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Yesterday was July 2, 2019. “So what?” I hear you thinking. What’s so special about this date? Indeed, for most of us the date doesn’t signify anything of importance. Yet it is a day that will affect all of us. I am not talking about the total solar eclipse that takes place that day (almost completely above water and not visible) but about the first day of the session period of the newly elected European Parliament.

by Rick van der Made - 03 July 2019

length: 9 min. Printer Friendly Page  
Geert Wilders, Marine Le Pen, GLBT+ Rights and the European Parliament


Dit artikel is ook in het Nederlands beschikbaar
length: 9 minuten


European Parliament
I write this just before the European elections - so no outcome yet. There are predictions. And there are facts. The next five years will be very different from the previous ones: Great Britain will leave the European Parliament, and the total number of seats will go from 751 to 705. However, The Netherlands will gain three seats. The media are already focussing on all the new movements and coalitions that will challenge the established order, in which the old “elite” will come under fire, especially by extreme right-wing parties.

I was visiting family in France last month. On the day of Duncan’s win of the Eurovision Song Contest (hurray!) I drove back from Lyon to the Netherlands. That evening I was tired from the long car drive. On the TV screen - right before my eyes closed shut - I saw how a room full of rainbow flags in Tel Aviv was partying.
 
The European song contest always looks much more festive than the European parliamentary elections, but of course, the subject matter of the latter is more difficult and sensitive than a missed high note or a wrongly chosen glitter dress. And a lot more complicated.

Duncan Laurence

In France, I read an article in the gay magazine “Têtu.” In its survey of more than three thousand users of the French gay dating app “Hornet,” one in five French gays in the 2017 presidential election voted for the populist and right-wing conservative Front, now Rassemblement National. “We welcome boat-loads of illegal immigrants, give them identity and residence permits, homes and social assistance. And all this at the expense of hard-working French.” In the article, it wasn’t Marine Le Pen speaking, but Matthieu Chartraire. It is 2015 and Chartraire was just elected Mr. Gay France. In his interview with the French gay magazine “Têtu,” he admitted to voting for the Eurosceptic and Islam-critical Front National. And he is not the only one.
 
The French extreme right flirts more openly with the French GLBT+ movement. Apparently, it is paying off. This is remarkable, as Le Pen does not explicitly advocate gay rights. On the contrary, as the election program of the Rassemblement National states that same-sex marriages must be reduced. When the time comes, gay couples would have to make do with a cohabitation contract like the one that existed in France from 1999 to 2013. When in 2014 the party’s youth section leader Julien Rochedy was interviewed in a radio programme, he said that he “would certainly not be opposed to Russian style anti-gay laws.”
 Matthieu Chartraire, Mr Gay France

Is the far-right sprinkling sand in the eyes of the French GLBT+ community?

Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National is not the same as the party of her father Jean Marie, who called homosexuality a “biological and social deviation.” Since the departure of the latter, Marine tries to set her house in order to the outside world. Her right hand, Florian Philippot, is openly gay, just like a lot of RN executives. Le Pen seems to say: “GLBT+? You have a place in our party.”

GLBT+ people are not immune to that call. To propose the strategy of a backward Islam as a reactionary threat to the progressive values of Western Europe is one that the extreme right discovered and embraced a long time ago.
 
The Dutch Mr Wilders, the French Mrs Le Pen, the Italian Mr Salvini, the Austrian Mr Strache, the Finish Mrs Huhtasaari and the German Mr Meuthen had met in Italy before the elections to breathe new life into a large, populist-right movement. These extreme right-wing parties know exactly how to attract the GLBT+ vote.
 
Pim FortuynThey watched The Netherlands, and saw the rise of Pim Fortuyn, the right-wing Dutch politician (1948-2002). At the start of the previous decade Pim Fortuyn rocked the boat in Dutch politics. He spoke openly about his homosexuality, talked about cruising in the park and was blunt about seeing his lifestyle and identity threatened by Muslims from an “agricultural culture.”

Although he said to like Moroccan boys sexually, he considered migrants from Muslim countries a personal threat. Pim Fortuyn was the first openly gay politician who reaped success with an Islam critical discourse. Expressing his sexual preference openly and proudly gave Fortuyn’s conservatism a progressive charge. He proved that the winning argument for the European Right is not religious conservatism American style, but a movement that defends our secular, progressive culture against the threat of immigration. With Lijst Pim Fortuyn, he was able to create a platform full of promises about freedom, as he was part of a minority fighting for emancipation in the Western world. One that feels threatened.
 
The impact of Fortuyn on contemporary European politics was huge: the politician linked gay emancipation to a political discourse aimed at legitimizing an almost shameless belief in Western superiority, which proved to be an inspiration for a new generation of extreme right-wing politicians in Western Europe. Wilders and Le Pen have adopted the Fortuyn template, and in their wake other Western European populists such as Strache and Salvini followed.

During the last provincial election campaign in the Netherlands, for instance, Wilders has stated that: “Muslims destroy our tolerant country and thereby threaten ‘our gays.’”
 
Dutch, Finnish, Swedish, Austrian, German, French, Flemish and Danish politicians who are on the right-wing political spectrum copy this electoral GLBT+ success recipe: ideas of tolerance and anti-discrimination are increasingly being adopted by the right and far right. GLBT+ emancipation is increasingly turning into a cultural conflict between homo-tolerant natives and homophobic immigrants, instead of a fight for (sexual) reform and emancipation in a broader sense.

Where has the time gone when ex-Vlaams Belang politician Alexandra Colen could still compare the Gay Pride with Nazi propaganda, while stating that homosexuality is caused by a shortage of women on the marriage market? Or the time that Filip Dewinter of the Vlaams Belang still dared to say that homosexuality is a fad?
 
Filip Dewinter

Far right-wing movements in Europe try to unite more than ever before and denounce the GLBT+ hatred within Islam, while until a few years ago, all these parties had the greatest difficulty with everything to do with the GLBT+ community.

Of course, even the populist right in Europe is not blind to the amount of rainbow flags that are shown during the Eurovision Song Contest every year. In Western Europe, we now have become a mayor player, and thus an electoral force.
 
It remains striking how in just a few years’ time, the GLBT+ community has undergone an enormous transformation, not only at the song contest, but also on the public and political scene: from outsiders who at the end of the last century were still spat at in many European countries, to insiders who symbolize modernity, progress, tolerance and civilization.

While GLBT+ people were heavily suppressed in the “old” nationalistic way of thinking, new-fashioned nationalism in North West Europe now mobilizes GLBT+ rights as the source of a national identity. GLBT+ rights have become a symbol of today’s nationalism: a central aspect of national identity, and the litmus test of successful integration and national loyalty. In this new nationalism, both the GLBT+ group and Islam are presented as clearly defined, homogeneous cultures, while also placed opposite each other.
 Le Pen and Geert Wilders
Part of the GLBT+ community goes along with that us-versus-them narrative. They associate themselves less with the GLBT+ movement and more with the fear of Islam and Muslims, fuelled by the populist right. But is this fear justified?
 
Of course, there is a problem, that we cannot deny. Populist right-wing parties cleverly capitalize on the homophobia of “Islamic youth with too much testosterone,” ignorant hate imams and of jihad-prisoners shouting “Allah Akbar” from a prison during the two-minute silence of our Remembrance Day, and set themselves up as firmly as possible as the only possible answer to this.
 
Very cleverly, the European populist right has recently been working hard on its GLBT+ image, with the result that we are given the impression that these parties - who used to be extremely opposed to gay rights - are now the only ones who can and want to defend European GLBT+ interests. Politicians in Western Europe emphasize their love for the emancipation of GLBT+ people at every opportunity. For a while now, they are incredibly proud of achievements such as same-sex marriage, adoption by gay couples, and the ban on discrimination against GLBT+ people. There are all sorts of rainbow coalitions, as well as rainbow zebra crossings in villages and cities, and a sea of rainbow flags at the Eurovision Song Contest. But practise has proved different.

Two men kissing in public? Preferably not.
 
Research shows that suicide attempts among lesbian, gay and bisexual youths are 4.5 times more common than among straight youths.

Hmm.
 
Also: what to do with GLBT+ Muslims? It’s a question that is problematic in the contemporary discourse of the populist right that likes to depict GLBT+ identity and a Muslim identity as contradictory. Does the GLBT+ community itself pay enough attention to developments such as the arrival of gay imams and the first gay-friendly mosque in Paris? And what about Dutch-Moroccan GLBT+ foundations such as Pink Marrakech?



The emancipation of minorities must be a joint struggle of all minorities through the right to be different from the majority. Because the story of GLBT+ emancipation will only stand the test of time if it defends other minority groups and if the minority groups themselves defend GLBT+ emancipation.
 
GLBT+ Muslims are working hard to emancipate themselves, but if they have to fight against prejudices in both the Muslim community and the GLBT+ community, it will be a very difficult fight indeed.

Well, most likely the populist right will tolerate Caucasian native GLBT+ people who comply with a high degree of bourgeois straight normativity. For the populist right, however, to “tolerate” implies that the majority feels just a little “better” than that strange other from that curious minority. And that this minority may only exist by virtue of the arbitrariness of the majority. Minorities have no rights, but are allocated rights by the majority. And taken, if necessary.
 
Of course, I voted. Hopefully just like you, although it was perhaps a bit more difficult than voting for a nice song by a handsome singer during the Eurovision Song Contest.
 
Next time, perhaps Brussels should organize a fun election show in which all European parliamentarians sing a song in a nice dress or in an exciting leather outfit in order to make clear what their views are. Then we will brighten things up with our rainbow flags. We will then show the GLBT people of Europe that we have indeed become an important player.
 
The next year in Amsterdam during the Eurovision Song Contest perhaps?
 
Or in 2024 in Brussels during the European elections.

With our rainbow flags, we will simply outshine any solar eclipse without letting sand be blown into our eyes.
 




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