Traveling nowadays seems like the ultimate dream. We’re living that dream, and it is an absolute fairy tale! But, traveling the world as an LGBT traveler isn’t as easy as packing your bags and go. We have traveled to countries with anti-gay laws and we refuse to boycott countries for that reason. We believe traveling the world is for everyone! However, it’s important to do it safely. A few important questions to keep in mind before flying to a new destination: what are the LGBT+ rights? What’s the public opinion like? Where are the LGBT+ safe spaces? In our “How LGBT friendly is…” series we’ll share all so you have fewer worries and more fun on your travels! In this blog post, we answer all those questions about the Netherlands. How LGBT friendly is the Netherlands?
LGBT Rights in The Netherlands
The Netherlands is often referred to as one of the most LGBT friendly destinations in the world (ranking #9 of Spartacus Gay Index 2018). Therefore it isn’t weird that LGBT rights in the Netherlands have been some of the most progressive in the world. The Netherlands is home to the world’s oldest existing LGBT organization: COC Nederland, an organization that has been fighting for LGBTI rights nationally and internationally since 1946.
In 2001, the Netherlands became the first country in the world to legalize marriage. Registered partnerships between same-sex couples are allowed since 1998. Same-sex couples may adopt together and lesbian couples have access to IVF. There are anti-discrimination laws since 1994 that ban discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation. Since 1985, transgender people can legally change their gender when undergoing surgery and hormone therapy and since 2014 without undergoing surgery and hormone therapy. It’s possible, from 1970, to state “sex cannot be determined” on a birth certificate. This year, the Dutch court has ruled that a third gender must be recognized, adding a neutral option to the ‘male’ and ‘female’ gendered boxes. Overall, the Netherlands has great LGBT laws and keeps working on them!
The Netherlands is highly diverse and culturally liberal. Dutch people are very tolerant, especially in big cities. In surveys, more than 95% of Dutch people consistently approve of same-sex relationships. The world-famous Amsterdam Gay Pride is one of the biggest events of the Netherlands and draws as many straight cisgender- as LGBT-people: it’s a party for everyone, celebrating diversity. Strangely, homo (Dutch for gay) is a curse word often used by Dutchies.
Unfortunately, small towns can be less tolerant of LGBT people. LGBT people still experience a lot more violence than straight cisgender people… Sadly 10% of Dutch people voice hostility towards transgender people. We believe change is coming though, as the younger generation is way more accepting of LGBT people.
We have always felt very safe living and traveling in the Netherlands. We do hold hands in public, and occasionally hug or kiss. Aside from wolf-whistling, nothing violent ever happened to us. Our looks ‘help’ in that sense, as it’s easier for people to accept our relationship – we’re both looking feminine and, I guess, ‘sexy’ to some people. It also means that we often fly under the radar and are not always recognized as a lesbian couple.
Yet, for Roxanne, coming out wasn’t as easy as you would expect in the Netherlands. Being homosexuality still isn’t perceived equally as ‘normal’ as heterosexuality, especially not in the small town Rox is from…
We loved living in Amsterdam though, as it feels the norms have shifted. It feels like Amsterdam has moved past gaybourhoods – it’s now a happy mix of everything. During our four years of living there – of which we were together for two years – we’ve always felt comfortable living out and proud. Every reaction (of colleagues, fellow students, or neighbors) to our relationship was positive.
Read our love story
A Gay Traveller’s Experience
Of course, our experience as queer females doesn’t represent the experience of queer males in the community. That is why we’ve asked gay traveler Ryan Thomas Woods to share his experience of traveling to the Netherlands (with his boyfriend).
Although I’m Canadian, my dads’ side of the family is super Dutch and my Grandma was actually born in the Netherlands before coming to Canada. My Dutch family was open about many things including sex and accepting whatever you wanted to be or whoever you wanted to be. This has always been my impression of Dutch people and when I finally went to The Netherlands with my boyfriend, I felt right at home with my family. Of course, just like any country, you will have small-town people or small-minded people in big cities not understand you, but I felt the percentage of those people in The Netherlands is small.
As a gay couple visiting Amsterdam, we fell in love with the city. During our three week stay, we got to experience the culture, cuisine, nightlife, and day to day life as a gay couple living in Amsterdam. We held hands, kissed in public along the canals, and never felt afraid to be openly ourselves; gay and happy. The general feeling of being welcomed extends way beyond Amsterdam, to places we’ve been to such as The Hague, Rotterdam, and even to the Southern city of Maastricht. My boyfriend or I have only had positive experiences as gay men in The Netherlands.
Want to get to know Ryan better? Check out his blog on OutWithRyan.com
LGBT Safe Spaces in The Netherlands
Definitely go to Amsterdam! For LGBT people, Amsterdam is one of the most attractive cities to visit and to live in. There is no place in the world you can find so many LGBT-friendly attractions per square meter as in Amsterdam. There’s not one neighborhood to go to, there are places all around the city center. Every big city in the Netherlands has a gay scene, make sure to check out Utrecht and Rotterdam!
LGBT Events in The Netherlands
✶ Amsterdam Canal Parade – first Saturday of August, since 1996
✶ Roze Zaterdag (Pink Saturday, the Dutch version of the original gay pride) – last Saturday of June, since 1977
✶ Roze Filmdagen (Pink Movie Days, Amsterdam’s LGBTQ film festival) – March, since 1996
✶ Milkshake Festival (dance festival celebrating diversity) – end of July, since 2012
Recommended read: How To Travel The World As A Lesbian Couple?
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