[What’s Amsterdam like? #1] PRIDE AMSTERDAM 2022 PARADE – where canals are overflowing with ‘freedom’

【What’s Amsterdam like?】 is an irregular series of articles introducing LGBTQ+-related topics and events that are based on local interviews conducted in Amsterdam.
Incidentally, Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands, which was the first country to legalize same-sex marriage – something worth remembering.

The first edition brings you the Canal Parade of Pride Amsterdam, which is an event held on a large scale across the city of Amsterdam for about a week every year, starting from late July to early August.
The colorfully decorated floats are filled with a sense of freshness at this event, which takes place on the World Heritage-listed canals.

― Boats carrying wishes and pride go down the canal. Canal Parade, an LGBTQ+ celebration that attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors.

The Canal Parade took place on Saturday 6 August 2022, local time. Amsterdam is characterized by its many fan-shaped canals. The main event of Pride Amsterdam happens on these waterways: around 80 colorfully decorated floats sail along the canals over a period of six hours.
However, Pride Amsterdam also consists of over a 170 LGBTQ+ events, including dance parties, film screenings, debates and exhibitions.

It was the first time in three years after the pandemic that the event had been held onsite. As such, the streets along the parade route were filled with so many residents and tourists that it was difficult to walk.

It felt good to walk through the city center, watching the city people enjoy the Canal Parade in their own way, dancing to electronic dance music, holding a Heineken beer, – did you know this is a beer originating from Amsterdam? – waving together with children at the floats passing by.

The Netherlands was the first country in the world to legalize ‘same-sex marriage’ in 2001. The atmosphere in the city was created by 20 years of accepting diverse ways of life as being normal, and the words ‘openness’ and ‘freedom’ fit perfectly within such a context.

The parade was led by three people, including an Asian man dressed in a fairy costume, who skillfully rode a jetpack. It’s a good way to attract inclusion without being ostentatious. Femke Halsema, the female mayor of the city of Amsterdam, also danced joyfully at the sight.

The boats that followed were colorfully decorated and the people were dressed up in their own costumes for this occasion. Needless to say, anywhere one looked along the canal under the blue sky, people were enveloped in an aura of happiness.

Under this year’s slogan ‘my gender, my pride’, the float pushed through the city, celebrating a message to live your life the way you truly want.

Organizations and groups that we were familiar with also participated in the parade of floats, such as Booking.com, Heineken, Amnesty International, and UNCHR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees), which you may have learnt about in your social classes. Another significant presence was the first Asian Pride float that consisted of people with Asian roots, apart from the Pride House Tokyo team’s participation in 2019.

Furthermore, the city’s famous BDSM shop called ‘Mister B,’ (BDSM being an acronym for bondage, discipline, dominance, submission, and sadism, which collectively describes the predatory tendencies within human sexuality) as well as the fire brigade continued to send messages, while they advanced towards the end point of the parade at Westerdoksdijk.

It is a unique spectacle to see everyone, from BDSM enthusiasts to businesses and civil servants, taking part in one event. At the same time, it was a glimpse into the citizens’ deep understanding of LGBTQ+ issues.

However, there is no sense of obligation to take part in the parade to improve the rights of the LGBTQ+ community. It is this genuine desire to participate and simply watch the parade because it is fun that makes Pride Amsterdam and the Canal Parade to what it is.

What could be a more memorable positive message for people than the feeling of fun? – in a sense, I believe that this kind of thought is probably just fine.

-Believe in the sensitivity of the recipient and make it as entertaining as possible. It’s fun, and there’s sure to be a message that can be conveyed from that feeling.

The visitors to Pride Amsterdam included many teenagers and families, and there are no barriers to sexuality, gender, age, nationality or race.

This is probably due in part to the fact that it is a large-scale event supported by the city of Amsterdam and that it is a cosmopolitan city with more than 190 nationalities and origins. But that is not the only reason.

The forty official programs – starting with social movements for better rights, such as the Pride Walk, but also including the street parties everywhere, and the main event itself, the Canal Parade – are all appealing and easy to understand.

Although rainbow parades are currently held in many places in Japan, starting with the Tokyo rainbow Pride, pride-related events are still in a transitional period, in which Japanese society is moving towards a mentality that offers more diversity and inclusion.

This is probably also why the majority of the events are parades and lectures with a notable number of participants and exhibitors from the LGBTQ+ community and allied companies who tend to be more involved in the LGBTQ+ community.

Opportunities to learn about the LGBTQ+ community are something that should not be missing. However, there is much to be learnt from an experience that transcends the boundaries of the LGBTQ+ community and is enjoyable for everyone, and that believes in the sensitivity of the individual and emphasizes joy.

I felt very envious of Dutch citizens who can live proudly in their own country, where their own sexuality and gender, as well as legal and de-facto marriage, partnerships, and other national choices in life are guaranteed.

The introduction of the partnership system in various local governments in Japan is progressing, and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government will introduce this system in November this year. This is a necessary step towards recognizing diverse ways of life and enabling everyone to live their own life, regardless of whether they use the system or not. I also hope that Japan will make progress towards becoming a country where people respect each other’s position, including the realization of same-sex marriage.

『Pride Amsterdam 2023』will be held from 30 July (Sun) to 6 August (Sun) next year. Although it is difficult to travel abroad due to high prices and other factors – why not consider the Netherlands and Amsterdam as potential holiday destinations?

-Your existing values will surely be shattered by the dazzling sights that you won’t find in Japan.

Finally, a play back of lovely couples we saw along the canal. Expressing yourself is a great feeling, isn’t it? Just looking at them gives me a share of (their) happiness, and I’m going to finish on a happy note ♬♬

Interview and text/HAGA Takashi  Photo/EISUKE
Interpreter/Kuwahara Karin (So Communications)
Cooperation/ The Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Japan, Dutch Culture
Article produced by/ newTOKYO

※This interview was conducted as part of a visitors program organized by the Embassy of the
Kingdom of the Netherlands in Japan.