How do you protect your children, when art is opening their eyes to things they might not yet understand? Our Woman Alive contributer comments on the Hannah Reyes Morales exhibition in Budapest, and the subsequent complaints that came from her depicting a community of elderly LGBTQ+ people in the Philippines.
Every year, the Hungarian National Museum in Budapest, Hungary, hosts the world-famous World Press Photo exhibition in a breathtaking visual coverage of global events.
This year, the exhibition included pictures by award-winning Filipina photojournalist Hannah Reyes Morales, whose work centres on people and their life hardships. Morales’ photographs were reported in Time Magazine as showing a ‘community of elderly LGBTQ+ people in the Philippines who have shared a home for decades and cared for each other as they age, depicting some community members dressed in drag and wearing makeup.’
The government then sacked Laszlo Simon, the head of Hungary’s National Museum, for allegedly letting under-18s view LGBTQ content.
The photos elicited a reaction from a Hungarian lawmaker, Dora Duro, who filed an official complaint with Hungary’s Cultural Ministry, claiming the images violated a law that forbids the display of LGBTQ+ content to minors. The government then sacked Laszlo Simon, the head of Hungary’s National Museum, for allegedly letting under-18s view LGBTQ content.
The organisers of the exhibition were shocked that Mr. Simon was sacked as the photos were not offensive or explicit in any way.
Does the punishment ’fit the crime’ here? Should Mr. Simon have lost his job over these five arguably non-offensive photos? Laszlo argues that the museum did not purposefully break the law, and the museum immediately adhered to the legislation by restricting entry to the exhibition, preventing thousands of young people from accessing leading photojournalism.
The censorship of art in this manner is concerning. On one hand, the law is the law, and as Christians, we are told in the Bible to obey the laws of the land (Romans 13:1-2) unless they contradict the word of God. Of course, a law intending to protect children from harmful explicit content is in line with God’s word, so if the photos were explicit, the ban would be appropriate because exposing children to sexual content of any persuasion is abusive.
But because the images in question were arguably not of that nature, this begs the question: does the banning of under 18’s to the World Press Photo 2023 exhibition contradict God’s heart for uplifting the excluded, those on the fringe of society, and those most rejected and abused in society?
Perhaps the restriction was more damaging than the photos that warranted the ban?
As a Christian mother to seven and nine year-old boys, because the photos display the LGBTQ+ community in a dignified and non-explicit way, I think the censorship is unnecessary. Having said this, I would not have taken my kids to this exhibition in the first place because of the high probability that there would be photos I deemed to be inappropriate for their age in general, so I think if the law aims to protect children from harmful LGBTQ content, the same rule should be applied across the board for images displaying violence or explicit heterosexual photos.
As a parent, I want to be the one to teach them the intricacies of sexuality and what God thinks about it all when the time is right because God entrusted them to me to care for them.
Speaking personally, if my children had seen Morales’ photographs, I don’t think it would have been harmful to them. My kids met a Ladyboy in high heels and a mini-skirt in Thailand when we were getting on a ferry last year (we did not take them out on the Koh San Road at night, don’t worry!), and they just stared in amazement, made eye-contact, and smiled.
My husband and I chatted with them about how we are all different and we chose to leave it at that for the moment. Even my eldest would not be emotionally ready to understand the complexities of sexuality at age nine. As a parent, I want to be the one to teach them the intricacies of sexuality and what God thinks about it all when the time is right because God entrusted them to me to care for them.
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If my children were older and had learned what LGTBQ means and what God thinks of the LGBTQ+ community (from us, their parents), I would have taken them to the exhibition, and here’s why:
Hannah Reyes Morales aims to take photos documenting the impoverished and observe the dignity of the poor despite the systemic inequality and injustice experienced.’ If Jesus had gone to this photo exhibition, would he have turned away when he saw those photos? No! He would look into the eyes of the precious men, women, and transgender people depicted. Sexuality or gender changes don’t alter whether God loves someone or not, and photography is a God-given gift to capture and celebrate the beautiful diversity of the human race- every single member of which He made in his image.