This morning, the Hungarian State Opera announced that a third of their performances of Billy Elliot: The Musical would be canceled due to criticism and fears that the show could turn boys gay.
Seriously. I'm not joking.
According to a report from CNN, the opera said that the press reports had resulted in "reduced interest" and that 15 out of the 44 performances would no longer go ahead.
In an opinion article on a conservative Hungarian website, a contributor named Zsofia N. Horvath accused the State Opera of disseminating "rampant gay propaganda."
"The propagation of homosexuality cannot be a national goal when the population is getting older and smaller and our country is threatened by invasion," the article said.
"Our government is trying to ... help family prosperity with a lot of tools and money, so it's inexplicable and intolerable that a leading state institution is going against this intention and that it makes quite a few youngsters miserable, who would have not gone this direction by themselves."
Apparently, many in Hungarian politics are fearful that an "outbreak" of homosexuality will somehow threaten their population growth and that performances of a musical would somehow be a catalyst for that.
While a story like this might make your blood boil, it should actually raise some fears since Hungary had been considered a leader when it comes to LGBTQ+ rights in what is known as a more socially conservative part of Europe.
Homosexuality was decriminalized in 1961, much earlier than many of their bordering neighbors. Gay men and women can serve in the military. Transgender people living in Hungary can change their legal gender without having to go through hormone therapy or sex reassignment surgery. Gay and bi men are allowed to donate blood and Gay marriage was legalized in 2009. Gay men and women can adopt children as single parents, not couples. If anything, Hungary's evolvement when it comes to LGBTQ+ rights has been an example for Eastern Europe.
Sadly, with a conservative government in power, that might be changing. The country is being run by a right-wing Nationalist Prime Minister, Viktor Orban. His ultra-conservative party, Fidesz, also has the supermajority in the country's Parliament. That gives them the power to amend its constitution. Orban has sought to portray himself as a defender of Christian Europe against Islamic immigration. He has also railed against what he refers to as meddlesome international institutions, such as the United Nations and NGOs. He is also seen as a close ally to Russian President, Vladimir Putin.
Add this to the fact that according to the latest Pew Research poll, only 27% of Hungarians support gay marriage and things aren't looking great for LGBTQ+ rights in that region. Canceling a musical, which has nothing to do with homosexuality, out of fear that it could spread homosexuality, could be a dangerous first step towards abolishing many of the LGBTQ+ rights in that country.
Homosexuality is not a disease that can be spread. It's not a mental illness that can be triggered by watching musical theatre. In fact, there is no scientific evidence that sexual orientation, be it heterosexual, homosexual or otherwise, is a freewill choice. Censoring the arts will not somehow prevent the LGBTQ+ population in Hungary from growing. The only way the LGBTQ+ population grows in Hungary is by the population growing in Hungary.
Sadly, when so much progress has been made, backward thinking political powers ignore science and common sense and, instead, side with hate and fear. As Pride Month is wrapping up soon here in the US, our thoughts to our LGBTQ+ friends in Hungary and Eastern Europe that their rights will remain.