Dutch gays come out on TV

RNW archive

This article is part of the RNW archive. RNW is the former Radio Netherlands Worldwide or Wereldomroep, which was founded as the Dutch international public broadcaster in 1947. In 2011, the Dutch government decided to cut funding and shift RNW from the ministry of Education, Culture and Science to the ministry of Foreign Affairs. More information about RNW Media’s current activities can be found at https://www.rnw.org/about-rnw-media.

How do I tell my parents? Almost all young homosexual men and women wrestle with this problem. But in the first episode of the new Dutch TV show Uit de Kast (Out of the Closet) 20-year-old Theo tells his family that he is gay in front of the cameras. He reads out a letter at the dinner table explaining that he is attracted to men.

"I've been struggling with this for years. I always knew there was something different about me, although I've never been able to accept it. But now the time has come to be honest with myself and with you. It's the only way I can try to have a happy life. What I have to tell you is that I'm attracted to men."

The cameras zoom in on the reactions to this bombshell. Theo's father clearly has the most trouble dealing with this revelation. It had never entered his head that his son might be homosexual. Theo's brother and sisters are less surprised. They already suspected that their brother preferred men.

Uit de Kast
's presenter Arie Boomsma says "I want to make programmes about contemporary issues and homosexuality is a major theme on the social agenda. Friends of mine say that even in Amsterdam they no longer dare to walk hand in hand. We need programmes that make people think, programmes with a personal approach to homosexuality."

So far, this 'out of the closet' show - made, perhaps surprisingly, by Dutch Roman Catholic broadcaster KRO - has been warmly welcomed by much of the country's gay community. Coming out is an important life experience for nearly all homosexuals. However, some have questioned young Theo's decision to have such an intimate and emotional moment televised. Apparently he chose to have the moment recorded live for television because it helped him make the decision.

Henk Krol, editor of Dutch bi-monthly magazine De Gay Krant, comments "I'm getting two kinds of reactions. People who found it touching and felt it strengthened their resolve to come out themselves. And people who say, is this really the right way, turning a private moment into a television show? But even they say the programme helped them go further. It's a difficult moment for all homosexuals. Straights never have to explain that they're straight. "

The Netherlands has always been in the forefront of gay emancipation. It was the first country in the world to allow same-sex couples to marry - that was nearly ten years ago in April 2001. Krol believes this programme could play a similar role. He is convinced it will increase understanding for the situation faced by many young homosexuals.

"Don't forget that here in the Netherlands we have more and more people from other cultures who are gay. They are often in a much more difficult position. They are often accused of having been infected by some terrible western disease. There is still plenty of work to do."