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Frits Bernard

Published: 2006

     
    Frits Bernard
    1920 - 2006


    Dr. Frits Bernard, the esteemed Dutch clinical psychologist, died May 23, 1998, in his 86th year.  He was a courageous activist in the cause of personal liberation and respect for the rights of homosexuals, gays and lesbians, boy-lovers and other oppressed sexual minorities. He was the author of many important works on these subjects.

    Bernard served as a forensic expert and as a director of the Association for the Advancement of Social Scientific Sex Research, Düsseldorf, and of the Association for Human Sexuality, Berlin. Also, he was a member of the German Society for Sex Research, Frankfort, and the Association for Sexology, Utrecht, Netherlands.

    Although Dr. Bernard was born in the Netherlands, from the age of seven he lived in Barcelona, Spain and attended the German international school. Shortly after the Second World War he returned to the Netherlands. Bernard studied psychology at the Amsterdam Free University, received a PhD from the University of Nijmegen and pursued Freudian analysis. One of Bernard's fellow students was the renowned Dutch poet Jan Hanlo, a lover of older boys.

    In the late 1950s Bernard joined the Dutch homophile organization, COC. Using the pseudonym of "Victor Servatius" he wrote for their publication, Vriendschap (Friendship).  He wrote from a scientific perspective about homosexuality and boy love. Eventually others on COC's board of editors sidelined him and Edward Brongersma (another Dutch pioneer in our movement). Bernard then founded a group specifically for boy lovers, the Enclave Kringen. Enclave published books and articles to combat public ignorance, the misunderstanding of sexual diversity, and many stupid oppressive practices such as castration, practiced in The Netherlands as late as 1969.

    We confront these anachronisms in America, even today. Reactionary thinking guides social policy. As Bernard said, "Human beings have the tendency not to make judgments based on facts, especially in sexual matters, but rather on simplified abstractions of reality. New facts, including scientific research, are generally not accepted or respected. This had long been the case with homosexuality. Misguided notions thrived, and there was active resistance to any revision of opinion."

    In the 1960s, Bernard wrote two fine short novels with boy love themes, Persecuted Minority and Costa Brava.

    In the 1970s he became active in the sexual reform organization NVSH. The original research and activism of Bernard and others, including his scientific research, made sexual diversity a subject open to scientific research, public understanding and social reform.

    Despite his advancing age and the tide of social reaction coming from America, Bernard kept up his activism throughout the 1980s and 1990s, working publishing up to an advanced age, especially about boy love and other sexual minority issues.

    Though Dr. Bernard was better known in Europe, his importance to all of us cannot be overemphasized. He was a pioneer who brought refreshing and accurate information to a discussion all too often laced with prejudicial cant, foolish "philosophy" and moralism. He came to NAMBLA's 10th annual conference in Los Angeles in 1986 to accept our "Lifetime Achievement Award." Bernard later came to New York to appear on the Phil Donahue show. This and Dr. Roy Radow's interview by Sally Jessie Rafael may be the only two occasions when our views have ever had anything like a fair hearing on television.

    Dr. Bernard and Dr. Brongersma were two sides of a European renaissance of the boy love movement in the 1960's and 1970's. The contrasts in their styles, their methods and their accomplishments could not have been greater, although their objectives coincided. Both recognized NAMBLA's importance for continuing and building this movement.
     

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