LGBTQ special: “It’s scary but sexy too!”

attendees at the table

LGBTQ special Volume 1

Sitting at the table at Danilo’s Place we had a wonderful talk with Peter, Dirk Jan, Enrico, Marc and Lucia. Danilo’s pasta al pesto was exactly the right energizer for this LGBTQ special. We felt comfortable, special and totally mango!

It’s hard to capture what it is that makes Amsterdam so unique for the LGBTQ community, but perhaps we can try.

DJ: The history, the people, the diversity. Compared to the rest of the Netherlands it’s relaxed and the only open minded city in the country, in my experience.
Marc: And Rotterdam?
DJ: No not as much as Amsterdam (DJ lived there for 14 years).

Why is it so good here? Did you have any bad experiences elsewhere? Anything that makes Amsterdam so much better?

DJ: It is just something I sense walking around the streets. The sense of freedom and liberty. I never have been molested or so. But as a gay person, I am constantly on guard and I feel that in Amsterdam I can be a little bit less on guard.

Are you constantly on guard?

DJ: Yes.
Marc: Me too.
Peter: It’s really familiar to gay people.
Lucia: You are not as a woman?
Claudia: No.
Peter: It’s surely a different kind of being on guard.
Lucia: But it’s something I can relate to, to be always alert.
Peter: I guess everybody is on guard on the street but I think for a very tangible race like gay men, we always have some kind of guard as I experienced.
Lucia: I mean it’s a targeted community.

group listening to enrico

How is it to grow up being gay outside of Amsterdam?

Marc: I grew up outside of Amsterdam and there was nobody around me that looked like me or behaved like me. That was a big problem for me. One of the biggest things is growing up and knowing that you are not really ok. I had no examples. Later, my sister took me to parties with many students. That’s the first time I met gay men. It was like: This is me, it’s scary, but really sexy too.
Danilo: That was the first time you could identify?
Marc: Yes.
Danilo: How old were you?
Marc: 16
Lucia: That is late.
Enrico: That is early.
Lucia: Really?
Enrico: For me, it happened with 18.
Claudia: Average?
DJ: I would say average.
Peter:  In the same year that I came out I could suddenly understand why someone (male) would relate to me in a certain way. I did not understand that before I came out.
Marc: There was a period when I was around 15 when people were teasing me a lot at school. That was back in the 80s. My hair was up, I was looking like a punk kid and they were calling me names. That was a horrible time for me. I felt really unsafe and it got deep under my skin. This is the feeling I take with me until today. When somebody would start calling me names on the streets, I am emotionally back there. Now I would start fighting, but back then I did not know what to do.

Do you think it is still the same now for young people growing up outside of Amsterdam?

Marc: I am always hoping it’s different now but I am not sure. I guess when you have examples in your family or in your friends’ group. So that you know “I am different but I am ok”. Perhaps when your parents say it’s good that you are different. That makes you special. I have this friend from Zeeland for example (place in the Netherlands). His orthodox family is denying his existence. So it is still happening, you know, in Holland as well.

Different, special, seems a word that is often used in connection with LGBTQs. Are you guys special?

Peter: Nobody is normal in a grander sense of the word. There is this feeling amongst kids though. I am sure they pick on someone that does not fit in a certain thing, it’s a children’s instinctual response. Everyone has this grouping response. And it’s also comfortable for me to be in a group of likeminded queer, gay individuals or people that I know understand this language.

So is to be ‘special’ a positive way to say ‘different’? A needed boost that gives self-esteem?

DJ: Yes. That is what Pride is all about.
Marc: It’s really valuable to grow up knowing that we are all human and we are all alike. But that you’re colored in the unique way you are. And everybody is special and not anything less. When you feel less that is not good. Then you become political about it, I guess.

Do you think there is a danger in creating a sense of community?

Enrico: Yes, definitely. You might get too used to be inside of it and not really see the bigger picture. I think anybody is special, but we have to fight to show that we are as special as everyone else. Of course, we have the gay community, but we should also not stick to it like: “Just us and nothing else”.
Peter: Yeah, like the minority just being with the minority. But actually, you want the majority’s respect as well. Not to be with yourself and be happy as that. You want to connect to the majority.

peter showing his new handbag
Did you ever feel like you had to tone your nature down in order to fit?

Marc: No. 20 years ago I really was playing a little bit more butch around straight guys. I was not doing it for myself but for them, because I thought they would feel weird with me otherwise.
Lucia: But this I can relate to as a woman, being friends with straight men. It’s very much like this.
Marc: I also think that a lot of straight men play a part. And if you are sensitive to this playing a part you might try to copy it.
Lucia: I also think there is a lot of insecurity coming from straight men. A guy I used to work with does not want to be surrounded by gay people not because he does not like their lifestyle but because he is scared about their penis, as simple as that. But that’s because he is so insecure.

Is there anybody that does not feel like they have to change at all when entering a totally straight men’s surrounding?

Peter: Yes.
Marc (laughs): Great, I love it.
Peter: Obviously sometimes you really feel the need. I don’t know exactly why and when to say specifically. If I am in a comfortable space or I have a good judy** with me, I can be with a group of straight people and I don’t think twice about it.

Some facts about the attendees

Peter from Melbourne Australia, dancer, cis* white male homosexual
Enrico from Biel Switzerland, male human being that is interested in male human beings
Marc  (our oldest attendee, around 50) from Arnhem the Netherlands, dancer, now choreographer and teacher, cis male gay man
Dirk Jan from everywhere and anywhere in the Netherlands, also called Dirk, DJ, just moved in with this boyfriend in Amsterdam.
Lucia has Argentinian parents, but grew up in different places and considers herself a European citizen. She is a dancer and other things, cis female heterosexual somewhere in the spectrum, attracted to men.

*cis =  Cisgender (abbreviated cis) is a term for people whose gender identity matches the sex that they were assigned at birth.
**judy = best female friend of a gay guy

table after dinner