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The Amsterdam municipality has made a new step on the road to becoming ‘gender neutral’. Civil servants are asked to no longer use the words ‘dear ladies and gentlemen‘ at the start of speeches. The municipality doesn’t want to exclude people who do not feel either man or woman. This extends to the salutation above letters. The municipality wants to get rid of ‘dear sir/madam’ in favour of ‘dear people’, ‘dear attendees’, ‘dear people from Amsterdam’, or for example ‘dear inhabitant of the Spaarndam-neighbourhood’. The municipality has drafted a guideline so that civil servants can “talk and write about sexual- and gender-identity in a respectful manner.”

From this Rainbow language tips: a guide to respectful and inclusive communication (PDF) we learn that homosexual Amsterdammers are out, as are Lhbti’s. That is to say, it is rude to say homosexual Amsterdammers. The guide explains that we should use Lhbti persons, Lhbti Amsterdammers, or Lhbti pupils, because:

it is important that lhbti Amsterdammers can be themselves, at home, at work and in the neighbourhood. You can rest assured that every school has lhbti pupils, even if you don’t know who they are.

How do we know this will make lhbti people feel at home? Because

at the start of 2017 various interest groups (COC Nederland, TNN and NNID) agreed to say lhbti persons in the future. So undercast and no space (or hyphen). In the same way we say intersex pupils and trans asylum seeker. We do this to stress that the sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and sexual characteristics form only a part of the total identity of a person. Careful: compound nouns are written together, necessitating the use of a hyphen after lhbti for readability. So lhbti-organisation, but transcommunity. Homosexual Amsterdammers only refers to homosexual men [it doesn’t, but never mind that]. If you mean a wider group, this is not fitting. The Amsterdam City Council has explicitly chosen to pay extra attention in its policy to intersex persosn. Therefore the ‘i’ was added to the abreviation. In the past LHBT was used.“

The decision follows an earlier decision by the Stopera, the building that also houses the Amsterdam city hall, to introduce gender neutral restrooms. According to AT5, this brings great joy to a person who goes by the name of BeyonG, who says:

“I go to the ladies’ restroom here. But if there are people inside, I sometimes get strange glances. In the past, I was laughed at, very humiliating. And in the men’s room? The same.”

BeyonG works for the COC and is active as a project leader for Respect2Love, a “community for lesbian, homosexual, bisexual and transgender (LHBT) young people with a bicultural background.” According to its website, Respect2Love started with three people brainstorming in 2008, who were then given multiple subsidies, one of them by the Amsterdam municipality.

Council member Nelly Duijndam (Socialist Party) also approves of the measure:

You just take away the signs and put ‘toilet’ on it. And you’re done.

How this is an argument in favour of the decision is unclear. Duijndam is of the opinion, however, that it is easily done and a grand gesture towards transgenders. It is unclear how this helps combat the ‘strange glances’, or prevents her getting laughed at. Offices of the municipality in neighbourhoods are also supposed to get gender-neutral restrooms and schools should do the same.

It is, however, unclear how this measure helps combat the ‘strange glances’, or prevents her getting laughed at. Offices of the municipality in neighbourhoods are also supposed to get gender-neutral restrooms and schools should do the same.

Most visitors are positive, apparently, though some are critical:

How badly was this needed?