Amsterdam Gay Pride is in full swing and once again I am elsewhere. I haven’t minded missing the celebration the last couple of years. But this year I wish I were there. My former employer is sponsoring one of the eighty boats in the Canal Parade in honor of some very special guests – eight young LGBT activists from parts of the world where being gay can be a matter of life or death.
Radio Netherlands Worldwide (RNW) has always been openly supportive of the international LGBT community. In the late 80s, producer Pete Myers began covering stories about gay social issues on his weekly show Rembrandt Express, long before other mainstream media. When I took over producing an arts and culture program in the early 90s, he encouraged me to talk with as many LGBT artists, musicians, writers, and filmmakers as possible. Three programs I produced between 1998 and 2004 that were honored with NLGJA Excellence in Journalism Awards are part of his legacy.
(Exactly one year ago I was on Fire Island for the first time, at the invitation of my friend Kate McCamy. Why I never got there during the ten years I lived in NYC is another story for another time. Kate’s first visit was somewhat more eventful than mine, and I’m pleased to have her tell the tale herself as my first Guest Blogger.)
No summer is complete without a few days of toes in sand and hopelessly tangled salty hair. My beach of choice is Fire Island, Cherry Grove to be specific. My older brother from another mother and upstairs neighbor has rented a house in August for nine years. I’m fortunate enough to stay in his good graces and get invited for birthday fun in the sun a few days every summer. There is nothing like the crackle of anticipation as the ferry slows to approach the dock, rainbow flags flapping in the breeze.
The stress of life falls off me as I roll my suitcase along the bumpy boardwalk. I pass homes with fantastic names like House of Orange, Over The Rainbow, festooned colorful decorations ranging from baby doll heads to a cornucopia of all things sexual. Such is life on the Grove, a different country with it’s own customs and language. The queen of the island is the Belvedere, a Venetian castle built in the ‘50s out of former stage sets. It sports more statues of David than a Florence souvenir shop and trompe l’oiel everything. The first hotel in the country exclusively for gay men, their website states no woman has ever crossed its threshold. This is not true.
“I love that half of the people posting about the death of Margaret Thatcher are actually posting pictures of Meryl Streep,” wrote gay blogger and author Kergan Edwards-Stout on Facebook. At first I thought he might be joking, but on further reflection I fear not. Social media is full of such inaccuracies and one must admit that Meryl Streep, in her Oscar-winning turn as the Iron Lady, is more photogenic.
“You should never say bad things about the dead, you should only say good…Joan Crawford is dead. Good.” – Bette Davis (1977)
The rainbow flags are out in Amsterdam today. No, we’re not celebrating Gay Pride early this year. It’s part of a citywide action to “welcome” Russian President Putin. The official reason for his visit is to celebrate 2013 Year of Friendship, marking 400 years of ties between the Netherlands and Russia. But as Putin dines with Queen Beatrix at the Maritime Museum on Monday April 8th, thousands of protestors are expected to gather outside to express strong disapproval of Russia’s proposed anti-gay legislation.
Back in January, the Russian State Duma voted 388-1 in support of a bill that will make “promotion of homosexuality” – particularly by providing information to minors – a punishable offence. More recently there are reports of plans to ban adoption of Russian children by foreign gay couples. The anti-propaganda law is already in force in St. Petersburg and has had a profound effect on the LGBT community there.