If there’s anything that warms my weary, gay, American heart, it’s Amsterdam Pride, which kicked off on Pink Saturday with a parade and concert in Amsterdam’s central park. I stumbled out of my Airbnb and joined the crowd, which was awash in not only in rainbows, but also flags from the 74 countries in which homosexuality is illegal. In a blend of celebration, solidarity, and activism, drum lines and disco drag queens walked amongst marchers carrying signs plastered with the faces of LGBTQ people from around the world who have been killed or persecuted. Kids of LGBTQ parents played in the adjacent Pride Park, which was equipped with a bouncy castle, lawn games, and instructors teaching self-defense. LGBTQ organizations set up booths on the sidelines and distributed flyers and information about community activism, from LGBTQ refugee aid, to an LGBTQ swimming league. Walking amidst the booths, I wondered: What can an American take away from witnessing this kind of event, when our country is failing to protect its LGBTQ citizens in so many ways?
It comes as no surprise that Amsterdam Pride is one of the biggest Pride events in the world, as the Netherlands has been at the forefront of LGBTQ rights for decades. It was the first country in the world to legalize same sex marriage in 2001 and, while the current administration/trash fire is still debating whether or not LGBTQ people deserve anti discrimination protections, the Netherlands passed the Equal Treatment Act back in 1994. While our president plans on reinstating the military ban against transgender people, the Netherlands banned military discrimination in 1973. While the US denies trans kids the right to pee, the Netherlands passed a bill in 2012 stating that schools are obligated by law to teach students to treat LGBTQ people with respect. The US government certainly has some catching up to do, but queer US citizens can also take note of how grassroots organizations today are organizing, advocating, and creating diverse and inclusive spaces for every color of the rainbow.
After absorbing the festivities, I decided to ask organizers one simple question: If you could deliver a message to the LGBTQ people in the US today, what would you say? Here are their answers.
Vanny Reyes is the Coordinator of Ontmoeting and Empowerment, an organization that educates students about sexual diversity. Volunteers are trained to answer questions and lead class discussions about discrimination, faith, and beyond.
His message: “When our organization began 20 years, we were primarily looking for allies who could be financial partners. We realized it would be more effective to look for allies who want to be our accomplices, who want to fight with us. If you want to integrate parents or a school, the cause is stronger if non-LGBTQ people are involved. When we organize activities, for example, we make it inclusive, so that the parent or family member can come with their child. People around see that we are carried by the community. Otherwise the conversation is between a non-LGBTQ person and an LGBT person, and it’s always going to be plus minus. The message I want to give to LGBTQ people in the US is it’s your fight, but don’t fight it alone.”
Helene Faasen is an Amsterdam based lawyer and advocate for Meer dan Gewenst, a non-profit organization that acts as a resource for both LGBT parents and prospective parents. For the past 10 years, Meer dan Gewenst has held meetings on the legal, social, and medical aspects of LGBT parenting. The organization focuses on community building and advocacy, and has most recently turned its attention to the legal rights of families with more than two parents.
Her message: “My work focuses on the many parents who are invisible, who do not have the right to request a passport for their child, open a savings account, or make decisions with a doctor. I truly, truly hope that LGBT families of all kinds, from Amsterdam to the US, gain the right to nurture their families. It’s a human right. I hope you can work to gather same beautiful people around you as we do today at this Amsterdam pride.”
Gabriel Bos edits the magazine TRANS: over genderidentiteit, a Dutch magazine made by, for, and about transgender people. The magazine is affiliated with TransAmsterdam, an organization that works to improve the visibility and cultural influence of trans people in Amsterdam. The magazine includes interviews, personal essays, and reportage, and acts as a resource for trans people as well as an educational tool for non-trans people.
His message: “As people in the US know, trans stories are popular in mainstream media today, but it’s important for us to tell our own stories. That’s what we’ve tried to do with our magazine, which we’re proud to release today on Pink Saturday. It is important that LGBTQ people write, create art, etcetera, so that we regain ownership and power over our own narratives. When we speak for ourselves, we help those like us, as well as educate others.”
Photos by Caroline von Klemperer
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Liz von Klemperer is a Brooklyn based writer and succulent fosterer. Her work has been featured in The Establishment, The Rumpus, Electric Literature, and beyond. Find more at lizvk.com.