Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Danny

I've wanted to do this post at the beginning of the month, around Canal Pride. Didn't have the energy to do it after coming back from Spain, but in good conscience I can't really skip it.

A traditional Dutch stereotype about gays is that they are always capable of creating a riot, a scandal. It's a stereotype I've never found abroad, but in my experience it is pretty much true. I don't mind this one, though. It's summarized in one word; relnicht.

So Canal Pride is traditionally surrounded by fights, disagreements and petty quarrels. Traditionally, organiser Siep de Haan would announce a week before the parade to do something that would be against council regulations. Something petty, like flying the rainbow flag even though there are strict flag regulations. Or leaving loud music on for longer than would normally be allowed, or sidewalk cafes that would spill out onto the streets. And the Amsterdam Central Borough president, traditionally Anne Lize van der Stoel, a lesbian, would respond in kind with threats to call the whole thing off.

In the end, "just" in time of course, they would settle their differences and everything would be alright before Pride Saturday, even though they confessed to "hating each other".

Both have left their positions a couple of years ago, to the relief of everyone who was bored of this publicity-seeking ritual.

But this year's Pride was different, for the first time in years serious even. Waves of violence have hit the community like almost never before. Pride weekend was especially bad, but that played out after the parade. But there was a riot like never before.

At it's center, a brave 14-year old. Danny Hoekzema. Danny came out at 11, can you believe that? That fact alone makes me feel so weak, so immature really.



Danny wanted to have his own boat in the parade, for the kids under 16, those who cannot legally join dating sites or go to gay bars, a group of which Holland had never thought before and for which amenities are scarce.



Amsterdam mayor Cohen, an anti-Giuliani if there ever was one, wasted no time banning this initiative. A wave of suggestive sentiment linking gays and pedophiles hit the media.

Chairman of gay rights movement COC Frank van Dalen managed to broker a compromise with the mayor: the boat could go ahead if the parents would be able to ride behind it in another boat. The minimum age would be 13. This is reasonable, we're talking minors at a pretty much sex-crazed event here.

It was a massive success. The parents wore T-shirts with the text "proud parent". Three camera teams followed Danny around all day; CNN and the Beeb came by too.

So I take my hat off to Danny. He's done more for his community at 14 than I will probably ever have done for mine by the time I'm thirty. And I love his parents, who are not just completely accepting but willing to ride this storm for their young son.

A bright star lit up what became a pretty grim weekend.

Links:

The boat at Pride

Danny's homepage, in Dutch
Cynical reporter Rutger interviews Danny and his parents, also in Dutch.
Danny on Nova, our most prestigious news program.

1 comment:

Matt-CNS said...

He came out at 11????? WOW, good for him, but it makes me feel woefully inadequate by comparison. Even more impressive is what he has accomplished.