The Flemish far-right party Vlaams Belang has withdrawn the candidature of Jef Elbers as a board member for the Flemish Audiovisual Fund (VAF), following criticism for his homophobic and anti-transgender statements.
The leader of Vlaams Belang, Tom Van Grieken, told Het Laatste Nieuws on Monday that his party withdrew Elbers’ candidature because, he said, it is seen as the symbolic stick to beat Vlaams Belang with.
“Mr Elbers is 100% suited for the job. He has the right expertise to evaluate scenarios objectively. We have put him forward for his skills,” he said. “I find it appalling that someone is now almost banned from the profession because he has a different political opinion. This is tending towards a transgender gestapo.” The Gestapo was the official secret police of Nazi Germany.
Screenwriter Jef Elbers – who himself is not a member of Vlaams Belang – was nominated by the party as a board member for the Flemish Audiovisual Fund (VAF), an organisation that supports and finances audiovisual activities such as films in Flanders, last week.
That candidacy was withdrawn, however, after a number of controversial statements by Elbers were heavily criticised. He described gay pride as “really dirty,” and also said that “everyone can experience his sexuality as he wants, I have no problem with that. But one should not present that as the normal sexuality.”
In an opinion piece, Elbers also stated, among other things, that “the mad transgender disease now also has Flanders in its grip,” and that “promoting [it] is a disease that affects the brain.”
On Monday, Van Grieken stressed that the party distanced itself from “this use of language, but that Jef Elbers’ personal statements are now being misused by our political opponents to dismiss 800,000 voters as homophobic. That is regrettable.”
Additionally, Elbers’ nomination last week followed news of the murder of a gay man in Beveren, and – even though the public prosecutor emphasised that the motive is still being investigated – Vlaams Belang, like other parties, explicitly condemned homophobia.
According to Van Grieken, Elbers understands that his candidacy has been withdrawn, even though the withdrawal was done “with mixed feelings.”
He stressed that Vlaams Belang is not homophobic, and that everyone is allowed to experience their sexuality as they see fit, but he added that he does not believe it should certain rights should come from that.
“We believe that there are only two sexes, men and women. It must be terrible for a man to be trapped in a woman’s body, but that does not mean that whoever defines himself as a woman, even if he is biologically a man, should go and shower with the women or play football with the women,” he said. “That is a trend in society that my party does not agree with.”
The Brussels Times