When Kees Diepeveen took office as alderman for diversity in Utrecht in 2016, the Utrecht rainbow community introduced him to the pink life of the city with a walk through the city. Diepeveen was enthusiastic about the walk and the rainbow history of Utrecht. He proposed to publish the walk in book form and to apply for a subsidy from him. That has been provided. In the meantime, his new council has started and the current alderman for diversity, Linda Voortman, has also been informed about this initiative. The walk has become a well-known phenomenon and has been organized many times in the context of, among other things, the Midsummer Canal Festival, the exhibition ‘Vreemd Volk’ in the Volksbuurtmuseum, the performance ‘If the walls could talk’ by theater Oester and the Queer Film Festival in Utrecht.
There is a lack of a clear and accessible description of the history of queer life in Utrecht. QUS makes this history accessible to a wide audience. In recent decades, a lot of new material has become available and special discoveries have been made. For example: the sodomite persecution in Utrecht lasted almost a century in Utrecht; the persecution of homosexuals before and after World War II was much more intense than during. The project is not unique. In 1997 Wilma de Hoog published two historical queer walks in book form with the Nijmegen publisher Vita. That book is of course no longer available after 23 years and is outdated. A lot of new knowledge has also been added.
The start is building a community. This is done through LGBTI+ organizations and social media. Together we then devise projects to shape our goal: collecting and disseminating more unique material. Think of interviews with LGBTI+ elderly people about their life stories, making image and sound material from archives accessible and short articles about special rainbow phenomena in the city.
Nowadays a lot can be found online and additional information is available at, among others, the IHLIA, the European LGBTI+ archive in Amsterdam, and the Utrecht municipal archive, but our treasures mainly come from the active volunteers who retrieve information in their own archive. Information must then be viewed broadly: people (think, for example, of well-known LGBTI+ from Utrecht, such as cabaret artist Wim Sonneveld, transsexual artist Dirkje Kuik, singers Robert Long and Claudia de Breij, writer Arthur Japin), places (such as the first meeting place of COC at Nieuwegracht 46, gay disco The Pink Cloud at the wharf at Oudegracht, gay public meeting places Sonnenborgh and Drift), stories (description of the lolhuys ‘The Lively Death’ around 1700, texts of arrested sodomites in 1730 ).
Queer U Stories originated from a walk through the city center of Utrecht and at the same time a chronological description of the history of the rainbow community in Utrecht.
The start is the Korte Minrebroederstraat / Stadhuisplein with the theme of the rich pink life of the 18th century (here was Lolhuys Kasteel Vredenburg for sodomites).
The second stop is the Domplein with the theme of the sodomite persecution that started here in 1730. The walk then takes you along the Jansdam (old gentlemen’s club) and the Drift (gay meeting place) via the Pandhof (gay meeting place in the 18th century) and Achter den Dom (with the statue of François Villon or the ‘Flikkertje’) on to the Nieuwegracht.
There are two special buildings on the Nieuwegracht: No. 28: the house of Jacques Drabbe, one of the first chairmen of the COC in Utrecht. In 1964 his house became the meeting point for pink Utrecht; no. 36: the first location of the Interfaculty Gay Studies Working Group of Utrecht University. The theme here is the start of the modern gay movement. In between is the home of the transsexual artist Dirkje Kuik (Oudekamp 1).
Then on to:Observatory Sonnenborgh on the Zonnenburg is not only the old defense structure that Emperor Charles V had built and where Buys Ballot opened the observatory, but also an old gay meeting place. The theme here is the history of gay meeting places / the track / Kruysbaan / Cruising area. Then via the Central Museum to the Oudergracht (west side). There are several special locations.
Oudegracht 333 is the home of writer Ina Boudier-Bakker where the first COC meetings took place in 1950; the theme here is the period before, during and after the Second World War;
Oudegracht 275 is the old pop stage Tivolo where the gay youth organization PANN organized its big parties for years.
Oudegracht 261 was from 1975 the feminist bookshop De Heksenkelder and café De Heksenketel, from which bookshop Savannah Bay emerged with the theme of lesbian women;
in 1978 COC Utrecht at Oudegracht 221 went above ground; the theme here is the 70s.
The walk continues to Oudegracht 196 where gay café De Gouwe Geijt was located. Via the town hall to:
Telingstraat 13 (pink bookstore Savannah Bay and current postal address of COC Midden-Nederland) with the theme of the gay movement in the 1970s.
Oudegracht (east side). The oldest gay café in the Netherlands is located at no. 64 and at no. 47 is now café Kalff and formerly gay disco De Roze Wolk and gay café De Wolkenkrabber. The theme here is the 80s and 90s. With that we have moved to the present and the walk finally goes to:
the Sint Jacobsstraat where the rainbow zebra can be seen and the Daalsesingel with the rainbow traffic lights. The theme here is pink Utrecht today with the MidZomerGracht Festival, the Walk of Love, the Utrecht Canal Parade and the LGBTI+ policy of the municipality of Utrecht.
Online we work both chronologically and thematically, for example:
- the sodomite persecution of 1730-1816.
- the start of the modern gay movement in the 20th century.
- the history of gay hangouts.
- the period around the Second World War (the pink triangle and pre- and post-war persecution).
- the lesbian movement in Utrecht (the Witches’ Cauldron/Heksenkelder, later Savannah Bay).
- the 1970s (abolition of art. 248 bis of the Penal Code; COC Utrecht goes above ground).
- the 1980s and 1990s (AIDS as a deadly disease, out and proud hospitality industry in Utrecht: De Roze Wolk, De Wolkenkrabber, Body Talk and In De Ghouwe Gheijt).
- the queer life of today: the LGBTI movement and of course the active LGBTI policy of the municipality of Utrecht laid down in the Utrecht rainbow agenda.
Each theme is placed in its historical context, such as the sodomite persecution and the Treaty of Utrecht; the start of the modern gay movement in the context of the discriminatory society, laws and regulations and police practices and the 80s and 90s in the context of the international development of the gay movement the framework (Stone Wall Inn riots in New York).
In addition, there is room for many interesting facts (symbols of the pink movement, the origin of terms such as ‘Utrechtenaar’ and ‘Van Achter de Dom’, short interviews with living and deceased known and unknown Utrechters about the meaning of the pink movement for themselves and finally, descriptions of pink organizations.