LGBT+ children’s book editor forced to flee Hungary after homophobic death threats

Emma Powys Maurice July 13, 2021
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A page from the illustrated book ‘Storyworld is for everyone,’ which caused a storm in Hungary (Attila Kisbenedek/AFP/Getty)

A gay editor of children’s books is planning to flee Hungary after a chilling new law banning “LGBT+ propaganda” in schools came into force last week.

The widely-condemned legislation forbids the discussion of LGBT+ issues in schools, as well as any form of LGBT+ representation in advertising or media that could be seen by under-18s.

Thousands in Hungary have protested the law, saying it will fuel anti-LGBT+ discrimination in an already hostile country – and like many queer Hungarians, editor Boldizsar Nagy is fearful of what comes next.

“I fear a little bit and that is why [myself and my partner] plan to leave the country,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “This is my life, but because things are getting very insecure here, I feel I should do this from another country.”

Nagy has already received death threats over an LGBT-inclusive children’s book he edited, a queer fairytale anthology called Storyland Is For Everyone.

Well before the “LGBT+ propaganda” law was passed the Hungarian government ordered the publishers to put a disclaimer on the book, warning that it “depicts behaviour inconsistent with traditional gender roles.”

As the publishers vowed to sue the government over this “unconstitutional” requirement, the country’s far-right leader Viktor Orban fanned the flames by labelling the title a “provocative act” from the gay community.

“Leave our children alone,” he ordered, fuelling a moral panic over a simple children’s storybook.

Hungary fined bookshop for selling LGBT+ children’s book

Amid the furore, Nagy found himself hounded with homophobic abuse. “There was one man who said, ‘You are not a man, you are just a f****t and you should die,'” he said.

He received more death threats after the publication of a picture book by US writer Lawrence Schimel, a pair of stories about a boy with two mothers and a girl with two fathers.

Last week a bookshop chain that sold the book was fined 250,000 forints (£598.59) after it “misled customers” by displaying it among other children’s books without adequate signposting about its “different” content, a government official said.

The book’s author said the stories were intended to “celebrate queer families, to put more queer joy into the world, so that the only books available to children weren’t about conflicts” – but in the eyes of the law it is radical propaganda unsuitable for children.

Nagy fears this anti-LGBT+ legislation will suffocate Hungary’s publishing industry, as no one will dare to create books aimed at children that include LGBT+ topics.

“It will kill literature here for a while. There is a big insecurity and fear [about what will happen next] and we are very angry,” he said. “I will continue this work. But I don’t feel good in this country anymore.”

More: Hungary

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