PRIDE ARTOTEL

ESTRANGED - Yannick

Fragile as a porcelain vase, this is how I view my sexuality. It is beautiful and respected by some people in society. These are the individuals who understand the value and nature of the material. You also, unfortunately, have people who do not know this value and are all too happy to destroy it.

For me, this metaphor reflects the vulnerability that sexuality can bring. Although my orientation is supposed to be something small, it still has a big impact on my life. Society looks at me differently, filling in boxes for me and thinking they understand me. I just want to live normally without a stigma.

Unfortunately, the clock seems to be turning back and in my experience we are going backwards in time again, this worries me. My skin has become thick from countless comments and experiences, but what if you are just coming out? You’ve just come out, finally dared to be who you are and then you get beat up. What do you do then? Do you still dare to be yourself then? Or do you choose to pretend to be someone who falls within society’s norms?

Do I expect everyone to understand my sexuality? A simple answer to this is no, why? Because you can’t blame someone if, for example, they were taught from a young age to hate gays. What I do blame someone for is when this ignorance is accompanied by attacks, both physical and verbal. Let me live my life the way I want to.

pride artotel

ESTRANGED - Robin

Am I a boy or a girl? I wasn’t really a girl either, after a period full of dresses and makeup I knew I didn’t feel comfortable with this. Still, the boy side didn’t feel right either and I ran into the same dilemmas here too. Until one day I saw a video that clearly explained what the term nonbinary meant. I felt recognition in that and understood how it felt for that person. This is just who I am.

The moment I realized I was nonbinary, I still waited a long time to tell others. I felt people wouldn’t get it. In the end, I told both my parents and my little brother, and thankfully they responded well. Still, many things did not go completely without a hitch.

For example, at a party I had the unpleasant experience of someone taking a picture with me to send to his friends. His goal was to exhibit me as some kind of circus animal. I felt completely not taken seriously, and that same evening I was also deliberately ignored by a large group of people. They did this by deliberately turning their backs to me while conversations were going on, probably because they did not want to be associated with me. However, despite the large amount of people at the party, this did cause several moments where I felt alone.

This kind of nasty stuff doesn’t just happen at parties, by the way. Once, for example, I was on the train, with a group of people about my age standing next to me. One of them looked at me and then spoke out loud: “People who don’t want to be men or women, they are confused and they don’t belong.”. This person kept looking at me, while the small group went all in. I felt hurt and even became irritated. Somehow I thought I should say something about it, in order to explain my side.

In a situation where I had partially succeeded in doing this, I walked to school with someone and during this trip we talked about the topic of gender. She told me that she did not understand that I used different pronouns during my introduction, but that she now saw me differently since our meeting. However, she still thinks that I should not be non-binary, but fortunately also that everyone in the Netherlands is allowed to have their own opinion. As if I can choose this.

pride artotel

ESTRANGED - Danny

Ever since I can remember, I have had a struggle with my self-acceptance, including about my gender identity and sexuality. I used to be afraid to really stand up for myself or tell others how I felt. This was largely because I was stuck with a feeling I couldn’t quite place.

It wasn’t until I was 11 that I met a trans woman. She worked at the Albert Heijn supermarket in the neighborhood where I live. Through her I was able to place what I was actually feeling and that this was not weird. When I was 16, I found out that I didn’t feel at home in the body I was born in. Now I am 21 and have been on testosterone for 2 years and had my top surgery 3 months ago. My life has completely changed in the last two years from someone who was always hiding, to someone who spreads his wings and is allowed to be there.

Now I can finally express myself and be myself. I identify as non-binary and queer. I often notice from other people’s reactions that acceptance about this is not so good yet. People often don’t know exactly what it means and how to deal with it. Once people know that I have transitioned, but still don’t identify as male or female, they sometimes get upset about that. They often don’t know what to make of it and how to react to it. This while they can just ask.

For a few months now, I have had 2 large scars on my chest. This shows how hard I had to fight for who I am and the body that suits me. The beauty of imperfection, the scars that are on my body, are just beautiful.

pride artotel

ESTRANGED - Lux

When I was little, I used to enjoy poking around in my sisters’ dress-up baskets. I would pick out the prettiest pink glitter dress and run and dance around the house wearing those toy store heels. Around high school, however, I began to notice that I was not the same as other students. I noticed that I found different things interesting after all, compared to most of the boys in my class. Around that time, I also regularly locked myself in the bathroom to secretly experiment with my sisters’ makeup. Still, I didn’t want anyone to see me and was afraid someone would catch me. Things stayed this way for a long time.

It was about three years ago that I first went to a Drag Show with my mother. I had asked that for my birthday because we also often watched ”RuPaul’s Drag Race.” There I realized that everything I used to like had to do with drag. In this, my passions for makeup, hair, fashion, playback shows and dance lessons came together. Soon after, I bought my first eyeshadow palette and began teaching myself how to use makeup.

Until covid. Then suddenly I was stuck in my room. Like many people, I saw almost no one besides my family. While I was finally enjoying school, that too stopped. Boredom struck and I had to find a solution to that. I got stuck with my emotions and at the same time had to figure out what made me happy. Then I bought my first wig and practiced with it in my bedroom.

Eventually when the Netherlands loosened up a bit from the covid measures, I went to a drag show in Groningen with two girlfriends in drag. There I met other people from the LGBT+ community and, of course, other drag queens. Not much later, I found myself on stage myself, which I had dreamed of just a few years before. I have never felt so good, as Daan and as Lux.

pride artotel

ESTRANGED - Damian

Prickly glances, negative whispers and an overarching sense of discomfort. High school was both not a nice nor safe place for me. With boys hurling hurtful words at me for being too feminine in their eyes or even waiting for me in the shadows after a party. With the goal of convincing me over and over again that I was not allowed to be myself and that I was definitely not wanted.

Not only at school did I have to deal with this kind of behavior, also on the street there were men who felt it necessary to loudly label me as gay. So all this behavior eventually led to me becoming depressed, for which I had to seek help.  Consequently, when I was given the opportunity to drop out of high school during that period, I grabbed it firmly with both hands and never looked back. Even though this left me with a learning deficit that I am still trying to make up for to this day.

Benefit seekers, lazy and criminal, this is how our society often looks at people who do not know how to get a piece of paper with the word diploma and who would disappear down the drain of our society. All prejudices that in many cases like mine, could not be further from the truth. I have found my niche within the hospitality industry, which makes me extremely happy. Yet, the fact that I don’t have a degree still evokes shame sometimes.

When peers ask me what I study and I have to tell them that I already work full-time and that I didn’t finish high school, it sets a tone. “How is it that you weren’t able to finish high school?” is then often the follow-up question, but to start explaining to everyone what caused this, I’m often not looking forward to that.

Besides the shame I sometimes still feel because of other people around me, there was also a period when I felt insecure about not having a diploma. This is partly because the promise of a bright future full of opportunities is often sold with the requirement that you must have completed some form of education.

If this opportunity suddenly falls away, it certainly begins to gnaw at you where you stand within society. Even though this was the right choice, the question remains whether this so-called promise for me has now disappeared. At the end of the day, everyone wants to be happy.

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