EDITORIAL & PRODUCTION
Executive Editor CHRIS CRAIN
Editor BINNIE FISHER
Con-espondents BRYAN ANDERTON,
DVANA BAGBY, LOU CHIBBARO, JR.. JOE CREA.
MUBARAK OAHIR, LAURA DOUGLAS-BROWN,
MIKE FLEMING, MATTHEW HENNIE, JOHNNY
HOOKS, PHIL LAPADULA RYAN LEE, BRIAN MOY-
LAN. KEVIN NAFF, YUSEF NAJAFL KEN SAIN,
RHONDA SMITH, STEVE WEINSTEIN.
Cartributoi-s DON MAINES, DAWN RORIE, ELLA
TYLER, SHANA NICHOLSON, JA CHAPMAN. RICH
ARENSCHIELDT AND ANAS BEN-MUSA
PhotograplMS DALTON DEHART.
FYoductiMl Manager JAMES NEAL
Webmaster ARAM VARTIAN
SALES & ADMINISTRATION
Genera) Manager JASON WILSON
jwilson a houstonvoice.com
Classified Sales / Office Administrator
JOHNNY HOOKS - ihookio.houstonvoice.com
National Advertising Representative
Rivendell Media • 212-242-6863
Pubfclw- WINDOW MEDIA LLC
President- WILLIAM WAYBOURN
Editorial Director-CHRIS CRAIN
Corporate Controller- BARNETTE HOLSTON
Art Director-ROB BOEGER
Director of Operations-MIKE KITCHENS
Director of Sales- STEVEN GUERR1N1
Director of Classified Sales- NATHAN REGAN
Marketing Manager RON ROMANSKI
Established 1974 as the Montrose Star.
500 Lovett Blvd. Suite 200
Houston, Texas 77006
Office hours: 9 a.m.-530 p.m. weekdays
To submit a letter
Letters should be fewer than 400 words. We reserve
the right to edit for content and length. We will withhold names upon request but you must include your
name and phone number for --wtfication. Please send
mail to Houston Voice, 500 Lovett Blvd. Suite 200,
Houston. Texas 77006: fax (713) 529-9531 or e-mail
to edrtorahoustofiwice.com. Opinions expressed
therein do not reflect those of the Houston Vote.
All material in Houston Voce is protected by federal
copyright law .md mjy not be reproduced without the
written consent of Houston Voce The sexual orientation
ol advertisers, phctoyaphers. writers and cartoonists
published herein is neither »iferred or implied The
appearance of names or pictorial representation
does not necessarily indicate the sexual orientation
at that person or persons.
Houston Voce accepts unsolicited editorial
material but cannot take responsiMity lor its return
The editor reserves the right to accept, reject or edit
any submission All rights revert to authors
upon publication Guidelines lor freelance
iwtltwtMS are available upon request
MAY 27, 2005
Amsterdam's welcome mat to gays won't be restored by
using the law to silence Muslim fundamentalists. Gay
Americans are all too used to such arm-twisting tactics.
By CHRIS CRAIN
N THE WEEK FOLLOWING
the violent attack in
Amsterdam on my boyfriend
and me by seven men angry
that we were holding hands,
the Dutch media have focused
a tremendous amount of attention on the assault.
In a 20-minute story on Holland's answer to
"60 Minutes," and in radio and newspaper
reports in newspapers, and on countless news
and blog sites, the gay-friendly Dutch have struggled to place the attack in a broader context.
Was it an isolated incident or the latest in a
series that suggests a changing climate in the
Netherlands that no longer fits the country's legendary reputation as open and tolerant toward all?
Particularly incendiary has been my description of our attackers as having "Moroccan-like
features" and accents. I was generally aware of
tension over immigration policies in Holland,
but of the more than 700 messages I've received,
roughly half have focused almost exclusively on
the assumed cultural and religious heritage of
our attackers and the dangers many native
Dutch feel from their version of the "Culture
Wars" we have fought in the US. for years.
The other half of the messages dealt
instead with the anti-gay motivation of our
attackers and urged my boyfriend and me to
return to Amsterdam, and to hold hands in the
street without fear. We have been touched
more than we can say by this show of support.
from abroad and at home.
All of the messages were sympathetic and
some dealt with the cultural conflict in a
thoughtful, careful manner. But many Dutch
residents were particularly blunt in their disgust for the changes they see in their country.
"This kind of behavior is exactly why the
Dutch would like to see the Moroccans go back
home rather sooner than later," wrote one
woman in a typical message. "Because they
are miles apart from Dutch culture."
"You seem to think that those Moroccans
only hate gay people?" wrote a resident of
Leiden, near Amsterdam. "Forget it! They hate
everyone who isn't Moroccan. For years our
government is telling us to be tolerant, to try
to understand 'our new Dutch." This is where
Andrew Sullivan kindly helped spread initial word about the attack on his eponymous
blog, and like many others couched the Dutch
Culture Wars in explicit religious terms.
"Hatred of open and proud homosexuals is
intrinsic to Islamist fundamentalism, as it is to
Christian fundamentalism," he wrote. "The
struggle against both is the same one — at
home and abroad."
Scott Long, director of the Lesbian, Gay,
Bisexual & Transgender Program at the
Human Rights Watch, also blamed the attack
in part on "global fundamentalism" — mainly
U.S. televangelist Pat Robertson and the new
Catholic pope. He went on to claim our
assault was the natural response of a Muslim
minority routinely discriminated against by
"There's still an extraordinary degree of
racism in Dutch society," Long said in an
interview with PlanetOut. "Gays often become
the victims of this when immigrants retaliate
for the inequities that they have to suffer."
MY OWN VIEW IS THAT MANY OF OUR
well-intentioned supporters are approaching
the underlying cause of hate violence in fundamentally misguided ways. Long, in particular, only fans the flames of hate by blaming
our attack on Dutch society, which has enacted
the most progressive gay laws in the world, for
producing an anti-gay attack.
There was no racist component to our
attack, as he implies. Our attackers would have
reacted at least as viciously to two men of their
own ethnicity who walked the street as lovers.
Long's brand of "blame the society" political
correctness is a distraction from the very real
cultural clashes happening in Holland and elsewhere. In his role at Human Rights Watch, Long
has no business being an apologist for hate, and
for the bias-motivaied violence it produces.
It's also too easy to point the finger at
America's favorite target - fundamentalist
Islam. We were walking back to our hotel room
in the wee hours on Saturday morning through
a street full of holiday revelers. Our attackers
were not on the corner for morning prayers.
I do not mean to discount the influence of
religion on culture. I grew up in the American
South, where fundamentalist Christianity provided aid and comfort for the racist oppression
of blacks and continues to rally opposition to
equality for gays.
But the contribution of religion here is more
indirect, and I'm not sure much can be accomplished with non-Muslims blaming a faith about
which we are mostly ignorant for the culture we
think it has produced. Life in a multicultural
society means accepting that others will not
share our religious beliefs and that no one group
should lay claim to representing "normal society" demanding all others succumb.
THE DUTCH CULTURE WARS SHOULD
not be fought by shutting down the borders or
by using the law to silence those who do not
share the country's tradition of tolerance.
Those are the arm-twisting tactics of the cultural conservatives who control the majority
party here in the U.S.
If we really believe our own rhetoric —
about freedom of thought and tolerance of other
cultures and values — then the best response is
more openness and more speech, not less.
Too often those who advocate for openness
and tolerance get dismissed as soft-headed or
naive, and they can be. Some Dutch media have
purposefully ignored the cultural conflict that
played a role in our attack by refusing to report
any details about our attackers. Tolerance
should not mean burying your head in the sand.
Others, like Long from Human Rights
Watch, will view hate violence through a P.C.
lens, apologizing for the attackers if then-
minority status "trumps" that of those who
A more vigorous approach to openness
would make the case for a society where each
group is entitled to its own values, but not to
impose them on others whether through laws
or through fists in the streets, This approach
would publicly call upon good people from
across the ideological spectrum, including those
religious and cultural leaders who condemn
homosexuality, to also condemn a brutal street
beating of those who do not share their views.
I've been asked many times in the last
week whether gay tourists should steer clear
of Amsterdam until the climate there
improves. I certainly hope that isn't what
I am proud that my boyfriend and I stood
up for ourselves by walking the streets of
Amsterdam hand in hand, and by not running
away when we were confronted.
I would urge other gay tourists, as well as
gays and our allies living in Holland, to stand
up for themselves, too,
and not run away figuratively, either.
Chris Crain is
H executive editor of
the Houston Voice
and can be reached at