True Colors, a report from the LGBTQ networking event

True Colors is the event of the Dutch LGBTQ organization COC to kick of the new year. It is a parade of all that the LGBTQ community in The Netherlands has to offer. You can see couples, singles and trio’s. Drags, dykes, Transgenders and Transsexuals or  churchmen, policewomen and politicians. Every hue of the LGBTQ community in the Netherlands was present. Special guests this year where a group of LGBTQ refugees, who have found asylum in Amsterdam and other places in The Netherlands.

LGBTQ networking event in practice

The crowd spread over the several floors and halls within Paradiso. The first two hours were spent meeting and greeting people of different LGBTQ organizations. This networking was done by carrying a plackards showing the name of your organization and just walk around and mingle. At the end of the official event all 300 (!) orgasations presented themselves on stage.

Meanwhile the bars were open and the dj’s were spinning their records. The well known gay bar Prik served cocktails. In a food court you were able to get a little bite. Everything was done to create a party atmosphere.

Several money raising events laced the True Colors party. In the hall you could by tickets for a raffle. In a silent auction you could bid on items like a float session at Koan float, a paint job in your by a lesbian handyperson, a guided tour through the Van Gogh museum by its’ director or a lasagna by the COC president. Ben & Jerry’s, one of the sponsors of the evening, promised to donated a part of the revenues of their ice cream sale of the flavor ‘Totally hooked on you’ to the Bob Angelo foundation.

Talk, talk and applause

When the networking was done, it was time for the traditional new year’s party events: speeches. Tanja Ineke, the COC president, kicked off with a speech celebrating the successes of 2016. She was especially proud of the support of COC and it’s members of LGBTQ refugees in the Netherlands. Next to that she stressed some important legal successes, with the initiation of an anti discrimination law against trans and intersex people and a multi parenting law.

One highlight in 2016 was the visit of the king when the COC was celebrating it’s 70th anniversary: the first time a reigning monarch visited a LBGTQ  advocacy organization. At this moment in her speech, Tanja Ineke, took time to recount the story of how COC was founded.

In 1946 just out of the war a group of young gay men, many of them former activists in the resistance, formed the COC to keep on fighting. Not against an occupation force, but for the rights to be who you are and to love who you want. But despite all the successes in the 70 years after the start of COC, being who you are and loving who you want to love is still a struggle for young, religious and/or bicultural LGBTQ people. So the COC will keep on advocating and fight for the rights of LGBTQ people in The Netherlands, but also abroad.

Rainbow Refugees app launched

During the speech of Jet Bussemaker, Dutch minister for LGBTQ affairs, a group of LGBTQ refugees joined her on the stage. They were welcomed by a long and warm applause from the audience. Their road to freedom and safety was held up as a symbol for everyone’s road to liberation.

This was the moment to launch the Rainbow Refugees NL app: a special smartphone app for LGBTQ refugees to help them find their way in the Netherlands. The refugees on the stage put forward their experiences as LGBTQ refugee to make the right app. The COC developed it with the help of IBM.

Bob Angelo medals awarded

Every year COC awards a special price for two people who made a significant contribution to the LGBTQ cause. This award is named after Bob Angelo, one of the founders of COC. This year COC gave the Bob Angelo medals to:

  1. André van Duin one of most famous comedians The Netherlands since the 1960’s. He is also know as the silent role model for gay people, by being very matter of factly openly gay since the early stages of his career.
  2. Miriam van der Have, a prominent international campaigner for intersex people, got the medal for her long and persistent campaign for the still little known group of intersex people.