APG wants to be an organization where everyone can be themselves. Always, all year round. But on occasion, like Pride Amsterdam, we like to give it some extra attention. Colleague Erik takes us into what is hidden behind the cheerful celebrations of this annual event.
We are on the eve of Pride Amsterdam. A time for parties and fun and to celebrate how far we have come. A party where we can be totally ourselves. To show that it is allowed and possible here, and that makes the Netherlands a great country to live in. The country that was the first in the world to introduce gay marriage. But we also celebrate Pride because it is necessary. Because we are not there yet. Because Pride is more than a good party. Behind all those happy faces is often a story. Pride is also a protest for equal rights for the global rainbow community.
This year I marched with Rotterdam Pride. A big party, with a lot of solidarity. And with all different groups of people. The group of LGBTQIA+ refugees had the most impact on me. Their story about what happened to them in their homeland and how happy and exuberant they were here, daring to be themselves here was touching. But here in the Netherlands the mood also seems to be changing. For example, the route was only announced at the last minute, for safety reasons. Nothing happened, but it still shocks you. Feyenoord and its LGBTQIA+ supporters also experienced that all is not well. Feyenoord raised the rainbow flag for the first time. A historic moment. The hatred that arose online from the club's own supporters towards people who supported it, like me, was unprecedented, shocking and showed why this statement is necessary.
In the soccer world there's always been is a lot of homophobic behavior. During speaking engagements, for example. You often hear, 'it's not meant against the gays, but against the opponent'. They don't seem to understand the impact this has on gay people, on acceptance and on children. Two years ago, I took the son of a friend and his friend to FC Utrecht-PSV. During the match the chorus of voices that I was afraid of comes out. The boys look at me, startled, their faces saying, “They're not allowed to say that, doesn't it hurt you?”. I quickly say, “Don't listen, it'll be over soon”. I love soccer, but I don't like this kind of thing. Words matter!
Unfortunately, it is more visible outside of soccer as well. In my hometown the other day I got sworn at out of the blue with homophobic slurs. And the same week, two girls were loudly condemning my husband and me while we were just walking side by side in the street.
But also closer to home, even within our organization, there are sometimes discussions and statements that affect me. Am I too sensitive? Should I not care? Maybe, but if you behave indecently and condemn people based on their identity and orientation, I'm done with you. No matter how the statements are intended. How statements or behavior come across to the other person is determined by the one who experiences it, not the one who says it. Talking about it with each other, condoning it or perhaps sharing with such colleagues what it did to me, made me think back to unpleasant experiences of 8 years ago. The emotions came back again.
When my husband and I met 9 years ago in Valencia, we were holding hands as we walked, visibly in love. We walked past Mestalla stadium and thousands of supporters. I was alert. My husband said: don't worry, it's not a problem here. And that turned out to be the case, a wonderful feeling. In the Netherlands we also used to hold hands in public sometimes. That was just a little scary, but we just did it, just like giving each other a kiss now and then. This, however, was soon over.
What should have been a celebratory moment instead turned into one that I now remember like yesterday. We were going out to dinner that night and took the train. We were chatting and I gave my husband a brief kiss. A young man walked by at that moment and freaked out. He started scolding us, spitting on us and threatening us. It was very frightening. Fellow passengers tried to help. Arriving at the station, the perpetrator went berserk, hit the arriving police and ran off. Shocked, we stood on the platform, received support and were advised to report the incident. My husband said, shocked, I thought the Netherlands was so tolerant.
Another bizarre situation followed at the police station. We were not taken seriously at all. They wondered whether we had not provoked it too much. This while we were there as witnesses and the gentleman had even knocked down officers. Then, when my partner had no ID on him, the officer said that he could get a fine for this. Even though we were the ones that had just been threatened. When I asked for a pink-in-blue police officer (there was a poster of this in the hall), he said he had never heard of it.
Months later, we were contacted for mediation. Not for us, but for the perpetrator. Because he had not meant it, had had a nasty situation at home and because we were both Feyenoord fans. No empathy or interest in us at all. We had to start the conversation with someone of whom we were still afraid on a daily basis. Eventually the perpetrator was locked up because he had committed a previous crime.
That’s why, ever since that happened, 8 years ago, my husband and I no longer hold hands. We hardly show affection to each other in public anymore. Because of the fear, because you don't feel like constantly having to think about what you're doing and that people might do things that could affect you.
I notice that a lot of people have no idea what LGBTQIA+ people go through and accept what is not okay. So lately I've been realizing more and more how I act differently just because I'm married to a man. In everyday life, like what series I watch on the train and who sits next to me. A year and a half ago we bought a new house. In the search we strongly considered in which city and neighborhood. Did we feel safe there? And not on the first floor! Because when I'm at home, I want to be completely myself and not have to worry that someone will see me and judge me. And when we go on vacation, we only go to countries that don't consider my love for my partner to be sinful or criminal.
All over the world, human rights are under pressure and aggression and misunderstanding against the queer community is increasing. This is confirmed by the deadly attack in June at an LGBTQIA+ bar in Oslo, the trans rights debate in the UK and the abortion ruling in the US, where it is already being said that the rights of LGBTQIA+ people will be the next issue of the Supreme Court. And there's already that “don't say gay” legislation in Florida*. And this in the US, where the Pride originated. Over 50 years ago in New York, the gay bar Stonewall Inn was evicted. The LGBTQIA+ community fought back when the police acted violently for the umpteenth time. This was the start of the Pride. A protest march, for equal rights, equal treatment and that the violence had to stop.
A Pride is there to show that it is needed and human rights are not a given. In many countries there is no Pride, because it is illegal. In many countries LGBTQIA+ people take to the streets at the risk of their lives to fight for their rights. In Amsterdam, for the next week and a half, we will be celebrating Pride for them, and for ourselves.
I walk along the heartwarming rainbow path near Amsterdam Sloterdijk, and think of the younger generation for whom gender identity and romantic preference is hardly an issue. It makes me dream about a time when we no longer need the Pride. A time when I can walk down the street hand in hand with my husband without being afraid, watched or scolded. When I can enjoy a soccer game at the stadium without hassle. A time when being LGBTQIA+ is normalized and everyone lives life the way they want to, anywhere in the world. A time when Pride is no longer a protest. A time when love conquers.
Celebrate with us, wherever you are! Because Pride is not only necessary, it is also a lot of fun.
* Legislation banning schools from talking to children about gender or sexual orientation.
#videotip: Pride video (2014) on KPN, apple and more