This past week was the 20th anniversary of Amsterdam Pride! As soon as I found out I was available for Pride weekend, I knew I had to go, so tried asking around at the Tribunal to see if anyone was interested. Much to my actual shock, the idea gained very little traction (I’m seriously not being sarcastic, I thought this was something everyone would want to experience, but more on that in a bit). Luckily, I mentioned to Madi, who happened to be going to my brother’s wedding, that this weekend was Amsterdam Pride. Her original plan had been to fly out of Amsterdam Friday morning to head back to the Bahamas with Justin, but after a lot (read: zero) twisting of her arm, she decided to embody the spirit of YOLO, miss her flight home, and attempt to catch a standby flight sometime this week. So I have a temporary houseguest!
Obviously, it was a great party, and if you just want to see pictures of us enjoying life and celebrating sexual orientations of all kinds, feel free to scroll on down. But before I get to the fun of it all, I wanted to talk about something relevant that I had actually thought about writing before since my arrival in Europe: homophobia.
I think anyone who has spent less than a minute with me knows that I am extremely socially liberal. I consider myself so lucky to have been raised by two parents who are very open minded and accepting of people from all walks of life. I, again, consider myself so lucky to have had the opportunities to live in various parts of the world and meet people from all walks of life. These experiences, I’m sure, have shaped me into someone who tries to support and accept people that are different than I am. Further, I like to think of myself as someone who stands up for the little guy – as completely cheesy as I’m sure this sounds, I’m so glad I became a lawyer, because it’s given me the opportunity to find a career and a life path where I can make a difference in people’s lives, and where I can actually effect change in our global society. My ultimate goal is work in policy promoting women in sport. That type of position is fraught with issues regarding gender, sexuality, sexualization, and discrimination. It’s my dream to be able to work to help achieve equity between men and women of all races, genders, and sexualities. Yes, I am a feminist, in case that weren’t obvious. And yes, I dream pretty big, in case that weren’t obvious either.
Despite living 45 minutes from Amsterdam, a city known for being quite liberal, open, and accepting of a wide range of lifestyles, in general, I’ve found myself meeting people with much more socially conservative ideals than what I expected (not to say that I haven’t met people with views that line up closer than mine, but the number of people I’ve met with conservative viewpoints has been significant). It was shocking to me. I can totally understand not being interested in going to a Pride event – it’s not everyone’s thing. But meeting people whose open opinions are those that involve limiting the rights of LGBTQ was something I hadn’t experienced in a long time. And these are people that I like, that I find intelligent and kind. Especially, meeting people with these ideas while working in an organization that deals with violations of human rights is quite baffling. I appreciate working in an organization wherein I am able to meet people with different ideologies and unique perspectives on world issues. I’m actually glad that I have met people that have starkly different opinions than my own, because they remind me of what I believe in and what I want to work towards. I support everyone having a right to their own opinion, and, more importantly, I support my right to disagree with them. I’m not the kind of person who wants to argue for the sake of arguing, and I try to pick my battles wisely, especially when it comes to sensitive issues.
But I had an odd thought after speaking with someone in Europe about gay rights: they assumed I was straight. And that actually made me very uncomfortable. Last year, the first time I hung out with one of my best friends from Canada, she asked me if I had a boyfriend or a girlfriend in the same breath – something I thought was very cool of her. I really want to live in a world where the assumption is that it could be either or, and that one isn’t more normal than the other.
If you don’t support gay rights; if you don’t think gay couples should have rights equal to those of straight couples in every possible way; if you think Caitlyn Jenner is more weird than brave; if you would be ashamed to have someone gay in your family… respectfully, you’re wrong. And I would love to have an open conversation with you to help show you why. Fears come from what we don’t understand, and I would absolutely love to help you understand just how important it is for us to end homophobia.
Pride is more than a party (though it is one hell of a party). It’s an opportunity to celebrate the liberation (which is still a work in progress) of a historically discriminated people. It’s a chance to celebrate sexuality, and to embrace who you are.
Love really is the most beautiful thing in this world. Let’s not limit it.*
*Since I know lawyers are reading this, ugh fine, let’s not limit it beyond requiring that it occurs as between consenting individuals wherein there is no power imbalance, and no risk of harm beyond what is consented to, blah blah, Criminal Code. That being said, my experiences with homophobia in Europe have truly made me proud to be Canadian, where, no, we aren’t perfect, but it’s far more generally accepting than what I have experienced here.
So: Pride! Friday night I was able to leave work early to get into Amsterdam for 18:00. The Drag Queen Olympics started at 19:00, and Madi and I had to see them, clearly.
The Olympics started out with the 100m sprint (in heels, of course), the handbag toss, ‘bitch’ volleyball, a hula hoop-off (yes, Tina, I immediately thought of you and how much you would love this), followed by a twerking contest to decide the winner. Miley Cyrus really will live on forever in the Drag Queen community.
The afterparty was a great time. The Homomonument just turned into a giant street party with DJs. Madi and I ended up meeting a couple from the UK (also rugby players, so we clearly bonded) and partying with them all night. The most hilarious pickup line used on either of us that night was a guy walking up to me and saying, “I’m not gay.” I appreciate your directness, but really? Smooth line, brah.
So Saturday morning Madi and I slept in a bit, and then had brunch at a fantastic restaurant in De Pijp called Little Collins. I highly recommend it if you ever happen to be in that hood. We had to head to the canals pretty quick to post up for the parade though, and actually managed to score amazing seats sitting off one of the bridges.
The parade was UN.REAL. I got lucky and ended up sitting beside a guy who’s lived in Amsterdam for the past 25 years, so he knew all about the parade and the floats. There are roughly 80 floats each year, with roughly half a million people on the floats. Organizations are given spots in the parade based on their performance in prior years (scored on incorporation of theme, social message, and performance), and then a lottery is held open so different floats can be entered. It’s a pretty long parade – we arrived at the canal at 12:30 or so, and were there until 18:30. Luckily, the liquor laws in the Netherlands are the best, so we had a six pack (and Madi had her casual vodka drinks…) to help us pass the time.
The winners of the parade have already been announced. They gave winners in each of the categories (theme, performance, and social message).
So this year was the 200th anniversary of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, and the 20th anniversary of Amsterdam Pride. The theme of the boat was equal rights for everyone in the Kingdom – both the anniversary of the Kingdom and Pride gave the Netherlands an opportunity to celebrate unity in diversity. The float wished to bring to everyone’s attention the lack of equality in the laws of the Netherlands regarding gay rights. Amsterdam is hosting EuroPride next year, so the boat also stressed the importance of legislating equality before welcoming the entire continent’s pride celebrations. And if you didn’t get that from a lot of pink and yellow, I had to look up the boat descriptions to be filled in 🙂
This boat is actually sponsored and put together by ING Bank. It’s their 10th year sponsoring a float in the parade, and honestly, their float was so amazing. The dance routine was spot on, and the singer was insanely talented.
This was actually my favourite float. The idea behind it is that there are still people who don’t consider a kiss between a same sex couple to be a kiss between spouses. Until we’re able to see a same sex couple kiss and not react any differently than seeing a heterosexual couple kiss, we won’t have achieved acceptance of same sex love. The float alternated between each bridge, so two women kissed during one stretch, and then two men got on the podium and kissed during the next stretch.
I also really thought it was cool that the police and the Justice departments both had floats entered in the parade. Apparently, the police were the first governmental organization to enter a float in Amsterdam Pride, which I thought was really awesome given the heteronormative undertones implicit in police/military/etc. forces.
So after the parade Madi and I desperately needed a nap, so headed back to De Pijp. We then planned on heading to a club, but got distracted by drinking wine (and again, casual vodka drinks for Madi… this girl, I tell you) in a park, so by the time we went to line up, it was going to be a two hour wait. Instead, we ended up in a pretty chill bar having lovely conversations with some Danish guys. Well, I had lovely conversations with a Danish guy; Madi ended up chatting with the one with the most tenuous grasp on the English language, who was still quite nice, just a little harder to have any real talks with. We had a hilarious walk back home, because I have no sense of direction in a city built on circular canals, and ended up walking past the reassuringly-named Rapenburg. We did manage to make it home sometime in the wee hours of the morning, and somehow I was still up at 9:30 ready to live life.
We ended up visiting the FOAM museum, which is one of the big photography museums in Amsterdam. They had a very cool 60s photography exhibit (featuring Twiggy, but no Edie Sedgwick, which was slightly disappointing to me), a exhibit about a guy who made dozens of different and complex paper airplanes, a Pride exhibit with the best in LGBTQ issue-based photos for the past 5 years, and, my favourite, was an exhibit called The Ninety Nine by an American photographer, Katy Grannan. The photos are based out of Modesto, California, and focus on the people who live there. She also has a film, called The Nine, coming out next year, which was previewed in the gallery. It looks fantastic. The cinematography was beautiful, and, if you have no idea what Modesto is like (I didn’t), it was absolutely shocking. The premise is that it follows individuals living in Modesto, who are all ‘caught in a vicious circle of desire and despair… a community in which chaos is the norm and freedom is an illusion.’
I loved the way this work was displayed in the gallery. This piece was set up so three others were reflected in it, and it almost looked like the subject of this photograph was looking at two of the other portraits. This woman is so seriously talented, and I highly recommend you look more into her work.
The Pride exhibit was also great, and I’m glad we were able to see it. The FOAM changes its exhibits quite often, so I was pretty happy with the selection I was able to view this time around!
Madi and I were fairly exhausted, so decided to head back to The Hague, after Madi had a couple treats.
So Madi is here until she finds a standby flight – hopefully by Thursday, as I leave for Hamburg on Friday morning! (I swear I work too, I’ll do a blog post about how that is going at some point…)
much love, friends.