Gay Days!

blog_canal_parade_sheila_schenkelAnd how happy these days are! Gay Pride Amsterdam aims to be “one of the best and most fun prides in the world”.
If you’re in town this weekend, you planned it just right.

If you’d like to join in, rather than watch, definitely check out the Amsterdam Gay Pride-site. They offer all the information you could possibly need. Their summary: “Amsterdam will have street parties all weekend long, the best club circuit parties and of course the famous Canal Parade on Saturday. Gay pride is one of the most busy weekends of the year in Amsterdam.”

The number one highlight each year–an event that attracts loads and loads of people–is the Canal Parade. Tomorrow, Saturday August 2nd, 80 decorated boats will sail along the Prinsengracht, starting near Central Station (at the Westerdok) at 13:30 hrs (1.30 pm). Via the Amstel River the Parade then heads to Oosterdok.

But WHY?
Some wonder why ‘all this’ is necessary. Does it have to be “so loud”, “so in your face”? My guess is, it must be really, really nice to be part of a majority for a change. To walk the streets hand in hand, like so many straight people do without giving it any thought. Just let your mind wander to any other big party where people let themselves go, having heaps and heaps of fun only. I’d say, it’s pretty comparable. Still unsure? Five words: Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro! There you go. Case closed. Let’s get to the fun bit:

Where to watch
If you’d like to have a good viewing point, bear in mind thousands of people are hoping to find the exact same spot. It is one of the busiest weekends of the Amsterdam year! Either get there early, and/or make sure you enjoy crowd watching, too.

And from the water?
Enjoying the Parade from the water is only possible if you’re on one of those 80 boats, or when you manage to get on a private, small boat–they are allowed on the sides of the canal and definitely add to the festive feel.

View Larger Map // Brilliant map by Nighttours

Some of the most popular spots are the Magere Brug (Kerkstraat/Amstel river) and the City Hall (Stopera, let’s say between Blauwbrug/Amstelstraat and Zwanenburgwal).

Some background info
According to So So Gay: “Since homosexuality was decriminalised over 200 years ago (in 1811), it beat the UK by some 150-odd years. Amsterdam’s LGBT campaign group, the COC Organisation, began in 1946, and erected the Homomonument in 1987 to commemorate the often-forgotten LGBT victims of the Nazis. The Netherlands became the first country to legalise same-sex marriages in 2001.”

All true! To be a bit more precise:
The 1811 law was a confirmation of the one in 1791, a direct result of the French Revolution. In 1911 homosexual contact under the age of 21 was considered to be criminal again. In response to this, the Dutch Scientific Humanitarian Committee (Nederlandsch Wetenschappelijk Humanitair Komitee) was founded. Apparently, their work was continued after the war by what’s now known as the COC (this used to be an acronym for Cultuur- en Ontspannings Centrum; Arts and Leisure Centre).

COC were one of the organisations that backed up the Gay Memorial Foundation (Stichting Homomonument), initiated by Bob van Schijndel. It was his foundation that made the Gay Monument happen. More about the COC: “COC strives for the decriminalisation of sexual orientation and gender identity and for equal rights, emancipation and social acceptance of LGBT’s in the Netherlands and all over the world. COC [has] a special consultative status with the United Nations.” (Source: COC-site.)

And even more precise… (video below!)
The law allowing gay couples to get married, Wet Openstelling huwelijk, got approved December 21st, 2000. The first gay marriage ever wasn’t just one, but several weddings at the same time, on April 1, 2001. The one pronouncing them ‘wife and wife’ and ‘husband and husband’, was our then mayor Job Cohen.

It took until January 14th this year for the first Gay Wedding in a Dutch soap opera (band performing? Backstreet Boys!). Not everyone was too pleased–like two years earlier, when they aired the first gay kiss in one of their episodes, they got a lot of comments. Unfortunately both positive and negative. In 1994, a lesbian couple making love in one episode, made it to the eight o’clock news.

The Gay Wedding episode, with English subtitles, is avaibable online (here). And here’s the Backstreet Boys…

Enjoy your weekend. Enjoy the party!

What Celebrating gay pride (and rights)
When All major events take place 1 – 3 August: this weekend! (It ends the 3rd.)
Where Throughout the city. The Canal Parade: mostly Prinsengracht
Why now Support gays in their right to love
WWW Facebook * Site * Twitter

CC Photo Sheila Schenkel Text © Amsterdam Culture/Sheila Schenkel

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