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On May 7, we will know who the next French president will be for the coming five years. Polls indicate that, after the first round, only Emmanuel Macron – independent without a party in the centre of the political spectrum – and the far-right Marine Le Pen of the National Front (FN) will go on to the second round. But polls are not always correct, as we now know all too well.

May 2017       
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A remarkable and somewhat painful incident on March 10 in Tongeren’s criminal court. The twenty-three-year-old Abdullah Essah stood trial for the murder of the fifty-year-old gay man Erik Janssen. Janssen supposedly had paid Abdullah for sex, but when Janssen said he would make Abdullah’s homosexuality public, he apparently went nuts.

Apr 2017       
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Dear Neighbors to the North, Do I think that PrEP should be reimbursed by the RIZIV (the Belgian public health insurance)? It’s a trick question, as most people know what I do professionally, and how the subject sometimes involves me. They try to figure out my position on the subject, knowing that I’m gay. This is perhaps a reason to expect an appropriate answer from me?

Mar 2017       
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Dear Neighbors to the North, Following the death of British pop star George Michael, the GLBTQ community praised George Michael as a role model. To some degree, his coming out was very brave indeed, but it should not come as a surprise that precisely the coming out of role models is part of the marketing and public relations of the celebrities’ personality cult.

Feb 2017       
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Dear Neighbors to the North, Now that the obligatory New Year’s wishes are soon a thing of the past, it is time for the traditional short review of the last semester of a rather eventful 2016, with some striking statements made by famous and less famous Belgians in the Flemish media.

Jan 2017       
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Dear Neighbors to the North, Behind every successful man there is a woman. This certainly holds true for a lot of successful men, for instance former American president Bill Clinton. His wife Hillary did not become the forty-fifth President of the United States, but her maligned rival and real estate tycoon Donald Trump did.

Dec 2016       
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Dear Neighbors to the North, The bishop of Antwerp, Johan Bonny, regularly reaches out to the gay community. In his new book, which was published last month, he thinks aloud about new church rituals. According to the bishop, new forms of cohabitation, for example gay couples and legally cohabiting straight couples, should be included.

Nov 2016       
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Dear Neighbors to the North, When this column goes to the printer, I will be at the European fetish event of the year, Folsom in Berlin. It is the joyful reunion with friends from home and abroad I do not bump into every day.

Oct 2016       
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Dear Neighbors to the North, Who takes a stand in Belgium (and Europe) for the gay community? One is easily tempted to reply that organizations such as Wel Jong Niet Hetero, Cavaria as an umbrella organization, etcetera, will do so.

Sep 2016       
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Dear Neighbors to the North, The first six months of 2016 are behind us now. As is customary, a short overview of some quotes by famous and less famous Belgians in the Flemish media over the last semester. Have a great summer everyone!

Jul 2016       
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Dear Neighbors to the North, although I write this column when the Belgian Pride still has to take place, not to worry. Just as previous year, Belgian Pride has already caused some commotion, even before the first drag queen with feathers up his ass is shaking his hips in a pretentious manner in front of a camera lens. The Brussels city council decided some weeks ago to change the yearly meeting place from Beursplein to the Kunstberg in the Central Station area.

Jun 2016       
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Dear Neighbors to the North, The French investigative journalist Sophie Coignard knows how to set about her work. Few investigative journalist dig so deep in an attempt to discover the truth. Fascinated by various (state) secrets and the dark powers that be, she published her most successful book “Un état dans l’état” (A State within the State) in 2009.

May 2016       
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Dear Neighbors to the North, Discrimination and homophobia have become second nature for gay people. Statistically, it is impossible for any gay man or lesbian not ever having to deal with discrimination and homophobia. Discrimination is often subtle, but homophobia can result in physical violence.

Apr 2016       
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Dear Neighbors to the North, When creating a profile, certain gay dating sites ask to enter “race” or “color.” Are you Caucasian, Arabic, “Black,” or “Asian,” etc.? No one seems to mind. But when “black” Pete is involved, especially in the Netherlands, all hell breaks loose.

Feb 2016       
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Dear Neighbors to the North, The maximum terror level in Brussels most likely did not escape anyone in the Netherlands. Just as many other foreign tourists, the Dutch have delayed their end-of-year trip to Brussels indefinitely. Terror fright, it is called.

Jan 2016       
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Dear Neighbors to the North, Another year is almost over, and just like last semester, the Flemish media was full of reports on the gay community. Below, a small anthology of the last semester.

Dec 2015       
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Dear Neighbors to the North, Pope Francis was struggling during and after his media-crazed trip to the United States. Even though he did not mention gay marriage during his speech for the General Assembly of the United Nations, an AFP journalist noticed a subtle hint about his disapproval of it in the text of the speech.

Nov 2015       
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Dear Neighbors to the North, American county clerk Kim Davis is still in jail at the time this column is going to press. She was sent to jail because of her continuous refusal to process marriage licenses by same-sex couples leading up to their wedding. It’s contrary to her Catholic beliefs.

Sep 2015       
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Dear Neighbors to the North, Under the motto “It’s never too late for a first time” I visited Antwerp Pride in the weekend of August 8. The visit was limited to Friday and Saturday, as this column had to be sent out to the publisher Sunday afternoon.

Sep 2015       
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Dear Neighbors to the North, I thought it was a thing of the past until I was corrected by an article on the news site of the BBC. How women after ten, twenty years of marriage find out that their husband is gay. Unfortunately there are still men who prefer to get married instead of confronting and upsetting the family, even in Western Europe.

Sep 2015       
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Dear Neighbors to the North, The first six months of 2015 are behind us. During this time, the Flemish press has of course written about homosexuality. Here follows a selection, ideal for reading material at a holiday destination of your choice.

Aug 2015       
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Dear Neighbors to the North, Several weeks ago, the very first Belgian surrogate mother fair took place in Brussels. Here, especially North-American agencies offered their services to gay and lesbian couples. Surrogate motherhood is not regulated in Belgium, and there are quite a lot of legal issues that are in need of regulation.

Jun 2015       
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Dear Neighbors to the North, Some weeks ago, the Belgian gay community was in turmoil. Well, mostly in Brussels and the Walloon provinces. What happened? Federal minister of Social Affairs and Health, Maggie De Block, had cancelled the national HIV plan that is primarily meant to counteract the spread of HIV.

May 2015       
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Dear Neighbors to the North, In Belgium, HIV treatment costs 1,027.50 Euros per patient per month, or 12,330 Euros per year. These are some of the conclusions of a study from the University of Hasselt on the total economic health costs of HIV treatment in Belgium.

May 2015       
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Dear Neighbors to the North, Seventy years ago, on January 27, 1945, Soviet troops invaded the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland. They found 6,000 prisoners who were still alive. During World War II - depending on the source - approximately 11 million people were killed in concentration camps. The majority was Jewish, some six million people.

Mar 2015       
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Dear Neighbors to the North, The deadline for this column was on Sunday, January 11th, the day one million French people took to the streets in Paris. They did so to vent their grief over the terrorist acts that had taken place in the Parisian streets.

Mar 2015       
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Dear Neighbors to the North, A new year. A new overview of the half-yearly quotes about the gay community in the Flemish press. I wish you all excellent health in the New Year. But it is up to you to have fun!

Feb 2015       
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Dear Neighbors to the North, Our new government was forged - to Belgian standards - fairly quickly and easily, but some new members of the government will not easily forget the commotion of the first days. This also holds true for Theo Francken of the Flemish-Nationalist N-VA, who became the Secretary of State for Asylum and Migration.

Jan 2015       
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Dear Neighbors to the North, The chairman of the Flemish nationalist N-VA and Mayor of Antwerp, Bart De Wever (BDW), is more popular than our former Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo among gays. That isn’t very surprising, as only the Flemish gays could vote in the survey by OUTtv, and at the last parliamentary elections, the N-VA had a monster score.

Dec 2014       
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Dear Neighbors to the North, During the summer holiday at his job interview, the thirty-one-year-old teacher David Degreef from Brussels was told by the headmistress that he could not mention his homosexuality. That in school, staying in the closet would be for the best.

Nov 2014       
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Dear Neighbors to the North, The controversial conversion therapy, turning homosexuals into heterosexuals, is back in the spotlight. This time in China, but with a positive note. For the first time, a Chinese psychiatrist has to account for using conversion therapy on Chinese gays and lesbians in court. The subpoena is a success for Chinese gay activists, who want to get rid of the “disease” label on homosexuality.

Sep 2014       
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Dear Neighbors to the North, In an article in The Guardian of July 7 British lesbian and feminist columnist Julie Bindel shared her thoughts on the narrow ties between big business and the gay community. She is rightly wondering whether all that support is about equality, or about money.

Sep 2014       
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Dear Neighbors to the North, This was the title that newspaper “De Morgen” ran on June 4 on the American campaign for luxury hotel chain the Marriott. Hugging men on a bench, a gay couple with children, the marriage of a lesbian member of staff of the hotel chain. With this imagery and matching photos, the Marriott wants to attract GLBT and (trans) couples.

Jul 2014       
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Dear Neighbors to the North, The holiday season is near. So it is high time to give my biannual overview of various quotes by or on homosexuals in the Flemish press. Enjoy!

Jul 2014       
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Dear Neighbors to the North, A cemetery for lesbians was recently opened in Berlin. There are eighty resting places, exclusively for lesbians. There is no room for heterosexuals, gays, transgenders or bisexuals.

Jun 2014       
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Dear Neighbors to the North, The governor of the US state of Arizona, Jan Brewer, may have been brave enough to use her veto power to block a bill that could possibly discriminate the homosexual community. But the controversy does raise a lot of questions.

May 2014       
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Dear Neighbors to the North, Now the Winter Olympics in Sochi are over, and Russian president Putin has been showered with all that is sinful in the world, it is perhaps time to focus on the other countries in the world where homosexuality is still punishable or a taboo. Continuing to focus on Putin gives him the attention he does not really deserve. And never has deserved.

Apr 2014       
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Dear Neighbors to the North, Just as I am writing this column it was announced that the Dutch King, Queen and Prime Minister will go to the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi in support of the Dutch athletes. A commendable reason. Quite a large number of world leaders have announced not to travel to Sochi: the American president Barack Obama, the German president Gauck, and the French president Hollande. Every day, another famous person is added to this list.

Feb 2014       
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Dear Neighbors to the North, The people of Croatia have spoken. They managed to constitutionally ban same-sex marriage with a referendum. A sad event. The news from this Eastern European country appeared in much of the international media, but - to my opinion - did not get the attention it deserved. And what nobody seems to have noticed was the response from “Europe.”

Jan 2014       
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Dear Neighbors to the North, As the year is coming to an end, it is time for an anthology of some quotes on homosexuality that were published during the last semester in the Belgian press or on the Internet.

Jan 2014       
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Dear Neighbors to the North, Ever since Francis took office, the holy man keeps appearing in the media. With no shortage of superlatives. Supposedly he is a mediator, someone who is taking up the gloves to take on the internal battle with the conservatives in the Catholic Church, the pope that will give the Church a new and modern élan.

Dec 2013       
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Dear Neighbors to the North, The Belgian press has discovered the gays. Or is it the other way around? A simple search in a database of articles in the Flemish press in the last month returned 386 press articles, an absolute monthly record for the past year. From the outing of Wentworth Miller to a 24-year-old welder from Deinze, who filed a complaint with management because one of his colleagues is constantly calling him a dirty faggot. Or the not very uplifting reports from Russia.

Oct 2013       
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Dear Neighbors to the North, A rather large number of national and international politicians, opinion makers, and of course homosexuals, has an opinion about all the fuss over the anti-gay laws and its possible effect on the Winter Olympics that will take place in five months in Sochi, Russia.

Oct 2013       
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Dear Neighbors to the North, Advocate General at the Court of Justice of the European Union, Eleanor Sharpston, speaks plainly. Asylum seekers who will be prosecuted because of their homosexual preference in their home country, should be recognized as fugitives by the European Union. And rightly so.

Sep 2013       
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Dear Neighbors to the North, The holiday period. Time to give an overview of the various quotes by or about homosexuals in the press over the last six months. A (far too short) collection.

Jul 2013       
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Dear Neighbors to the North, You probably couldn’t care less, but in the years to come, the sixth state reform will drastically reshape the political landscape in Belgium. The three regions - Flanders, Wallonia, and Brussels – will receive a whole series of powers from the federal government, including financial power.

Jun 2013       
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Dear Neighbors to the North, For some weeks now, the Flemish commercial broadcaster VTM has been airing “Uit de kast” [Out of the Closet], based on a Dutch television format. Assisted by the lovely presenter Roos Van Acker, a Flemish gay or lesbian is trying to tell the secret to his or her family. Most of the shows I haven’t seen at all. Channel hopping, I would occasionally watch parts of the show, somewhat embarrassed.

May 2013       
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Dear Neighbors to the North, After it was announced that pope Benedict XVI (a.k.a. Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger) would be “discharged,” the social media were overwhelmed by euphoric posts. Newspapers and magazines recorded more moderate and less critical reactions.

Apr 2013       
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Dear Northern Neighbors, On Saturday morning the 2nd of February last all media hell broke loose, on Facebook and other social media, but especially in the Flemish press. Spanking brand new mayor of Antwerp Bart De Wever had said that civil servants at public desks are not allowed to wear rainbow colored t-shirts because this would express that they were gay and therefore “not neutral when doing their job.”

Apr 2013       
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Who thinks that nobody would pay any attention to the shameful and provocative words of the Pope when it comes to homosexuality, unfortunately is wrong. Especially our neighbors to the South are all ears, now the French government has prepared a bill that is ready to legalise gay marriage.

Feb 2013       
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The year is almost up, so it’s time for a selection of most “delicate” quotes and citations about gays and homosexuality that made the press (inter)nationally.

Dec 2012       
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Dear Northern Neighbors, At the moment you’re reading this column – sometime in the month of November – the election of the Belgian Mr. Bear is already finished. But because this column has to handed in several weeks before the start of the month, I’m not sure whether the election has actually taken place during the first week of November.

Nov 2012       
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Dear Northern Neighbors, To the point of boredom we have to pay attention to gay bashing in this column. It’s still normal procedure to cross a gay man and send him off to hospital. The number of incidents is going up and up.

Oct 2012       
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Dear Northern Neighbors, The deadline for me to hand in this column was just before the last day of the Olympic Games in London. An event on world scale, literally, people have been saying for years already just how successful it’s going to be. I wonder if anyone in a job interview would ever bang their own drum so loudly without getting a little negative mark from the head interviewer.

Sep 2012       
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Dear Neighbors to the North, Not far away towards the East, danger is lurking. Ukraine, once part of the Soviet Union, is getting ready to cast its vote on some laws that will prohibit “the promotion of homosexuality.” Whatever that means. Some months ago in Russia, a similar law was passed by the city council of Saint-Petersburg.

Sep 2012       
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Dear Northern Neighbors, Last week the Brussels police tried to check the identity of a young Muslim woman. She wore a face covering niqab, hence the id check. It completely got out of control, both on the side of the police officers trying to do their work, as on the side of the woman, a converted Belgian, who resisted her arrest.

Aug 2012       
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Dear Northern Neighbors, the day before Gay News went to the printer, we had Gay Pride in Brussels. No less than 50,000 participants had come to our capital, quite a few more than last year. Traditionally the weather was dodgy: no rain but especially when the sun had gone the temperature painfully dropped to the level of a fresh winter evening. It wasn’t very pleasant so that might explain why the streets emptied out so quickly afterwards.

Jul 2012       
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Dear Northern Neighbors,

More Europe was going to make us richer. More Europe was going to be good for human rights. More Europe was going to be good for all Europeans, also for gays.

The European bubble has popped. National debts are out of control and make it impossible to retain the standards we’ve gotten used to. Greece is the first and possibly not the last example.

Jun 2012       
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Dear Northern Neighbors,

Sometimes you come across news items that make you raise your eyebrows. Take the little article in the “China Daily USA” of the 3rd of February: according to a Chinese professor there are at least sixteen million women in the Chinese countryside who are married to a gay man. An astronomical number.

Apr 2012       
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Dear Northern Neighbors,

With the first caucuses in the United States behind us the Republican competition for the race towards the White House has truly begun. As this magazine went to press only the first results are known: in Iowa Mitt Romney won with just eight votes difference from Rick Santorum. The democratic candidate is familiar: Barack Obama.

Mar 2012       
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