by Leslie Robinson
The most prominent person due to attend a Dutch gay rights conference is a future queen, and I don’t mean a teenager with a tendency toward the fabulous.
A spokesman for the Dutch royal family confirmed that Princess Maxima, the wife of Holland’s Crown Prince Willem-Alexander, will participate in the conference in early March.
That ought to boost coverage. And attendance. And the sartorial efforts of participants, who could find themselves in many a background shot.
We Americans know a lot about the British royals. We know about Monaco’s royal family, since American actress Grace Kelly gave birth to the present crop. But we don’t know much about the rest of Europe’s royalty. The continent is knee-deep with nobles, from Spain to Sweden to Serbia.
Europeans monitor the doings of their royals. I remember as a child visiting my German grandmother, who would have a stack of women’s magazines with smiling royal mugs on the cover. My grandmother fretted over whichever royal was currently misbehaving.
I found the magazines interesting, but not as compelling as reading about America’s royals, the denizens of the Kingdom of Hollywood. I knew who Robert Redford was; I didn’t know who Prince Hubert of Lombardy-Alpenschnickl was, even though he stood 63rd in line to the throne of Albania.
But I royally digress.
Underscoring the importance of royalty in Holland, Frank Van Dalen of the Dutch Gay Federation expressed glee at snagging the princess for the conference. “This will be a historically significant royal presence,” he said. “This is what we have been hoping for, for a very long time.”
My hope is that all goes well at the conference, and the princess doesn’t fall in love with a commoner. A lesbian commoner at that.
Van Dalen said, “It is the first time a member of the royal family has attended a meeting with such significance for gays.”
Princess Maxima picked a good first time. Holland cemented its reputation as one of the most tolerant countries when in 2001 it became the first nation in the world to grant same-sex marriage. The city of Amsterdam is a gay mecca. But Amsterdam police report that in recent years violent crimes against gays have ballooned.
Pinknews.com noted that in a survey last August, half of Dutch gays said they felt less safe than the year before. The Netherlands’ reputation for open-mindedness is getting sliced like Gouda. It’s time to put the Dutch royal seal of approval on tolerance.
Queen Beatrix has spoken out on behalf of gay rights in the past. Now Princess Maxima will ratchet support up a notch with this personal appearance.
The royals have taken heat for their pro-gay positions from some right-wing politicians and conservative Protestants, as well as Muslims, a growing population in Holland. A monarch’s lot is not an easy one. Good thing the perks – like wealth – help cushion the blow.
A palace spokesman said, “The princess is in favor of equal rights of all groups in the Netherlands.” Presumably that includes Muslims, so it will be interesting to watch how Holland and its future queen – who is actually from Argentina – navigate these tricky canals in the years ahead.
The gay rights conference at hand will be held in four major cities, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht. The focus will be gays’ continued exclusion from Dutch society and what to do about it. At the conclusion, Princess Maxima will sign an accord calling for the full acceptance of homosexuals in Holland.
I’m sure she won’t be the only one signing it. But with her star power, who’s going to notice the others?