Monthly Archives: March 2014

City Spotlight: Amsterdam

Amsterdam is widely known as one of Europe’s – and the world’s – most tolerant countries, particularly when it comes to sexuality, sex and of course most controversially, drugs. However, while that may create the idea that it is a dirty, seedy place in some people’s minds, in reality it isn’t – it’s vibrant, diverse and actually a clean and friendly city. So why travel to Amsterdam? What attracts hundreds of thousands of LGBT travellers to the city every year? Here we’ll tell you why.

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In 2009, Amsterdam became one of the first ever cities to open a separate tourist office for LGBT travellers called “Pink Point” cementing itself as an open and gay-friendly travel destination. It is situated next to the Homomonuent (a rather fitting name and place) – a memorial that opened in 1987 to commemorate the gay men and lesbians as well as bisexuals who have been persecuted because of their sexuality – and is staffed by friendly and knowledgable volunteers with a wide range of information and flyers from local organisations, and has one of the best selections of queer souvenirs and gifts in the country.

The Netherlands as a whole has a big reputation as one of the world’s most progressive countries in regards to LGBT rights. Same-sex sexual activity has been legal since 1811 and it was of course the first country to legalise same-sex marriage in 2001. Amsterdam, like most capital cities however, is where the highest number of LGBT people are living and why wouldn’t they with around 100 bars, clubs, shops, saunas, hotels and restaurants that are gay-owned or gay-friendly? There isn’t really one specific gay area in Amsterdam, but rather everywhere is very integrated and it is all dotted around the city, including Rembrandtplein square, Requliersdwarsstraat, along Amstel, Warmoesstraat and near the infamous red-light district.

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As well as the Homomonuent, other notable places to visit for sightseeing in Amsterdam include the world famous Anne Frank House, the Van Gogh Museum, the 17th Century network and canals that meander through the city, the Defence Line of Amsterdam (both of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites) and dare we say, for those who aren’t into traditional culture and history – the city’s many cannabis “coffee shops”, which attract nearly 4 million international visitors alone every year. There are also six other museums in the country’s top 15 that are located in Amsterdam.

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Some of the city’s most notable LGBT events in the year include a gay and lesbian film festival Roze Filmdagen takes place every March, a TranScreen festival in May and the Gay & Lesbian Summer Festival, which also shows films, is in July.  Amsterdam Gay Pride starts on the last week of July (26th) and carries on till the first weekend of August (3rd), which is undeniably the city’s biggest gay event on the calendar, though for those who are into something a little different there is also the Fetish Pride from 29th May to 1st June and Leather Pride takes place from 23rd-26th October. There is also the Milkshake Festival – a very popular event that isn’t about milkshakes, but rather dance and club music, turning the city into one huge dancehall. It is attended by everyone and anyone and not restricted to or aimed at one particular group of people, so the LGBT and straight communities can come together and celebrate their love of music.

We currently have over 70 properties in Amsterdam ranging from spare guest rooms in people’s apartments or houses, whole properties and rooms in guesthouses and B&Bs – and the vast majority of our hosts are gay or lesbian or LGBT-friendly and situated within or around the city centre. Or if you have a spare room or a property you want to let out to visitors in Amsterdam, you can sign up and become a host here.

Gay Homestays’ top 14 favourite but obscure LGBT musicians

If we were to ask you to name some of the world’s most popular out LGBT musicians, the first names that would pop into your head would probably be the likes of Freddie Mercury, Elton John, George Michael, Adam Lambert, Ricky Martin, Melissa Etheridge, k.d. lang, Tegan & Sara, Jessie J and Lady Gaga, right? But what about the lesser-known artists or those who have kept their sexuality more private and under the radar? Here are some of Gay Homestays’ favourite LGBT musicians who are perhaps not as famous for their sexuality as they are for their careers or discographies that we think you should take a listen to:

Bessie Smith

“Empress of the Blues” Bessie Smith was married but both she and her husband were known to have affairs – and she allegedly did so with both men and women. However, she never publicly announced her sexuality but bear in mind this was during a time when such ideas about LGBT people – particularly from the black community – were not condoned.

Dusty Springfield

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Soul and blues singer Dusty Springfield helped change the face (and sound) of these genres as one of few white artists to record this kind of music, especially being British and female. She was openly bisexual, a risk she took at the time when LGBT people in the media and in the public eye were frowned upon.

Fergie

Though married to handsome actor Josh Duhamel and being a Catholic who says she attends church regularly, Black Eyed Peas singer and rapper Fergie came out as bisexual in 2009.

Frank Ocean

Frank Ocean’s statement of having once been in love with a man was a landmark in the history of hip hop music, being the first out LGBT person from this industry – or at least the first to admit he has been in love with a person of the same sex (even though he says it was unrequited).

Janis Joplin

Soulful rocker Janis Joplin was known to have dated both men and women even though she never officially came out as bisexual. Joplin was one of the most influential female soul, blues and rock artists of all time.

Johnny Mathis

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In 1982, legendary crooner Johnny Mathis allegedly came out as gay saying “homosexuality is a way of life that I’ve grown accustomed to” though this statement was later retracted. Since then he has rarely talked about the subject but has said he had to stop due to death threats and so has kept his personal life as hidden as possible from the public eye.

Kele Okereke

Lead singer of British indie rock band Bloc Party Kele Okereke came out as gay in 2010 but has not discussed his sexuality or private life much since then, admitting he is extremely shy and dislikes being interviewed.

Ma Rainey

Like Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey – “the Mother of the Blues” – was involved with women during a hard time for LGBT people, but unlike Bessie, Ma was unafraid of making sure people knew about it in her songs.

Patrick Wolf

English singer-songwriter Patrick Wolf is openly gay and well-known among the British LGBT community, but outside of it and the UK he seems to have yet received credit we believe he deserves. Since his début in 2003 he has released six critically-acclaimed albums.

Queen LAtifah

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Though she is not officially out, rumours always seemed to have pointed to actress, singer, rapper and TV personality Queen Latifah as a lesbian so we believe she deserves a place on this list. Latifah was one of the biggest and most influential female rappers of the late 80s and throughout the 90s but has proven to be multi-talented as a singer and actress as well – as she showed us in “Chicago” as Matron “Mama” Morton.

Sam Sparro

Another well-known name among the LGBT community, Australian artist Sam Sparro has been praised by critics but has not yet hit the big time on a mainstream level, though his first single “Black and Gold” did peak at No.2 in the UK.

Steve Grand

American country-pop singer-songwriter and former model Steve Grand hit headlines in 2013 when his song “All-American Boy” went viral on YouTube. It is an autobiographical song that immediately cemented him as the music industry’s potentially next big openly gay star, despite not being signed to a label. He has since released two more singles and has been raising money via public donations to record his début album.

Sylvester

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Dubbed as an “honorary” Queen of Disco in the 1970s, Sylvester enjoyed a successful career in the US on the dance charts throughout the disco era and through to the 80s, and his flamboyant nature and outrageous outfits certainly fitted well with the genre. He was famously out and proud but is perhaps a little less well-known compared to many other “disco divas” or other LGBT musicians who were around at the time.

Tracy Chapman

Like Queen Latifah, Tracy Chapman’s sexuality has never been confirmed but the singer-songwriter did openly date writer Alice Walker in the 90s, though details of her private life since then have not been in the spotlight.