Gay Blacklists: how Amsterdam wasn’t always the gay-friendly capital

Gay friendly Amsterdam? Not always. In the past Amsterdam had Gay Blacklists – not quite the rainbow paradise it is today. 

Every nation, arguably every town, has had a shameful history of gay discrimination at some point. But when you’re now considered the ‘Gay Capital’ of the country, Europe and maybe even the world – remembering that is a little bit extra painful. Unfortunately, in 2017 Amsterdam’s city archive workers found a painful reminder that the city’s attitudes were quite different a mere sixty years ago.

Committee for Ethical Conduct: 1500 names and backgrounds

The archive workers found so much documentation that it measured several meters long, with the names of 1500 city job applicants, including further background information. This ‘Ethical Committee’ wasn’t sparse in their judgment; even having homosexual friends could be enough to be turned down for a job as a city worker.

Out of all the names in the list, at least 15% were turned down because of their sexuality, or even a mere suspicion. Those who were found ‘gay’ were blacklisted forever and could never work for the city.

Gay Friendly Amsterdam? Not so much…

The city of Amsterdam was surprised and disappointed. “A shocking discovery, discrimination against personnel on the basis of their sexuality is completely unacceptable,” a spokeswoman said. “It doesn’t fit the city’s human resources policy and even much less our organization’s inclusive policies of today.”

She pointed out however that the documents go six decades back. “Thankfully this is no longer part of our practices here in Amsterdam for a long time. Regardless that doesn’t make it any less shocking.”

(Not so-) Gay Friendly Amsterdam: investigation and compensation

According to Amsterdam-based national newspaper Het Parool, the city council unanimously voted for the City to apologize and open large-scale investigations into the subject.

For now, the documentation has been sealed off so no one will have access to them. After all, some of the subjects on the lists may still be well and alive today – being ‘outed’ could be disastrous for their private lives.

The Netherlands’ national LGBT-organization COC, also founded and seated in Amsterdam, expressed hurt and asked for further inquiries. “We believe it necessary for there to be new investigations into government treatment of homosexuals. We’re under the impression that there’s bad circumstances going on,” said a COC spokesman.

The COC asked that other cities also investigate if there used to be similar blacklists, if the individuals on it are still alive, and whether or not they want some form of compensation.

Global history of mistreatment of homosexuals

In 2017, Canadian Prime-Minister Justin Trudeau tearfully apologized for his country’s treatment of homosexuals – who faced serious mistreatment and were ostracized as the norm.

Other modern Western countries with a painful past of gay discrimination are Great Britain, who incarcerated homosexuals up until the 1950’s; Germany, whose “Third Reich” focused on the complete eradication of homosexuals during the Holocaust; and of course the United States, which saw a new wave of anti-gay sentiment after the 2016 Elections.

What has your experience been of homophobia in the Netherlands? Let us know in the comments below. 

Feature Image: WikimediaImages/Pixabay

Bobby Salomons
Bobby Salomons is an Amsterdam-based published author and movie-blogger holding up too many balls to juggle at once. Suffering from Tortured Artist-syndrome he is left with no choice or hope until eventually breaking through.



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