Information is and remains necessary

COC Haaglanden has been providing information about rainbow policy in The Hague and surrounding areas for more than 27 years. With a team of 20 volunteers, they provide information lessons at schools and provide training to teachers. Everyone deserves to know that they can be who they are, even at school. Let's check in with the information coordinator of COC Haaglanden: Maaike Frankena.

What does COC Haaglanden do in the field of information?
COC Haaglanden has been offering information for approximately 27 years, first only in The Hague, later also in the peripheral municipalities of Zoetermeer, Westland, Leidschendam-Voorburg and since 2022 also in the municipality of Rijswijk. We give most lessons at schools in secondary education and vocational education, at all levels and almost all ages. We currently have a team of approximately 20 volunteer educators. We recently also have a small team of international educators for the international schools in The Hague.

What do the information lessons look like?
We offer both standard basic knowledge and tailor-made lessons that match specific themes or challenges. We believe in interactive sessions where everyone is involved. The lessons are given by experienced and trained educators, all LGBTIQ+ or allies, such as children from rainbow families or parents of rainbow children. This means that the students and teachers talk to someone who belongs to the LGBTIQ+ community, someone they have undoubtedly already talked about a lot about. The lessons are rated on average with an 8.

What important developments are on the program this year?
In the coming period we will focus specifically on teachers and support staff. Why? The increase in hardening, which has taken place in recent years and has only accelerated during the pandemic, means that schools are increasingly reacting harder and fiercer to vulnerable groups. Within the school walls there is often uncertainty about HOW to respond to this. Some teachers look away, others speak out and continue to 'put out fires'. We will soon approach schools with team training to work on this together.

What are the themes and/or questions that often arise in the lessons?
Religion and culture are always topics that are discussed during our information sessions. We avoid yes-or-no discussions, but encourage students to think about their positions vis-à-vis LGBTIQ+ classmates through statements and the 'Advisory Council' working method. We approach it as a form of social skills training, where students are encouraged to think for themselves and form their own opinions, as long as the conversation is conducted with respect.

Another recurring theme is the misunderstanding that you decide to be LGBTIQ+. A student once suggested: “Then someone suddenly says that, you have decided that, right? Just like you say at school that you want to be a lawyer.” To this day I am grateful to that boy for this insight. Maybe not him, because when I explained this, I saw him struggling to reconsider a firm belief. That can sometimes be painful, but he took it positively.

Education Matters! This applies to young people who think that you 'decide' to be LGBTIQ+ and to young people who are still looking for their sexual orientation. That is why we continue to provide information with all our love. It is important that every student knows that they can be themselves, also at school. We are living proof!

The information provided by COC Haaglanden is financed by five municipalities.

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