A couple of weeks ago, I decided that I’d go to the Milkshake festival again this year. At the end of July, I’ll go to the Westerpark in Amsterdam with a friend, have a few beers and dance a lot (read: try to vogue, fail miserably and probably end up hurting myself). The Milkshake festival is the start of the annual Pride week in the Netherlands – the one week of the year in which the LGBT community of the Netherlands celebrates who they are. But for ‘outsiders’, Pride is nothing more than flamboyant men dancing on a boat and having difficulty acting ‘normal’. But do these people know how much Pride means to the LGBT community?

Today, homosexuality is criminalised in more than 70 countries in the world. Five of these countries still apply the death penalty to anyone who shows homosexual behaviour. In countries where it’s not criminalised, there is still a strong stigma regarding homosexuality and transgenderism. They are considered unnatural and are not accepted. Even in the Western world, like the Netherlands, we still have our problems. We have a long way to go before we can show affection in public without any fear or that transmen and transwomen are accepted. And that’s why Pride is so important to the LGBT community.

June has been chosen as the Pride month worldwide, because it was in June 1969 that the Stonewall Riots occurred. This event marked the history of the LGBT community. Countries like Denmark, Greece, Italy, Colombia and many more organise several Pride events this month. All of these events, and Pride in general, contribute to its most important aspect: signalling to the next generations that there’s nothing wrong with you because of your sexual orientation or gender identity. It’s important that all the ‘new ones’ learn this and will struggle less with finding their spot in the world.

In the end, it doesn’t even matter whether you’re straight, bisexual or homosexual. It doesn’t matter whether you’re transgender or cisgender. There is only one fundamental thing that connects us all during Pride: freedom.

Rocher Koendjbiharie, masterstudent International Public Management & Policy