Is Belgium’s LGBTQ+ friendly reputation justified?

Inclusive legislation does not imply an inclusive society

Coming Out Day might not seem like a big deal in Belgium, where a female Senator is openly transgender and the former Prime Minister is openly gay. Belgium is seen as a leading country in LGBTQ+ rights, but which laws are in force and what progress is yet to come?

Every October 11th is International Coming Out Day. This LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and others) awareness day emphasizes the most basic form of activism within this community: living openly and unapologetically as your true self.

Legal situation

Especially in terms of legislation, Belgium is a good place for LGBTQ+ people to live. In 2003, it was the second country ever to legalize gay marriage. A few anti-discrimination laws were also passed that same year and adoption by same-sex couples became legal in 2006.

Earlier this year, the original 2007 transgender law got altered, making it possible for people to change their legal gender without needing a diagnosis of gender dysphoria and undergoing medical treatment. Blood donation for gay men also became legal, though the conditions are very strict.

Work in progress

Despite all these legal actions, Belgium dropped from second to fourth place in the Rainbow Index of ILGA-Europe. This indicates how LGBTQ+ friendly a country’s legislation is. There are several reasons for this drop: for example the lack of an interfederal action plan against homo- and transphobia.

In addition, not everyone is as tolerant as you might think and because homo- and transphobia aren’t prosecutable according to the Constitution, it cannot be handled in the same way as racism, for example. Overall it is fair to say Belgium is doing well at creating equal opportunities for LGBTQ+ people, or at least a lot better than many other countries.

Text: Max Delestinne