After years of growth, the acceptance of gays, lesbians and bisexuals in the Netherlands is stagnating. 76 percent think positively about this group, 20 percent are neutral and 4 percent negative. Interest groups are concerned, especially about the acceptance of transgender people, about whom only 60 percent of the population has positive views.
Over the past fifteen years, the Social and Cultural Planning Office (SCP) has investigated the views of the Dutch on LGBTIQ+-related topics. Over the years, the Dutch have generally started to think more positively about, for example, equal marriage rights and the adoption of a child by people of the same sex. But visible intimacy between people of the same sex is still sensitive.
No less than 19 percent of those surveyed say they find sex between two men disgusting. For sex between two women, this is 7 percent. One in five has less difficulty with male-female couples walking hand in hand than male-male couples.
The acceptance of transgender people is lagging even further, the research also shows. For example, almost one in ten Dutch people (9 percent) say they find it a problem if their child were taught by a transgender person at school. 5 percent have difficulty with gay and bisexual teachers.
“Per class, that comes down to five to six parents who have difficulty with it,” says principal researcher Willem Huijnk of the SCP in conversation with NU.nl. “These are averages: in certain schools, such as in religious villages, there are many more.”
According to the SCP, transgender people are lagging behind in emancipation because, in comparison with lesbians, gays and bisexuals, they have come under the spotlight of the media, policy and politics. “People also find it difficult if it is not immediately clear whether someone is a man or a woman,” says Huijnk. “The need to categorize people is very much ingrained in people.”
This is reflected in the views on gender diversity. These have become more positive since 2012, but there has been no clear increase in recent years. 39 percent of the Dutch population wants to know whether someone is a man or a woman when they meet for the first time. One in six respondents believes there is something wrong with people who don’t feel like a man or a woman. 11 percent would rather not associate with people who are not clear whether they are male or female.
When is someone a transgender person?
As a transgender person you do not feel comfortable in the body in which you were born or with the gender in which you were registered at birth. Many transgender people are trans men and trans women: born in the body of one sex, after which they sooner or later came to the conclusion that they felt exactly like the opposite sex inside. Gender diversity is not just about the ‘man’ and ‘woman’ boxes. Some people feel at home in both boxes, or neither.
COC concerned about stagnation
Although the average view is positive, the LGBTQ+ community has far fewer positive signals. For example, SCP research published earlier this year shows that LGB young people are bullied relatively often and that they experience a less good bond with teachers, classmates and family members than heterosexual students.
The COC, the representative of the LGBTQ+ community, is very concerned, as is Transgender Netwerk Nederland (TNN). There is no hard explanation for the stagnation, but according to the COC, it may be related to tensions in society due to, for example, corona. “In social tensions you often see that the rights of minorities are the first to come under pressure,” says spokesman Philip Tijsma.
He points to many recent cases of discriminatory violence. For example, a 23-year-old woman was beaten up on King’s Day in Rotterdam because the perpetrators thought she was a man. Rainbow flags are constantly being destroyed.
“We call on schools and teacher academies to pay more attention to acceptance,” says Tijsma. Despite the obligation for schools to promote acceptance of sexual and gender diversity, according to the COC this is not happening everywhere or insufficiently. That while, according to the organization, emancipation starts there.
The COC also wants the cabinet to implement the Rainbow Ballot Agreement. More than a year ago, the leaders of the parties agreed with the COC to take concrete measures against discriminatory violence and for LGBTIQ+ acceptance at school. “No significant points from the agreement have yet been implemented. Hopefully these figures are a wake-up call,” says Tijsma.
Not clear how people would really react
Important caveats must be made in the research. Sometimes people do not honestly state what their views are, for example because of peer pressure. It is not clear how many people react ‘socially desirable’, says Huijnk.
Also, in a hypothetical situation, people may think that they react in a certain way. “But when they’re actually confronted with it, their reaction can be very different.”
In addition, the research focuses on how people think about LGBTQ+ people and not on what they experience themselves. SCP research into this is expected this summer.
In any case, the results of this study say a lot about the position of LGBTQ+ people in the Netherlands, Huijnk emphasizes. “In countries where a large part of the population has positive views about LGBTQ+ people, you also see that the position of this group is better.”
Despite the stagnation of LGBTIQ+ acceptance, our country is still doing quite well compared to other countries. The Netherlands is in second place in the European ranking with the most positive views, behind Iceland.
Countries with the most positive views on homosexuality and bisexuality
1. Iceland 2. Netherlands 3. Norway 4. Sweden 5. Spain 6. Denmark 7. France 8. United Kingdom 9. Ireland 10. Belgium