Jurgen Slembrouck wrote that those who wave rainbow flags or construct rainbow pedestrian crossings may have good intentions but are a threat to the equal rights of the lgbti+ community (DS Jan. 4). I have been such a rainbow flag-waver since my coming-out, and I thoroughly disagree with Slembrouck. To my eyes, he thus makes the same claim as Vlaams Belang or Viktor Orban: “We tolerate you being lgbti+ but keep it discreet. If not, he is suggesting that we may have sought it ourselves if ‘democratic’ support is found somewhere to flout LGBT rights.
I should hope that he would then (especially with his libertarian background) join us in making it clear that this is then anything but democratic. That a democracy protects its minorities. That our demand for respect for our way of life is not dangerous. It is not that you become lgbti+ by seeing a rainbow flag or by watching Kaat Bomans in Home.
We must continue to struggle because there is so much more than the law in order to achieve an open society. According to Vitit Muntarbhorn, former UN independent expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, there are three basic conditions for a society where lgbti+ persons can feel free. First comes legal acceptance. This is almost fully acquired in our country. Then there are the measures governments must take to protect their lgbti+ population from discrimination and violence. And finally, there is integration on the streets and in the workplace.
We are still far from there. As long as gay or lesbian people hold back during a job interview or at work because they fear not being hired or missing out on promotions, as long as trans people delay their transition because they fear the reactions of colleagues, as long as lgbti+ youth are excluded at school because they don’t fit the right box … the battle is not won.
The rainbow flag is the symbol of that. And provokes reaction. Indeed it does. But do you think Poland or Hungary will be lgbti+-friendly if we don’t use that flag? Or does that mean they will have won the first battle by then? It’s about “being able to be yourself anytime, anywhere. What am I with being allowed to get married if I can’t hold my husband in public the way my straight friends hug each other? If you have to “behave” before you can exercise your rights, they are not rights but favors. So plenty of reasons not to put away that rainbow flag.
Bruno De Lille, former Secretary of State for Equal Opportunities (Brussels Capital Region) and lgbti+ activist