Having been part of the annual Utrecht Canal Pride event for the second time, I share the most important take-away from this eye-opening experience.
What I truly love about the Netherlands is the open-mindedness of its people. There is a unique sense of freedom entwined into the Dutch culture. You can wear whatever you want and nobody will judge you because your pants are way too colorful. You can be as you are and nobody will point a finger at you because you are gay or transsexual, or just different.
And as you know, I believe that being different is awesome.
Pride parades are annual events celebrating LGBTQ culture and pride. In June, cities all over the world host parades and demonstrations to raise the visibility of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and other members of the queer community.
The Netherlands is one of the countries where the Pride events can last for a whole weekend and are very successful in acquiring social acceptance. In previous years, the Canal Pride (a parade on boats on the canals) was openly supported by the government and sponsored by large Dutch international companies. Hell yeah, the Dutch could wave at their government ministers who joined on their own boat in support of the LGBTQ community.
Utrecht Canal Pride
The annual Utrecht Canal Pride parade is a very honest and remarkable representation of the Dutch spirit of freedom. It is a day of celebration. This year the pride even took place on June 16 in the city center of Utrecht. There was an official program with more than 40 colorful boats from LHBT community organizations sailing over the main canal Oudegracht, super chill and free-access street and bar parties and of course, things-get-wild after-parties.
Utrecht Canal Pride atmosphere
This year’s parade was the second pride event I have ever visited. A year ago, I went to the Utrecht Canal Pride for the first time to show support to a close friend. And honestly, to just have fun.
The parade is visited by hundreds of people, many of whom are straight. There are whole families with children, university students, and elderly people, supporting the movement. Nobody cares if you are straight or gay. Nobody will make you feel unwelcomed at all. Quite the contrary, the atmosphere is fun and easy-going. You may be hit on a few times but nobody will try to recruit you either.
PS. If a cute guy is winking at you, make sure he’s not winking at the guy standing behind you before you wink back. It will save you some awkward situations, haha.
Utrecht Canal Pride take-away lessons
You are who you are.
You should never feel ashamed to be yourself.
Where I come from, being gay or bisexual is shameful. The society makes you hide it—because it not traditional. It is different.
The Pride spreads the message that being what comes natural is not shameful. Being different is okay. I love the way that the Dutch accept and support the LGBTQ movement; and I love the way that LGBTQ people are genuinely proud to be themselves.
It is as simple as that.
Keep an open mind because every time you judge someone for being who they really are, you put another brick in a wall that shouldn’t exist.
How to keep an open mind
Here are a few tips on how to become a more open-minded person.
1) Challenge your belief system
Evaluating how your beliefs developed will help clean your mind and identify inherited or taught beliefs. Ask yourself: “How did I come to believe this”. If the answer to this question is external influences such as the society, you should look at the other perspectives.
2) Develop an understanding of other points of view
Talking to people with diverse backgrounds, beliefs and points of view will help you grow as a person and see things from another perspective. Visiting the first edition of the Utrecht Canal Pride was indeed a new experience that immersed me into a completely different world and got me to understand the LGBT society in a way I never did before.
3) Place yourself out of your comfort zone
Closely related to the previous point, going to new places or stepping out of your zone is a learning experience that helps you expand the horizons of your mind.
4) Fight the urge to judge
We are quick to judge when we encounter a situation or a phenomenon that is, in any way, nontraditional. To enhance your open-mindedness, try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and see things from their perspective. If you were gay (and remember, this is not a taught behavior), would you want to pretend to be someone you are not?
Utrecht Canal Pride is an inspiration to me. It is all about acceptance. It is acceptance not only from the society, but also acceptance that comes from within. My heart filled with pride in those weirdly dressed people waving their rainbow flags and loving themselves, and loving each other.
My heart filled with love for anyone who is different.
My heart filled with love for anyone who is proud to be different.
My heart filled with love for myself.
Have you been to a Pride Parade? Tell me about your experiences in the comment box!