Homophobic incidents have increasingly been making the news in the Netherlands – once so proud of its international reputation for tolerance. Recently in the central city of Utrecht, homophobic threats and abuse drove a lesbian couple, a gay couple and a transgender woman from their homes. However, there are no reliable figures showing an increase in homophobic attacks.
René Tigges, a 40-year-old gay man, recently moved to Utrecht, unperturbed by the recent reports. He lives in a multicultural neighbourhood and has no intention of changing his behaviour. For example, he doesn’t worry about who’s watching when he kisses a male friend goodbye in the street.
“I just stay myself. If I’m in the street with a gay friend or if I walk him to the station, for instance, then I say goodbye just like anyone else would. I don’t start looking round, thinking ‘Oh, who’s watching, oh no, I shouldn’t do it, because someone might say something.’ No.”
Three kisses on the cheek is a normal greeting in the Netherlands, also between urban heterosexual men. Nevertheless kissing between men can draw horrified reactions from young Dutch Moroccans. And it is against such young men that complaints of homophobic abuse are most frequently directed.
One young Moroccan in Utrecht claims gay men only have themselves to blame. “They draw attention to themselves, act a bit disgusting. It’s not on, is it? If you’re doing your shopping then you start kissing. It’s disrespectful, isn’t it? Yes, it’s a provocation, you know what I mean. Man-woman, okay, but you’ve got to show a bit of respect.”
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