Contested Privates...

Sunday was the first time I heard the term “Contested Privates”. Despite initially thinking of controversial genitals, I learned that “Contested Privates” refers to the oppositional pairing of religion and homosexuality, two topics that are by-and-large considered matters that you do not discuss at the dinner table. My advisor, dAvid, studies religion and sexuality, so we attended True Colors (a fundraising event put on by the COC) sporting fashionable “Contested Privates” badges. Maybe the name tag encouraged me to think about the reception of homosexuality in groups with more conservative religious backgrounds. I chose to focus this week’s write-up on the acceptance of homosexuality in non-Western Dutch, and the work of religious LGBTQ+ organizations to reach these populations. This is more of an academic read (complete with APA citations), so if you are looking for a story about me getting lost in Amsterdam, or eating too much cheese, wait until the next blog.

Week Two: Contested Privates (Religion & Sexual Diversity)

The Netherlands ranks as one of the most tolerant countries in Europe, and arguably in the world. In 2008, 91% of Dutch citizens surveyed agreed that gays and lesbians should be free to live their own lives as they wish (Keuzenkamp, 2011). Despite the general acceptance of homosexuality in The Netherlands, there are still hundreds of documented hate crimes committed against members of sexual minority groups. Furthermore, immigration waves since the 1900’s have increased the number of Dutch citizens with strong religious beliefs. This paper will summarize statistics showing the acceptance of homosexuality by non-Western Dutch citizens, and analyze these findings in juxtaposition to concepts of family and masculinity. It will then consider the ability of religious-based organizations to facilitate more inclusive viewpoints.

The Netherlands has a growing population comprised of both Western and non-Western factions. In 2016, the total population was 17 million people. Of these individuals, 3.8 million (21.4 percent) were allochthonous (coming from elsewhere) (CBS, 2016). The largest groups non-Westerners are composed of individuals with Turkish (397 thousand) or Moroccan (386 thousand) backgrounds, followed by Surinamese (349 thousand) and Antillean (151 thousand) (CBS, 2016). Over the past fifty years, there has been a shift in discussions about immigrants. In the 1970’s, immigrants were differentiated based on their socioeconomic status; in the 1990’s there was an increased focus on clashing values and cultural dimensions. Of these values, acceptance of homosexuality among non-Western immigrants is shown to be significantly lower than city-dwelling Dutch.

Religious beliefs, concepts of masculinity, and norms of procreation, shape the limited acceptance of homosexuality for Dutch citizens with non-Western backgrounds. Of the four groups, Surinamese Creoles are the most tolerant of homosexuality. The Surinamese hold a “live and let live” attitude, and research suggests that 60% of Surinamese men have engaged in homosexual relations (Keuzenkamp, 2010). However, the standard of building a family discourages open homosexual partnership.

The Moroccan Dutch also have cultural values deeply rooted to family; many Moroccan Dutch fear telling their families because it is seen as disrespectful. 26% of people of Moroccan origin hold negative attitudes about sexual diversity, and homosexuality is largely viewed as something only affecting westerners and non-believers (Keuzenkamp, 2010). In the Turkish Dutch, homosexual relationships are extremely taboo, and effeminate behavior is abhorrent. Turkish Dutch measure up as the least accepting, and 32% hold negative attitudes to homosexuality (Keuzenkamp, 2010).

In general, the native Dutch populations that do not approve of sexual diversity tend to be members of orthodox religions that frequently attend church. Additionally, people with lower levels of education, and individuals over 65-years-old are more likely to reject homosexuality. When surveyed, Dutch men, are more likely than women to be homophobic (Keuzenkamp, 2010). Similar to the native Dutch that reject homosexuality, allochthonous Dutch that are devoutly religious and hold ingrained notions of masculinity, also have negative attitudes towards sexual diversity.

One of the core issues inhibiting the acceptance of homosexuality is the perceived inability of homosexuals to procreate. Homosexuality is seen as disrespect to the family honor and traditional familial structure. Though homosexual acts do exist across the three groups (Surinamese, Turkish, Moroccan), engagement and affinity with the gay community is limited. The rejection of sexual diversity is also founded on the perception that gay men are relinquishing their position of power, and threatening traditional concepts of masculinity. In Turkish culture, male effeminacy is equated with the lowest form of life (Keuzenkamp, 2010). On the other hand, women exhibiting more masculine traits are rewarded; once again reinforcing the valuing of masculinity over femininity. Beliefs that homosexuality deconstructs the traditional family structure, and the valuing of traditional masculinity, hinder the acceptance of sexual diversity.

Taking a pledge to donate all future income to the COC's efforts to combat homophobia

Pushing the Gay Agenda

The Dutch government supports the COC and actively works to increase acceptance of homosexuality in The Netherlands. One venue to catalyze change is through education. The COC has been doing outreach since the 1970’s, and discussing issues of sexual diversity in schools. However, the population of The Netherlands is changing, and in order to address differences in cultural values, outreach in schools must be adaptive. Additionally, CBS reports show that the scores on the final test in group 8 of non-Western pupils are lower than those of children with a Dutch background (CBS, 2016). Since individuals with higher levels of educational attainment tend to hold more positive beliefs about homosexuals, the achievement gap between non-Western and Western immigrants could subsequently impact long-term acceptance of homosexuality.

The majority of public schools (64%) in The Netherlands have religious affiliations. Despite this, in 2015, 50% of Dutch citizens claimed to be non-religious (Statista, 2018). Large numbers of students attend institutions that do not necessarily align with their own religious participation (or lack of). However, the core values of the schools and religious communities, can still conflict with the acceptance of homosexuality. Several organizations have recognized the tension between the intersectionality of faith and sexual diversity, and created niche initiatives to address this conflict. Pedagogical training frequently discusses meeting students “where they are at”. Organizations that address faith and sexual diversity, harness the power of this intersection to propel change in schools.

With a growing population of non-Western immigrants, in a society that deeply values pluralism, the following question is raised: how do you teach acceptance for sexual diversity in schools that have populations with conservative beliefs? If the Dutch want to continue to lead the world on measures of tolerance and acceptance, it will be necessary to continue to build outreach programs like Maruf, an organization for Queer Muslims; and ContratiO, an organization for Christian homosexuals. The first step in enacting change is connecting with individuals that hold different beliefs. If organizations are able to meet students “where they are at” they will more readily be able to disband heteronormativity, and ultimately facilitate acceptance of all people.


Central Bureau of Statistics. (2016). Jaarrapport Integratie. Den Haag/Heerlen, 26, Accessed January 29, 2018.

Keuzenkamp, S. (2010). Just Different That’s All: ‘Increasingly normal, never the norm. Acceptance of homosexuality in the Netherlands’, Netherlands Institute for Social Research, The Hague 2010.

Keuzenkamp, S. (2011). “Acceptance of homosexulity in the Netherlands”, The Netherlands Institute for Social Research, The Hague.

Statista. (2018). “Population of the Netherlands from 2010 to 2015, by religion”.

Accessed January 30, 2018.

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