Interview with Erik Robin Erdős (Prizma Transgender Community)
Erik Robin Erdős is a Hungarian human rights activist working in Prizma Transgender Community as a community organiser and grants writer. Erik was a volunteer in organising Budapest Pride March in 2020 (as an online event) and in 2021. He is also a Living Book in a Living Library for Fundamental Rights.
What are the biggest challenges in Hungary when it comes to transgender and LGBT community in your opinion?
We have a lot of challenges in our everyday life, especially after May 2020, when politicians of the governmental party Fidesz voted to ban legal recognition for transgender and intersex people in Hungary, that caused a lot of damage to our community. But how does it affect our life personally? For example I wanted to buy a new bed frame to my bedroom and I’ve ordered it online. After I made my order I got an email that said I have to bring my ID card to prove it is me who ordered… I was really stressed about it because I don’t have any official documents with male gender and the name Erik.
Public transport and travel by train or through borders is also stressful for transgender people who couldn’t change their legal name and gender in their official documents. The same problem: our ID cards are attached to everything. When you board a bus in Budapest, in most of them you have to use the first door and show your pass to the driver. Even going to the post office can be difficult to get our letters or packages and get a job or rent a flat is horrible.
We are enemies in the eyes of the Hungarian government. They run hate mongering campaigns against LGBT people, especially against the trans community.
Last year we had elections and at the same time there was a referendum about “child protection”, with questions about trans people. It was worded incomprehensibly, vaguely, the major society didn’t understand them and didn’t know how to answer… For reaction about 12 NGOs built a huge social campaign against this referendum to vote on it invalidly and we did it! It was the most successful social campaign in the history of Hungarian social activism. The referendum failed, as less than 50% of eligible voters casted valid ballots. This campaign increased our visibility, but the referendum was only a gear in a system built on hate and corruption.
Do you feel that it was something important for the LGBT and trans community in Hungary? It had some strengthening effects?
Yes, it really strengthened our community, but we didn’t have other options either. Our visibility also increased “thanked for” hate mongering campaigns and people are interested in this topic. Before they didn’t know we exist as trans people. Of course they’ve heard things about us sometimes, but mainly stereotypes. When I’m a Living Book in a Living Library I hear from my readers that they don’t know any LGBT or any trans people in their microenvironment and I always answer: of course you know some of them, but you never know if they are LGBT or not.
It’s difficult to talk about it and make changes, because NGOs have been banned from schools since summer 2021 in Hungary because of the Propaganda law that we borrowed from Russia. For example, some months ago a school asked for help from an NGO to teach Ukrainian and Russian refugee children Hungarian as a foreign language, but the Hungarian government banned it, because they might spread LGBT propaganda in that school.
When you’re thinking about the transgender community in Hungary: what are your hopes, how do you see the future?
It’s a really hard question. I was thinking about moving to a less homophobic and transphobic country than Hungary for example Vienna in Austria is in the neighbourhood or maybe Berlin in Germany, but it’s a really heavy thought for me. I was born here and always lived here and I have a Hungarian national identity too. It’s mine too…!
To be honest, sometimes I feel hopeless about my country. I hoped that maybe elections would change our lives and we were really close to changing Fidesz and Viktor Orbán. After failing I was depressed, it was a hard time for me. But I won’t give up my values and I speak up for fundamental rights unbroken. I hope the next elections will bring changes. And I have hopes in the European Union too.
What do you need to feel empowered and to feel the strength of the community?
My community helped me a lot in mentally and socially too. I can turn to them if I need to and they support me with a lot of love so having friends is really important. My organisations help me to practise and upgrade my skills and give me a safe place to be myself.
What do you do when you feel stressed?
My passion is music and I love singing and dancing and I sing more than talking! It helped me a lot and helps me still to present my feelings that I cannot or scared to do in words 🙂