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social sciences

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The Netherlands  
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The Turn into the Twenty-First Century

In the 1990s, the gay world further diversified. The street culture of public toilets moved from the inner city to parks and highway stops outside the city. The gay world proliferated and saw the emergence of various fetish-based subcultures, such as skinheads and leather devotees, and transgender communities. Ethnic minorities strongly contributed to diversity.

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As the millennium loomed, all major political parties included representatives who were openly gay or lesbian. This set the stage for further political gains.

Most remarkable was the emergence of the right-wing leader Pim Fortuyn, who was very openly gay. He even discussed in the media the taste of sperm and the pleasures of dark rooms. His sudden rise to political stardom ended abruptly on May 6, 2002, when he was murdered just before the elections that brought his party 17% of the vote.

In 1993, an Equal Rights Law was enacted protecting homosexuals, among other groups, from discrimination. In 1998, gay and lesbian relationships were legally acknowledged. In 2001, gay and lesbian couples were offered the option of marriage, an option that included the right of adoption.

The disappearance of legal discrimination against gay men and lesbians had an unexpected consequence. It made most Dutch think that the struggle for homosexual emancipation was over and the COC could close its doors. Indeed, the most important queer political organizations declined in the 1980s and have not seen a resurgence.

But the end of legal discrimination did not mean the end of social discrimination. Orthodox Christian and Muslim leaders, representing a minority of about 10% of the population, continue to denounce homosexuals. The most common insult on schoolyards remains "flikker" (faggot).

A growing puritanism not only affects the world of sex work and public eroticism, but also gay and lesbian culture. Nowadays there are fewer teachers and students who dare to come out in schools than a decade ago.

As is so often the case, lesbians are even less visible than gay men, who have a more lively public culture, produce more journals, and get more media attention. The successes of the past have led to a stagnation of sexual openness in the present and a denial of the discrimination that still exists.

Nevertheless, the successes of the Dutch emancipation movement have served as an inspiration to the international struggle for glbtq equality.

Gert Hekma

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social sciences >> Overview:  Amsterdam

Famous as a major gay tourist destination and for its tolerance of glbtq people, in the second half of the twentieth century Amsterdam became a leader in the struggle for glbtq equality.

literature >> Overview:  Dutch and Flemish Literature

The history of gay and lesbian literature in the Low Countries is rich and varied, reflecting the changing concepts of intimate relations between people of the same sex.

social sciences >> Overview:  Military Culture: European

Attitudes toward gay and lesbian personnel in European militaries vary widely, from the acceptance of the Dutch to the laissez-faire policy of the French to the rejection of the Greek and Turkish forces.

social sciences >> Overview:   Norway

Like most Scandinavian countries, Norway respects glbtq rights, and Norwegians are broadly tolerant of homosexuals.

literature >> Overview:  Romantic Friendship: Female

Until the beginning of the twentieth century, intimate, exclusive, and often erotic romantic friendships between women were largely perceived as normal and socially acceptable.

literature >> Overview:  Romantic Friendship: Male

Critics use the term male romantic friendship to describe strong attachments between men in works ranging from ancient epics and medieval romances to Renaissance plays, Gothic novels, westerns, and war movies.

arts >> Dutch Friendship Glasses

Dutch friendship glasses, which were made on order to celebrate friendship in the eighteenth century, may also have covertly celebrated same-sex sexual desire; one surviving friendship glass celebrates sodomitical pleasure.

social sciences >> Fortuyn, Pim

Openly gay Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn, who was assassinated in 2003, was in the political spotlight for only a few months, yet he managed to change the modern Netherlands.

social sciences >> Hirschfeld, Magnus

German-born Magnus Hirschfeld deserves recognition as a significant theorist of sexuality and the most prominent advocate of homosexual emancipation of his time.

arts >> Homomonument

Amsterdam's Homomonument is one of the world's foremost public memorials acknowledging the persecution endured by gay men and lesbians during World War II and throughout history.

social sciences >> Paragraph 175

Paragraph 175 was the German law prohibiting sex between men; strengthened by the Nazis, it was the statue under which homosexuals were sent to concentration camps.

literature >> Plato

Among Greek writers on homosexual themes, Plato is preeminent not only as a major philosopher but also as the greatest master of Greek prose.


Boon, Leo J. 'Dien godlosen hoop van menschen'. Vervolging van homoseksuelen in de Republiek in de jaren dertig van de achttiende eeuw. Amsterdam: De Bataafsche Leeuw, 1997.

Everard, Myriam. Ziel en zinnen. Over liefde en lust tussen vrouwen in de tweede helft van de achttiende eeuw. Groningen: Historische Uitgeverij, 1994.

Hekma, Gert. Homoseksualiteit, een medische reputatie. De uitdoktering van de homoseksueel in negentiende-eeuws Nederland. Amsterdam: SUA, 1987.

_____. De roze rand van donker Amsterdam. De opkomst van een homoseksuele kroegcultuur 1930-1980. Amsterdam: Van Gennep, 1992.

_____, Dorelies Kraakman, Maurice van Lieshout, and Jo Radersma, eds. Goed verkeerd. De geschiedenis van homoseksuele mannen en lesbische vrouwen in Nederland. Amsterdam: Meulenhoff, 1989.

Koenders, Pieter. Tussen Christelijk Réveil en seksuele revolutie. Bestrijding van zedeloosheid met de nadruk op repressie van homoseksualiteit. Amsterdam: IISG, 1996.

Kooten Niekerk, Anja van, and Sacha Wijmer. Verkeerde vriendschap. Lesbisch leven in de jaren 1920-1960. Amsterdam: Sara, 1985.

Meer, Theo van der. Sodoms zaad in Nederland. Het ontstaan van homoseksualiteit in de vroegmoderne tijd. Nijmegen: SUN, 1995.

Naerssen, Alexander X. Van, ed. Gay life in Dutch Society. New York: Harrington Press, 1987; special issue, Journal of Homosexuality 13 (1987):2/3.

Noordam, Dirk Jaap. Riskante relaties. Vijf eeuwen homoseksualiteit in Nederland, 1233-1733. Hilversum: Verloren, 1995.

Oosterhuis, Harry. Homoseksualiteit in katholiek Nederland. Een sociale geschiedenis 1900-1970. Amsterdam: SUA, 1992.

Ossewold, Juriënne, and Paul Verstraeten. Two of a Kind. Amsterdam: Amsterdam Historical Museum, 1989.

Tielman, Rob A. P. Homoseksualiteit in Nederland. Studie van een emancipatiebeweging. Meppel: Boom, 1982.

Warmerdam, Hans, and Pieter Koenders. Cultuur en ontspanning. Het COC 1946-1966. Utrecht: Homostudies, 1987.


    Citation Information
    Author: Hekma, Gert  
    Entry Title: The Netherlands  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2004  
    Date Last Updated December 27, 2006  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2004, glbtq, inc.  


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