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Design Bridge x Amsterdam Pride: Real People, Real Stories

The theme for Pride Amsterdam 2019 is “Remember The Past / Create The Future” and, here within the walls of Design Bridge Amsterdam, we’re paying tribute to the icons in our lives that have helped open our eyes to strength and acceptance, or inspired us to become who we are.

We’re kicking off the Pride Amsterdam weekend with our own celebration, and last night we had a Pride launch party in the iconic alleyway that leads from the Overtoom to our Studio, which we’ve transformed into a pop-up outdoor gallery, showcasing a photography series that explores how love wins, always.

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Born out of frustration for rainbow washing during Pride, but wanting to do something to celebrate our presence in one the most iconic Pride cities in the world, the team came up with an idea to tell real stories and show real people. It was time to get personal.

People in our Studio came forward to share stories of the icons who have made a significant impact on their lives, opened their eyes to acceptance, and inspired them to be the person that they are. With 10 truly important stories to tell, we commissioned bespoke icons for each one, worn proudly across the chest by the people telling them. Each person was then captured in their element, and the portrait series has now been launched in our pop-up gallery space outside our Studio building.

Yvonne Eng-Hall, Design Director at Design Bridge Amsterdam, said “We all felt passionate about being part of the Pride Amsterdam story and showing solidarity with the LGBTQIAA+ community, but wanted to do it in a way that felt celebratory, but was still deeply humanising and respectful. Our response was to tell our own diverse, intersectional stories about people who have opened our eyes to acceptance, strength and love. Real people, real stories.”

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Here are the 10 stories that feature in our exhibition…

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Kim McClure, Brand Language Creative, originally from South Africa

For Alice.

When my sister parted ways with the generously spirited Sebastian and introduced instead a new Nina, I knew she would never be the same person again — in the best possible way. Her continued pursuit of what’s fair, what’s right and what’s left in a deeply conservative society has created in me the most open of minds.

It’s taught me that when things make you uncomfortable, you should probably lean into them. And that learning to accept everyone exactly where they are is not a state of being but a state of mind.

Now, she lives happily with a lovely Sarah. I couldn’t be prouder of the person she is and is becoming — and I’ve never been more sure that in this dark, complex and often hateful world we live in, we could all use a little more empathy and a lot more love.

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Lisa Mathews, Strategy Director, originally from South Africa

For my brother.

For being open and accepting to both his gay sister and his gay brother-in-law and, when jokingly told his newborn son has a high chance of being gay (gay aunt and uncle), for looking down on him and saying “It’s okay. You can be anyone you want to be. I’ll still love you.”

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Kate Murphy, Brand Strategist, originally from Australia

For Hannah Gadsby.

A true icon of pride and bravery. She has shown me that there’s strength and beauty in being vulnerable, and has inspired me to own who I am.

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Benjamin Farrell, Senior Designer, originally from the UK

For Dutee Chand.

Dutee Chand is an Indian professional 100m sprinter. In 2018, she won a medal at the Jakarta Asian Games — India’s first in two decades, paving the way for her brief spell as the nation’s sweetheart.

However, she was soon outed to the national press as being in a relationship with a woman, and — much to her bewilderment — more or less publicly disowned by the village in which she grew up.

She has since used her platform to open up an important and much-needed dialogue about homosexuality and minority rights in India, as it navigates the path between tradition and increasing tolerance.

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Georgie Thompson, Senior Client Manager, originally from the UK

For Nathan.

My brother transitioned from female to male in his mid-twenties. A little ‘older’ some people might say, but it meant 20+ years to consider the most important decision he would ever make in his life.

Despite coming from a relatively diverse friendship group, I’d never personally known a transgender person until Nate. This was an opportunity for me to learn and support him through his transition.

Nate has had to fight harder than most to become the person he wants to be, not only through his transition but also by not conforming to male gender stereotypes so people would not question his already difficult decision. He works with his local LGBTQ+ community to raise awareness and help support others, creating his own incredible network of people.

Nathan has taught me about what it means to be brave and embracing your true authentic self.

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Alicia Mitchell, Client Manager, originally from the UK

For Tasha Marks.

We met in our first year of secondary school and navigated the tricky waters of teenage shyness, discovery, experimentation and heartbreak side by side.

Throughout those confusing years, and ever since, she’s inspired me with her relentless determination to break the mould (ironic, considering how much time she’s spent working with jelly), forging her style, her relationships and her career as a food historian and artist in her own unique way.

Watching her get married to her lovely wife is a treasured memory that I carry in my heart where ever I go: for everything it symbolised of the journey she’s been on since we first met, for the pure joy of celebrating a boundless love between two wonderful people, and for the statement that demanding equality is a fight that will always be worth fighting for.

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Jason Kempen, Partnership Creative Director, originally from South Africa

For Evita Bezuidenhout.

At a time when South Africa was in the throes of apartheid and drag barely existed, Pieter Dirk-Uys managed to bring a double-threat to local audiences.

With his character “Tannie” Evita Bezuidenhout, he not only took a satirical stance against the government, and their racial oppression but also ushered in a new era of visibility for the LGBTQ+ community.

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Jade Lee, Studio Manager, originally from The Netherlands

For mum.

My mother ran a costume atelier in the ‘80s for Dutch tv shows and the Dutch Show Ballet. The interns at our studio were either young women or gay men, and most of the male clients and artists were gay as well.

It was never an issue, just something we knew and accepted. My mother created this place of acceptance, of normality, of being around people that to this day are still being seen as different.

I’m very happy I got to grow up in this place filled with feather boas, sequins, a lot of flamboyant characters and a lot of love.

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Brian Jensen, Strategy Director, originally from the USA (t-shirt worn by Bertrand Duméry, Designer)

For those who shine the light on our forgotten stories.

For people like Sebastian Hendra who, with his sister Lucy, has created Historical Homos, the no-fucks-given guide to LGBTQ+ history.

For Bob Ross who founded the Bay Area Reporter—one of the earliest and fearless chroniclers of the AIDS crisis. The only paper filled with obituaries of victims of the epidemic.

I learnt of friends’ deaths from the Bay Area Reporter.
And celebrated when, in 1998, no obituaries were published for the first time.

For Donna Personna, 72-year old Grand Marshall of the SF Pride Parade. Helping people remember pre-Stonewall fights like the Compton Cafeteria riot of 1966. And reminding people, we still need to fight for the entire community’s equal rights.

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Yvonne Eng-Hall, Design Director, originally from Singapore

For Chella Man.

First deaf, Jewish, Asian, trans and queer person to rise to prominence in established media.

Our conversation within the English-speaking LGBTQIA community often forgets the added complexities people of colour and disability have to navigate. East Asian LGBTQIA people especially struggle with cultural taboos of silence, dishonour and shame. In a community with a lack of role models, Chella Man is quietly but powerfully changing that… Just by simply being.

For his first collection with Opening Ceremony, not only did he insist on hiring an all-queer team to work in front of and behind the camera, he also chose wheelchair accessible locations for the shoot itself, and ensured all assets were captioned properly.

“I wanted to showcase the fact that living outside binaries, categories, and labels is not just possible—you can do it and thrive.”

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Our gallery alleyway is closed on the weekends and evenings, but the exhibition will stay up over the next week for anyone passing by to visit, and we’d like to wish everyone in the city a very happy Pride.

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Special thanks to Richard Rigby for the photographs, and to everyone else who has been involved in this initiative.

Love wins. Always.

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