Last week, I wrote about the media representation of the LGBTQ+ community and asked people from the community about their opinion on the topic. In this article, I will ask them about their daily life. Do they feel accepted in their surroundings, Dutch society, or the world in general? How much did we grow in being open-minded towards the LGBTQ+ community? And if we grew, does that mean society is succeeding in making the LGBTQ+ community feel more welcome?
I never find it difficult to talk about our blended family and my two mothers. However, that doesn't mean that I always get friendly responses. One question I received from a former classmate when I mentioned my two mothers was if I was one of those "fake" kids. What does that even mean? Does it mean that I am a "real" person because I also have a father, but since my stepbrothers have only had mothers their entire life, they are not? Mostly when I walk with my family in another country, I notice glances from strangers. However, that doesn't mean it never happens in the Netherlands. When I went to a restaurant during the COVID time, I saw waiters looking distrustful when we confirmed to be from one household. Details like these make me aware that many people still do not perceive our situation as "business as usual," even those who think they perceive it that way.
"Gay people come in all kinds of people, just like all the heterosexual people."- Aafke
In the days that Han, 58-years-old, Tera, 72-years-old, Aafke, 59-years-old, and Coby, 71-years-old, came out for the first time, only the identities homosexual, lesbian, and bisexual were known. However, the perception of what it meant if you were part of one of these identities was very different. "When I was young, say about 16, I told my parents that I thought I was a lesbian," Aafke begins. "My father told me that I would be very different if I were gay. I thought my father knew this, so I got back into the closet. When I was in my late 40's, I concluded that being Aafke and being a lesbian was the same. I was no different than I always had known. So, it took me quite a time to know and understand that gay people come in all kinds of people, just like all the heterosexual people." Like this, several other wrong perceptions have been made about the LGBTQ+ community through the years.
Han joined the COC organization's discussion group when she was in her teens. COC is a Dutch organization that fights for the interests of the LGBTQ+ community. This organization also holds discussion groups where anyone can go to speak with fellow members of the community. She started giving information sessions about homosexuality with fellow members of the discussion group at high schools. "Students often told me that I was much nicer than they thought a lesbian would be. I wasn't so bad." Another perception was that being gay automatically meant not being able to have kids in the past. Han says, "When I came out to my parents, they were okay with my sexuality. However, they were sad they wouldn't have grandchildren, and I was as well myself." Tera didn't even want children in the first place. "Lesbian just didn't have children. It belonged to the battle I was fighting. I was against the civil environment. We were different, and that needed to be emphasized. However, when I met my current partner and became friends with Han and her partner, who all had a desire to have children, it came closer. I realized it was arrogant to think you didn't need children in your life. But that was my development."
"You still have to confess to being something whereas straight people don't have to."- Tera
Many identities have joined the community, such as pansexual, asexual, transgender, non-binary, queer, etc. "The perceptions on the LGBTQ+ community have changed. For example, that you can have children and that you are also just a human being, there is more familiarity with it," Han says. "However, some things are still not the same for LGBTQ+ members as heterosexuals. In the Netherlands, you can marry both as heterosexuals and as homosexuals, but there are legal differences. When a husband and a wife get a child, the father is also the legal father and has automatic parental authority, no matter whether he is the biological father. When two wives get a child, then the one who didn't give birth isn't automatically the second legal mother of the child and must adopt the child or acknowledge the child at the municipality to become one." Besides this difference, marriages between two men or two women are not always recognized in foreign countries. Tera adds to these differences, "You still have to confess to being something whereas straight people don't have to."
"When I had a girlfriend, I was suspicious and cautious."- Sanne
In the last couple of years, the Netherlands was part of the top 10 European countries that are LGBTQ+ friendly according to the Rainbow Europe Map. However, since 2020 the Netherlands has dropped back to 12th place. "In the early days, I hardly felt free to be who I was," Coby says. "There was a hostile environment in public places like the streets, especially in the evening, when walking with another woman and more so, if walking hand in hand. Now that is much better, but I am always alert when I am alone. Also, when going to places I never have been before or going to other countries, I am vigilant." Eva, 23-years-old, has also faced discrimination in this era. "At a party, someone tried to convince my girlfriend and me, that being gay isn't right and that we should talk to them so they could 'make us understand'. They eventually got angry, and we had to get the security guard. At another party, someone told me that he would 'turn me straight' and that being queer is a phase." Despite this, she rarely feels uncomfortable speaking about the LGBTQ+ community. "It's something close to my heart and very much a big part of my life that I am proud of." Sanne, 20-years-old, has never been discriminated against because of her identity. However, that doesn't mean she is not afraid of this. "When I had a girlfriend, I was suspicious and cautious." Tera, who has known the years when being gay or lesbian was not yet discussed, the years of the many demonstrations for the rights of the community, and the current years, says, "There's so much going on in your head that I can't always clearly distinguish from what am I projecting myself."
To answer my question, if we grow in being open-minded towards the LGBTQ+ community, I think there are fewer wrong perceptions nowadays. However, there are still situations that are different for the LGBTQ+ community than those for heterosexuals, such as their marriage or the regulations surrounding having children. As mentioned in this article by the older generation, they can see a difference between discrimination back then and now. But the fact that there is still fear or thought among the LGBTQ+ community that they will not be fully accepted shows that society to this day does not ensure that everyone in the community feels fully welcomed.
Check out my other article about the LGBTQ+ community, 'LGBTQ+ community through the years - Part 1: Media.'
Did you know that BUas has a LGBTQ+ Club? You can find more information about this here.