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Antwerp's Giant (adventures)

Sun 26 Aug 2012 In: True Stories WayBack Archive National Library

Our very own Mr Gay World Andreas Derleth has been back in his native Europe. He to shares an account of his travels, centred around an official trip to Antwerp where World Outgames and the next Mr Gay World will come together in 2013: Admittedly, I had to look up on a map to see where exactly Antwerp was located. In my mind it was not one of the must-go destinations in Europe, but I discovered that like many other European cities it is beautiful and well worth a visit. Even more so for the GLBT community next year, when Antwerp Pride, World Outgames III and Mr Gay World 2013 all come together to form a giant chain of out and proud celebrations July, 31 to August,11. I had a taste of the city's great spirit and atmosphere two weeks ago when I was there as part of my first official travel as Mr Gay World 2012. But let's start from the beginning... I left my home in Torbay on Thursday evening, 2nd August and after stop overs in Hong Kong and London, finally checking into my hotel in Amsterdam at midnight on Friday local time. The journey was long and the hotel bed therefore definitely comfortable enough. The next day the meet and greet with organisers of the World Outgames III team was first on the agenda, before boarding the OutTv boat for representative purposes at Amsterdam's canal pride. There were an unbelievable amount of boats - all up 80! On Monday I took a train to Antwerp. At the World Outgames III office we planned the week; packed with appearances, press conference and interviews, but also good times and fun. Thankfully there were many occasions where mainstream press was asking for interviews and we could add positive messages about gay life, tolerance and acceptance. I raised my number one topic of course. As a society we need to take up the challenge - to make sure people, teenagers, colleagues and friends know that if they are gay there is no reason to hide, because we are an open, modern 21st century society. This can be achieved by consciously raising the topic and not tolerating undesirable things like being labelled as “gay” instead of “shitty”. At least that is the goal and unfortunately depending on where we are in this world this is true in various degrees. In any case one thing is sure: Antwerp is a worthy and great location for the multitude of events next year. With its friendly and welcoming atmosphere, its historic city centre and its lovely people I'm sure all visitors will find something they can rave about. Maybe even the mascot of the World Outgames, a giant dressed in pink. Why a giant you might ask. These cultural expressions first appeared in the urban religious processions of sixteenth century Western Europe and today still are emblems and provide a sense of identity to some Belgian towns. My journey took me then via Cologne to my home town Hassfurt - where I stayed for some days to visit my family and friends. There was also a meet and greet at Pink Inbahn in Nuremberg. Now I'm sitting on a plane heading back to New Zealand, cattle class with not so appealing food and writing this story for who asked me to produce a piece about this journey. I look forward to coming back to Aotearoa, seeing my partner and friends again, going to Gay Ski Week and keeping on working together with OUTLine NZ to keep improving the emotional and mental wellness of our community. Watch out for more information on my work with OUTLine coming soon. Most importantly at this stage I’d like to mention and say thank you to my employer Warehouse Stationery for their on-going support. Without their help I would not be able to fulfil my charitable commitments. Ok, we are on our final approach to Hong Kong now, where I will have six hours. This is enough for a quick trip to the city and hopefully I will not miss the next plane. But you know the one who doesn’t risk anything in life will not get to discover its beauty. So in the words of Mark Twain: “So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”     Andy Derleth - 26th August 2012

Credit: Andy Derleth

First published: Sunday, 26th August 2012 - 8:38am

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