Maikel (37, area coordinator at the municipality and teacher) and Elio (31, remedial educationalist, sexologist, teacher and influencer) met each other over fifteen years ago via the internet.

Elio: ‘When I was sixteen I had a summer love with Maikel, and three years later I sought him out again. When I was 16, I had broken away from my strict religious parents. I was raised in isolation within the community of Jehovah’s Witnesses. My fear as a child was that I would lose everything if I couldn’t live up to my parents’ expectations, and that fear became reality.’

Maikel: ‘I never came out myself. I just waited to start dating and then introduced my boyfriend. That’s how it goes when you’re straight, doesn’t it? Why would I try something different? My dad wasn’t surprised, but my mom ignored it. When my boyfriend came to stay the night with me, she asked if we shouldn’t go to my father’s, because he had a bigger house or something.’

Elio: ‘When I was twenty-two, I wrote to my parents that every child needs unconditional love. My parents wrote back: every child needs love.’

Maikel and Elio find safety and security with together. A safe basis. Elio: ‘With Maikel, I don’t have to pretend that I am different.’ Maikel: ‘We want to express who we are and continue to develop ourselves through work and study.’

Maikel and Elio married last year, after spending ten years together. Maikel wore a soft pink suit and Elio a specially designed androgenic tulle dress and lace top with a bow. You would think this is more common nowadays, but the photos were shared all over the world. Elio: ‘I like to play with gender expression. One day my clothes have feminine aspects, the next day masculine. I usually search for the contrast between the two.’

They think it is really essential to showcase diversity. A child who is searching for his identity and sexuality should be able to find enough examples to identify with. Elio: ‘Why do people have to have a gender reveal party immediately when a child is born, why do they need to push it in such a direction? Let a child discover for him or herself what he, she or they like(s).’ According to Maikel, this is not only a task for the parents. Drinks, jobs, hobbies, clothes: everything in society is binary; either suitable for the man or for the woman. ‘Media, schools, shops and advertise-ments could counterbalance this.’

Elio and Maikel would love to become parents themselves. Elio is open to co-parenting with a wife or couple, Maikel absolutely not. The only remaining option is surrogacy. Elio: ‘You can’t pay for it, you can’t place a call. A woman should do it purely as a noble act. I think that’s quite some-thing.’ In the meantime, they are going to furnish their new home first, and this is their baby at the moment. In any case, the house is big enough for a family expansion. <

LEGAL LOVE – 20 years of marriage for everyone

Creation  Concept by the Open mind Foundation – Image by Ernst Coppejans – Styling by Richard Schreefel – Interviews and text by Mirjam Bekker-Stoop and Lara Aerts – Design by Kellerman agency in action – exhibition Bordbusters

With special thanks to the 20 beautiful couples who agreed to visually represent

  • The anniversary celebration of the opening up of civil marriage to people of the same sex.
  • Sharing the marriage experiences of a diverse group of portrayed married LGBTQIA + persons with a large and broad target group.
  • Looking back on the past 20 years with an eye on the future.
  • Putting current problems that arise around the acceptance of LGBTQIA+  people on the agenda.
  • Driving the conversation about the current state of affairs regarding acceptance and inclusion.
  • Promoting social acceptance and equal rights of LGBTQIA +  people.

See for more information