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Bisexual poly life narratives in post-socialist Hungary

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Katalin Rahel Turai

on 5 September 2013

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Transcript of Bisexual poly life narratives in post-socialist Hungary

- "bisexuality complicated": attraction towards women and men over a life span
various and dynamic sexual identifications
how integrated into life stories?
- analysis of life narrative interviews (MA 2010, PhD 2013)
- 22 interviewees, m-f, 19-55, Budapest (in Hungarian)

- question of bi and changing sexual orientation
poly forms discussed
- 2 extracts about poly "bisexual" relationships:
heterosexual marriage and same-sex experiences
wo/man; 1980's/2000's monosexual poly

Bisexual poly life narratives in post-socialist Hungary
Hanna, f, 32
Katalin Ráhel Turai
Central European University
Department of Gender Studies
Budapest, Hungary

I didn’t didn’t want to leave my wife. Not because I was afraid of the outside world, but because I myself felt good in her company. [Another woman as a lover] would have been a rival, I thought so. But if I start with a guy, a guy won’t be a rival, because… So for me in my patterns back then, that with a guy you can even live together… I couldn’t have even imagined that. It’s interesting, that… Well, I was roughly… 25 years old when I started dating men. And I was 35 years old, when for the first time one asked me… Actually, the guy didn’t even ask it as a question but as a possibility, that uhm… -- after a one-day meeting, I have to add, or first, after one-day being together --, that that let’s rent a flat together. And till then, it hadn’t even crossed my mind. And interestingly, when he said this like that, it was not like “well God forbid”, but “wow, really, why not?”. So then… In my mind it was the first time it appeared that a guy can be a rival in the relationship. I mean he can be a rival to the marriage, or the married, yes, he can be a rival to the marriage.
Botond, m, 54
contemporary Hungarian sexual normativity
sexual geography of post-socialist Hungary
1982 vs. 1992: CHANGE after 1989
public-private invisibility, marriage: default

- specific type of bisexual behaviour:
men on the "down low" (Hoy 2007)
- BUT contests common representations
real love with wife
rationale behind choosing men: maintain marriage

- SPACE: cohabitation
hierarchical spectrum of relationships
possible versions for being ("living") together

Anybody looking into our life with a telescope can see that we live a normal family life, I don’t know, a classic one, a little bit even appearing right-wing, so we have, we have these big Hungarian dogs, a big house, so the whole, the whole is very, I don’t know, is just very fine. (...) For me the most convenient arrangement would have been if I have a boy-relationship, and we live the classic relationship, man-woman partnership, uhm it would either become marriage or something, so it proceeds somewhere, and if it doesn’t proceed, it will be ended. And next to this, I shall have, shall have this very good girl friend. But such a very good girl friend! So in which… Well, to what extent sexuality can fit in with it, well not, it doesn’t really well fit in with it, but like, but it’s a very close [friendship], flaming at a very, very high degree of emotional heat. But in this, I think, nobody wanted this version but me. So this way, hypothetically, it could have worked for me parallel, but then it is not not two loves, but but a man-relationship and a very good girl friend.
(post-)socialism and homosexuality
- specific "bisexualities": female friendship/bi past
friendship - partnership boundaries
possibilities of life in three
negotiating with the normal ("classical") vs. "our culture"

- embedded in political discourses (Renkin 2009, Kulpa-Mizielińska 2011): right vs. left
national/"Hungarian" vs. international
country vs. city
marriage vs. (same- and poly) sex -
and where they can evolve
- Hungary as politically + geographically divided
- public-private: house as both

- gender difference as legitimizing poly life
monosexual self-realization in present

- polynormative (see Wilkinson 2010):
gender-based relationship differences +
hierarchy: primary heterosexual relationship
(has a future, has a space to develop)
sexual vs. emotional bonds
male lover (B) / female friend (H)

- imaginable/intelligible guiding action:
negotiations with current social norms

1. temporal division:
socialism capitalism: LGBT visibility
development narrative
open relationships back then (B)
quitting same-sex relationships now (H)
revival of sexual normativity
2. spatial division:
gay opportunities vs. heteronormativity
(tense) fusion of non/normative lifestyles:
marriage and poly
Butler, J. 1993. Bodies that Matter. Routledge.
Hoy, J.L. 2007. "Secret sex and the down low brotherhood" In: S. Seidman and Co. (eds). Introducing the New Sexuality Studies. Routledge.
Kulpa, R. - Mizielińska, J. 2011. Decentring Western Sexualities: Central and Eastern European Perspectives. Farnham: Ashgate.
Renkin, H.Z. 2007. Ambiguous Identities, Ambiguous Transitions: Lesbians, Gays, and the Sexual Politics of Citizenship in Postsocialist Hungary. PhD Diss. University of Michigan.
Renkin, H.Z. 2009. “Homophobia and queer belonging in Hungary”. Focaal – European Journal of Anthropology.
Wilkinson, E. 2010. "What’s queer about non-monogamy now?" In: M. Barker - D. Langdridge (eds). Understanding Non-Monogamies. Routledge, 243–254.
start with a guy
dating men
live together
live [reside] together
being together
gender/bisexuality in poly?
+ spatio-temporal context
Desires in the making: narratives of bisexual desire, practice, and subjectivity in present-day Hungary
gender difference/bisexuality:
symbolic legitimation for divergent needs
allows for different kinds of relationships,
for poly life inside given social norms
opportunities in space and time
rent a flat together
one-day meeting
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