Séance 4 : Genre et homosexualités

Ressources relatives à la séance du séminaire du 19/03/2020

— Résumés

Intervention de Clara ROYER (Sorbonne Université, Eur’ORBEM) :

The Case of Sándor Vay: Negotiating Gender in Fin-de-Siècle Austro-Hungary

This presentation follows the case of count Sándor Vay (1859-1918), one of the most famous instances of gender transgression in fin-de-siècle Austro-Hungary. Born into a Hungarian aristocratic family and well-known within the Budapest literary and upper-class circles, Vay was the accused party in a widely publicized case court (1889-1890) which questioned his assumed male identity. The fame of the case made Vay’s gender, and the discrepancy between assigned and assumed identities, the object of a variety of discourse trying to frame its non-normative character. This comprised not just a variety of forms of expertise (legal discourses, medical expertise, and even literary analyzes) but also lay discourses like the emerging international yellow press.

Unlike previous scholarship focusing on the case, this presentation will try to point out the
discrepancies, contradictions, and conflicts between these diverse ways of framing Vay’s
gender identity. Thus, Vay’s case did not feature a dualistic conflict between heteronormativity and gender-transgression. On the contrary, his case was structured by the variety of conflicting gender-role models and their relationship with the body (yellow-press journalism, legal institutions, class-based models of gender roles, etc.). The presentation will try to trace the way Vay tried to navigate this complex discursive field, negotiating his position. I will focus especially on his prose writing, seeing it as a specific strategy used by Vay in order to integrate his identity within the hegemonic discourse of his time i.e., Hungarian nationalism.

Intervention de Judit TAKÁCS (Hungarian Academy of Sciences) :

Framing Homosexualities in State-Socialist Hungary

It would be pointless to look for homosexuality in the criminal codes that have ever been in force in Hungary: since the second half of the 19 th century homosexual practices were punished under the heading of “unnatural fornication” in the chapter on Crimes and offences against sexual morality. While the precise scope of what exactly constituted unnatural fornication was hard to determine, it is striking to see the double standard applied to non- reproductive sexual practices in terms of the fornicators’ gender composition: they were seen as having the potential to cause social harm only if these practices were conducted by same- sex partners.

State surveillance on homosexualities seems to have subsisted after the “communist” takeover. In fact, compiling homosexual inventories to gain an overview of potential blackmail victims to be coerced into becoming police informers was part of regular police work in urban areas and especially in Budapest, the capital city of Hungary. In my talk I will focus on the background of the decriminalization of consensual homosexual acts in the 1961 Hungarian Penal Code by using previously unknown original archive material from 1958. I will also briefly discuss the changing decriminalisation landscapes of 20 th century Central Eastern Europe, and some specific aspects of queer life during state-socialism in Hungary, including cognitive isolation and the fluidity of sexual self-identification.

Discussion : Mathieu Lericq


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