It's OK to Be Gay (For the Day)

Amsterdam Canal Parade Karsten Qualmann

This weekend, the Canal Parade, highlight of the annual Gay Pride festival, made its way through the Amsterdam city centre. But just how liberal are we in The Netherlands?

Golden spandex hot pants, drag queens in silver knee high boots, and lots of pink filled the canals last Saturday. Next to the obvious bare-chested construction workers and boa-sporting firemen, there was a boat filled with rugby players, and even one with a football theme. Patricia Paay launched her single Gay Sera and it was pouring confetti, beer, and cats & dogs.

All the ingredients of a good party were present.

"Are you going to watch the parade?" I asked my straight friend. "Of course," she said. "We’ll be going to Amstelveldje." I nodded. Every young lawyer and banker I knew was going to the outdoor dance area where DJs would end the day.

But exactly how much does that have to do with supporting the gay community?

Naturally we all get very excited watching naked, hard bodies in the rain, even if they’re gay. But just a week before, I had told my friend about an encounter with an openly gay female. The girl had flirted with me, and I was afraid to lead her on. My friend had given me the weary inquisitive look upon my recital. "You are not gay, are you?" she had asked. "Lord no!" I said, immediately feeling ashamed for being embarrassed.

For homosexuality is completely accepted in the Netherlands, right? ING, Gay Bankers and even the Ministry of Defence have their own boat in the parade. Pink pride dominates the television agenda every first week of August.

Yet, the number of violent incidents against gays reported in our capital increased 30% compared to last year. During the parade, participants do not have to be protected, but we only mingle to a certain extent. Gays gather on the boats for straight people to watch. Straight people collect at Amstelveldje to make less exciting moves amongst themselves.

In The Netherlands it’s OK to be gay. But in my backyard, nee.