People regularly tell me that Amsterdam is no longer what it once was. In the past, there were shows in cafés and discos they tell me. Of course, everything is temporary and yes, half of these former gay establishments are gone, but a lot is still happening, and unforgettable evenings can still be had. IDAHOTIQZ was such an evening, but let me start at the beginning.
We commemorate our liberation during the month of May. Homosexuality was liberated internationally on May 17, 1990. It was no longer considered a “disorder.” It was a memorable day. The World Health Organization stated that homosexuality will no longer belisted as a mental illness. From the Middle Ages, homosexuality falls under sodomy. Thus, homosexuals were sodomites. Now it is clear that the Dutch word “mietje” comes from “sodomiet,” but that is now a thing of the past.
Via Facebook I see that Luna Lunettes and the Poppers are presenting a musical show about Diversity - Respect and Love. Suzanne (Miss Leather) told me about the show. In the Cameleon theatre I am welcomed by Axe, the current Mister Leather Netherlands and by Pride Ambassador Raymond.
I also spot some of my money boxes, and I am quickly told that we will again be collecting money for the Rainbow Railroad. This foundation has been created to help GLBTI people who are being persecuted in their home country with a one-way journey to freedom. In Chechnya, homosexuals are being put in concentration camps. To me it is clear that we need to spring into action to help those in need.
Photographer Marrïet Sieffers, who photographs visitors at IDAHOTIQZ, is standing in the refreshment room. Both title holders hug me for a moment for the photograph, and inside the beautifully decorated auditorium with shady lighting, I see my friend Harry, who has kept a seat for me. Miss Leather is clicking her camera and also gives me a warm welcome hug. I see a lot of lesbians in the audience. Leather and Lesbian together is new to me in Amsterdam. In Australia and England, they do go hand in hand, but in the Netherlands, they have separate activities organized.
The evening starts with the song “Spiegelbeeld” (Reflection) but with a somewhat different undertone. Looking at yourself in the mirror in a country where you cannot be yourself. Asking yourself; what am I, what is my body, listening to yourself, looking at the lines on your face, at the bags under your eyes. It takes me back to the activist days. How we fought for our freedom, to be who we are.
Singing, music, theatre, a kind of revue is unfolding, with a retrospective of how homosexuality has found a place in our society. The colors of the rainbow flag come together with the music. Hans Verhoeven then sings Robert Long (1943-2006), who was a gay author, TV personality and singer most famous for his bitingly critical songs in the 1970s and 1980s. He then continues to say that the development of gay emancipation can be seen through the development of Robert Long’s lyrics.
In the meantime, Ambassador Raymond informs us of the current state of affairs. Walking hand in hand in the streets still provokes (negative) reactions. The Times they are a Changing, also in the United States as we now know. Worldwide, there are still over seventy countries where homosexuality is punishable by law. After his short speech there is a moment of silence. Luna Lunettes takes over, and Miss Niki Today enters the stage and sings, “Love who you Love.” Step by step we move from the turbulent 1960s to the 1998 Gay Games in Amsterdam and then to same-sex marriage in 2001. We are full of joy, and the rainbow flag can be put in the closet again. The Carpenters song “Top of the World” is interpreted by Sandra Kerstens with Don and Dirk from De Poppers doing backing vocals. Everyone is singing along.
Yet slowly, the activists are now crawling out of the closet again. The cohesion is starting to fall to pieces. Homosexuality is not an integral part of education. It is said that freedom can be made. In Kiev, the capial of Ukraine, 150 demonstrators were accompanied by 6500 police officers and soldiers in 2016. These demonstrators were able to enjoy their freedom for a few hours. That was the same day as the Orlando attack in which fifty people died. Silence again.
IDOHOTIQZ is variety theatre under the direction of Miss Niki Today that encompasses leather, lesbians, trans people, drag and twinks. To me, it was a back-in-time experience. Activists on stage who show with a smile and a tear how things are going at the moment. I share the opinion with everyone who was present this evening: next year they must go even bigger