AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Revelers attending Amsterdam's annual Gay Pride parade nearly doubled the local population despite rain and an ongoing debate over how welcome the gay community remains among all sectors of Dutch society.
An estimated 500,000 party-goers turned out for the event, which was to feature around 80 boats sailing around the city's Prinsengracht canal. The "Europe Pride," a boat carrying members of the European Parliament, opened the rain-dampened parade.
Pink was everywhere in the city - pink hats, pink feather boas, pink shirts - as were groups clad in outlandish outfits including a boat full of Santas and scantily clad men wearing angel wings.
Yet despite all the festivity, signs of uneasiness among members of the gay community and their relationship with wider Dutch society also emerged.
"We are making ourselves a parody of being homosexual," Hans Bruggeman, 83, a former Amsterdam city councilman and member of the Dutch parliament, told Reuters Television on the eve of the parade. "Therefore, I stay home and I don't join them."
Bruggeman, clad in a short-sleeve shirt and suspenders, had particular disdain for the scantily clad tenor of the parade.
"When I should join the party, I should be dressed as I am now, and not in a thin little thing," he said.
Bruggeman has touched on an issue that has grown from a point of controversy to a question of safety for gays in Amsterdam -- open displays of overt homosexuality in public.
The local edition of Time Out magazine led its most recent issue with an article questioning whether Amsterdam had become an unsafe place for gays to live -- nearly 200 years after it became one of the first places in the world to explicitly decriminalize homosexuality.
Late last month, members of parliament asked for an inquiry into reports gay immigrants had been told to conceal their sexuality for the benefit of Muslim classmates in government-sponsored integration courses.
Amid the tensions, new Amsterdam mayor Eberhard van der Laan revealed his solid support for the gay community this week.
In an interview with a local free paper he said he was a "quite fanatical" supporter of teaching homosexuality -- and the acceptance of it -- in elementary schools.
Reporting by Svebor Kranjc and Ben Berkowitz, editing by Paul Casciato