This is where to visit the world’s oldest LGBTQ public monument next time you can

A Remembrance Day event on Amsterdam's Homomonument
A Remembrance Day gathering at Amsterdam’s Homomonument (Photo: J Koopmanschap)

The Netherlands is famed for being one of the most progressive counties in the world. It legalized gay sex in 1811 and, in 2001, became the first country to legalize same-sex marriage.

Its rights group, COC Nederland, was set up in 1946. This makes it the oldest, continually running LGBTQ group in the world.

Not surprisingly, the country is home to what is believed to be the first public LGBTQ monument. Amsterdam’s Homomonument was commissioned in 1979 and unveiled in 1987. Its €180,000 ($200,000) funding was raised largely through private donations, with a lump €50,000 ($55,000) coming from the Dutch Parliament.

The Homomonument from above
The Homomonument from above (Photo: Geert-Jan Edelenbosch / WikiCommons)

The idea for a permanent monument originated with local LGBTQ rights campaigners. Artists were invited to submit designs. The winning design came from Karin Daan: It consists of three triangles in Rosa Porino granite, together forming the corners of a larger triangle.

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It stands on the banks of the Keizersgracht canal, near the historic Westerkerk church. The three triangles are at different levels. Steps lead down to one of the triangles, which juts out over the canal itself.

The pink triangle was a symbol that gay men were forced to wear in Nazi concentration camps. The monument highlights the persecution faced by LGBTQ people in history and the path toward gay equality in the Netherlands.

 

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The alignment of the triangles also has meaning. One of them points toward the National War Memorial on nearby Dam Square. Another points toward the Anne Frank House, where the Concentration Camp victim hid with her family. Inscribed on this triangle is a line from the Dutch Jewish gay poet, Jacob Israël de Haan (1881–1924): Naar Vriendschap Zulk een Mateloos Verlangen (“Such an endless desire for friendship”).

The last triangle points toward the headquarters of the aforementioned COC Nederland.

Flowers and candles were place on Homomonument following the Pulse shootings in 2016
Flowers and candles were place on Homomonument following the Pulse shootings in 2016 (Photo: JPbio – licensed via CC BY-SA 4.0)

Besides attracting tourists throughout the year, on the Netherlands’ annual Remembrance Day (May 4), wreaths are laid upon the monument. This is usually followed on May 5 by a street party – although this year’s event had to be canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic. Other events take place on other memorial days, such as Transgender Day of Remembrance.

Enjoying a free, open-air party at Homomonument
Enjoying a free, open-air party at Homomonument (Photo: Homomonument / Fabian Landewee)

If you want more insight into Amsterdam’s queer history, the monument is also included in a two-hour history walking tour of the city, which takes place every Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday.

 

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