8 November 2019

Transgender discrimination in The Netherlands

By Alexa

Before I start on the topic of discrimination, let me start with some Dutch law 101 😉

Article 1 of the Dutch constitution states
Allen die zich in Nederland bevinden, worden in gelijke gevallen gelijk behandeld. Discriminatie wegens godsdienst, levensovertuiging, politieke gezindheid, ras, geslacht of op welke grond dan ook, is niet toegestaan.“,
which roughly (Google) translates into:
All those in the Netherlands are treated equally in the same cases. Discrimination on the grounds of religion, belief, political affiliation, race, gender or on whatever grounds is not permitted.“.

While our constitution gives a rough basics of our laws, there need to be Acts to clarify and enforce them. For Article 1 we have the “Algemene Wet Gelijke Behandeling (AWGB)” – OMGosh I just noticed it’s a we HAD, looks like I have to do some research again – with a more detailed clarification about the anti-discrimination statement. One thing it specifically didn’t include is the “on whatever grounds” and there’s that exactly problem for trangenders. Transgender and intersex persons are not recognized as a specific gender in The Netherlands.

To protect transgenders and include them into the AWGB an initiative Act proposal was filed in January 2017. This proposal is named “Wet verduidelijking rechtspositie transgender personen en intersekse personen” (“Clarification of the legal position of transgender persons and intersex persons“). But as politics go, changing laws take like forever and only in May this year the senate acknowledged (is that a right phrasing?) the proposal. From that moment on it was waiting for the King to mandate the new (repair) Act. And looking from the expiration date of the AWGB on October 31 I guess he did and the new AWGB has been enforced at that moment (speculating here – I still need to do the research).

Now you know the basics of the Dutch anti-discrimination law I’ll proceed on actual discrimination I have encountered as well as acceptance in a similar situation. I will not talk about individuals being ass-hats calling names and such. I can handle those easily because my ‘representation’ is very open and self aware. This gives me a lot of approving glances of people on the street and from time to time people come to me complimenting me on my looks. Those few ass-hats calling names (not even once a month) mean nothing to me. Instead I’ll be talking about public institutions and private companies.

I’ll start with discrimination of public institutions and this is one which can’t be avoided. The problem here is the social security number system used in The Netherlands. The SSN is directly linked to the civil status registry. This means that as long as your gender is not officially changed on your birth certificate, you’re not registered by your gender identity or as an X gender (The Netherlands doesn’t know the X gender (yet)). This means that most official mail will be send either gender neutral (the Dutch tax department does that and I’m very grateful for that) or as your registered gender.
Contacting public institutions means that every time you speak to someone (either by phone or in person) You have to tell that you’re in transition and how you want to be addressed.

Then the private company discrimination and that’s just changes from one company to the next and I’ll give two different examples about it.

The first one is the gym that I attend to. I started my one-year contract a month before my realization and asked about their policy toward transgender persons in general. They were quite clear on that: as long as I haven’t gone through my final transition (read: I have the unwanted male parts down there) I have to use the male dressing rooms. The company is just afraid of complaints from female customers and loosing them when I use their dressing room. Having asked the same policy question at two of the 3 other gyms in my town they said it was no problem at all to use the women’s dressing room and when there were complaints that they’d explain the women about the why I am allowed to use the dressing room.
By now I’ve taken matters into my own hand at my gym and am using the women’s dressing room (as I should). At first I asked if the women would have a problem with me using the room and they all said NO. Talking with some of them they wondered where I left the unwanted parts and I said that it was my trick (yes I am tucking all day long – I will write about that on a later date) and that I won’t be showing there so they won’t see them at all. One woman showed her complete acceptance toward me by fully undressing next to me to take a shower!
…but still, the gym has a policy toward transgender persons of discrimination…

Then two positive experiences with private companies. One is the insurance whom I asked to change my gender from male to female and they almost immediately did that for me. The other is the Dutch OV-chip (OV being public transport) company (which is a semi-public organisation but not using the SSN). After my request for an administrative gender the also made the change AND wrote that when ordering a new OV-chip card there wouldn’t be a gender specification anymore on it (not sure if it’s a general policy, I guess it is).

In general I think that discrimination toward transgenders is pretty low in The Netherlands. The discrimination that we experience is mostly out of administrative impossibilities (SSN linked systems) or companies not knowing how we feel toward our birth gender. The latter we can try to make them aware of how we feel and I hope that one day this kind of discrimination will be gone competely.

Last but but not least, I will do some research on the new AWGB or whatever will be it’s replacement. I will write about it (not update this post) when I’ve found the answers.