My Last “Demonstration”

Logistics of Getting Married

When we were planning our wedding, one of the logistical issues was how to transport the guests from the town hall, where the official marriage was to take place to the place where we were going to hold the reception and party. We investigated chartering a boat and going via the canals, but that turned out to be ridiculously expensive for the short time it would take us.

The next idea was chartering a street car, but we were told that street cars were not available for chartering, they were always obliged to be in public service. The next idea was renting a bus, but it turned out that there were too many people to get into the bus at one time, so it would have to go back and forth and that would involve waiting time for the second bus load and creating a separation into two groups.

© An Stalpers http://www.fotografica-nijmegen.nl/

© An Stalpers http://www.fotografica-nijmegen.nl/

Finally we decided on taking the Amsterdam form of transportation: going by bike and by foot. The two of us were to be chauffeured in what is called a “bak fiets” in Dutch, a bicycle with a little wagon in front to transport goods, children and in this case a just-married couple. The rest of the congregation would walk behind us. We made a gay affair of it by renting a street organist to lead the parade with his colourful street organ and cheerful music. Then everyone got little paper flags with our picture and the imprint: “ Great Wedding in Amsterdam” , so they could be identified as part of the party and not get lost. It was a nice route along the canals, so for the out-of-town guests it would offer some tourist entertainment.

© An Stalpers http://www.fotografica-nijmegen.nl/

© An Stalpers http://www.fotografica-nijmegen.nl/

On the big day, after a very beautiful marriage ceremony, we set off with about 150 guests. It was no problem to block the streets for a little while for this little parade, we did not need to register or ask for a permit. In Amsterdam the general climate allows for such small irregularities in traffic. The shopkeepers, the people on the streets and in the cafés, as well as passing by on their bicycles, or in their cars were friendly, waved and congratulated us. After going a few blocks it suddenly dawned on me, that for our visitors from outside of the country our little parade constituted a public demonstration of gay rights.
They were flabbergasted at the friendly and matter of fact way of the responses. There were no negative, embarrassed or stiff reactions whatsoever. People smiled, waved and expressed their good wishes for our future.

Our gay guests from out of town starting really getting into it and engaging in little talks with the people on the street, informing them what our parade was about and reaping in the friendly responses. A tourist lesbian couple from USA who were not part of our party was so thrilled, they followed our parade all the way to our party and came in to introduce themselves and to express how happy they were to have experienced something like this in public, on the streets. They expressed their hope that some day this would also be possible in their home town in the USA.

I love the fact that without planning it that way, it turns out that as activist of the student, feminist and lesbian movements with hundreds of demonstrations under my belt, this most probably is the last “demonstration” I organised and took part in.