Why is Amsterdam Pride in August?

This year is the 25th anniversary of the renowned Pride Parade through Amsterdam’s canals. But why does Amsterdam, whose mayor performed the world’s first legal gay marriage in April of 2001, celebrate in August when everyone else celebrates on the last Sunday in June? Unsurprisingly, it’s all about history.

The Stonewall Uprising – which began in the early hours of Sunday, June 28, 1969 – was a turning point in the modern gay rights movement. Led by trans women of color, LGBT+ people in New York City fought back against police harassment and inspired LGBT+ people around the globe to fight to be treated like human beings. In the years that followed, LGBT+ communities worldwide arranged marches on the anniversary of Stonewall, which established the tradition of celebrating LGBT+ Pride during the last week in June.

In the Netherlands, LGBT+ rights groups turned this into a deeply local day of action, Roze Zaterdag (Pink Saturday). It took place in a different Dutch city each year and consisted of events aimed at changing the political landscape and confronting each city with the humanity of LGBT+ Dutchies. It was part of the successful campaign to bring about political change by making it feel like LGBT+ people were part of mainstream Dutch society. It meant, however, that the Netherlands had a weekend of political action, not one of celebration.

Enter the Gay Games. In 1998, LGBT+ athletes and celebrants from around the world flocked to Amsterdam for the Gay Games. To energize the city and lay the social groundwork for the Gay Games, organizers created a boat parade through the canal belt. The Games created so much energy and joy that the organizers decided to carry the spirit forward with a boat parade the following year. And thus, Amsterdam’s August Pride Parade was born.

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