Thousands of participants joined the Pride Walk on Saturday, a demonstration from Dam Square to Vondelpark for equal rights for the rainbow community. With flags of countries where those rights are not yet in order. “The Canal Pride (boat parade, ed.) is of course unique for Amsterdam,” says Arjan Kröner, owner of the clubs The Web and The Cuckoo’s Nest. “But I might like the Pride Walk even more. As a manifestation. Pride is not only a celebration, it is also a message.”
What is in any case wrong with the portrayal of Pride, Kröner emphasizes, is the prejudice that it is just an excuse for a lot of free male sex. Of course there will be partying in the coming week, he emphasizes. But for sex, participants don’t need rainbow week, there are much simpler ways to do that in the internet age. Kröner: “Pride is about being together.” And to spread the message of equality, diversity and inclusiveness.
But as the number of monkey pox infections rises worldwide, concerns are also growing. Because the virus mainly circulates among gay men with varying contacts, the Pride is being looked at. “I am not reassured,” says virologist Ab Osterhaus. “Certainly not because visitors come from all corners of the world. In any case, I think that information is important.”
Last week saw the first death from monkeypox in Europe. The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the highest alert level. In the United States, San Francisco and New York declared a medical emergency.
In the Netherlands, the number of confirmed cases has risen to 878. “Among adults it may be a mild disease, but once it reaches children or people with weakened immune systems, it can go wrong,” warns Osterhaus. Minister Kuipers of Public Health recently reported in a letter to parliament that the virus has now also been diagnosed in one child of primary school age and five women. Unlike with corona, there is a major shortage of vaccines.
Yet the monkeypox virus is no reason to avoid the traditional boat parade on the Amsterdam canals on Saturday, says Lucien Spee, director of Amsterdam Pride. He has no indication that Canal Pride enthusiasts are planning to do so. “Fortunately, most people are sober,” Spee says. “If you stand by the side of the road with friends or family to watch the tour, you run no risk. The disease cannot spread from one person to another because you happen to be standing next to each other on the Prinsengracht.”
The RIVM confirms this. Monkeypox is transmitted through intimate contact, such as kissing, making love and sex, with someone who is infected. [..] The virus can enter through the mucous membranes and small wounds/cracks in the skin,” according to the Institute of Public Health.
Moreover, Spee says, those families do not go to a cruise area or darkroom in the city. “Research shows that during the annual Pride the number of STI infections decreases compared to the rest of the year. That’s because you used to need an event like Pride to run into each other. Nowadays you have apps for that, like Grindr. In the LGBT scene, people are especially happy to be able to celebrate another Pride.”
Extra information is provided in places where people do seek varying contacts. In clubs such as The Web and The Cuckoo’s Nest, visitors also come partly for darkrooms. “We cuddle a bit more, so to speak,” says Kröner. Ever since the monkey pox virus appeared, attention has been paid to flyer material at sex locations, such as clubs and saunas, in collaboration with the RIVM, GGD, and Soa Aids Nederland. Kröner: “Be sensible, do it safely. And if you have symptoms, check it and don’t go out for a few weeks if necessary.”
Those measures are not there because of the holiday week. “Pride and monkey pox have nothing to do with each other,” says Kröner. Yes, it is true that a lot of people are together in a few days. But then King’s Day also deserves extra attention. Director Spee agrees. Many gays find it stigmatizing that another sticker is put on their party week. “At the many festivals that are taking place this summer, people are diving into tents together. Are they not at risk then?”
Virologist Osterhaus does not want to put any stigma on Pride. “I myself have no idea how it goes,” admits the scientist. He only points out that the virus often circulates among men with varying contacts. And that the outbreak is anything but under control. But heterosexuals with many sex partners can also contract it. Spee: “You have to have close contact with someone to run the risk of monkey pox. You don’t get it from shaking someone’s hand.”