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social sciences

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Lesbian Activism

Also in 1970, the first exclusively lesbian bar opened. In 1972, the first separatist lesbian movement, "Purple September," was organized, soon to be followed by "Lesbian Nation."

The COC changed its policies to be more affirming of lesbians and to address the sexism of gay men. Lesbians had always been members of the COC, but only in the 1980s did lesbian and straight women achieve central positions in the organization.

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Amsterdam as "Gay Capital"

With the decriminalization of homosexuality in 1971 and other legal rights conferred on homosexuals soon afterward, there was an end of official intolerance in the Netherlands. Moreover, the police were now charged with protecting--rather than harassing--gay men and lesbians and the gay cruising areas.

Not surprisingly, Amsterdam continued to be a popular destination for gay and lesbian tourists from all over the world. It also emerged as a center of the international gay liberation movement.

Gay and lesbian initiatives in the 1970s and 1980s ranged from the establishment of all kinds of organizations and institutions to an annual parade (1977) and the Homomonument (1987), which commemorates the suffering of glbtq people. Openly gay and lesbian candidates were also elected or appointed to city office.

In the 1970s and 1980s Amsterdam strongly profited from its liberal reputation as the "gay capital" of Europe. There were new extravagant discos, with drag queens and kings and large and small parties for various sexual preferences and fetishes, from S/M to sport. The lesbian scene grew well beyond its one bar and monthly series of events.

Throughout the final decade of the twentieth century, however, city authorities were ambivalent about promoting the city as a gay and lesbian mecca. They were somewhat embarrassed by the city's reputation for "sex and drugs."

At the same time, however, other European cities became known for their gay and lesbian scenes that sometimes surpassed those of Amsterdam. In response, the city made an effort to emphasize its support for glbtq people. In 1989, it sponsored a large exhibit on gay and lesbian history, "Two of a Kind"; it hosted Europride in 1993 and the Gay Games in 1998. Since 1997, the city has also been the site of annual gay canal parades in the first weekend of August.

Amsterdam remains one of the world's most tolerant and welcoming cities for glbtq people to live in and visit. The main danger for queer Amsterdam is complacency and self-congratulation. Despite all the progress made in the last half-century, glbtq people, even in a famously tolerant city such as Amsterdam, are always in danger of marginalization.

Gert Hekma

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literature >> Overview:  Dutch and Flemish Literature

The history of gay and lesbian literature in the Low Countries is rich and varied, reflecting the changing concepts of intimate relations between people of the same sex.

social sciences >> Overview:  Nazism and the Holocaust

As part of its agenda to preserve an "Aryan master race," Nazism persecuted homosexuals as "asocial parasites"; more than 100,000 men were arrested on homosexual charges during the Nazi years, with 5,000-15,000 gay men incarcerated in concentration camps.

social sciences >> Overview:  The Netherlands

The successes of the Dutch emancipation movement have served as an inspiration to the international struggle for glbtq equality.

arts >> Dutch Friendship Glasses

Dutch friendship glasses, which were made on order to celebrate friendship in the eighteenth century, may also have covertly celebrated same-sex sexual desire; one surviving friendship glass celebrates sodomitical pleasure.

social sciences >> Fortuyn, Pim

Openly gay Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn, who was assassinated in 2003, was in the political spotlight for only a few months, yet he managed to change the modern Netherlands.

arts >> Gay Games

A quadrennial sporting and cultural event designed for the glbtq community, the Gay Games has become a lucrative attraction for host cities.

social sciences >> Hirschfeld, Magnus

German-born Magnus Hirschfeld deserves recognition as a significant theorist of sexuality and the most prominent advocate of homosexual emancipation of his time.

arts >> Homomonument

Amsterdam's Homomonument is one of the world's foremost public memorials acknowledging the persecution endured by gay men and lesbians during World War II and throughout history.


Hekma, Gert. De roze rand van donker Amsterdam. De opkomst van een homoseksuele kroegcultuur 1930-1980. Amsterdam: Van Gennep, 1992

_____. "Amsterdam." Queer Sites. Gay Urban Histories since 1600. David Higgs, ed. London: Routledge, 1999. 61-88.

Hocquenghem, Guy. Le Gay Voyage. Paris: Albin Michel, 1980.

Kooten Niekerk, Anja van, and Sacha Wijmer. Verkeerde vriendschap. Lesbisch leven in de jaren 1920-1960. Amsterdam: Sara, 1985.

Meer, Theo van der. Sodoms zaad in Nederland. Het ontstaan van homoseksualiteit in de vroegmoderne tijd. Nijmegen: SUN, 1995.

Versteegen, Jos. Roze Amsterdam. Een culturele gids. Bloemendaal: Gottmer, 1998.


    Citation Information
    Author: Hekma, Gert  
    Entry Title: Amsterdam  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2004  
    Date Last Updated November 7, 2006  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2004, glbtq, inc.  


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