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Smith College

Publication Date

Spring 2017

Program Name

Netherlands: International Perspectives on Sexuality and Gender


This Independent Study Project explores how LGBTQ nightlife is impacted by the changing position of gays and lesbians in Dutch society. Specifically, this project seeks to explore how the normalization and popularization of certain subcommunities of LGBTQ individuals in Amsterdam, lauded as one of the most progressive and gay-friendly cities in the world, influences how people navigate LGBTQ bars, clubs, and parties. Data was obtained by conducting 10 in-depth, semi-structured interviews. This data was then analyzed using Judith Butler’s theory of normalization, recognition, and regulation and Gert Hekma’s theory of homonormativity. The research revealed that despite apparent advancements in LGBTQ liberation, the Netherlands is still riddled with homophobia and interviewees expressed feelings of discomfort and even lack of safety when they visited straight-dominated bars. Furthermore, some participants expressed concerns that previously gay spaces were being appropriated by straight people while others viewed this influx of heterosexuals in LGBTQ nightlife as a positive step towards integration and gay liberation. Some participants prefered ‘queer’ spaces, such as the Vrankrijk and underground parties, to the more mainstream gay and lesbian bars of the Reguliersdwarsstraat (aka Reguliers-Amsterdam’s gay bar heavy street), noting that they felt more comfortable to ‘be themselves’ in these spaces. Participants’ perceptions of LGBTQ spaces (and how those spaces are changing due to an influx of straight people) was greatly informed by their own positionality. Ultimately, this research reveals that the normalization of gays and lesbians in the Netherlands leads to a reduction in spaces where queer people can be their authentic selves. Mainstream gay bars such as those found on the Reguliers become ‘straighter’, catering to a more heterosexual audience and mimicking mainstream heterosexual culture, forcing LGBTQ individuals to either assimilate or take part in the growing alternative queer nightlife scene.


Family, Life Course, and Society | Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Gender and Sexuality | International and Area Studies | Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies | Other Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Sociology


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