Dear Neighbors to the North, Welcome to 2020! This column is too short for the obligatory best wishes you have undoubtedly already received in abundance. I would like to focus on the challenges ahead of us in 2020 and possibly also in the coming years.
Dear Neighbors to the North, With the end of 2019 nearing, it is time again, as is tradition, for a Flemish media overview of quotes from well-known and less well-known Flemish people on our fascinating GLBTQI community.
Dear Neighbors to the North, The first Belgian refuge centre for GLBT people in Brussels has to look for new accommodation. With only room for the reception of eight people, the refuge centre cannot accommodate all emergency requests.
Dear Neighbors to the North, "Homosexuality will never be detectable through a blood test," the Flemish media reported in capitals some weeks ago. An international study shows that there are only five places in which homosexuals differ from heterosexuals in their genetic make-up.
Dear Neighbors to the North, Anyone who has ever visited Brussels and stepped out near the Kolenmarkt, where most of the gay bars are, may have seen the beautiful mural by the Cologne gay comics artist Ralf König.
Dear Neighbors to the North, The first half of 2019 has come to an end. Following below are high-profile and abject quotes about our queer people in all GLBTQI forms in the Flemish media. Or how well-known and lesser-known Flemish people express their opinions about gays, (too) often unvarnished, if you ask me.
Dear Neighbors to the North, Five years ago, a prominent orthopaedic surgeon from Brussels got into trouble. In the university hospital he worked at, he had hurled all kinds of anti-Semitic reproaches towards a Jewish assistant-in-training during an operation. The story leaked to the media. The surgeon was not aware of any harm done, but forgot to take the Israeli lobby machine into account. That was also my first introduction to this powerful lobby group.
Dear Neighbors to the North, Since June 1, 2017, PrEP is reimbursed in Belgium. According to scientists, it is effective prevention against HIV and would drastically reduce the number of HIV infections. That is the theory. Practice - as often - shows a different picture.
Dear Neighbors to the North, Last year, Boudewijn Van Spilbeeck, the fifty-eight-year-old journalist at the News Service of Flemish commercial broadcaster VTM, announced that from that moment on, he wanted to go through life as a woman. By now Bo has completed all her operations and transition, and is back at work full-time.
Dear Neighbors to the North, A reformer. A pioneer. Extremely likeable and friendly. There was no shortage of praises when Pope Francis took over the pontifical office on 13 March 2013 from his predecessor Benedict XVI, who had indicated his wish to resign the month before for health reasons.
Dear Neighbors to the North, Another year, and time for new quotes from the last semester of 2018 from well-known or lesser-known Belgians about our queer fellow man, in all GLBTQI forms. A brief anthology of Flemish media.
Dear Neighbors to the North, I work in healthcare in Belgium, and know it through and through. A medical journalist and columnist with a very sharp and analytical pen whom I know, informed me that he would soon publish a column on a medical-professional website. He had spoken to a French-speaking lesbian specialist who works in a Brussels hospital and who complains about missed promotional opportunities, as well as the fact that there are hardly any lesbian doctors in Belgium.
Dear Neighbors to the North, Through Facebook, people stay in touch with friends and acquaintances sharing memories. However, some of these posts are also of a sad nature. The death of a pet, a father or mother or other family member, a friend. Just as well that Facebook also deals with more serious matters.
Dear Neighbors to the North, It is forbidden by law to deny that the Holocaust ever happened during the Second World war. And with reason. The denial of very different forms of violence, physical or mental, however, is not penalized. In this case: gay bashing.
Dear Neighbors to the North, In the Dutch media it was reported that - although they use different wording as to not mention their true motives - municipalities and governments do their utmost to “eradicate” gay meeting places. A kind of hidden agenda, so to speak, under the guise of all sorts of fallacies while not actually saying that the elimination of such meeting places is in fact the real reason, and not the consequence of a certain policy.
Dear Neighbors to the North, The Belgian Pride of May 19 was held over a month ago. It was a pride that is memorable for several reasons. In the first place because of the Pride itself. For obscure reasons, the parade went through the narrow streets of Brussels’ centre.
Dear Neighbors to the North, It is time for the first media review of 2018, with quotes from well-known or lesser-known Belgians - whether or not GLBTQ - about (homo) sexuality in the broadest sense of the word, and recorded in Flemish media.
Dear Neighbors to the North, Through Facebook you read personal stories, outside of your circle of friends, for instance a shared appeal from a Fleming, a person in his fifties from the province of Antwerp. The man had met a man from West Africa a few years ago, his ideal husband and partner according to his post on Facebook. At his own expense he had the man come over to Belgium, in the hope and assumption that he would be able to marry him in no time.
Dear Neighbors to the North, For a while, Flemish political TV journalist Boudewijn Van Spilbeeck became international news. This time as “Bo,” as of January 30th, Boudewijn is going through life as Bo. A remarkable story, especially if you have a lot of respect for Boudewijn’s long professional career and how he could keep this a secret for so long.
In Belgium, the next municipal elections will take place on October 14. Perhaps not that important, you might think, but they will say something about the results of the next national elections in 2019. Left-wing versus right-wing (or vice-versa), just as in the Netherlands. There is no place in the elections for moderate opinions and election promises, even at a local and municipal level. The fight for a seat on the city council will be with boxing gloves on.
Those who follow the reports on the many accusations of inappropriate behavior and sexual assault must have experienced some mixed emotions. I don’t want to diminish the people who truly have had experienced something traumatic, for instance dealing with rape, but now, everything seems to be cross-border behavior.
Dear Neighbors to the North, Believe it or not, 2017 is almost over. Time for the traditional review of articles published in the Flemish media in the second half of 2017, with homophobic and less homophobic statements by well-known and less well-known people.
Dear Neighbors to the North, Despite a busy work schedule, I always try to organize a little get-together with some friends during the week in Brussels. A moment to talk, to hear the latest gossip, to exchange ideas on politics, or learn something new.
Dear Neighbors to the North, The asylum and immigration crisis in Europe is not over by far. The distinction between refugees and economic or transit migrants may be quite clear on paper, but in practice it is quite complicated for officials to test the story of the refugee or migrant.
Dear Neighbors to the North, Brussels, or should I say some over-zealous French-speaking and Brussels-based interest groups in the GLBTI community, want to organize EuroPride in our capital in 2020. Bringing the EuroPride to Belgium is a good idea, but the thought of organizing it in Brussels gives me the chills.
Dear Neighbors to the North,
In the summer recess, we will look back on the first six months of 2017, with statements in the media by well-known and lesser-known Belgians about homosexuality, gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people, as recorded in the Flemish media.
A recently published American study in the “Columbia Journal of Gender and Law” examines the extent to which - according to US legislation - assault, rape or the administration of intentional injuries related to stealthing can be determined. For those who are not familiar with the term: stealthing means that the man removes the condom during anal or vaginal penetration unnoticed.
On May 7, we will know who the next French president will be for the coming five years. Polls indicate that, after the first round, only Emmanuel Macron – independent without a party in the centre of the political spectrum – and the far-right Marine Le Pen of the National Front (FN) will go on to the second round. But polls are not always correct, as we now know all too well.
A remarkable and somewhat painful incident on March 10 in Tongeren’s criminal court. The twenty-three-year-old Abdullah Essah stood trial for the murder of the fifty-year-old gay man Erik Janssen. Janssen supposedly had paid Abdullah for sex, but when Janssen said he would make Abdullah’s homosexuality public, he apparently went nuts.
Dear Neighbors to the North, Do I think that PrEP should be reimbursed by the RIZIV (the Belgian public health insurance)? It’s a trick question, as most people know what I do professionally, and how the subject sometimes involves me. They try to figure out my position on the subject, knowing that I’m gay. This is perhaps a reason to expect an appropriate answer from me?
Dear Neighbors to the North, Following the death of British pop star George Michael, the GLBTQ community praised George Michael as a role model. To some degree, his coming out was very brave indeed, but it should not come as a surprise that precisely the coming out of role models is part of the marketing and public relations of the celebrities’ personality cult.
Dear Neighbors to the North, Now that the obligatory New Year’s wishes are soon a thing of the past, it is time for the traditional short review of the last semester of a rather eventful 2016, with some striking statements made by famous and less famous Belgians in the Flemish media.
Dear Neighbors to the North, Behind every successful man there is a woman. This certainly holds true for a lot of successful men, for instance former American president Bill Clinton. His wife Hillary did not become the forty-fifth President of the United States, but her maligned rival and real estate tycoon Donald Trump did.
Dear Neighbors to the North, The bishop of Antwerp, Johan Bonny, regularly reaches out to the gay community. In his new book, which was published last month, he thinks aloud about new church rituals. According to the bishop, new forms of cohabitation, for example gay couples and legally cohabiting straight couples, should be included.
Dear Neighbors to the North, When this column goes to the printer, I will be at the European fetish event of the year, Folsom in Berlin. It is the joyful reunion with friends from home and abroad I do not bump into every day.
Dear Neighbors to the North, Who takes a stand in Belgium (and Europe) for the gay community? One is easily tempted to reply that organizations such as Wel Jong Niet Hetero, Cavaria as an umbrella organization, etcetera, will do so.
Dear Neighbors to the North, The first six months of 2016 are behind us now. As is customary, a short overview of some quotes by famous and less famous Belgians in the Flemish media over the last semester. Have a great summer everyone!
Dear Neighbors to the North, although I write this column when the Belgian Pride still has to take place, not to worry. Just as previous year, Belgian Pride has already caused some commotion, even before the first drag queen with feathers up his ass is shaking his hips in a pretentious manner in front of a camera lens. The Brussels city council decided some weeks ago to change the yearly meeting place from Beursplein to the Kunstberg in the Central Station area.
Dear Neighbors to the North, The French investigative journalist Sophie Coignard knows how to set about her work. Few investigative journalist dig so deep in an attempt to discover the truth. Fascinated by various (state) secrets and the dark powers that be, she published her most successful book “Un état dans l’état” (A State within the State) in 2009.
Dear Neighbors to the North, Discrimination and homophobia have become second nature for gay people. Statistically, it is impossible for any gay man or lesbian not ever having to deal with discrimination and homophobia. Discrimination is often subtle, but homophobia can result in physical violence.
Dear Neighbors to the North, When creating a profile, certain gay dating sites ask to enter “race” or “color.” Are you Caucasian, Arabic, “Black,” or “Asian,” etc.? No one seems to mind. But when “black” Pete is involved, especially in the Netherlands, all hell breaks loose.
Dear Neighbors to the North, The maximum terror level in Brussels most likely did not escape anyone in the Netherlands. Just as many other foreign tourists, the Dutch have delayed their end-of-year trip to Brussels indefinitely. Terror fright, it is called.
Dear Neighbors to the North, Pope Francis was struggling during and after his media-crazed trip to the United States. Even though he did not mention gay marriage during his speech for the General Assembly of the United Nations, an AFP journalist noticed a subtle hint about his disapproval of it in the text of the speech.
Dear Neighbors to the North, American county clerk Kim Davis is still in jail at the time this column is going to press. She was sent to jail because of her continuous refusal to process marriage licenses by same-sex couples leading up to their wedding. It’s contrary to her Catholic beliefs.
Dear Neighbors to the North, Under the motto “It’s never too late for a first time” I visited Antwerp Pride in the weekend of August 8. The visit was limited to Friday and Saturday, as this column had to be sent out to the publisher Sunday afternoon.
Dear Neighbors to the North, I thought it was a thing of the past until I was corrected by an article on the news site of the BBC. How women after ten, twenty years of marriage find out that their husband is gay. Unfortunately there are still men who prefer to get married instead of confronting and upsetting the family, even in Western Europe.
Dear Neighbors to the North, The first six months of 2015 are behind us. During this time, the Flemish press has of course written about homosexuality. Here follows a selection, ideal for reading material at a holiday destination of your choice.
Dear Neighbors to the North,
Several weeks ago, the very first Belgian surrogate mother fair took place in Brussels. Here, especially North-American agencies offered their services to gay and lesbian couples. Surrogate motherhood is not regulated in Belgium, and there are quite a lot of legal issues that are in need of regulation.
Dear Neighbors to the North, Some weeks ago, the Belgian gay community was in turmoil. Well, mostly in Brussels and the Walloon provinces. What happened? Federal minister of Social Affairs and Health, Maggie De Block, had cancelled the national HIV plan that is primarily meant to counteract the spread of HIV.
Dear Neighbors to the North,
In Belgium, HIV treatment costs 1,027.50 Euros per patient per month, or 12,330 Euros per year. These are some of the conclusions of a study from the University of Hasselt on the total economic health costs of HIV treatment in Belgium.
Dear Neighbors to the North,
Seventy years ago, on January 27, 1945, Soviet troops invaded the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland. They found 6,000 prisoners who were still alive. During World War II - depending on the source - approximately 11 million people were killed in concentration camps. The majority was Jewish, some six million people.
Dear Neighbors to the North, The deadline for this column was on Sunday, January 11th, the day one million French people took to the streets in Paris. They did so to vent their grief over the terrorist acts that had taken place in the Parisian streets.
Dear Neighbors to the North, A new year. A new overview of the half-yearly quotes about the gay community in the Flemish press. I wish you all excellent health in the New Year. But it is up to you to have fun!
Dear Neighbors to the North, Our new government was forged - to Belgian standards - fairly quickly and easily, but some new members of the government will not easily forget the commotion of the first days. This also holds true for Theo Francken of the Flemish-Nationalist N-VA, who became the Secretary of State for Asylum and Migration.
Dear Neighbors to the North, The chairman of the Flemish nationalist N-VA and Mayor of Antwerp, Bart De Wever (BDW), is more popular than our former Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo among gays. That isn’t very surprising, as only the Flemish gays could vote in the survey by OUTtv, and at the last parliamentary elections, the N-VA had a monster score.
Dear Neighbors to the North, During the summer holiday at his job interview, the thirty-one-year-old teacher David Degreef from Brussels was told by the headmistress that he could not mention his homosexuality. That in school, staying in the closet would be for the best.
Dear Neighbors to the North, The controversial conversion therapy, turning homosexuals into heterosexuals, is back in the spotlight. This time in China, but with a positive note. For the first time, a Chinese psychiatrist has to account for using conversion therapy on Chinese gays and lesbians in court. The subpoena is a success for Chinese gay activists, who want to get rid of the “disease” label on homosexuality.
Dear Neighbors to the North, In an article in The Guardian of July 7 British lesbian and feminist columnist Julie Bindel shared her thoughts on the narrow ties between big business and the gay community. She is rightly wondering whether all that support is about equality, or about money.
Dear Neighbors to the North, This was the title that newspaper “De Morgen” ran on June 4 on the American campaign for luxury hotel chain the Marriott. Hugging men on a bench, a gay couple with children, the marriage of a lesbian member of staff of the hotel chain. With this imagery and matching photos, the Marriott wants to attract GLBT and (trans) couples.