Homo-nationalism, liberty or hypocrisy?
Sanne van Oosten
“The Dutch gay-rights movement is completed”. These words, spoken by Henk Krol, a veteran of the Dutch gay-movement, sparked a widespread discussion throughout Dutch society. The chair of the COC, Vera Bergkamp, disagrees. There is much more to be achieved, on the societal and political front. Whatever the case may be, one feature of Henk Krol’s statements has not received much attention. “Same-sex marriage has now become one of our best export products”. The Dutch are proud of their gay marriage, and want everyone to know it. The Dutch aren’t particularly nationalistic but a fair amount of Dutch homo-nationalism is definitely present. But I wonder, is homo-nationalism an appropriate feature of the Dutch national identity?
National identity is not necessarily formed by what one is, but more so by what one is not. “We” are tolerant towards homosexuals, “we” are not homophobic. The confrontations between Islamic immigrants and infuriated anti-Muslim voters has fired many heated discussions. In formulating arguments as to why Islam is to looked down upon, homosexuality and female emancipation are often mentioned as highly relevant arguments. This turns tolerance towards homosexuality into a modern day justification of contempt towards those who do not adhere to these values. Furthermore, the recent influx of Eastern-European immigrants strengthens the Dutch in their view of what they are not: homophobic.
Not only are gay-rights part of the Dutch identity, this also part of Dutch policy. The Dutch embassy in Poland subsidizes activities in Poland that promote gay-rights. The Amsterdam municipality subsidizes the association Secret Garden, who promote the emancipation of homosexual Muslims. Secret Garden is seated in a prominent monument of the city, which gives all the tour guides that pass it the chance to tell visitors about how progressive the Netherlands are. Homosexuality definitely is used as a Dutch “export product”.
But are the Dutch really as tolerant as they say they are? The largest part of the cases of homophobic violence are conducted by native Dutch men. A clause in the law on equal treatment (algemene wet gelijke behandeling) still legally allows employers to fire homosexual employees due to the single-fact (enkele-feitconstructie) of being gay, as long as this single-fact is accompanied by one other fact. Homosexual youngsters in the Netherlands still have trouble coming out of the closet and have higher suicide rates. Also, I don’t think it is a coincidence that not a single professional soccer player has had the guts to come out of the closet yet. And last but not least, a song that is played in certain Dutch bars is called “if you don’t jump now, you are a homosexual” (als je nou niet springt, ben je een homofiel), which automatically instigates jumping throughout the entire bar.
Moreover, calling a man gay still is the ultimate insult for the Dutch heterosexual. In light of this, couldn’t it be called somewhat hypocritical to look down on different cultures because they are not as tolerant towards homosexuals as the Dutch claim to be? The fight has definitely not been fought. There is much more to be done. Vera Bergkamp, keep up the good work. We still need to fight for gay rights and gay acceptance to be able to be truly proud.