A few weeks ago my boyfriend and I packed some food and drinks and drove to Amsterdam. The weather forecast promised a (I’m afraid the only) sunny and warm weekend this August and there was something big going on in our little country’s capital: the GayPride, this year even bigger because of being the European version. We are both straight (as far as I’m concerned) so what does a hetero couple do at a gay parade? Easy answer: Enjoy life and the freedom to love who we want!

Before I start with number and facts, let me try to describe the atmosphere and the experience. It was my first GayPride (although my sister and I were in Amsterdam at that day a few years ago, we managed to not see a single bit of it) so I did not really know what to expect. It felt a bit like a carnival parade in summer and the people around where definitely behaving a lot better despite being probably as drunk. Everyone just seemed to be having fun, being nice to each other and enjoying the good weather, the music and the dancing, the joy and the pride. I saw so many people that looked happy just because they could show the world who they are. I saw this really great video from Humans of Amsterdam passing by in my Facebook feed the next day. It perfectly captures the attitude there in my opinion:

‘Life is better when you are you’

I would lie if I say that I liked all the outfits I saw but did it matter? No, not at all. If I got up this morning and put on my favorite t-shirt (dark blue with flowers, maybe a little too girlish to be taken serious as an adult), then that old man is free to get up this morning and dress like an opera queen. Taste is non discussable. I love the quote at the end of the video: ‘Freedom is a gift. Never take it for granted.’ I have the freedom to wake up every morning next to my boyfriend and get up and put on my favorite t-shirt or my favorite dress. And that old man should have the freedom to wake up every morning next to his beloved husband or wife and get up and put on his favorite dress or his favorite suit. Because ‘Life is better when you are you’ (the motto of the Phillips boat)

Luckily, I live in a country where being yourself is rather easy. The Netherlands was the first country to allow same-sex marriages in 2001. 15 years later Holland is still leading in Europe: Only 7% of the Dutch population has a negative opinion about homosexuality (compared to 15% in 2006) and 70% of the Dutch people has a positive attitude towards LGBTs! Of course, there are still differences between young and old, city and countryside, lower and higher educated, religious and not religious people but that gap is getting smaller.

But what if being yourself is illegal?

Saying that LGBTs in Holland do not face discrimination would be ignorant and false: There still are a lot of prejudices in people’s heads and together we need to work to eliminate those. But life for a gay or lesbian or bisexual or transgender is a lot easier in Holland than in most other countries in the world. I remember that one boat at the parade which had a banner saying ‘In 77 countries being gay is a crime’. So I did my research on that and I found this:

No further explanation needed, I guess. And this map only shows the legal situation of LGBTs around the world. It does not show whether they face discrimination in their country. An example: In Russia homosexual acts are not illegal but there are laws forbidding ‘propaganda of homosexuality’. In a nutshell that means you are not allowed to tell your kids that homosexuality exists. Weird, right?

Tolerance is part of the Dutch DNA

But back to Holland, why are the Dutchies so LGBT tolerant? I could not really find one satisfying answer but I found several different reasons why the Dutch society may be so tolerant:

1. Pragmatism
Dutch people tend to think that things will happen anyway so it is better to legalize and regulate things. (Think of the legalization of soft drugs and prostitution.)

2. Multiculty Amsterdam
The Netherlands used to be a big trading country and Amsterdam used to be and still is a city where people from many different countries and cultures meet and do business. Once again, it is the Dutch pragmatism that plays an important role here: If you show a strong opinion during a negotiation, you may offend your business partner. No business = no money = no, thanks!

3. A bit of Dutch history
Freedom of religion was one of the founding values of the country. Therefore, the Netherlands has always attracted religious refugees from all over Europe. However, that does not mean that they all lived happily together. In the late 19th century the different religious groups had grown so far apart that they rather coexisted next to each other and mostly only interacted on a political level: Depending on your religion you would send your kids to a Catholic school, vote for the social-democratic party, buy your bread in a Protestant store, read a liberal newspaper and later watch liberal TV. This system suddenly collapsed in the 60s: The country had recovered from WWII and had become wealthier; people became more mobile and watched more TV (also other programs than their own); Amsterdam became a Mecca for hippies – and people realized that they were not so different at all. The leftovers from the strict separation were a political environment that always strived for a consensus between all groups. This way of thinking is still present in the Netherlands and one reason why the Netherlands are such a tolerant country.

I hope I did not bore you too much with this little history class (I guess you would not have made it until here if you were not a little interested in Dutch culture 😉 ). Being tolerant is so to say part of the Dutch DNA. And that is why a hetero couple can go to the GayPride and do not feel out of place there. Quite the contrary!

A highwaygirl signature

PS: Have you been to the GayPride already? Please feel free to leave a comment! Thanks for reading.