It’s no secret that Amsterdam doesn’t attract gay foreign tourists any more, and this year’s pride made it abundantly clear why. 2014’s Amsterdam Gay Pride amounted to little more than gay blackface: a bunch of dolled up nellies having a boat ride and acting out every conceivable stereotype while straight provincials cheered them on (meanwhile hoping that their son won’t turn out gay, of course), while the night life and sex clubs still amount to fuck-all.
Sure, the venues were more crowded than usual, but they were filled with the same kind of dull, square, practically identical queens you get here the year round, many of them wearing the same brand of jock strap. In fact, Club Church was showing underwear commercials instead of porn. Gayness has finally been successfully commodified, or so it would seem.
Nearly everything closes ridiculously early in Amsterdam, usually between midnight and 2 a.m. –around the time when the parties are just getting started in most other European cities I have visited. Public transport stops at about 00:15. But that’s fine, because the pubs don’t stay open for that much longer afterwards anyway. Coffee shops (a rapidly disappearing sight) close at midnight, and there are preciously few all-night places. Amsterdam wants you to go to bed early, jock strap consumers!
This Pride weekend was supposed to be about all sorts of things, as street posters made clear: diversity, culture, tolerance, acceptance. All very lofty ideals of course, but the key ingredient missing from the mix was a little thing called ho-mo-sex-u-a-li-ty. There was absolutely nothing sexy or erotic about the whole thing. Gays are now being perceived as similar enough to straights not to be ridiculed and tormented, provided they limit their gayness to fetishizing the Eurovision Song Contest and colour coordinating their living rooms. Gay sex? What’s that? Not the sort of thing we want mentioned during Pride weekend here, really.
What I wanted to get from this weekend was a naughty good time with some horny, friendly, good looking guys. “Do a little dance, make a little love…” What I got was overloud crap ‘camp’ music, hordes of boringly dressed people drinking beer from plastic cups while talking about work (i.e. a typical Dutch party) and massively overcrowded venues that had cleverly upped their admission fee to take advantage of all the provincials turning up. Oh, and hundreds of police officers and private security guards to make sure that things staid respectable (not too much fun please, this is Amsterdam!).
For many years I dearly loved Amsterdam, but I have to be honest: stay away from this clenched-up Calvinist village with metropolitan pretensions if you value a good time. It looks beautiful, and it’s worth visiting in the daytime, but that’s about it. It’s reputation as a laid-back, anything-goes town reflects the ways it was here twenty years ago. Nowadays, it’s reactionary and boring. There are much nicer cities in the Netherlands. Go visit one of them.