Isanya Köhne
Pride Month in The Netherlands - Part IV

We’ve reached the last week of this lovely pride month, and even though it’s looking a little different this year, we can confidently say that it’s been one full of changes. People all over the world are standing up for equal rights in every way and it seems the world is listening. To close this month off properly, we have one more story to share with all of you! 

This week we’ve given the platform to F. She’s originally from South Africa, 22 years old, and studies Fashion Design. She’s been living in the Netherlands for 3,5 years and doesn’t plan on leaving anytime soon. 

1. In your own words, how would you describe the LGBTQ+ community (in general)? What makes you feel accepted in a country, in this regard? 

“To me LGBTQ+ refers to the entire spectrum of sexualities and endeavours with gender which are associated to sexuality. For me, in order to feel accepted by the country for my own place on the spectrum, which is bisexual, I need to see that there’s no casual stigma against LGBTQ+. In South Africa for example, the differences between masculine and feminine play an enormous role in peoples characters. That’s also why they can be deeply ridiculed for being different than the norm.”

2. Before coming to the Netherlands, did you worry that people would judge you in your Erasmus/new city regarding your sexual preference?

“No, not at all. I knew I was entering a country where LGBTQ+ people have a large and open community. It allowed my sexuality to flourish here.”

3. The Netherlands is known to be relatively open-minded, especially regarding this community, would you agree with this? Why or why not? 

“I totally agree. It is easy to criticize the Netherlands, but I see from my own experiences that people here tend to be more respectful towards queers than where I grew up. Gay boys were especially harshly teased, however I only saw this in a South African high school – I left to the Netherlands after.”

4. What was/is your general experience like here in the Netherlands? And in regards to the LGBTQ+ community, is there anything that really stood or stands out?

“There are many wonderful parties out here for queer people, like KLAUW, and the Amsterdam Pride is always monumental!”

5. Can you tell us any particular story that either shocked or amazed you during your stay here in the Netherlands? Multiple stories are welcome! 

“Something that left me a mix of shocked and surprised is when I noticed how many people here of my age (19-21 years old) were going through sex change procedures. I know that this is something a few acquaintances in South Africa would really love to do, but they have so much fear about what other people will say, and the procedures are not very socially welcomed.”

6. The aftermath: how do you look back at your time here in the Netherlands? Would you say you developed in any particular way because of the country?

“I certainly felt encouraged to explore my sexuality. Being bisexual was something that seldom occurred to me in high school – but then again I was quite young at heart and not very sexually experienced. The Netherlands gave me many opportunities to reach out to people openly who are part of the LGBTQ+ community. Doing so gave me the chance to actually really consider what I like and do not in that regard.’

7. Which tips would you give to someone who’s contemplating doing their Erasmus/exchange/a full-time study in the Netherlands? Is there any advice they need to hear before coming here?

“I would tell that person that there is a big hug waiting for them on this side, especially of they come from a conservative kind of country”. 

8. Pride month this year will look a little different than it usually does, is there anything, in particular, you’d hope this month will bring to the people? And in what ways do you think the Netherlands can develop more in light of the LGBTQ+ community? 

“Not particularly, as I said it goes very well here when compared to other places in the world. I think what is maybe lacking in the narrative during pride month is information on safe sex and sexual health education. I think there’s a horrifying stigma around STDs, mostly because they are portrayed so badly in pop culture and the media - people who are sick are only there to be laughed at. I hope that this will become less prevalent somehow, and people with these illnesses will stop being treated as subhuman”. 

Thanks F. for sharing your view on the Netherlands in regards to the LGBTQ+ community, and shedding light on topics that still need to be addressed. One take that F. hopes to leave with this interview is about the sexual health stigmas and the change that needs to happen in that regard. It’s important that people be reminded that these responsibilities exist and they should not be feared, she says, just approached in an empathetic and mature way. We hope everyone, despite the ongoing pandemic, has been able to learn something new this month and we encourage everyone to continue learning and fighting for equal acceptance.