by Bruce Bawer
Apropos of my comment that “gay-bashing has become so rife in recent years” in Amsterdam “that more and more gays are in fact moving to the countryside to escape it,” one Amsterdam resident demurs:
I don't know any gay man who is contemplating moving to the countryside to avoid gay-bashing. They might be thinking of moving to Berlin, but that's because the gay nightlife scene in Amsterdam has grown pretty boring in the past few years.
This article is one of many that mention the flight of gays from Amsterdam to the countryside as a result of the rise in gay-bashing in that city. (It's largely because of concern about Muslim gay-bashing, by the way, that large numbers of Dutch gays have abandoned the socialists and now vote for Geert Wilders’s Freedom Party and other non-socialist parties.) The reader continues:
If they really want to leave the city to avoid violence against gays, pretty much the worst thing they could do is move to the countryside. Despite what you're insinuating in your post, the overwhelming majority of suspects in cases like this (86%, in one study I read) are in fact not of foreign descent at all, but utterly Dutch. They're hicks from the countryside who come to Amsterdam to get wasted, and then figure it's a good idea to beat up some gay guy.
It’s not surprising that the reader believes this, for this is exactly what many Dutch media have reported. But it’s not true. See my postings for November 24 and 26, 2008, here.
More from the reader:
The facts here do actually show that the immigrants' offspring are adopting the Dutch liberal attitude toward gays. A study by Elmar Jansen of the University of Amsterdam showed that Dutch muslims already are more accepting of gays than groups like, say, farmers in Germany, or the average person in Greece. They're also a lot more tolerant of gays than muslims in other countries. Unfortunately I don't have an English-language link for you, but the study is summarized in Dutch here.
I've read the article in De Volkskrant to which the reader links, and to the extent that the Jansen study paints a positive picture, it is utterly at odds with the crime statistics and with mountains of anecdotal evidence of the sort found in that Times article above. In any case, the findings set forth in this Volkskrant article are hardly reason to jump for joy. “Many Moroccan-Dutch youth,” the article reports, “do not fully accept homosexuality, but think it should be permitted.” Also, a gay man named Chris Bouma says that when he talks to Muslims in west Amsterdam, “I’m still not accepted, but there are often lively discussions.”
The reader concludes:
And finally, the idea that it's now unsafe to be gay and live in Amsterdam is pretty laughable. There have been several very unfortunate incidents, and the uptick in violence against gays is regrettable, but it's certainly not of the apocalyptical proportions that you're making it out to be.
No, it’s not apocalyptic – yet. I still visit Amsterdam regularly and enjoy it. But it’s unwise to shrug off a decade or more of worsening conditions with words like “uptick” and “regrettable.” In my experience, all too many gays in Amsterdam share this reader’s determination to wave aside the problem. The grim fact is that if things continue to develop in the direction they're going, the wonderful, tolerant, gay-friendly Amsterdam that we love will, before very long, be a memory. And that would be tragic.