In Amsterdam on Tuesday, 22 November His Majesty King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands visited the COC to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the gay liberation movement.
Originally founded in 1946 as the ‘Centre for Culture and Leisure’ the name was a cover for the organisations true purpose – to support the LGBT community – and it is now the oldest extant LGBT organisation in existence.
During his visit, King Willem-Alexander spoke with a group of young people about development projects within their schools to help increase visibility and support for the LGBT community. Participants felt buoyed by the royal interest and visit and pointed out that ‘if you see that the king is going to this organisation, this is really a helping hand.’
Of the royal visit COC President Tanja Ineke said ‘That’s really very special, because it is the first time in the world that a crowned head of state visits the LGBT community.’ She also said she saw it as an honour and recognition for all that the COC has achieved during its existence – ‘It’s a huge boost for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in the Netherlands and around the world.’
Before leaving King Willem-Alexander was gifted purple bracelets for his three daughters, Catherina-Amalia, Princess of Orange and Princesses Alexia and Ariane. The bracelets support Purple Friday, the Gay-Straight Alliance and anti-bullying programs in schools and the King indicated that they were causes that his daughters were familiar with and supportive of.
Historian and former politician Coos Huijsen spoke of the important gesture the King’s visit represents, saying ‘Both from the standpoint of the king and that of gay themselves. The king wants the heart of the nation’s sympathy with everyone. And for the gay, a discriminated group, it feels like recognition. A little solidarity of the head of state.’
He added that the visit comes at an important time given that over the last decade, ‘the aggression on the streets is increasing and increasingly made more jokes a decline in the public domain in the acceptance of gay people. That makes this royal gesture even more important.’