From gay thesis to homology

From gay thesis to homology2019-01-22T16:56:19+00:00

Much of the work at Homodok was not documented. Volunteers came there to help work on its ideals. The work at a documentation center is pretty boring and consequently, part of the history was at a risk of being lost. Therefore, we present here the story of Martien Sleutjes from the early period.

“February 1978. I was studying history at the Open University in Amsterdam and was trying to focus on the thesis for my major. Walter Brohet drew my attention to a call to all gay and lesbian students in the University of Amsterdam. Scholars were allowed to say something about homosexuality, so why couldn’t homosexual academics carry out research about themselves?

Women had already preceded us with women’s studies. While homosexual subgroups were popping up like mushrooms after rain, the students lagged behind. There was so to speak a subgroup of homosexual tram conductors, but they were being studied by heterosexual anthropologists.

Miami Nightmare

Meanwhile, the time for change had come. In 1971, article 248bis—the section of the law that condemns homosexuality—was abolished. In the following years, gays clearly tested the tolerance of the Netherlands and the world. The COC, which for years had been very introverted, gradually came out and began to radicalize internally. The United States and its strongly growing gay scene felt closer by. Even so close, that the anti-gay campaign led by Anita Bryant in Florida also led to much concern here in the Netherlands.

Because it was far away, the Netherlands could show its tolerant side: the Concert Hall, the cultural temple of the Netherlands, was used for a big anti-Anita happening. The Miami Nightmare was a massive success, even more than anyone had initially imagined.

That night, the Netherlands was also publicly introduced to the Rooie Flikkers (Red Faggots). Left-wing, from Nijmegen and thus radical—this group tried to expose the false tolerance in Dutch society. Their appearance—in drag—at the tram station in front of the Concert Hall shocked many visitors to the Nightmare. Later, they were approvingly received at the alternative party the Miami Nichtenherrie (Miami Faggots’ Racket) in the De Weesper student club. The non-conformists waited there to strike back.

Gay capital of Europe

In the gay subculture, many changes were also occurring. The leather and SM scene grew like crazy, particularly due to inflow of British gay refugees. Amsterdam developed a genuine reputation of being a tolerant city.

Nevertheless, the subculture existed in shuttered pubs and nightclubs with terrifying doorkeepers. In most European cities, this remained common practice until the late nineties. In this barren landscape, two establishments were founded in Amsterdam that literally put gays in the display window: the Downtown Coffee Shop and Café April. They turned one of the most grim city-center streets into the center of the self-proclaimed gay capital of Europe.

And then there was also the Gay Pride. Actually, it was then called Pink Saturday and it was something Dutch. Only later, the Dutch gay movement forgot its own history and became to shamelessly copy the American parades. By now, Berlin is again the gay capital of Europe, the Dutch dancing music waits for the changing of the guard by Berlin DJs and Dutch gays and lesbians swim in a pool of understanding.

In February 1978, this was all very far away. A spacious lecture room in the Law Faculty in the Oude Manhuispoort was packed. Various ideas regarding activities were being developed: per faculty, per sub-faculty, as well as cross-connections with other universities.

We also decided to organize a party in the spring. That was also to be the occasion on which the first issue of our magazine would see the day of light: the first edition of Homologie was therefore called Magazine for Homology.

The Study Center for Special Sexology

Meanwhile, my mind was racing. I had made the final decision to devote my major thesis, titled ‘Newest History’ to the gay issue. Because I was studying at the Open University, this became The Changing Confessional Way of Thinking about Homosexuality 1900 – 1960. A nice concept, fiercely supported by professor Horst Lademacher, who turned out to be more of a great inspiration than a good supervisor.

When he left, the whole lot was divided. I ended up with someone whose complete ignorance of historical undercurrents only proved that gay studies were a bitter necessity.

The thesis became a horror: a lot of baloney, too defensive. To make matters worse, it was also typed by someone who would have been better off learning cuneiform script. Years later, the only interesting part of this entire mess became – thanks to the competent editing skills of Sacha Wijmer – a sound piece in Homologie titled ‘The Study Center for Special Sexology’.

Magazine for Homology

But in 1978, I still needed all the help in the world. The establishment of gay studies was great support. In response to the gathering, I contacted Rob Tielman, a sociologist from Utrecht. He was actually busy with an historic-sociological PhD thesis about the history of the Dutch gay movement as a social movement. He became the external supervisor of my thesis and I became one of the reviewers of his PhD thesis.

From his home in Vianen, he set going me in various directions. In the basement, there was a lot of material. Bert Boelaars, a colleague in Utrecht from the Humanitarian Association, was put to work by Rob on arranging the archive of the COC. I needed the oldest material from the archive, the material that Jaap van Leeuwen lovingly kept in memory of Mr. Schorer’s legacy.

Because I already had lay-out experience with the Open University student magazine Pharetra, the idea was conceived in Vianen for me to manage the Magazine for Homology together with the Bert’s group, among others.”

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