300,000 throng Amsterdam streets for gay pride

August 10, 2004

Barge scene at Dutch pride
AMSTERDAM — More than 300,000 people gathered in the Dutch capital Saturday for the Gay Pride festival that saw participants baring more flesh as they paraded along the canals on a flotilla of boats and barges.

Those taking part included a variety of associations and groups as well as the city's firefighters, gay basketball players and an Israeli-Palestinian friendship group.

Organizers had asked participants this year to show more flesh to confirm the city's reputation as the "homosexual capital of Europe" and to combat what they see as a more conservative "anti-erotic" climate in the country.

"The public will not be subjected to sexually explicit acts but the parade must be provocative and sexy," Siep de Haan, one of the organizers, said. "After all this is a homosexual parade and not a choir recital."

Amsterdam police spokeswoman Elly Florax said the parade had been more "spicy" this year without being overly outlandish.

There was the usual array of colorful floats with pounding music, garments in all shapes and, well, sizes – in many cases covering only the bare minimum – though the majority of sexual organs on display were actually fake.

The public, for its part, appeared overall to enjoy the show although there were a few grumblings among some who were peeved by the nudity and the underlying message.

"I am 100 percent in favour of the emancipation of homosexuals and I believe their sexual preferences are absolutely natural but what is the use of all this?," said Annelies, a young woman there with her two children, as she pointed to a float carrying a group of scantily dressed men.

The children's grandmother disagreed saying that the event and the nudity could prove a good opportunity to explain to children about homosexuality.

However others begged to differ, denouncing the carnival atmosphere.

"If they're satisfied dancing nude to loud music, it's nothing but theatre, and they are only confirming all the cliches about them," said Julie, in the city for the weekend.

Henk and Marco, a homosexual couple who traveled from the east of the country to watch the event, agreed saying the Gay Pride parade was sending the wrong message.

"Homosexuality is as diversified as heterosxuality, it doesn't come down to a few bared bottoms," Henk said.

Still, many who watched the parade said they saw the event as a way to combat growing intolerance toward the gay community.

According to a new study by Gay Krant, the most popular newspaper for the homosexual community in the Netherlands, the number of gays in the country who are insulted or threatened because of their sexual orientation is on the rise. – Sapa-AFP

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