As you probably know, we visited a lot of various Prides across the Europe. We also had this amazing opportunity to be in Amsterdam during its Pride Week- And not only Pride Week; It was the time of the Europride! We got to party with the locals there and experience a completely different Pride event that you can’t attend anywhere else.
We attended it not only as random people willing to party, but also as activists, members of a Polish LGBT+ organisation called Grupa Stonewall. Our nice and pleasurable task was to see how the city looks like during the Pride and how is it all organised in order to bring it back to Poland and help in creating the best Pride Week our city has seen ever. We also got to advertise our own event with an amazing pink flag. That is why we have so many thoughts about the Pride in Amsterdam that we are willing to share with you!
The time of Pride in Amsterdam is incredible. It’s the time when half of the city is decorated in rainbow colors and you can see LGBT+ flags everywhere. It’s the time when you can see people walking proudly with their heads held high. It’s the time of countless queer parties and events that you can attend everyday. It’s just an incredible time of the year and although similar in most of the countries, celebrating in Amsterdam somehow feels more special. We have never seen a city this well prepared for their Pride! Maybe that’s because we were there during Europride, but no one can deny that Amsterdam was really trying its best to make it the best queer party of the year.
Not only the main street of Canal Parade is decorated; you can see beautiful rainbow ornaments everywhere. Lots and lots of restaurants, bars, cafes and even churches have their buildings covered in rainbow colours. What also impressed us is how involved the citizens are! They also try to dress up their houses as much as they can and usually the most creative decorations are those put up by them. In most of the cities around the world people simply put up flags in their windows but in Amsterdam it seems more like a competition- who’s house is going to be the most rainbowish – and they take it to the next level.
Since we were in Amsterdam only for a few days, we weren’t there for the whole duration of Pride. We decided to come there when the main event took place: the Canal Parade. The Canal Parade is something you can’t experience in any other city; it is special. It’s a parade of beautifully decorated boats traveling through the city’s canals. Every boat belongs to a different organisation or company and each plays separate music, trying as hard as possible to get the crowd moving and dancing. There are hundreds of people attending the event, standing and having fun everywhere: on the streets, bridges, boats and even in their own houses. They run proper parties with friends and watch the parade from their windows, sitting on window sills; or they have luxurious, exclusive parties on boats that are located in the same canal. This huge number of people is also one of the biggest disadvantages: it is almost impossible to see the boats, unless you come 3 hours early and pick a good spot for yourself.
Amsterdam Pride was organised for the first time as a festival to celebrate freedom and diversity; not as a manifestation or demonstration for equal rights and we could see that very clearly. It mainly focuses on partying and having fun rather than shouting about LGBT+ rights. You can’t see posters or banners -with slogans encouraging you to fight- anywhere on the boats and it is even difficult to spot any in the crowd. It’s just a big, queer party!
We took parts in many Prides but this one differs from others in more ways than what we have already mentioned. It was different because you weren’t a part of the event, you were an observer. We are more used to marches, where you proudly walk among other queer people loudly demonstrating your rights and your happiness of freedom, like it was in Berlin. This one was completely different: it was more of a show. You just stand and watch (with many difficulties since you mostly see other people’s backs) boats passing by and people having fun on them. If you are more used to this kind of Parades (a more of a USA type) it probably wouldn’t make any difference to you; but we personally prefer the other type. We like to feel like part of a group; we like to feel that we are making a difference, that we are fighting for our rights. We want to march proudly . That is why we decided that although it is still a great party, it’s not the kind we prefer. Now we know that next time we plan to be in Amsterdam during Pride we should arrive earlier and attend the march. But even though it is not our kind of parade, we are still happy we were there and had the chance to experience it.
We saw many, many people with amazing queer t-shirts: some talking about Stonewall Riots, some mentioning Gay Liberation Front, some with artworks remembering queer/gay artists such as Keith Haring. It was very comforting to see people expressing themselves in so many different ways. Since it was very hot, there were also many half-naked (or fully naked) people; and almost everyone had some sponsored gadgets that supportive companies were giving away at the time in order to advertise themselves.
The thing that had struck us a bit was that there weren’t many people holding flags with their colours showing who there are; proud bisexuals, asexuals or transgender people. Sometimes you could see an indication of belonging to a specific group on badges or t-shirts but it wasn’t as visible as we would like it to be. We love to see diversity, all of LGBT+ letters showing they are here, they exist and that there is more to Pride than only gays and lesbians.
One reason why it could be like this- there were many different people attending Canal Parade and we are sure not all of them were LGBT+. It seemed like a city party that every person living there knew about; and they attended to have fun. No matter whether they are queer or not, they go there to party! It is not an exclusive event only for gay people; everyone is welcome to enjoy beautiful boats and to dance and drink.
There was also a big diversity among the crowd. You could see a lot of people of various ages. Most of the people were young, in their 20s and 30s but there were also many older people and a lot of very young ones. Kids were attending this event by themselves, not accompanied by their queer or supportive parents. They were just going there to have fun and enjoy the city’s parade too. There were also many people of colour and many foreigners. It is a very big event that not only people from the Netherlands attend, but also a lot of people from Belgium and many other countries across the world.
It was amazing to see all those companies that had their own boats or were giving away gadgets supporting the LGBT+ rights and showing all the people that they are tolerant and treat queer people equally to the heterosexual, cisgender ones. Although, on the other hand, even though we can’t say for sure that most of those companies it is just pinkwashing, we can all agree that those companies can be seen often, marketing themselves as gay-friendly but not actually doing anything else to actually support the cause. Not that there is anything wrong with people claiming they support equality, diversity and basic human rights. Please, don’t take this the wrong way – it’s amazing to see all those supportive ones! But maybe instead of spending a lot of money on astonishingly decorated platforms and the best dancers on them, it would be better to help fighting for LGBT+ rights with that money instead.
After the whole event, in the evening, we also accidentally found ourselves on Conchita Wurst’s concert which was an amazing surprise to us; although it wasn’t very spectacular and was held in a very, very small place. We also had a little accident, when a guy with a Polaroid camera approached us and asked if he can take a picture of us. We said yes because why not, right? And that was our mistake! We didn’t expect the guy to ask us for 5 euros for this one photo. Remember that we had only 1 euro/day on everything to spend and having to pay him would put a dent in our budget. After quick bargaining , we paid him 2 euros instead and got a picture that is now hanging on a wall in Aleks’ and Dominika’s room.
Even though we prefer marches rather than parades where you just stand and look at cars or boats, we definitely had fun in Amsterdam! It was a new experience for us and we never expected to see a city decorated so beautifully, all covered in rainbows. It was very touching. Watching the entire city party and be happy because of freedom and equality was an amazing experience. We were inspired and next time we would love to attend a Pride March in Amsterdam, not Canal Parade. We would also love to attend this year’s World Pride that will be held in Madrid but time will show where will we end up at the time.
If you liked this post, check out our memories from Berlin’s Pride!