We began our tour at the Homomonument, which commemorates all gays and lesbians who have faced persecution because of their sexual orientation. This unique memorial, which was inaugurated in 1987, consists of three pink triangles, which represent the past, present and future dimensions of gay/queer life in the Netherlands.
In the picture above, we're sitting on one of the Homomonument's three consituent triangles, which represents the present and points in the direction of COC Nederland, the oldest continuously operating LGBT organization in the world.
Pointing toward the Anne Frank House, the second triangle (which is pictured below) is placed at street level, in keeping with its investment in the past. It is inscribed with the words "Naar vriendschap zulk een mateloos verlangen" ("Such a boundless desire for friendship"), a line from the Dutch Jewish gay poet Jacob Israël de Haan's poem "To a Young Fisherman."
The third triangle (pictured below), whose vertex angle points toward the National War Monument on Dam Square, looks toward the future. Reflecting its message of hope tempered by vigilance, this triangle is placed in water, the one constant (variable) in Dutch life.
The three triangles are connected by a strip of pink granite, signifying the intimate connections between past, present and future. Seen from the air, these three triangles form one larger, fourth triangle.
All of this was explained to us by our guide, Bobby Brown, who moved from the US to the Netherlands more than 17 years ago, which allowed him to chart the more recent development of Amsterdam as, arguably, the gay capital of the world from both a cross-cultural and personal perspective. That said, Mr. Brown's history of Amsterdam extended far beyond his own personal memories of Amsterdam; in fact, he traced the history of gay life in Amsterdam back to the 17th century, when, against the backdrop of the immense prosperity that characterized the Dutch Golden Age, homosexual behavior was largely condoned. It was not until the 18th century, when the sheen of the Golden Age began to fade and the Dutch economy took a severe downturn, that laws were passed that prohibited homosexuality (or, as it was then called, "sodomy") -- on the penalty of death.
A great deal has changed since then, and as a fitting end to our tour, we ended our tour at Café 't Mandje, the oldest gay bar in the city, which was founded in 1927 by the legendary and larger-than-life lesbian Bet van Beeren -- and which has, against all odds, stood the test of time.
The city of Amsterdam may seem like a haven of tolerance today, but if there is anything that our "Really Gay Tour" of the city made perfectly clear -- from the sodomy laws of the 18th century to the persistent bullying of LGBT teenagers today -- it is that we must remain really vigilant in order to protect and extend the hard-won rights of LGBT citizens today, tomorrow, and in the ages to come.
Program Coordinator Social Sciences