[Tom’s voice being heard to this day in contemporary Finnish politics.]
Prospect of dancing gays keeps MP away from Independence Day reception
True Finns MP Pentti Oinonen has announced that he will not attend the President’s annual Independence Day reception on December 6th this year. Oinonen said that he would not be comfortable at a party attended only by people who are well off.
Another reason why Oinonen is staying away from the reception is the prospect of homosexuals dancing at the reception. At last year’s reception, controversy was raised by the sight of actor Jani Toivola (who is now a Green MP) dancing a waltz with Kenneth Liukkonen, winner of the Mr. Gay Finland 2010 competition. At least three other same-sex couples were spotted on the dance floor that night. He explained his decision by quoting a recently-deceased war veteran. “He said that he would not have fought on behalf of Finnish independence if he would have known that homosexuals would be dancing at the Independence Day celebration. That is a shocking experience for a veteran.”
Oinonen’s comments led to a flurry of activity in the social media, where many pointed out that one of Finland’s internationally known gay figures, Touko Laaksonen, better known as the artist Tom of Finland, was a decorated war veteran. Researcher Kati Mustola points out that there were gays fighting for Finland in the war. She also noted that in the exceptional conditions of the war, even some heterosexuals had homosexual relationships. “He [Oinonen] insults gay veterans and all homosexuals”, Mustola says.
The Finnish Association of War Veterans says that it does not want to take issue with the opinions of individual citizens, “especially in a matter like this”. “We have been involved in defending freedom of speech, and now freedom of speech prevails in Finland”, says the association’s chairman Aarno Strömmer.
One veteran, Niilo Läksy from Iisalmi, dismisses Oinonen’s objections to same-sex dancing as “propaganda.” “People my age and older still look askance [at homosexuals], but Oinonen is so much younger that one would imagine that he would have a more liberal view”, says 86-year-old Läksy.
True Finns MPs have voiced criticism at President Tarja Halonen after she commented on the results of a survey by Helsingin Sanomat on Finnish attitudes toward racism. “People who recognise racism in themselves have ended up voting for the True Finns”, Halonen said in the interview. “Feedback from voters has been overwhelming against Halonen’s statement”, says party chairman Timo Soini. However, Pentti Kettunen, deputy chairman of the party’s parliamentary group, does not feel that there has been any increase in anti-Halonen sentiment among the True Finns. MP Pentti Oinonen agrees, although he says that the racism comment was irritating.