The Netherlands' LGBTQ+ community still senses discrimination

The Netherlands' LGBTQ+ community still senses discrimination

Rotterdam silent march. Source: NYTimes

Rotterdam silent march. Source: NYTimes

The Netherlands portrays a very open and free image to the world on a wide variation of issues: Drugs, religion, same-sex marriages and more. But what is it really like for people to live in a country where controversial thoughts ought to be accepted?

On April 1, 2001, same-sex marriage was legalized in the Netherlands. On the same day, the mayor of Amsterdam, Job Cohen, wedded the first same-sex couples. The Netherlands was the first country in the world to legalize same-sex marriages. Until this day, the majority of Dutch citizens supports equal rights of the LGBTQ+ community.

Since the legalization, 14 other nations followed the Dutch example. Today, it is legal for members of the LBGTQ+ community to get married in Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, France, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden and Uruguay.

Amsterdam, the Dutch capital, has over a 100 different types of LGBTQ+ establishments like bars, clubs, shops and hotels spread out through the city. The city also hosts the annual Amsterdam Gay Pride event with the notorious canal parade as its highlight. Over 500,000 people come to see this parade each year to celebrate equal rights for the community.

Do you avoid holding hands in public with a same-sex partner for fear of being assaulted, threatened of harassed?

Do you avoid holding hands in public with a same-sex partner for fear of being assaulted, threatened of harassed?

These actualities make it very easy to assume that members of the LGBTQ+ community in the Netherlands have no reason to struggle with their sexual orientation. However, a survey held by the FRA, the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, shows that, even in the Netherlands, people experience limitations because of their sexual orientation.

The survey had a response of over 93,000 EU citizens that identified themselves as part of the LGBTQ+ group.

A lot of uproar was caused by the release of the yearly Dutch magazine L’Homo.

The magazine, which primarily targets homosexuals, featured two well-known TV channel presenters this year. What caused the commotion is that both of them are straight men. Having two heterosexual men, who are role models for lots of people, pose intimately was a huge deal. One of them, Tim Hofmann, said in an interview: “The first gay marriages were sealed here, but if two gay guys walk hand in hand, they have to watch out for people spitting on them.”

Another example is one of the Dutch responses to the above-mentioned survey: “I was threatened with physical violence by a Dutch person because I am Turkish, Muslim and gay.”

In your opinion, in the country where you live, how widespread is discrimination because a person is gay?

In your opinion, in the country where you live, how widespread is discrimination because a person is gay?

On average, 53 percent of the respondents said that they avoid holding hands with their same-sex partner for fear of being assaulted, threatened or harassed. In the Netherlands, this number was as high as 44 percent. In a country where people have been getting married to same-sex partners for over 15 years, you’d expect this percentage to be lower.

“I feel the same way, this is why I personally don’t like holding hands in public,” Niels, who is 25, gay and lives in Utrecht, told GYV upon receiving the fact.

Wouter, 24, a bartender at a popular gay bar in Utrecht, said: “I am very careful when it comes to walking hand-in-hand with my boyfriend. When we do hold hands, there are always people that stare at us. I don’t know if it is because my boyfriend is cute, or because it’s two guys holding hands, but, unfortunately, I think it’s the latter.”

Where do you avoid being open about yourself as L, G, B or T for fear of being assaulted, threatened or harassed by others? 

Where do you avoid being open about yourself as L, G, B or T for fear of being assaulted, threatened or harassed by others? 

One of the most significant outcomes of the FRA survey was that throughout all countries in the EU, discrimination in schools and universities is the most frequent. Furthermore, countries such as Denmark, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, where comparatively few respondents said they have felt harassed or personally discriminated against, show an above-average result for levels of hostility at school. “I have never been in a situation where I was discriminated for being gay,” Niels said.

“Once I was walking down the street with my ex-boyfriend and some guys started yelling at us. Though I am not sure if it happened because I am gay, or because of some other reason.”

Wouter recounts an even more upsetting experience. “We frequently see cars speed past the bar while people yell offensive things and even make finger gun gestures. Sometimes, they even steer your way pretending like they’re going to run you over, just to steer away again at the last moment,” he said.

“This is why it is important to have good bouncers at gay establishments,” he added. It seems as though the community isn’t too affected by it since the bar where Wouter works is basically packed from Thursday to Sunday every week.

EURO Pride in Amsterdam. Source: Coc.nl

EURO Pride in Amsterdam. Source: Coc.nl

The large Dutch news channel RTL Nieuws just announced that they want to do a survey in the months leading up to the gay pride in Amsterdam. The goal is to find out just how safe the LGBTQ+ community feels in the Netherlands. The first part of the survey is about the societal acceptance of the community. The second part is about the impact of the Orlando shooting in the U.S. and how this might have caused feelings of vulnerability in the LGBTQ+ community here in the Netherlands.

On June 12, a 29-year-old man gunned down 49 innocent people at Pulse, a gay club in Orlando. The news traveled fast and reached people all over the world. The LGBTQ+ community worldwide was affected by this event.

“I was pretty shocked by the Orlando shooting. An attack like this targets a relatively small community so it has a big impact. If the shooting had happened in Utrecht, my hometown, it would have involved people I know,” Niels said. “That’s something I really don’t want to think about.”

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said on Twitter Sunday night after the shooting: “The entire Netherlands sympathizes with the families and relatives of the victims. I have conveyed my condolences to President Obama.”

Lighted candles at The Homomonument in Amsterdam. Source: Nltimes.nl

Lighted candles at The Homomonument in Amsterdam. Source: Nltimes.nl

In big cities throughout the Netherlands, people came together in commemoration of the victims and their families. Hundreds of people gathered at the Homomonument in Amsterdam to light candles and show support to the people in Orlando. In Utrecht, there was a minute of silence at the Dom tower. In Rotterdam, there was a silent march where participants carried rainbow flags and American flags.

“A place where people thought they were safe suddenly turned into a bloodbath,” Wouter said. “Fear is really your biggest enemy, the only thing you can do is keep living your life.”

Overall, The Netherlands is extremely tolerant toward the community compared to other European countries. It continues to implement positive measures to promote respect for the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people in the country through equality plans, events and public campaigns.

Cover credit: Sergio Algeri/GYV

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