This year’s Pride celebrations commemorate 50 years since the Stonewall riots that broke out in New York and paved way to the LGBT movement around the world.
In Amsterdam, the celebration punctuated with the yearly Canal Parade through the picturesque canals of Amsterdam, an event that attracts half a million to one million people from all over the world. The city has a history of welcoming people of all background, races, preferences, and beliefs. The Netherlands is the first country to approve same-sex marriage in 2001, a bold move that led to other European countries following suit (except the Vatican, an independent state).
The Canal Parade had the usual 80 floats from LGBTI+ groups and organizations, including major businesses like Uber and Netflix, political parties and yes, the police and the military. It started like the domain of smaller LGBTI+ cafes and bars and expanded into a major tourism showcase of a city that values equality and diversity. And of course, an excuse to party for many young and beer-thirsty audience. It has also become a cash machine for businesses along the canals, where beer prices are jacked up and use of toilets is a whooping 2 euros!
This year, the Canal Parade welcomed two new participants from Asia–The Filipino LGBT Europe and Tokyo House. Their groups sailed through the canals for the first time bearing messages from their home countries where being part of the LGBTI+ is as difficult as coming out.
While the LGBTI+ in the Netherlands are accorded ‘some’ rights like marrying and choosing who they like, it is clear from the messages carried on the floats that the group still suffer discrimination. There is a high level of tolerance in the society but acceptance is sometimes even harder to come by.
The Canal Parade is not just some colorful party where the LGBTI+ plus dressed in slinky outfits as they dance in trancelike beats. It is a celebration of Pride and a call to action that it is not enough to show tolerance. It also sends a message to other countries that is still close to accepting the members of LGBTI+ communities. There are still archaic laws in many countries that criminalize ‘inappropriate’ cultural behaviors such as being gay or having same-gender sexual interactions.
Many members of the LGBTI+ long for the day that Pride won’t be celebrated anymore because the world has become truly accepting.