Throughout the Netherlands, gay bars, restaurants and discos are closing their doors. In our most Southern province Limburg, this is no different. It’s just how the cookie crumbles. Where in the recent past, there still was plenty to choose from, now one really has to look and still it will be difficult to find them.
Many attribute this development to the digitalization of our society.
People used to go out to find a date, but now you can just open Grindr or Facebook, or look on the Internet. This is, in principle, a development that can be called positive, since it is an easily accessible and relatively safe way to come into contact with like-minded people. This is especially true for young people in their coming-out phase. It has become easier to make contact, gather information and discover that you are not the only one who is “different.”
Of course, the Internet is not the only reason why gay bars are closing. While in the past people had the choice of going out to the pub or, for example, the cinema, nowadays almost every weekend there is a festival or large party. Especially young people are also increasingly going out with their straight friends because they do not necessarily want to make distinctions, and “parochialism,” thinking in categories, is decreasing.
Often, these encounters via the Internet are very shallow, and the bars and festivals are not always safe. And that is where the problem starts if you hear the visitors of COC Limburg’s Café Rosé. They indicate that there is a need for real encounters, in a place where they can safely meet for a nice evening or a good party. Especially the feeling of safety is of great importance, because unfortunately, it is not the case everywhere. Research shows that Dutch people over eighteen do not have a problem with gay marriage as such, but thirty-five percent disproves of men kissing. Two men walking hand-in-hand is seen as even more offensive. If you want to go out, you want to feel you can give your partner a kiss or hold hands without having to think about whether it is safe.
Therefore, COC Limburg thinks that activities where younger and older GLBTs can meet in person are relevant. They remain committed to making this possible, although it is not their main task. The success of Jong & Out Limburg, Dionyx, and the Pink Party proves this. Jong & Out, for youth up to eighteen, and Dionyx, for young people and students up to thirty, organize monthly activities at which visitors can meet in a relaxed and safe manner. The young people and students who organize and attend these activities often indicate that “being able to be yourself” is the reason for attending these activities.
The Pink Party for the open-minded and GLBT has been organized by COC Limburg since 1978, and is a party where young and old, male or female, gay or heterosexual, can party together without being judged. This festival, which took place on October 8 in Maestricht and attracted hundreds of visitors, indicates that there is still a need to meet one another. Other work groups, such as SoZo Limburg, Roze Plussers, Transgender Limburg, MMM Men Only Parties, Remixed Connected, and COC’s Café Rosé, also address this need.
Of course COC Limburg is not the only one having to address this. There are other parties in the gay hospitality industry who do their utmost to make sure everyone has a good night, regardless of sexual orientation or origin. COC Limburg applauds such initiatives and tries to help and support these whenever possible. Limburg is diverse because of its proximity to other countries in the EU. This diversity can also be found in the people living in the most Southern province of the Netherlands. A colorful GLBT community is an integral part of that.