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Amsterdam is renowned for being a haven for liberalism and open-mindedness, and with good reason. Tolerance is deeply embedded in the Dutch psyche, so it’s no surprise the city has an impressive track record when it comes to gay rights: homosexuality was decriminalised here in 1811, the first gay bar opened in 1927 (Café ’t Mandje, still open at Zeedijk 63), and one of the first gay rights organisations, the COC Nederland, was founded here in 1946, at a time when much of the world considered homosexuality an illness.
That means the city’s ‘gay scene’ is not concentrated in specific areas to the extent it is in other cities – at least not like it used to be. The Reguliersdwarsstraat, once synonymous with the city’s gay culture, is far less prominent than in its 1990s heyday, and the closure of sex clubs like Warmoesstraat’s infamous Cockring has fuelled talk of a ‘homorecessie’ (gay recession) in the national media. But there’s plenty going on if you know where to look, and Amsterdam remains one of the most tolerant, laid-back capitals when it comes to being open and honest about one’s sexuality.
Saucy nightclub Church – established in 2008 – has become something of an institution, with fetish nights and the anything-goes, ‘SOS Sex On Sunday’ party, and there are innumerable other bars and clubs catering to the LGBTQ+ community. Don’t be surprised, though, if you’re joined at some of these places by groups of open-minded ‘straights’ looking for an edgy night on the tiles – it’s all part of the desire for true inclusiveness and means you’re more likely to be turned away for wearing the wrong sneakers than for anything as irrelevant as who you sleep with.
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