I love Ugly Belgian Houses. From the website and from the videos, although I must confess that I only discovered the latter during this lockdown on YouTube. On the website you see dozens of photos of ‘ugly’ Belgian houses: they are decorated with starfish or special bricks, seem to be only half-finished, hesitate between house and castle, …

When the maker of the website visits the inhabitants of the houses for his videos, they realize that they do not exactly fit in the list but almost always seem to be happy. And not a hair on their heads thinks of modifying their home. If you don’t like it, then so be it. They do not lose sleep over it.

They dare to stick their necks out

I think that’s fantastic. I love those houses and their residents because I appreciate the strong character they show. They dare to stick their necks out. Their creations stand out among the hundreds of terraced houses or fermettes that are all an average copy of each other. Are the residents doing harm to anyone? Are they forcing others to live in a special house as well? No, absolutely not. The Ugly Belgian Houses do stand out, but often they are just a bit more original than the rest. Maybe a little weird.

But many Belgians don’t like ‘weird’. Just act normal, that’s foolish enough.

And that has great consequences. It is something that we, as LGBTI+ persons, experience again and again. It inhibits our emancipation, it causes many of us to have to fight a battle every day.

Fighting against entrenched systems

Because we are weird. We never quite fit in. We keep questioning things in such a way that many people think ” is that necessary?”. We keep fighting against ingrained systems and that causes unrest.

That you as a man are attracted to men, is fortunately now tolerated. But behave a little more flamboyantly or ‘femininely’ as a man (gay or straight) and you are guaranteed to get comments.

Okay, so lesbians can have children through IVF and then legally you have two moms. But what if the sperm donor also likes to play a role in his child’s life and if the two moms think that’s a great idea? So why can’t a child also legally have three (or four) parents? It’s exceptional but that doesn’t make it a bad idea, does it? Yet this is difficult, discussions about it are not taken seriously and are even laughed away.

Many trans people will confirm that even today they are viewed as ‘weird’ anyway. Fortunately, acceptance is moving in the right direction: laws have been changed, it is easier than ever to get information about transitioning, there is good guidance for those who need it and we now have respected role models such as our vice-premier Petra De Sutter or the VTM journalist Bo Van Spilbeeck. But at the same time, the discrimination that trans people experience remains enormous.

And imagine the confusion when you don’t clearly fit into the M or V box. It sometimes seems like the end of civilization is near when people simply can’t be pigeonholed. That’s why people are still choosing in the place of intersex children how they will have to go through life, that’s why trans people who choose not to fully transition are seen as “not finished,” that’s why people who are gender fluid bump into wall after wall….

Just do it

“Why can’t you just act normal?” That’s what we get told. In other words, they are willing to tolerate us but would prefer that we deviate as little as possible from the average heterosexual Belgian.

But we are not average. We are different. We are weird. We do not submit to the status quo and continue to fight for our rights.

Not a blank check

Of course there must be debate, we are not asking for a blank check. What we want should apply to everyone and should not hurt or discriminate against other people. So if we want to start the discussion about multi-parenthood, it will never be about a system that can only apply to LGBTI+ people. If male-male couples want to talk about surrogacy, it is imperative that we include the voices of mothers or involved heterosexual couples. And the opinion of lesbian couples about the regulation of (anonymous) donorship can never be the only one we take into consideration, the donors and certainly the children themselves should also be heard.

Color in life

But ‘it’s weird’ cannot be a reason for not wanting to have the discussion or not wanting to give us rights. A society only shows itself to be truly democratic when it takes its minorities into account. Just like the so-called ugly houses, they provide some color in life.

This column appeared on Zizo Magazine on November 12, 2020. You can read it here: https://zizomag.be/opiniestukken/raar

>> Please note that this is a machine generated translation. A more correct version is coming soon.