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Expat eye: Should I stay or should I go?

After many years committed not to give up, now I wonder if it is the right thing to do

As an expat, the past couple of months have been confusing. The new laws, the social media posts by different members of the Hungarian government, the international news, the pressure to work to make things better, the messages I receive on Instagram from LGBT people asking for help… it has all been so overwhelming that it’s hard to keep a clear state of mind.

One day I’m super motivated to start on new projects that can help make things better and the next I just feel very defeated, wondering if there is even a point on working something that seems doomed. Don’t get me wrong, I will always support any initiative, organization or person trying to improve the situation for LGBT people in the country; we need them! But, as an expat, although I’ve always been praised for caring more than even most Hungarians do, now I wonder if I have the same willingness to swim against the current when I could just leave for a place that offers me a better future.

Looking back at my life, loyalty has always been one of the things I strived for. Few things motivate me more to keep going than knowing that I need to go through the harder times and that if I work hard enough, I’ll be rewarded with better days. But now I’m also starting to learn that moving on is different than giving up.


Photo courtesy: Depositphotos


The current anti-LGBT rhetoric, the increasing number of physical attacks, the heavy heart that comes with reading a different horrible story every day… are these things I should consider as red flags instead of some sort of masochist motivation to keep on fighting? Am I selfish or a quitter if I decide to choose myself over the bigger cause? Have I failed my purpose of contributing to the local LGBT community with a little grain of sand if I simply decide to move on?

It is very easy to just move somewhere where the work is already done… but can we blame people for doing it?

When I arrived to Hungary, the LGBT topic was not even something Hungarian politicians would talk about. As I would explain to people abroad when they asked me what was it like to be a gay man in Hungary, the LGBT conversation was simply something hidden under the carpet, nobody really paid attention to it which made living here quite comfortable. Not the most gay-friendly place but we could enjoy life in peace.

Now that the Hungarian government is using our community as its latest political weapon as a mere strategy to continue creating fear and invisible enemies, so they can act as the “saviors” of the country, the future is different and our rights are being taken away. In fact, the situation is getting so volatile that the government encourages neo-Nazis, and the attacks against the LGBT community are growing. It is not safe to be a queer person in Hungary anymore.

The future is very uncertain… will we have the chance to get married? To have a family? Will we begin to be discriminated in the workplace? Is our professional career going to be affected by being out and proud LGBT people? Are we going to be even more neglected by the healthcare system? (Good luck finding a doctor who knows what PrEP is).

I’m a man in his 30s, so the times when I was only caring about nightlife and having a fun youthful city to live in are over. Now life priorities have shifted and I’m more interested in having a long-lasting career, a safe work environment in which I can perform at my best, the opportunity to marry my boyfriend and buy a house together, a country in which adopting a child is a matter of our personal decision and not limited by a homophobic government, and, last but not least, a healthcare system that is up to minimum standards of quality.

For a very long time, I believed that we should stay and do the work to make Hungary a better place, to fight against everything going on and that giving up was not an option. I believed in giving back to this country as much as it has given me through friendships, relationships, life experience, personal growth, and many more.

But should we stay in a place where our contribution isn’t appreciated? Should we do the work that the people who are paid to care for the wellbeing of everyone in Hungary should be doing?

It is still too early to decide and not all hope is lost. Seeing 30,000 people at the Budapest Pride Parade this year helped me see that more people are ready to stand up for the LGBT community, and the constant work of the many organizations continues to inspire me. But I decided to share these thoughts with you because I guess I’m not the only one dwelling on them.

If you are an expat in Hungary, it is okay to be having questions right now and to have doubts about the country we call home. At some point we have to remember that it is not wrong to choose ourselves and go where we can live our life to the fullest and to be ourselves, without conditions.

Germán Henao

Instagram: @germanhenao


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