For Hungary’s LGBT Community, The Vogue Scene Is About More Than Self-Expression. It’s About Staying Safe

For Hungary’s LGBT Community, The Vogue Scene Is About More Than Self-Expression. It’s About Staying Safe

BUDAPEST — On a chilly March Sunday, Turbina, a nightclub in downtown Budapest, is already heaving — and it’s only 4 o’clock in the afternoon. As 1980s pop blasts out, partygoers wearing heavy makeup and costumes adorned with sequins and neon, strut, pose, and dance along a makeshift runway. This isn’t a fashion show, but Hungary’s biggest “vogue ball,” a banner event in the country’s ballroom scene and a mecca for many in the LGBT community.

Constantly “updating myself,” art has had a significant role in Hubsch’s life

A distant, more glamorous cousin to traditional ballroom dancing, the modern ballroom scene is exploding in Hungary. And with the country seeing a regression on LGBT rights in recent years, Hungary’s LGBT community has found a much-needed safe space in the ballroom scene, which for many has become a home away from home.

It isn’t easy being LGBT in Hungary right now. On the same day as April 3 elections that could unseat long-time right-wing Prime Minister Viktor Orban, Hungarians will vote in a government-initiated referendum ostensibly on “child protection,” but which has been slammed by rights groups for being anti-LGBT.

The streets of Hungary’s capital, Budapest, are lined with political campaign ads showing a woman hugging a baby. The ad, from the Fidesz-dominated government, reads “Let’s Protect Our Children,” a not-so-subtle instanthookups CГіmo ver a quien le gustas sin pagar. reference to the LGBT community, who the government has said would force queer propaganda and gender reassignments on children.

“This is unjustified, false, misleading,” says Lilla Hubsch, a petite transgender woman with luscious long hair and square glasses. She is taking a vogue class at a studio in the trendy downtown area near Budapest’s Nyugati railway station a few days before the ball. “Being transgender in Hungary now feels like being a punching bag that the government put out for people to hit,” Hubsch says.

In power for over a decade, Orban and Fidesz have been accused by critics of dismantling democratic institutions, trashing judicial independence, taking control of the media, and being hostile toward Muslim migrants and people from the LGBT community.

Already a dancer, Hubsch discovered vogue in 2019. Emerging from the ballroom scene, vogue includes highly stylized moves inspired by the exaggerated femininity seen in fashion magazines and runways.

“From then, my self-acceptance, my self-image, and my relationship with my body changed completely,” she says. “And this is due to vogue and ballroom.” For Hubsch, vogue is not just a dance style, it’s also a community that “does not disappear when we step out of the door.”

Growing up in rural Hungary, Hubsch studied drama in high school and came out as a woman in her final year. Her mother and brother didn’t take the news well, she has said in an earlier interview, although her friends and classmates were supportive.

It was after moving to Budapest in 2019 that she started vogue classes. “We used to do it in our dormitory room. But that was just miming,” she says.

Now, Hubsch says, her close family accepts and supports her, while her wider family is still trying to get to grips with the idea that she is trans

“I’m trying to improve in contemporary dance, that’s what my life is about besides ballroom. My jobs are just so I can finance my life and progression,” she says. In the daytime, Hubsch works in a fast-fashion store and on the weekends, in a night club.

“I’m lucky,” she says, “because even if they don’t agree with me on things, they are not trying to suppress me.”

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