Netherlands' Book of Dreams for Putin

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014

In November 2013, the Dutch King Willem Alexander and his wife Queen Màxima visited President Putin.

When Willem Alexander became King on April 30th, the people of the Netherlands gave him a Book of Dreams for the Netherlands. With the visit of the royal couple in mind, COC and the Gay Krant came up with the idea to present President Putin with a book containing stories and dreams that the Dutch people have for Russia, its inhabitants and their president. Having organized Amsterdam Pride for 5 years now, I was asked to write a piece, which of course I did. NOH8 gave me permission to use the photo Adam made of me during our pride for the book.

Days before their trip, COC and the Gay Krant offered the book to our Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr. Frans Timmermans in order for him to pass the book to the royal couple so they were able to present it to President Putin. Mr. Timmermans accepted the book with great gratitude, however with the remark that the royal couple couldn't be put in a position where they would have to deliver a political message.

Fortunately this setback led to new opportunities as the Dutch embassy in Russia, the Minister and the COC are now discussing other ways in which the book of dreams could be read and spread.

Irene's story submitted for the Netherlands' Book of Dreams:


I read the news. A nasty incident has taken place in the Amsterdam Vondelpark. A man visiting a cruising area for gay men has been attacked by someone and stabbed frequently with a knife. Reactions on social media show that people are abhorred by such a brutal act.

The police start an investigation and Amsterdam mayor Eberhard van der Laan appeals to our responsibility as “Amsterdammers” to go to the police if one has any information on the attack, in order to behold our open culture, a culture which doesn’t exclude anybody for their religion, colour of their skin or sexual orientation. Our mayor explains that we have to join forces in making sure that everybody is able to walk the streets pleasantly and freely, for incidents such as this can’t be happening in Amsterdam.

I feel embraced and encouraged by these words. In Amsterdam if you are harassed or harmed, the city stands with you. In the Netherlands punishments for hate crimes against lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders are more severe than punishments for the same kind of harassment practiced for other reasons.

I go outside and greet my neighbours. Half a year ago, while sharing a cup of tea shortly after they moved in, they told me their roots lay in Pakistan, that they were married recently and that their parents sought them out for each other. Although arranged marriage as an institution fills me with horror, I can see why their parents thought they would make a great match. Because they are. At that same cup of tea I told them that for passion, politics and work I organize Gay Pride in Amsterdam. They fell silent for a bit at that particular moment, but during the Pride week, which coincided with Ramadan, when I got home late every day they shared their sunset dinners with me.

And after the Pride week they complimented me with the success of the event, which attracted over 400.000 people visiting the parade through the canals, and the over 200 other parties, sports events, emancipatory and cultural events organized by our community.

I feel comforted by their friendliness. I’m happy that our different approach on how to live a good life doesn’t mean that we can’t be good neighbours or that we can’t be respectful and kind to or even like each other.

I go to bed and dream my dream for Russia. I dream for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders simply to be able to go outside and feel free to express themselves openly for who they are, not worrying what could happen to you if your neighbours were to know your true gender of sexual identity, without fear for any sort of legal punishment one could receive for a loving embrace, holding hands, let alone a spontaneous and affectionate kiss for the one you love.


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