The following text was spoken by Arnout JO van Kooij, chairman of COC Haaglanden, on the occasion of the kick-off of the Coming Out Week Region Haaglanden 2016:
“Coming out regionally”
Next week, Tuesday 11 October, we will celebrate International Coming Out Day. On this day we pay worldwide attention to the moment when a gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender expresses his or her (sexual) preference. In the run-up to this day, two LGBTI interest groups – COC Haaglanden and DWH Delft – are organizing a joint awareness campaign together with the rainbow municipalities of The Hague, Zoetermeer, Westland, Delft and Leidschendam-Voorburg. We declare the week of October 7 to 11 as Coming Out Week. Coming out, coming out, coming out for who or what you are, is not easy and self-evident. The aim of this campaign is to make people aware of this. I am honored and proud that the Minister of Education, Mrs. Bussemaker, and the aldermen of The Hague, Zoetermeer, Westland, Delft and Leidschendam-Voorburg are present today at the kick-off of this campaign.
You are our ambassadors. And that is necessary! We are here at the International Gay Monument. This monument has been erected to commemorate all lesbian women, gay men, bisexuals, transgenders and others in the world who do not fit into a straight box, and who have been or are being persecuted and oppressed because of their sexuality. Compared to many other countries, LGBTI people in the Netherlands are certainly not in bad shape.
Yet that tolerance is often just a thin layer of varnish. This is apparent from the Hague City Survey, for example. The vast majority of residents of The Hague have no problem with LGBTI people, but one in four can't stand it when men kiss each other in public. The results of the studies of the Social Cultural Planning Office into LGBTI acceptance are even more dramatic. The research report 'Marry, not kiss', published last year, shows that there is general agreement that LGBTI people have equal civil rights, such as the right to marry each other. At the same time, two kissing men in public spaces are considered offensive by 35% of the Dutch population. 28% have more difficulty with two men walking hand-in-hand than with a man and a woman. Young people also find it dirty when two boys or two girls kiss.
It therefore seems that for the vast majority of the Dutch population, LGBTI persons and equal laws are not a problem, but that (visible) intimate behavior of LGBTI people encounters resistance in a non-negligible part. For transgender people, an important bottleneck lies in the fact that a significant part of the population should not have much of a gender ambivalence.
Coming Out is an exciting moment for LGBTI people. How will parents, friends or colleagues react? Fortunately, the reactions are often not too bad, but LGBTI people still encounter problems when they come out. Documentary maker Johan Overdevest made a film about this, which was broadcast on TV West last Wednesday. Overdevest talks to three young people who have just come out and receive negative reactions from their environment. One of them is 22-year-old Lena from The Hague. She is of Moroccan-Egyptian descent and comes from a strict Muslim family. When Lena was about to be married off by her parents, she let her mother know that she likes girls. “She said I was sick and needed to be cured,” Lena says in the documentary. Lennart lives with his father, but for him it is unthinkable that Lennart is gay. And Quine was shocked by all the negative reactions to her Wassenaar school when she came out. The fact that the word 'gay' is used as a term of abuse does not help matters, according to Overdevest.
We think so, and that is why our organizations work closely with the municipalities to provide information about sexual diversity in schools. This is of the utmost importance. By already discussing the subject in schools, we ensure that more LGBTI people can have a problem-free Coming Out in the future.
Fortunately, there are also happier things to look back on. The last time I was allowed to speak to the alderman of The Hague was at the unveiling of the temporary rainbow zebra crossing, also known as gaybra crossing.
The day after the opening of this path, The Hague turned pink as part of the The Hague Rainbow Festival, whose motto was “Everybody – One Mind – One Party!”. A festival that was made possible in part by the municipality of The Hague and COC Haaglanden. Partying is also allowed in this beautiful city of peace and security.
Together with all of you, we fight for LGBTI emancipation and make it clear that everyone belongs and is welcome in the Haaglanden. We do not tolerate LGBTI people being bullied, verbally abused or ignored.
Your Honor, Your presence is a clear statement that LGBTI people in the Netherlands can expect government support at all times. The LGBTI community feels empowered by it. We will continue the fight and, which is just as important, will remain visible!