The blog is not finished! But after the Theft (yes, capital letters), the want/need to update the blog took second fiddle to dealing with the Theft and just finishing the trip sans computer. Since being home, it's been hard to get that motivation to complete it. But I will. Ever so slowly. Please be patient!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Perspectives of Pride

IMG_0717The chance to go to Gay Pride in Amsterdam came a few months ago through Twitter and Facebook correspondence with Jaime of Breakaway Backpacker. We had been talking for months and knowing that we’d be in Europe at the same time meant we would have some opportunity to create to meet up somewhere. At first it was for La Tomatina in Spain but that wouldn’t work out for me, being as I would be in Eastern Europe at the time. So, somehow, the idea came up that we, being gay travel bloggers, meet up in Amsterdam for Pride. So we did.


I come from a city of 6000. Our Gay Pride is whenever I walk down the street. Nearby, in Saskatoon, a city of 220000 people, Gay Pride week is still a small, very community based festival. We have a parade that is more like a march. A community fair is held afterwards with local businesses promoting their goods while local bands play live music on a small stage in the park. Yeah, beer is sold in copious quantities and drag queens walk around, but for the most part it is a family-friendly event. Even throughout the week there are many events, many of which are geared towards families.

Knowing that Amsterdam Pride is considered to be one of the biggest in Europe(not the world, Sao Paulo holds that honour), I think I was expecting something insanely crazy. People dressing outrageously, debauchery everywhere. Hell, in our correspondence before meeting up, Jaime and I were gearing each other up for the crazy shit we would be getting ourselves into.

IMG_1016Now, Jaime will definitely have a different opinion of Amsterdam Pride over at his blog seeing as he comes from Houston, Texas which hosts the 4th largest Pride in the USA. Saskatoon vs. Houston – Two very different events compared to one in Europe.

I think what shocked me most about the entire Pride week was how . . . I would have to say low-key the whole event was. Rainbow flags were everywhere in the city. Posters and banners for the festival hung all over the city. So this was at least a more blatant show of support from the city compared to Saskatoon where you’ll have regular posters hung up down on Broadway Avenue and in the gay bars(2 total), but rarely anywhere else. In Amsterdam, the whole city gets behind it.

Yes, there were parties galore all week, most of which you needed tickets for(too expensive and sold out far in advance anyways). Looking at the guide, there were underwear parties, all night parties, fetish parties, and the like. There were also free street parties that we went to but here is where things started to diverge between how I viewed it and how Jaime possibly viewed it. It was more like Saskatoon’s gay pride than I could ever have imagined.

IMG_1046Booze poured freely around the little bars, but looking around the street party parks, you could seen entire families standing around enjoying the free music from the DJs and bands. Little tear-away amusement park rides were constructed for the little ones at one outdoor stage. Just like Saskatoon, a whole area was devoted to local businesses and charities. Even the parade was not nearly as crazy as I thought it would be. Yes, there were scantily clad men and women on the floats, but the streets were completely jam-packed with people from all walks of like. No one in the audience dressed shockingly or revealing. Many wore pink, many were families with kids. It was indeed a family event.

IMG_0815The obvious question is why? Why, with all we know of Amsterdam, is gay pride really such a non-scandalous, tame event(besides those parties you have to pay for)? I have a theory and I will tell you. Amsterdam is known for being an extremely tolerant and laid back society. Marijuana is legal, as are other natural drugs like mushrooms. They have had gay marriage in the country for 10+ years. Gays and lesbians have become an accepted part of the city and country landscape. Unlike in the USA where there is still many issues facing gays and lesbians, it’s like Amsterdam queers no longer feel it necessary to make an enormous and scandalous spectacle. It’s become like Carnivale in Brazil, or other regular festivals for groups around the world. Not a place for political action or in your face sexualisation(well, granted, Carnivale is pretty sexualised, but you know what I mean), but to celebrate the diversity in the community.

Perhaps this is the natural evolution of the Pride Parade and the Pride festival. You start off like Saskatoon is like now. Small, more of a march, but inclusive of families. Eventually, when the community gets large enough, it becomes louder and more in your face as there is safety and power in numbers. You see this in New York City, San Francisco and in Toronto. Those are very sexually charged events(from what I’ve heard and seen reported). Finally you get to Amsterdam, where gay rights have reached an almost natural apex(marriage, free to work, free to serve in the military, etc.) and you move Pride back from the activist/angry/lets-show-my-underwear style to the family orientated style.

IMG_0910And I think viewing Amsterdam Pride in this way makes it exceed all my expectations. Instead of a wild and insane week, we get a glimpse of a world where it has become accepted, celebrated, and allowed to just be. I recall reading somewhere a gay activist hoping for there to be a day when the need for a Pride Parade would cease to exist. Amsterdam shows that while it may never go away once established, it’s goals and motives certainly change over time.

Besides, I doubt you’ll find a festival as brightly coloured as Pride. Who would want to get rid of that?

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