Columns & OpinionsFor the international pride movement, 2019 is a special year. In June, it is fifty years ago that the Stonewall Riots broke out in New York, a fact that is commemorated all over the world. by Lucien Spee
- 16 April 2019
|Remember the Past, Create the Future|
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The riots broke out on June 28, 1969 in the district of Greenwich Village at the evacuation of The Stonewall Inn in Christopher Street. After years of police brutality and intimidation, the visitors of the bar decided to fight back. Contrary to what many people believe, it were the underprivileged trans women with African and Latin-American roots who started the riots, mostly supported by feminine gay men and butch lesbians. The riots lasted for five days. Besides a lot of damage, there were injuries on both sides.
The riots faded out, but still mark a dividing line in the history of the GLBT movement. A year later in New York, to commemorate the riots, the first Pride Parade in the world had been organized. Seven years after the Stonewall riots, the first ever large demonstration took place in the Netherlands, organized by the International Lesbian Alliance. It became a yearly event later, known as Pink Saturday after 1979, with each edition taking place in a different city.
Because of the fiftieth anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, Amsterdam Pride’s theme this year is “Remember the Past, Create the Future.” History is important in order to understand where you come from and why things are the way they are. It gives you a good foundation to consider the future and how we can achieve things.
What many do not know is that our pride, with its first edition held in 1996, was not created as a demonstration or protest march. It was purely an organized party to promote Amsterdam as a gay entertainment city, and to promote and celebrate the freedom and diversity of our city. It was a gift of the gay entrepreneurs to the city and the public to get in the mood for the 1998 Gay Games in Amsterdam.
Years later, emancipatory content was added to the Pride, and the event expanded from a one-day event to an internationally recognized GLBT festival that reflects the diversity of our community with sports, arts and culture, church services, and manifestations in various city boroughs. It was only after the sixteenth edition in 2011, that we joined the international pride movement.
This was due to the fact that our Pride had become increasingly activist and content-oriented, but also because we began to feel the obligation to commit ourselves to communities elsewhere in the world. In 2017, the Amsterdam Pride once again went through an important development as we came to the conclusion that we had to become even more inclusive. In 2017, our organization was extended with various substantive and target group-oriented committees.
Last winter, another final breakthrough took place. You can probably recall the “Reclaim Our Pride” protests from last year, at which the police confiscated forty unicorns in Amsterdam. Based on historical facts and contemporary racist expressions, Queer People of Colour often feel excluded by the GLBT movement and rightly demand attention being paid to addressing this issue. After proper consultation, representatives of our umbrella organization now formed a Colour of Pride commission that will ensure a program that is specifically aimed at this particular target group.
This year, with the fiftieth anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, we will naturally refer to this historical fact often, but we will also continue to look back, as well as have a closer look at European gay emancipation history. Some have already rightly indicated that this history is at least as interesting and perhaps even more important to our own emancipation.
Did you know, for instance, that six months prior to the riots in New York, a large gay rights demonstration had taken place in the Netherlands? It was organized by the “Federatie Studenten Werkgroepen Homoseksualiteit” and was directed against article 248bis of the Dutch Penal Code. The aim of this law was to protect boys and girls aged sixteen to twenty against homosexual temptation and thus to prevent the spread of homosexuality.
Before this law was finally amended in 1971, a total of nearly 5,000 homosexuals had been prosecuted on the basis of this article and, incidentally, were never rehabilitated.
Lucien Spee is managing director of the Amsterdam Pride Foundation , organizer of the yearly Amsterdam Pride, which will be take place from July 27 - August 4, 2019. See www.pride.amsterdam for more information on this event.
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