Pride and Remembrance

IMG_3613Cities around the world have been remembering those who were murdered at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando last week. While it is heart-warming to see the outpouring of support and love, it is heartbreaking that atrocities like these continue.

I was born in Orlando and lived there for the first 16 years of my life and while it has been a long time since I lived there, it will always be home. Having something so hateful and violent happen in my hometown makes it that little more personal, though I have LGBT friends who have sadly been the victims of violence on a much smaller but more frequent scale in a variety of cities.

Back in 2012, I wrote about the gay rights memorial here in Utrecht on the Domplein. At that point, gay marriage hadn’t been legalized in the US. In fact, one of the other states I used to live in was trying to make it very specifically illegal. Fortunately, that was something of a last gasp in the fight against marriage equality for all and gay marriage is now legal in all 50 states. Of course, the rights of transgendered people have since become the new battle. One step forward, two steps back is how it sometimes feels.

Yet for all the ugliness, there have certainly been large steps forward overall. IMG_3614Pride parades continue to grow and more people stand in support of equal rights for all. Utrecht has an annual Midzomergracht Festival, in its 20th year, celebrating sexuality and gender diversity. At its start on Friday, it included a remembrance at the memorial in honor of those who died in Orlando.

Early Saturday morning, while Charlie and I were out walking, we ended up at the Domplein. The street sweeping machine was out cleaning up the square, but the flowers, cards, figurines, and candles remained atop the memorial. Many of the candles were still burning. It was a sobering, yet touching display. It is awful that so many innocent lives were taken, but it is heartening that they are being remembered and honored around the world.

Celebrating Sexual Diversity

Rainbow CrossingI was going to post about the regenboog zebrapad in Utrecht (rainbow crosswalk) today anyway, and the news that the US Supreme Court has struck down DOMA makes it even more appropriate. Today, same-sex couples in the US now have more of the rights previously limited to heterosexual couples. Of course, the Netherlands was the first country in the world to recognize same-sex marriage.

Not surprisingly, many Dutch cities are also host to various festivals and events celebrating sexual diversity and equality. As well as being this year’s Roze Stad (Pink City), Utrecht is also home to the annual two-week-long Midzomergracht Festival, capped off this Saturday by Roze Zaterdag (Pink Saturday). The festival is a celebration of the gay/lesbian/trandgendered community and all it has to offer. The festival is a mix of sport, art, debate, and fun, with events going on throughout the city.

Earlier this year, the GroenLinks political party stated their intention to create a visible sign of the city’s diversity and acceptance. The annual festival was a perfect time to unveil this visual statement. As part of the festival, last week the city turned the crosswalk by Vredenburg into a rainbow. The crosswalk is meant to be a statement that anyone of any creed, color, or sexual preference is welcome in Utrecht.

To be ready for the festival, a street crew was out in the night, spraying on the bright colors for the updated crosswalk, which is located at a busy intersection. Many people use the crosswalk to get to and from the station, the open market, the shopping center, and more. It’s a great addition to the city.
Rainbow Crossing

Rainbow Crossing