Darklands 2023 from Tuesday 7 to Tuesday 14 March in Antwerp

Darklands 2023 will be held at Waagnatie in Antwerp from Tuesday 7 to Tuesday 14 March, organiser Jeroen Van Lievenoogen has notified his newsletter subscribers. A whole week!

Darklands posted a video on YouTube. 

Originally, Van Lievenoogen was to announce the Darklands 2023 dates in June, then July, but it’s August. Anyway, mark your calendar for 7 to 14 March.  Next year’s theme will be ‘Deep Space‘.

But now we know. Start booking flights, trains and hotels. Make an appointment for PrEP and try to get hold of a monkeypox vaccine. 

Monkeypox

As we speak, Belgium counts over 300 confirmed cases of monkeypox. Almost all men who have sex with men (MSM). It’s party-pooper for gay men. There is (the risk of) stigma and it puts a lid on party plans. 

In De Morgen, Orry Van de Wauwer (CD&V), an Antwerp Member of the Flemish Parliament, says some friends fear going to Antwerp Pride events and parties because of monkeypox. It’s just on our minds. 

Sexual and gender diversity, but not sex diversity

‘Official’, established, recognized and sometimes subsidized LGBTQIA+ organisations love to advocate sexual and gender diversity, but struggle with sex diversity?

What? They advocate acceptance of diversity in regards of sexual orientation, gender, gender identity and gender expression, but they don’t like to advocate diversity of sexual experience. Sex.

They will not actively, vocally or publically defend the right to have ‘deviant’ sex. Deviant to ‘normal’, heteronormative, bourgeois, romantic, publicly accepted sexual activities. 

Stigmatization

In the Dutch newspaper NRC, publicist, author and research gender and media studies Linda Duits formulates an inconvenient truth.

“Stigmatization can only happen if we see debauchery as a negative quality. Why should you be ashamed if you like variety, excess and fun? The response to monkeypox raises the question of whether you can be a promiscuous gay person in the Netherlands“, Duits argues in an op-ed

“No, says the good citizen who vomits his disgust on social media. No, says the Pride organisation, which avoids any association with the disease. And no, actually say the men themselves. To prevent possible victim blaming, whether or not because of internalized shame, they prefer to erase any connection with sex.”

“There is no room for sexual debauchery in the Netherlands. There is plenty of attention for fighting slut shaming, but celebrating slut behaviour is impossible”, Duits argues.

“Even within the LGBTQIA+ movement there is no such room. The letters refer to sexual and gender identities that are outside the norm, but the demands and slogans are never about sex. The message is ‘Love Is Love’, not ‘I want to have sex in a different way’. The focus has shifted to emphasizing similarities with the norm, rather than fighting for the right to deviate from it.”

In Belgium, it’s not different. In 2020, just before the COVID-19 pandemic, Flanders‘ main LGBTQIA+ organisation çavaria gave a Lifetime Achievement Award to Fleur Pierets

Pierets authored books as ‘Love Is Love‘, ‘Julian‘ and ‘Love Around the World‘. Basically, Pierets won a Lifetime Achievement Award for having a romantic relationship and turning that romantic relationship into art.

As an artist, Pierets is entitled to do what she wants. What she produces, is not the issue. But for a LGBTQIA+ organisation to declare marrying is a Lifetime Achievement, is strengthening heteronormative and heteroconformist behaviour. Çavaria is saying (almost) life-long singles did not Succeed in Life and thus are losers.

When David Polfliet (42) was murdered in Beveren in 2021 when a gay hookup went dramatically wrong, many LGBTQIA+ organisations, people and our Prime Minister Alexander De Croo (Open Vld) used the slogan ‘Love Is Love’. For the record, I don’t recall çavaria chiming in on the ‘Love Is Love’ in this case. Maybe the NGO learned its lesson? 

Where exactly is the love, the romance is having a nighttime hook-up in a park? 

A park in the dark.

Safe spaces

Queer safe spaces are under threat. From gentrification of real estate, but also from gentrification of the mind. Many LGBTQIA+ people don’t like gay or queer spaces anymore. They are not or should not be necessary anymore. 

How silly. Of course they are necessary. Being a bookshop as Kartonnen Dozen, a bar for queer women* such as Cut in Antwerp or a kink, fetish and cruising event such as Darklands, organisations such as çavaria and individual people should cherish and protect these queer safe (sex) spaces. 

Darklands 2022-2023

Antwerp Pride 2022 & Antwerp Queer Arts Festival 2022

Queer Antwerp

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