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UvA Pride Walk 2019. Photo: Jesper van de Vooren

'I hope that LGBTQ+ people will remain tolerant of each other as well.’

Published on 29-07-2022 12:53
An interview with UvA staff member Dirk van der Meulen who will be joining UvA Pride on Saturday, 6 August on the Higher Education Boat during the Canal Parade.
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Portrait of Dirk van der Meulen
Dirk van der Meulen

After all the COVID restrictions threw a major spanner in the works over the past two years, UvA Pride is finally able to once again kick loose during Pride Amsterdam 2022!  From Pride Walk to Pride University to Canal Parade: together with the VU Amsterdam, the AUAS and Inholland we join. 

In the run-up to the nine-day festival, dedicated to the celebration of the freedom to be able to be who you are and to love who you want to love, we will be getting acquainted with students and staff from the UvA who are involved in Pride Amsterdam this year. This time: Dirk van der Meulen, Operational Manager at the Graduate School of Humanities and Deputy Programme Manager, Campus Development at the Faculty of Humanities. 

Why will you be on the UvA boat? And how do you feel about the UvA rejoining the Canal Parade and taking an active part in Pride Amsterdam again this year?

For years, I’ve been watching Pride Amsterdam from the sidelines. Literally during the Canal Parade, but also figurative when it comes to being an out and proud member of the LGBTQ+ community. When I saw UvA Pride’s call to sign up for the boat in the newsletter for UvA employees, I didn’t hesitate to answer that. I’m looking forward to taking part in the Canal Parade this year through boarding on a boat as a UvA staff member. I’d like to show students and colleagues that I’m willing to stand up for their right to be their true selves and to be free to love a person from the same sex - that it’s okay to be gay. 

I love it that the UvA is joining the Canal Parade. Until a few years ago, the UvA sadly kept its distance from Pride Amsterdam, because 'it didn’t want to take a political stance'. While in essence, sexual preference has nothing to do with politics. Fortunately, the UvA has now cast off this position - pun intended. That’s not to say that I’m blind to the unfortunate reality that equal rights and freedoms for LGBTQ+ persons often still depend on the prevailing political wind. For that reason alone, it remains necessary to show that you’re willing to fight to win and retain those rights and freedoms

How are you involved in the LGBTQ+ community?

First and foremost: being a man who is into men makes me a part of it by default. You can contribute just by being yourself. I must admit that I’m not really active in or for the LGBTQ+ community at this moment. I am a member of a jolly gay bridge club, though, but that doesn’t really count.

As being a homosexual man from the community, I’d describe myself as rather liberal, but still there are times when the conservative in me emerges. Frankly, I'm sometimes worried about how the perception of our community as a whole seems to be dictated by the beliefs and behaviour of some more radical LGBTQ+ individuals within it. Because, however, in reality the community exists of a wide variety of people with divergent views. To put it in terms of diversity and inclusion: the LGBTQ+ community is very diverse and I hope that we’ll remain inclusive to each other as well, so that there’s room for everyone - both now and in the future.

What does Pride mean for you? How do you yourself feel about Pride?

I’ve always experienced Pride Amsterdam quite literally: as a time when the LGBTQ+ community can be proud of the steps that have been taken towards emancipation here in the Netherlands. And as a moment when every LGBTQ+ individual can be proud of their own identity, and to by live that. In all its visibility and glory, the Canal Parade - that concludes each year’s Pride - of course is the ultimate, festive highlight of that.

MWith its theme of ‘My Gender, My Pride’, this year’s edition of Pride Amsterdam is the first to focus on gender identity rather than sexual orientation or diversity. How do you feel about that?

It has got my full support. I myself feel male, in line with the biological gender I was assigned with at birth. However, I’m keenly aware of the fact that not everyone enjoys such harmony between body and spirit. I see it as a good thing that gender identity nowadays can more and more count on serious attention, and on public discussions and conversations. I'm happy to see that students are increasingly comfortable with being open and honest about this as well.