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Interview with Provincial Politician Meino Schraal

by Gert Hekma in History & Politics , 15 maart 2011

Dit artikel is ook in het Nederlands beschikbaar


On Wednesday the second of March we’ll have elections for the so-called “Provinciale Staten,” the government on a provincial level, elections that indirectly decide on the new senate. How important is the gay vote this year? Gert Hekma spoke with Meino Schraal, second on the CDA list and openly gay.

Meino has an interesting life story. He was born in 1974 in Persian Isfahan and was left a foundling at the doorstep of an orphanage. A Dutch family from Urk adopted him in 1975.


To move from a Muslim world still ruled by a secular shah, to the fundamentalist protestant fishing village was an enormous jump he obviously doesn’t remember anything of. He was raised Dutch Reformed, which was as liberally protestant as it got in this ultra conservative village. From the first year of secondary school he was intimately involved with the local youth. With three of them he had long-term sexual relations as long as he lived in Urk. Only one of them later also came out of the closet. The boys hadn’t had any education on sex; they just did what came natural. For the 13-year old Meino it was a remarkable sexual education in ultra protestant Urk.

When he was 15 he joined the local Christian Democrat Youth Organization and started to attend the working group for tourism. He promoted Urk as a tourist destination in the national media for the local VVV (Tourist Information Agency). Only later he realized both his interests were connected.


Urk, in 1930 still an island, was a Dutch Capri where Dutch artists such as Jef Last and Willem Arondéus went to chase the local fishing boys. Nowadays Urk has more of a reputation when it comes to alcohol and hard-drug use than gay experiments, it’s no longer a gay Mecca.
Arondéus was in charge of the raid of the Amsterdam population register bureau in the Second World War; the Germans shot him after his resistance group was arrested.

Meino admires him as a war hero and initiated a plan together with colleague politician Klaas Breunissen for the annual Arondéus Lecture of the province of North Holland – named after the lover of fishing boys of Urk. This lecture has freedom and basic rights as its theme and is held at the eve of 4th/5th of May events. It was also meant as a lasting commemoration of this gay hero of the resistance. In 2005 Rudi van Dantzig - Arondéus’ biographer - gave the first lecture in the Statenzaal of North Holland. This is also where Arondéus’ largest work is exhibited: a series of nine tapestries. Historian Thomas von der Dunk will do the honors in 2011.

Willem Arondéus in front of Hotel De Verwachting, Urk (june 1927)


Individual Development

On his twentieth Meino started studying at Amsterdam’s Free University and got to know the capital’s gay nightlife. He became the personal assistant of CDA MPs Maria van der Hoeven, Coskun Cörüz and Hubert Bruls. In 2003 he went to the Provincial States for the Christian Democrats of North Holland. He chose for the CDA because of the emphasis on living together and on individual development in relation with your fellow human beings. The party believes in social organizations, including gay ones, while, in his opinion, the main socialist party relies more on bureaucracy and the liberals on the free market.

Meino admits that deep in his heart he’s right wing and therefore a strong supporter of the present government. He has mixed feelings about the group around Wilders because they might be right wing socially and culturally, but economically they’re too left wing to his taste.

On provincial policy level Meino has been focusing on “Care and Welfare” with also homosexual emancipation under his wing. The province North Holland has supported all kinds of initiatives like a “respect relay” in schools and the “blushing province,” pushing for networking of gay organizations with other organizations such as the police and schools. The PRIMO (Center for Social Development), which has disappeared now, with its driving force Pim Ligtvoet, worked hard on implementing the policy.

The province only facilitates so it remains unclear how this project will continue in the future without the support it received before. Overall “Care and Welfare” was transferred to the municipal governments so that the province now only plays a part in information development and facilitating in cooperation between municipalities.




Personal Commitment

The small-scale provincial gay policy would never have existed, says Meino, if individual Council members hadn’t personally gotten involved. Political programs are all great but it’s more about personal commitment. Promises are often broken for all sorts of reasons, like coalition priorities. Over the past years he’s often worked together with Klaas Breunissen of GroenLinks (Greens) and Louise Smits of the SP (Socialist) but they are not coming back after the elections.


Meino hasn’t spotted any openly gay candidates on the lists for the coming elections except for Petra Hoogerwerf of D66 (Liberal Democrats). Meino is available for another four years of active service for the gay cause.

Youth and care for the elderly will remain a responsibility for the province and this is an important issue for gay emancipation. Last November ROTS (Roze Ouderen Telefoon voor Senioren - Pink Elderly Telephone service 023-5299897 en rozeouderen@sbo-nh.nl) started. An initiative all elderly could make use of. Youth care, of all departments, deserves an extra investment, especially after all the negative news from the education sector. The Provincial States of North Holland deserve a lasting pink attention point of view, especially looking at youth programs and the region above the North Sea Channel, which practically knows no public gay life as it’s all being sucked up by Amsterdam.

There’s another reason to go vote in March. Will the coalition of CDA and VVD that governs with the support of Wilders gain enough support for a majority in the senate, which is voted indirectly through these elections after all?

If the government including the supporting party has no majority in the senate, it has a serious problem. Meino was in favor of this cooperation with the PVV because he is right-wing, but he doubts whether Wilders is going to be willing to put his money where his mouth is when it comes to his promises to the gay community. There’s not one gay or lesbian member of the PVV in parliament, so where’s going to be the personal input we need?

Frontrunner

He sees commitment with his own Christian Democrats which have two openly gay members of parliament (almost ten percent of the total; Ger Koopmans and Gerda Verburg). And the CDA has two members of government who have contributed greatly to gay policies. Maxime Verhagen was more active when he was Minister of Foreign Affairs than VVD minister Uri Rosenthal is now.

The fact that Marja van Bijsterveld has no objection against the single fact construction, Meino takes for granted. Symbolic politics mainly, he says. As a CDA man he wouldn’t want to teach at a Reformed school anyway, he simply wouldn’t belong there.

He actually expects quite a lot of Van Bijsterveld on gay issues. There’s no official line known yet but this government has put acceptance of homosexuality high on the agenda. For the senate he will naturally vote for a Christian Democrat senator. It’s interesting to see the CDA has changed from a reluctant partner in gay-friendliness to a frontrunner.

The party pushed Meino from the sixth to the second place this time. Abolishing special (confessional) education however, reformed and Muslim schools being a source of resistance against gay acceptance, is taking things a bit too far he thinks, although he’s in favor of more attention to homo/sexuality on all schools and through special external programs. But this is outside the province’s reach.

Meino would like to call upon all gays and lesbians especially to vote for openly gay candidates in March. The pink vote is still important and he’s devoted to play his part.






 







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