For the third year in a row, we are Europe’s second LGBTI+-friendliest country in terms of legislation. Let’s have a party !?!

On the occasion of the International Day against Homo-, Bi-, Intersex- and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT), ILGA Europe, the European umbrella of LGBTI+ associations, published its annual Rainbow Index. It is a ranking that examines how legislation guarantees the equal rights of LGBTI+persons. Malta has been number one for the past few years, Belgium number two.

So we have our business pretty much in order. Don’t we? It’s more nuanced and unfortunately more negative than that, I’m afraid.

Frontrunner

Of course we can be proud of the 73 percent we achieve. Politicians across almost all parties have worked on anti-discrimination laws, opened up marriage and facilitated adoption by same-sex couples and allowed transpersons to adapt their first names and official sex to their gender. We can rightly call ourselves a frontrunner.

But we have to admit that we are far behind the number one: Malta has achieved an average of 90% over the last three years. In the meantime, we have to share our second place with Luxembourg. Moreover, five years ago we were still over 80 percent. Finally, we could have achieved higher points.

In the past year, a number of discriminations relating to a person’s sexual characteristics have been eliminated. Well done and we have been rewarded by ILGA Europe with extra points for that. Which we immediately lost again because our governments did not feel the need to produce another National Action Plan against Homo- and Transfobia.

Reprimand

If your child, through hard work, gets 7 out of 10 at school, you are happy.  If you know that your child could easily have gotten an 8 or a 9, then there will follow a lecture. Well, our governments deserve a reprimand. They’re very proud of themselves when, on the contrary, they should admit that they could have done much better.

Because such a National Action Plan is very important. It’s the way to ensure that your laws also change mindsets. Ask any LGBTI+ Belgian whether she/he/they feels sufficiently protected and the answer is probably a loud ‘no’. Of course it is necessary to adopt the right laws, but this is not where it stops. You also have to ensure that it becomes self-evident that LGBTI+ people are treated correctly. Especially in a fragmented country like Belgium, such a National Action Plan is needed. Because, spoiler alert, that mentality does not evolve by itself. When everyone is improvising in his / her / their corner, it doesn’t progress.

Holding hands

This is also abundantly clear from the results of a major European research on the well-being of LGBTI+ citizens. 140,000 Europeans were surveyed online and the results are not nice. Not even for Belgium. The articles in the newspapers about the research mainly focus on holding hands in the street (7 out of 10 Belgian LGBTI+ people avoid this). But also the other figures are disappointing. 21 percent of LGBTI+ Belgians are not even open to their families because they fear negative consequences. At work, 19 percent keeps it completely hidden and 52 percent is selective about who they dare to tell it to. Out and proud? Forget it.

The worst thing is that everything is available to make a good LGBTI+ equal opportunities plan. The civil society has provided background information, priorities are known and all our governments have indicated that they want to develop an efficient LGBTI+ policy. And yet there is no plan. The sense of urgency is missing.

Is it because of the COVID-19 crisis? Do our policymakers have something else on their minds than yet another plan for that LGBTI+ group? Unfortunately, this ignores the fact that many LGBTI+ people are fragile because they cannot ( or dare not) count on their families, need specific medical care that is now being postponed, are more often single and have a limited network of friends, and so on. It is no surprise that the LGBTI+ helpline Lumi receives now 50% more calls. People who see this as a luxury problem that can wait until everything is ‘normal’ again, are terribly mistaken. 

With a pat on the shoulders

By the way, the LGBTI+ initiatives that take care of our most vulnerable friends are struggling. Lumi, the Brussels Shelter, Genres Pluriels which takes care of trans and intersex people, the Transgender Info-Point… are doing an extremely useful job in these difficult circumstances. Unfortunately, their resources are very limited. So a suggestion for all those political parties that join the Pride every year: give the money you would normally have spent on your Pride wagon and communication to one of these causes. This way you show that see your Pride participation not as pinkwashing but that you really are on our side.

In parliament you can push our governments. Because they urgently need to draw up a new National Action Plan against Homo- and Transphobia. They should refrain from announcing it. During the previous legislature we were entitled to promises from the competent ministers and state secretaries every year, but it took four years until the text was ready. Do it the other way around this time: first a plan and then we’ll shout hurray. In the meantime, in order not to lose another minute, they can extend the previous plan. That arrived so late during the previous period that it was immediately outdated by the elections and has therefore led to little or nothing. Don’t make that mistake again. Then next year there will not be a sermon but a pat on the back.And we’ll have a party (because we’re really good at that, of course).

This text is a translation of a text originally written in Dutch. As the translation is generated by machines, not all translations will be perfect. The original can be found here: http://brunodelille.eu/leven-met-een-zeven-zizomag-be/