminated checks and balances in government, been accused of tampering with elections, and has successfully made most news media support him.

But an alternative future for Hungary looks like this man.


Péter Márki-Zay. Photo: Mikhail Galustov

Péter Márki-Zay – aka MZP. He’s the leading opposition candidate, thanks to six of the country’s biggest parties who’ve united behind him – despite having little in common, except their hope of taking Orbán down. 

Asked what made him want to run for prime minister, MZP said: “It's not my own personal ambition. It's more about, you know, saving my country… Orbán brought us so much out of democracy out of Europe, out of rule of law, out of market economy that we just have to bring us back because back to European values brings us back to normality.”

Márki-Zay is a conservative Christian who formerly voted with Orbán’s party, so winning progressive support is a bit complicated. I told him that I’ve heard from LGBTQ people in Hungary who say they're worried that if he gets into power, he won’t help them.

“One thing is certain that the LGBT community is under attack, by Orbán, by hate campaigns. And we were the ones and I personally was the one who did the most to defend them from all these hate campaigns and propaganda.”

Asked if he would try to bring in same-sex marriage and allow same-sex couples to adopt, he said, “probably not in the next four years.”

However, he added, under his regime, “Life for homosexual couples, for LGBT community members, will be so much better.”