That Gay Guy is an interview series with, you guessed it, gay guys from all over the world. Instead of focusing on my own limited homo travel adventures, this series gives me (and you, hopefully) the chance to discover just what life is like for gay people in different parts of the world. This time around, Yareth tells me all about gay life in Rotterdam and the Netherlands. So let’s get stuck into it…
You grew up in Schiedam in south Holland. What was it like to grow up as a gay kid here?
Growing up as a gay kid in Schiedam (next to Rotterdam) was actually quite fine. There isn’t a big gay scene so I definitely had my share of the ‘only gay in the village’ syndrome, but I found out soon enough that I wasn’t alone at all. While growing up I did have some kids yell at me, screaming “GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY”. I’d just yell back: “STRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAIGHT”.
What do you think is the general attitude towards gay people in Rotterdam and the Netherlands?
Quite relaxed, that is, tolerant but not accepting, and in my view there’s a big difference. Although you’re mostly allowed to be gay, god forbid showing it in public. Straight people dry humping each other in the train is totally fine, but give a kiss to your boyfriend and there will be stares, whispers and some people will even have the audacity to point out your filthy sin and tell you to ‘get a room’. It also differs a lot depending on where you live. Rotterdam is sort of a ‘safe haven’ where there isn’t that big of a gay scene but people are much more relaxed about gays being in the ‘straight scene’ which is nice. It’s better than most other places, especially since Amsterdam has gone downhill so much.
Because of our openness to new cultures the relaxed stance towards LGBTQ’s is changing for the worse though. I’m volunteering as a sex educator at high schools to combat the new intolerance and ignorance. Questions like “Are you possessed by demons?” are a dime a dozen these days.
Are there any specific challenges that gay men in Rotterdam and the Netherlands face?
Well, yes, like I slightly mentioned before, the new growing intolerance coming from different cultures mingling in ours is a challenge. I think it’s important to battle these through education and inclusion. Let straight people feel welcome in the gay scene, have fun with us, listen, exchange thoughts and ideas. Also, the battle to be open in public is still a real one, and transgender/queer people are still way behind in their emancipation.
The Netherlands has always had a very progressive stance with gay rights, and same sex marriage was legalised in 2001. What can the rest of the world learn from the Netherlands?
Just relax, people. Don’t forget to cooperate and listen. The Dutch have always done this well and it shows. Ignorance is humanity’s biggest enemy (in my humble opinion).
Have you taken part in any Gay Pride events in Rotterdam or the Netherlands? If so, what was your experience?
I went to the Gay Pride in Amsterdam once and I Hated It. Not because of the fact that the LGBT community is celebrating their freedom, that’s fine by me. The problem I had with it is that it’s set up in such a way that it essentially becomes “straight people watching at the gays floating by”. “Come on son, let’s go and see some gays instead of monkeys today!”
Other gay events in the Netherlands are much more to my taste, Pink Monday (Tilburg Fair) or Pink Saturday (much like gay pride but without the boats) are much more inclusive, all the different groups mingle and party together. Much more to my taste.
Describe Rotterdam’s gay scene for me. Which are your favourite places for drinking, dancing, and meeting other guys?
The gay scene in Rotterdam is pretty relaxed. It’s been in a boom lately, with a few new bars popping up (some successful and some not-so-much). I am not a really big “dance until you drop” guy but I can give you some tips.
For dancing: Go to Gay Palace/Club Why (currently closed for a refurb though!), Bar (very cool queer place) or Perron (straight but good lineup). Avoid Hollywood Music Hall unless you like underage drunk girls puking all over the place.
For talking and music (drinking): Again Bar (only early). Strano is not my favorite but very popular. Keerweer late at night is very cool since they then have a very mixed crowd. And if you want someplace shady go to Bonaparte, a bar which opens at 1 AM (I think). Careful not to pick up the tranny’s there, they want you to pay for their services.
For a straight place I’d go with Rotown (alt music) or Bird (jazz).
For cruising: Not much here, the bars work pretty fine. There is the Kralingse Bos but I wouldn’t go there. We also have a small sauna called Spartacus.
If you had one piece of advice for a gay traveller visiting Rotterdam, what would it be?
One advice: In my opinion, the Boijmans van Beuningen Museum and the Kunsthal Museum are really, really good. Visit them!
What is your favourite thing, gay or otherwise, about living in Rotterdam?
Rotterdam is very down-to-earth and direct, people will speak their minds. I love that. We are a town of workers, we DO stuff and that makes the city very dynamic. Rotterdam is not very beautiful nor very welcoming, but once you’re ‘in’, the city’s charm is undeniable.
Have you travelled at all yourself? If so, which is your favourite destination for gay travel and why?
I have travelled a lot by myself, though not specifically gay. If I’d have to give an answer I’d say, go to Antwerp, since there’s a relaxed atmosphere in the gay community there and it’s very prevalent as well – lots of places to go to.
And finally, could you sum up Gay Rotterdam in three words?
They are everywhere….
A huge thanks to Yareth for sharing all his thoughts about his home of Rotterdam with me! Let me know your thoughts in the comments below…
And be sure to check out last week’s That Gay Guy, an interview with a young gay man from Lahore who tells me what life is *really* like in gay Pakistan.
by That Gay Backpacker
Source – That Gay Backpacker