A VISIT WITH THE DOCTOR
This is my In Memoriam to Dr. Edward Brongersma, the Dutch scholar and jurist with whom I corresponded for several years and who encouraged me in my transgressive thinking and writing. This was first published after his death at eighty-seven in 1997 in the Nambla Bulletin.
I probably would not have come to Amsterdam if not to see the Old Dutchman, which is how I think of and privately refer to Dr. Edward Brongersma. In my letters I always address him as Doctor. I had come to admire the Doctor from his writings and our regular correspondence over the previous two years. Dr. Brongersma had a distinguished career as a lawyer and politician in The Netherlands but now is perhaps best known for his extensive writings on boylove which is why I wanted to meet him.
He met me at the train station in Overveen, a green and compact town one stop past Haarlem. Hes a large impressive, white haired man who was surprisingly nimble for eighty-three. I walked with him to his large old victorianish house across from the station. Upstairs in his cluttered library, heavy with massive antique furniture, he offered me a small glass of gin with bitters. We discussed the growing repression of man/boy relationships which he believes is universal. He said the general blossoming of tolerance after the war in Holland was partly due to the collective guilt over the pre-war rejection of the German Jews and the ensuing holocaust. But this is now beginning to fade. He told me that the American police have been pursuing fugitives from the U.S. to Holland, recently persuading their Amsterdam counterparts to lay charges against a photographer exhibiting naturist boy pictures in a local gallery. The artist was acquitted after a lengthy series of trials but several months later was recharged for some of the same photos. The prosecution argued that public opinion had changed in the intervening period. The doctor himself had been visited by American police recently. He told me about himself, his family, his writings, his friends now mostly dead, and about boys hed known. He himself first had sex with a boy in Morocco when he was forty-nine.
The doctor came from a well to do background of professionals, doctors and lawyers. A huge oil portrait of his grandfather, an atheist materialist he told me, looks on paternalistically from the wall to one side of his large ornate desk. His father was a medical doctor in the atheistic tradition of the family and he and his siblings were encouraged to be freethinkers in the impassioned religious politics of the time.
However his older sister happened to meet the local archbishop and they became friends with her later converting to Roman Catholicism. His brother, seven years his senior, bought himself a Bible which was taken from him. But he persevered, saving his allowance to buy another which he was allowed to keep. At fourteen he sought religious instruction and was allowed to study under Protestant pastors after proving too precocious for Sunday School. He soon expressed his desire to become a Roman Catholic and after some disagreement with his father he was allowed to be baptized into the Roman Church at sixteen. A condition was that he did not proselytize young Edward who was close to him. A few years later his brother became a Benedictine monk and Edward visited him frequently. Years later the Doctor himself became a Catholic though he later lapsed.
His politics, as well as his religion were equivocal. He flirted with the idea of the corporate state before the war when many people had become disillusioned with democracy. The German occupation quickly changed his mind. During the war he wrote a book on the Spanish Civil War. He concluded that the left deserved to lose but that Franco did not deserve to win. He subsequently supported several political positions including democratic socialism. I gathered that party politics no longer interested him.
The Doctor showed me a beautifully scripted letter he recently received from a fourteen year old boy who had been reading his Loving Boys volumes. He had replied and the boy asked to visit him that day but the Doctor had already arranged to see me.
In a corner of his library is a large photo portrait of a blondish Sicilian boy, Angelino. He is of course beautiful, his nicely featured face half silhouetted looking up wistfully. He was the lover of a deceased Italian friend Lucchio who had a successful niche in radio doing human interest stories for overseas Italians. Outside of Palermo he picked him up from a group of boys to show him the way to a monastery that was to be the subject of a broadcast. Angelinos left arm had been paralysed by a construction accident when he was ten. He got to know the boys family who had no use for a cripple on their small hillside farm. The broadcaster who became fond of the boy was not a wealthy man but he was a cunning one. Angelino became the subject of a broadcast and listeners contributed money to help him. He got the local media involved and made a deal where Air Italia provided first-class tickets for him to fly to Palermo on a new route they were promoting and bring the boy back to Rome where there was a good school that worked with the handicapped. The school also became the subject of a broadcast and opened up a free place for Angelino. A year or so later the promise of publicity enticed one of Italys foremost surgeons to donate a lengthy operation and a two month therapy program at his clinic. This was largely successful. Lucchio coached and opened up new opportunities for the boy who met celebrities and appeared on Italian TV. It was of course a sexual relationship amongst others and a tumultuous one at times. Boys do not like gratitude to compromise their pride.
The Doctor did not meet Angelino until later when he was fifteen, the time the portrait was taken. The story was revealed to him through his lengthy correspondence with Lucchio which he sees as comprising a book. For Lucchio the ultimate payoff came when Angelino, then a successful young man, sent him a letter on the eve of his marriage thanking him for all he had done.
After we returned from dinner at a nearby Indonesian restaurant the Doctors assistant Bernie came to the library and served tea. Hes a smallish cheerful young man from Bulacan, north of Manila. He was in his early teens when they met. He had been in Holland for three years, was studying Dutch and had a part-time job delivering magazines. I talked to him about the old Mabini scene in Manila, the former American military bases and Mount Pinatubo. He planned to return to the Philippines in a few months and get married. The Doctor told me after that Bernie wanted him to come with him so he could take care of him until he died.
The Doctor established the Brongersma Foundation which has extensive archives on topics relating to boylove including over three thousand publications and manuscripts and one hundred and thirty albums. He showed me a few albums which consisted of personal letters from boylovers (rarely in English) and photos almost exclusively of their boys. Many of the sets cover periods of several years and often include pictures of the boy as a young man years later. The boys all had names and brief bios. Some were of boys the Doctor had known or met. Most photos were casually posed at least to the extent that the subject was aware of it being taken while others were candid social pictures. Usually the boys were scantily clad but nude shots, seldom with erections were common. He knew the history of most sets of photos through correspondence which had arisen from his positive and widely accepted writings on boylove. There is also considerable correspondence from boys.
He especially wanted to show me pictures of Franky, a husky, stunningly beautiful blond French lad whose big eyeshe called the star eyesproclaimed the magic of youth. Franky, bikinied, is variously posed on a small sailboat. You can see Nice in the background. Franky stands, sits, reclines on a sofa in his briefs, his face and body language conveying a series of typical boyish expressions. Then there were a couple of him nude standing and reclining, his spurting genitals still hairless, like a childs. I saw Franky on the street, in cafés, at parties always with his beautiful face with those radiant eyes. I heard the tale of Franky with the Doctor and friends in some fancy restaurant volunteering to bring another pitcher of water to their table. A lady at me next table tells Franky to bring her some water too while hes at it. Franky returns with one pitcher only, and the lady complains. The fourteen-year-old tells her to ask a waiter. In the next nude pictures taken a year after the first Franky has changed very little, perhaps more muscle on his husky build, but a long pendant cock now takes up the droop of his foreskin and a dense dark bush crowns his pubes. The nude pictures span that most intimate of metamorphoses, the magical transmutation of puberty. For many boylovers this budding of a boys genitals, the growth of the stamen filling in the sepal of the prepuce and its garlanding with the petals of thickening pubic fur announcing the seeds within, as the most beautiful if brief stage of youth, a wondrous flowering, a delight to view and share if the boys open to the experience. The Doctor still hears from Franky whos also married. He knows many stories about boylovers and their boy lovers where the relationship, if not the sex, has lasted many years.
It was from his extensive association and correspondence with boylovers and boys, for whom he has profound respect, in several countries and his readings of studies relating to the field, few available in English, that enabled him to write his comprehensive two volume study, Loving Boys which examines many aspects of what is commonly called pedophilia. His medical knowledge, his father was a doctor, provided him with a background to understand the psychological and physical changes occurring as boys pass though puberty and deal with their new sexual powers and interests. He relates these to the conventions and pressures they face from family, culture and peers.
What he has to say about man/boy relationships is not always positive. He discusses several problems and dangers that even the most vehement of anti-pedophiles ignore or are unaware of. He defines what he sees as real problems. What is abuse? How boys or men or both suffer when relationships are exploitive or go sour and men become abusive as some do with women.
Just as the Doctor was equivocal in religion and politics he was also equivocal in his approach to boylove despite his generally positive stance. He tries very hard to be objective and fair in his reasoning. He is however discussing things, making points and giving them authority that few if anyone else could, at least in English. He is a pioneer, a compiler, and he tries very hard to be honest, often brutally honest in say the tradition of Orwell. And he is constructive. He has given me the confidence to say and write and publish things I might not have otherwise. Boylovers, who are what they are, having no more choice than gays or lesbiansand no more curableare often insecure, guilt ridden, subject to doubts, self hatred, alcoholism and other escapes which prevent them from being as good, constructive and useful to society and nurturing to boys as they might be. This is probably the main problem of boylove; to restore confidence and self respect to their relationships. Aside from instances of assault and exploitation the sometimes tragic results of pedophilic proclivities are a result of social/cultural repression. The question is not how to eradicate or reduce, but to enable natural human impulses to be harnessed for constructive purposes.
The Doctor was not an intellectual giant and his scholarship is not always of the highest order. He uses a fair amount of anecdotal material but has confidence in his sources. But in a tabooed area where research is lacking, and difficult if not impossible to undertake in several crucial aspects, this is probably unavoidable. His work may however make this more possible in the future. At present, one could argue that dubious assumptions, if not conclusions are required in order for studies to be taken seriously enough to be to be heard. The subject is the epitome of incorrectness.
There is I believe a place, a niche for boylovers. Just as nature, or God, given time, fills every niche in the physical ecology, and each filled in is another opportunity for the enhancement and survival of creation, so boylove has a purpose. And in these socially stressed times I suspect rather a large one. Seldom has there been a time when boys need the attention and affection of men more, or when men feel less confident in fulfilling their tradition roles.
Robin Sharpe, November 1994.
Dr. Brongersma was persecuted in his last years with a mob attacking his home at one point. He had survived all his close friends and his health and eyesight were failing. He chose assisted suicide. His helpers were charged with murder, tried and acquitted twice but convicted on a third trial.. The Dutch press claimed that he had himself killed to avoid being charged with the indirect abuse of millions of children.
The Brongersma Foundation archives were seized by the Dutch police under pressure from American authorities. The reason given was to protect the boys mentioned in the archive. A list of over four thousand names of active known pedophiles was extracted from the archives and shared with police worldwide. Some names were released to the press as accomplices of Brongersma.
Apparently no charges were laid. A Dutch court ruled that the archives were not a scholarly collection but a pedophile collection thus removing it from any protection under the new Dutch child pornography laws which are even more restrictive than Canadas. After a databank was established the original material was destroyed except for old editions of the sexology works of Max Hirschfeld and other pioneers in the field which were sold to an American collector. Ironically this was the greatest destruction of a sexological archive since the Nazis burnt Hirschfelds archives in the early 1930s. The Nazis made a public spectacle of their vandalism and were in part motivated by the fact that files on prominent party members were in the collection. In the climate of fear in the Netherlands there was no serious attempt to challenge the destruction of Brongersmas unique archives. With Bill C-20 and more recently Bill C-12 there is no guarantee that sexological archives in Canada are any more secure from state instigated vandalism. Wide dissemination of problematic material is probably the best way to insure its survival. Unfortunately the Brongersma collection existed only in hard copy. When on my visit I suggested to Edward Brongersma that he have his archive put on microfilm he expressed no interest in the idea. Oh that he had a scanner and could have backed up his archive worldwide. Whatever else we may think of the Americans we should respect the protection their constitution gives to ideas and written material.
Robin Sharpe, September 2003.
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