Lees dit persbericht hier in het Nederlands.
On June 28th 2023, the House of Representatives received a letter from Minister Dijkgraaf about the equality of bi+ people. It is the first time that this group of about 1 million people who are attracted to more than one gender has received this kind of political attention in the Netherlands.
First of a kind
The parliamentary letter on bi+ equality is a first. For the first time at the highest political level there is such emphatic and extensive specific attention to the equality of bi+ people. Robbert Dijkgraaf, minister of Education, Culture and Science, describes in a 6-page letter what the results are of some conducted studies are, what measures he can already take as coordinating minister of equality and where additional insights are still needed. The letter was sent following a commitment to MP Songül Mutluer (Labour Party).
Bi+ equality set higher on agenda
We see this parliamentary letter as a confirmation that bi+ equality is now really on the map within national government. Highlights of the letter include:
- The enormous political recognition of the problems bi+ people face and the lack of visibility and attention to them.
- Bi+ has now become the common term, replacing the less inclusive and narrower term bisexuality. The letter describes bi+ as ‘an umbrella term under which several terms can fall, such as bisexual, pan or non-monosexual’. There is an understanding of bi+ versus monosexual orientations. Monosexual people are attracted to one gender and so this refers to straight, lesbian and gay people.
- The great commitment of Bi+ Nederland in community building, development of tools and campaigns aimed at bi+ equality, boosting research and gathering knowledge contributed to this, so that the minister can now implement more focused policies and take action.
- The minister supports community building and further equality of the large group of people who are attracted to more than one gender. In doing so, he refers to Bi+ Nederland, the various alliances actively committed to LGBTIQ+ equality and international organizations.
- The number of concrete measures and studies announced in the letter is disappointing.
Combination of ignorance, diversity and invisibility
The minister argues that the societal expectation that people are attracted to only one gender may result in the fact that a bi+ orientation is often not seen as full-fledged and as something temporary. As many as 83% of bi+ people would like their sexual orientation to be taken more seriously. The minister acknowledges that the combination of unfamiliarity, invisibility and diversity (among bi+ people) can lead to prejudice about bi+ people and lead to exclusion of this group in both the straight and LGBTIQ+ communities. He refers to research showing that bi+ people feel at home in the bi+ community and also increasingly in the wider LGBTIQ+ community. That is positive news. The minister actively supports community building by subsidizing Bi+ Nederland.
Lack of bi+ recognition and acknowledgement affects wellbeing
The minister identifies a number of areas where the wellbeing of bi+ people lags behind. Research shows that as many as 33% of bi+ people are psychologically unhealthy, compared to 13% of lesbian/gay people and 11% of straight people. According to the minister, this can be explained “by the lack of recognition and acknowledgement experienced by bi+ people, which can result in internalized stigma and lack of self-acceptance”. In short, lack of acceptance, inclusion and recognition in society can weigh heavily on the well-being of bi+ people. In healthcare, there is still little attention to the reduced well-being of bi+ people. Bi+ Nederland also signals that healthcare is not very bi+ inclusive (e.g. in language, knowledge, unbiased action).
Problems at work
Bi+ people also report more problems at work than people with a monosexual orientation. For instance, they report more experiences of unwanted behavior from colleagues, unequal opportunities at work and unpleasant working conditions. They are also much less likely to be open about their sexual orientation. Currently, Bi+ Nederland and Leiden University are conducting an exploration of the experiences of bi+ people on the labour market, in order to gain more insight into what exactly the experiences are of bi+ people and how the unfavorable differences can be explained and understood. The results will be used to disseminate insights and tools on how to improve the position of bi+ people on the labour market.
Little attention to bi+ in education
Schools pay much less attention to bi+ than to homosexuality. This while students more often report bi+ attraction than homosexual attraction (SCP 2021; not referenced to in the letter). The minister states that schools in primary and secondary (special) education are legally obliged to pay attention to dealing respectfully with sexual diversity within the core objectives. They must also ensure a socially safe environment. The fact that bi+ pupils (29%) are more than twice as likely to have ever been bullied than heterosexual, gay and lesbian pupils (12%) confirms that positive attention for bi+ at school is badly needed. The minister named some initiatives he supports, such as the subsidy to the alliance Kleurrijk en Vrij (Colourful and Free) (consisting of COC, TNN, NNID and Bi+ Nederland), which works, among other things, on improving LGBTIQ+ equality in education through gender and sexuality alliances (gsa’s) and education in schools.
The Netherlands is the first country to fund an advocacy organization specifically for bi+ people. As a result, Bi+ Nederland views it as its responsibility to take a leading role in international community and coalition building. Global online meetings organized by Bi+ Nederland contribute to this. Furthermore, in Europe bi+ equality, advocacy and organizing is still really in its infancy compared to other groups within the LGBTIQ+ community. Bi+ Nederland is also committed to improving this.
More decisiveness desired
Bi+ Nederland would like to add a critical note. The minister identifies problems and lack of attention in three areas, yet does not announce any concrete measures:
- The minister states that as many as 52% of bi+ women have experienced physical sexual violence compared to 27% of lesbian women and 21% of heterosexual women. Although this problem has been known to the government for years, even in this parliamentary letter, no initiatives or measures are announced to better explore and improve prevention and assistance to bi+ people.
- The previous minister van Engelshoven already promised in 2021 that there will be research on societal attitudes towards bi+ people, following similar research on gay, lesbian, transgender and intersex people. We would like to see Minister Dijkgraaf, as decisive commissioner of the LGBTIQ+ monitor, ensure that this research finally takes place.
- For more attention to bi+ in schools and education, the minister heavily relays responsibility towards LGBTIQ+ organizations. Schools and teaching materials remain out of the picture. Bi+ Nederland would like to see research into social safety not only about homosexuality and transgender people, but also about bi+ (and intersex and asexuality). More attention to bi+ knowledge and inclusion is needed in teaching materials, educational training and in-service training for teachers.
Social norm and exemplary behavior
It is positive that the minister wants to start a dialogue with civil society to draw attention to bi+ equality and problems of bi+ people. We would like to see the minister formulate concrete requests in this regard, as we note that this type of action has so far led to few visible results. Finally, we commend the minister for setting a social norm with this parliamentary letter in which bi+ equality and non-discrimination are explicitly mentioned. This provides the recognition, visibility and exemplary behavior that is sorely needed.
About Bi+ Nederland
Bi+ Nederland is the Dutch equality organization for bi+ people and bi+ inclusion. Our goal is to promote a bi+ inclusive society in which every individual in the Netherlands can experience love, lust, desires and relationships, regardless of established norms and expectations around gender, sex, sexual orientation and relationship forms, while taking into account mutual consent, respect for each other and equality.” Our vision is that by 2030, bi+ will be seen as a natural, positive and fully-fledged sexual orientation in the Netherlands. To achieve this, we work on community building, knowledge development and dissemination, use of communication and media, advocacy and policy. More information or want to contact us? Please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.