A gay-themed teen magazine stretched the limits of the Netherlands' renowned tolerance when it distributed free copies to hundreds of high schools--and found that many dumped them unread. Education minister Maria van der Hoeven, whose ministry helped fund a special printing of Expreszo, vowed Monday to investigate why so many schools were unwilling to distribute the magazine. The issue featured interviews with Dutch soap opera stars, a "tolerance test," and photos of kissing couples.
"We had a lot of positive reactions but, disturbingly, many negative reactions," said editor Merijn Henfling on national NOS television. He said schools "were afraid of reactions from, for instance, parents of minority children. But of course that's just sticking your head in the sand and avoiding the discussion."
On its Web site Expreszo published several letters sent by school officials unhappy at having received the magazine in the mail, including one from a Protestant school union in the city of Apeldoorn. "We don't want to educate our students with this sort of casual information. It doesn't fit with our religious identity," a representative of the school wrote. "We want to discuss homosexuality in our own way, thank you. Could you never send this magazine again?"
The Netherlands is known for its tolerant social policies, and in 2001 it became the first country to recognize same-sex marriages.
The magazine, established in 1998, has a circulation of about 6,000 and publishes six issues per year. It sent 420,000 copies of the special issue to Dutch high schools. "Expreszo is the only magazine for lesbian, homosexual, and bisexual youth," it says in its masthead. "Unique in the Netherlands and Belgium, and maybe in the whole world." Typical subjects include "coming out, Internet, media, lifestyle, sport, sexuality, youth groups, personal ads, dating, music, art, and culture," the magazine says.
One lawmaker from the conservative Christian Democrat Alliance was quoted in newspaper De Telegraaf, saying it was up to schools whether they wanted to use the magazine or not. "All schools should give some attention to homosexuality in order to improve knowledge and promote understanding," Jan de Vries said. "But it's up to them how they do so."