This week rings in one of my favorite weeks in the summer in Amsterdam, Pride week. Every year the city of Amsterdam dedicates a whole week specifically to the LGBTQ+ community. Now as you know, I’ve been aware of this for a while. I mean I attend its highlight, the boat parade through the canals, every year. Unfortunately my introduction to pride week didn’t come from a personal connection to the LGBTQ+ community. It all started with an invite to a birthday celebration held at the canal boat parade, which developed into a yearly traditional visit. As a result, back then, I never had taken the time to understand the meaning of pride week. I was treating it like another “festival” which actually diminishes its value. Looking back, especially knowing what I know now, I cringe at that thought for several reasons!
First of all, it is much more than just the canal parade. Sure that is it’s highlight, but pride week is also a moment for the LGBTQ+ community to point out how, even in The Netherlands, there’s still a lot of work to be done. Besides the parade, there are numerous celebratory and informative activities throughout the city. Focusing on different aspects of the LGBTQ+ community and their nationwide struggles. Most importantly, pride week isn’t a festival. Comparing pride week to a festival diminishes it’s meaning. As well as the fact that it’s a safe space created for and by the LGBTQ+ community. Granting their members the much needed freedom to express themselves however they see fit. Something they’re unfortunately still not privileged to the rest of the year. After my experience during Afropunk, which felt like a safe space to me, the significance of it is even clearer.
Luckily my view towards the pride week has evolved, for the better. I’ve been blessed with experiences which have made it possible for me to better understand the LGBTQ+ community and the complexity of their struggles, to the point that I’d would consider myself an ally. I know how it feels to be judged and unfairly treated due to something you cannot change but more so how important it is to have allies who speak up when needed. Not saying that they can’t speak for themselves, just that it helps when others send the message along. As a result, I felt prompted to share a reminder with those of you, who aren’t part of the LGBTQ+ community because like me you are cisgender and heterosexual & you are planning on joining in on the pride week festivities.
It is not for us
This is in my eyes one of the most important reminder, the fact that pride week isn’t for us cisgenders and heterosexual individuals. It’s easy to forget this, considering we are the norm in this current society and we never have to think twice about it. For this reason, it would be highly selfish of us to center ourselves during the one occasion which is meant to highlight a vulnerable group of our society. Therefor my advice is to stay mindful of your privileges, stay mindful of you place within this space (which is not the center) and be aware that you’re not trying to take up/alter what isn’t for you.
It’s not a show and tell
This doesn’t just apply to the canal boat parade in my opinion but the whole week and even beyond that. It’s actually very simple, the people you’re pointing to, laughing at or talking about are humans like yourself. So prevent yourself from gawking at them, because you’re not used to the way they dress, not sure which gender they identify with or not used to couples of the same gender minding their own business. Even when you think you’re hiding it so well, they’ll notice. You would to and you wouldn’t like it, so what makes you think they would? Just because you’re not used to something, doesn’t give you the right to treat it as an exhibition. Furthermore, it’s not their duty to educate you (unless clearly stated as such with an information stand/button).
Should you decide to ask question, be mindful of how you phrase it and don’t feel entitled to an answer. As I stated before it’s not their job to educate you. If you do get a response, be open to it. Don’t try and correct them. The fact that you might not understand something, doesn’t negate the validity of their answer. If you’re not satisfied with it, that’s not their problem but yours. Try and figure out why you’re not satisfied and solves this by doing some research by yourself. Google is a great starting point!
So you’ve decided to join in on the festivities and you’ve been granted entry. The least you could do is have a helping hand in protecting this safe space. So should you witness something that crosses the line, whether it’s verbally or physically, speak up, try to lend a helping hand as much as you can. Sure pride week is all about the LGBTQ+ community, but we both know individuals with bad intentions are everywhere, maybe especially during such big events. Ready to spew hate and judgement, with no other reason than because they can. Remind yourself that there’s never an excuse to make another human being feel ashamed/uncomfortable because of who they are. Use your privileged as a cisgender heterosexual to ensure that the members of the LGBTQ+ community feel safe and protected. Even if the threat to their safe space is coming from your inner circle.
The only way I’m able to share these important reminder with you guys is because I had to learn this lessons myself. Most of which the hard way, because I wasn’t even aware of my own wrong doings, even if my intentions where good. By no means does this mean I’m done learning. Considering I will never fully understand how it feels to be a LGBTQ+ individual in a society which isn’t (always) LGBTQ+ friendly, it safe to say I’ll be learning forever.
Furthermore I want to make clear that there reminders are shared from a cisgender heterosexual point of view. If by doing so I’ve offended anyone from the LGBTQ+ community, I apologies. I’m open to any adjustment to this post to make sure that it’s no longer offensive. As well as any other reminders missing when it comes to responsibly participating in pride week as a non-LGBTQ+ individual.