Oudroze / Antique Pink
Thanks to the emancipation struggle of the generations before us, LGBTQIA+ people in the Netherlands are – almost - equal to everyone else before the law. But that acquired freedom is fragile. This progress will not automatically endure. There is still discrimination and violence against LGBTQIA+ people. Even in 2021, not everyone accepts that love, gender and sex are fluid.
I think it is important - while we still can - to reflect on the rich life experiences of the generations before us. I wanted to capture and share those experiences. How did LGBTQIA+ individuals discover who they were and who they loved in an often ignorant and hostile society? What courage did it take for them to come out and fight for what is just?
It was an interesting journey to learn more about a very diverse group of people over seventy. Every encounter was enriching. So many beautiful, moving, happy, inspiring, stunning, crushing, sad, powerful, and heart-breaking stories. Making this series has made me even more aware as a gay man, of the strong and courageous shoulders we stand on.
As the creator and producer of Antique Pink, I would like to give a very big thanks to all the fabulous heroes I was allowed to portray and interview. You are seen and your experiences are shared. You are a true source of inspiration for future generations. Because of you there is visibility. And visibility is essential for acceptance.
A monumental traveling multimedia exhibition, featuring the 30 portraits and stories, has been made in collaboration with the Open Mind Foundation.
Antique Pink will also be included in the collection of the Amsterdam City Archives.
My gratitude to the Open Mind Foundation, the Amsterdam City Archives, the Municipality of Amsterdam and all other parties for embracing this special project is huge.
Interested in reading all the amazing life stories of the Antique Pink hero's ?
We made a magazine! Click HERE for more information.
Paramaribo Suriname / nurse and therapist.
‘I've always loved boys. As a child I didn't find that difficult. It came naturally. Everyone at home knew it too, I didn't secretly talk about it. I do have a son. When I was seventeen, I had an encounter with a lady and she fell pregnant. My son is sweet and he takes good care of me. I also have four grandchildren.’
‘Teachers at school thought I was strange. They said, don't be so effeminate. Or: go find a girl. There were also teachers who liked to touch me. One of them had kicked me out of class when I hadn't done anything wrong. I was sent to the back of the toilets. The teacher went there, pressed himself against me and played with me. That man got so aroused that he came. I was about 16 years old.’
‘I worked in psychiatric care in Suriname and had several lovers. I made good money for an eighteen-year-old boy. When I was about twenty my father sent me to Holland. I immediately went to work in Bennebroek at the psychiatric hospital in Vogelenzang. I shared a large villa with twelve boys. There I was free. I was able to receive my lovers.’
‘Jan was a big, red haired farm boy. His father had a large farm in the flower bulb region. I obviously stood out as a black boy in Haarlem and Heemstede. One day I had missed the bus. He cycled past and said: jump on. But he didn't take me back to my house but to the bushes. Geez, Jan really made love to me that day. Not what we practice now, but real romantic lovemaking. Very caring. Jan and I stayed in touch for a long time.’
‘I've never experienced bullying. Or at least, I didn't notice anything. But now when I hear things on TV about discrimination I think: ah yes. At work, I was often blamed for mistakes. Or I had to do the shitty jobs. But then it didn't hit me. I was from the colony and had learned from my dad: do as you are told.’
‘The COC (LGBTI organisation in the Netherlands) and gay café Bonaparte didn't let us black guys in. Only if you arrived with a white man. We lived in the Bijlmer and had to wait for the first bus home. I'm going to tell you something that’s very painful. There was a group of black guys, they were studying at the university. They were with white men which gave them a certain respectability. They looked down on us because we hadn't studied. But they were boys from my neighbourhood in Suriname.’
‘Because we didn't get in anywhere, we held rave parties, house parties. It was fun, dancing, eating, joking and we fell in love. We wore beautiful clothes. Just imagine 60 or 70 people, and everyone fit in. They sat on the stairs, they sat outside. The whole neighbourhood joined in. Those parties lasted for three days.’
‘I'm a left-over. Everyone in my gay network has died. Also my great love who I lived with. We were together for about 12 years. I met him at Casa Maria. The owner, Maria, had let us in because we couldn’t get in anywhere. Casa Maria became our living room, a black gay café that enjoyed popularity in faraway places such as America. COC set up Strange Fruit. This was a separate section for the blacks. But I was over it, I had Casa Maria.’
‘I didn't know he was infected when I met him. He himself had a lot of issues with it. When it turned out that I was not infected he became aggressive. I cared a lot about him so that turned into a blow to the jaw. He visibly deteriorated. I finally took him to the hospital, where he died. That was 30 years ago. He would have been 64 now.’
Advice for the younger generation
‘I would say to young gay men: go to therapy. So that you know who you are and what you want. I have given therapy for years. It doesn't have to be a hundred conversations. But it will help you with your coming out.’
The podcast is a beautiful compilation of the conversations I had with the 30 people portrayed, in which all the various themes are discussed. Compiled by studio Groen & Geel. The podcast can be listened to via: Spotify
Kota Raja, Indonesia / lawyer
‘Just say it, it's a big relief’
‘My first sexual experience was with the love of my life, Kees. We were 18 and were going to go to university in Amsterdam together. It came as a great shock when something happened between us. We were friends from primary school. Then we already discovered we were both gay. Kees lived in Utrecht and I lived in Zeist, where we later went to secondary school. He came every day by train, I just cycled in. Before we went to university I was in Indonesia for a while, and we always wrote each other letters. When I came back, I of course immediately looked him up. That's what we had agreed. Although I could tell he was hesitating.’
Murdered by his mother
‘When I arrived at his house, I found out that something terrible had happened. He had been murdered by his mother. Because we were what we were. I could not believe my ears. That you can do that, as a mother of two children. We wanted to move in together and to protect each other, and we were going to announce that. After Kees died, I decided not to tell my parents what I was. I didn't want to hurt them. The family asked me to marry a great-niece of mine, that's what our mothers had planned. That girl didn't want to and neither did I. It didn't happen, luckily.’
Another great love
‘After Kees, I had another great love. Gan was a Thai boy I met in the sauna. I was with him for 25 years. After my retirement I lived in Thailand for 14 years with him. We lived like kings. Around 40 people visited us on birthdays. Gan was a really good cook. We returned to the Netherlands because he became ill. Here I took care of him. He died of that 'gay disease' at the age of 45. I have a table full of pictures of him. After Gan, another Thai boy came into my life, and we fell in love. That boy now lives in Germany. He's come to see me here at my home five times already.’
‘I want to say to the younger generation of homosexuals that they should respect the oldies. I myself look back on a happy life. I cherish my best memory of a day with Kees. We rented a car and spent the whole day touring. And no one saw that we were gay! After that homicide, during my studies and work, I was a member of all kinds of clubs. I was just admitted. Not that I told them about my sexuality. But I was gay. And we had sex. Later, I did have relationships that were public. Therefore, my advice to others is: just say it. It's a huge relief.'
Herman, 80 and Cees, 91
'I could be myself behind closed doors'
‘I was born in the Bible Belt as an afterthought. From a young age I knew that I liked boys, but I couldn't talk to anyone about it. When I was sixteen, I realised: if I continue living here, I will die. My mother developed psychological problems after the war, also because my father was killed on May 4, 1945. I thought: let me study psychiatry to know more about this. Then I can get out of here as well.’
‘I went to live near Amsterdam. Gay bar D.O.K. was there on the Singel. The owner was Lou, a great guy. You weren’t really allowed inside until you were 21. But I had heard that it was fantastic, and you could meet other men. Because I wanted that so badly, Lou let me in. If the police came, I had to rush into the kitchen like a lightning bolt. It was a revelation at Lou’s. That you were just seen for who you were.’
Family up the stairs
‘I met Cees at a mutual friend in Amsterdam. I thought: what a nice man! I wrote him a letter and was invited to visit. After that we were together. When I moved in with Cees, I told my mother in a letter. Two weeks later, the doorbell rang. I heard familiar voices and my whole family came rushing up the stairs to collect me. I said, "I'm 21, independent, and I can do whatever I want." They left on the condition that I would not visit my mother in Veenendaal for a year.'
Loving her son-in-law
‘My mother wrote to me quite soon that she couldn't keep this up and that I should come visit. I wrote back that I would not be coming alone. I received a card saying it was okay. My mother loved Cees. He also called her mother. Together they drank glasses of brandy with sugar.’
‘Later we moved to Schellingwoude. The whole village knew we were together, but we never experienced any trouble. We also behaved normally so you wouldn’t invite any trouble. The extremes usually receive the most attention. We have never been to a gay pride boat parade. We don't like that.’
‘If I die tomorrow, I will look back on a rich life. I met the man of my dreams at a very young age. I would say to the younger generation of gays: live your life the way you feel you should live from your inner soul. That is extremely important. We have never been able to do that. We towed the line. It wasn't until Lou's doors opened that we could be ourselves.’
1928 Java, Indonesia
‘I think gays have an easier time now’
‘At boarding school in Indonesia, I had a boyfriend, the least tough boy in the class. I got on well with him, but I secretly revered a big, blond, strong boy. Of course, he didn't look at me.’
Holding hands on the way to the South Pole
‘In 1946 the entire family came to the Netherlands. Miraculously, we survived all four Jap camps. We went to live on the Amstelkade in Amsterdam. After high school I became a radio technician at Phillips and later via Radio Holland I worked on the whaling ship Willem Barentsz. On board I fell in love for the first time. A silent love, with Henk. A beautiful blond boy. We shared a cabin. We didn't dare climb into bed together because everyone could walk in. We held hands and sometimes there was a sneaky hug. More wasn’t possible.’
‘The first time I had sex was when I was 21 with a boy who was born as a girl in a Frisian village. In puberty it turned out that he was more boy than girl. He could not stay in Friesland and came to Amsterdam. We had a great time together.’
‘After that I got to know Paul. He was gay and had been caught with a sixteen-year-old boy. In court he could choose: three years in prison or castration. He chose the latter. Well, with castration the sexual feelings remain, but there is no ejaculation. So that boy was perpetually in turmoil.’
‘I think gays have an easier time now. The prejudices have largely disappeared. If you just do it, it will not be an issue.’
Aruba / dancer
‘I don't want to be pigeonholed’
‘My mother sent me by boat to the Netherlands when I was eight. Together with my three-year-old sister whom I had to take care of. We grew up with white nuns in a girls' boarding school. For many years we were the only black people. The children went home on weekends and holidays, except for my sister and me. We had no family here.’
‘This history overshadows my existence. It is in my body and in my being. That feeling of not belonging. You don't count, because even your mother got rid of you. That made me tough. A little survivor in armour.’
‘Before I turned 21, I was married to a man who didn’t just demand sex. I felt safe with him. We got a daughter. When she was about two years old, I read an announcement in a women's newspaper for a women's camping weekend. I registered, drove to Callantsoog and that same evening together with a group of women I was planning to squat a women's house. After that weekend, I took my two-year-old daughter with me to occupy the Women's House on the Herengracht in Amsterdam. There my eyes were opened to a different kind of society in which I felt more comfortable. I soon left my husband and moved into a women's group.’
‘I've had long and short-term relationships with men and women. I am who I have become, without gender typing. Today I feel like this, tomorrow I feel like that. I usually felt more like a boy. I liked it when I was addressed as a young man. I was allowed to take the classical ballet lessons with the boys, because it suited my body better. According to the teachers I had great jump power. While I thought: no, the boy's ballet suits me better because I am a boy. Changing my body was never an option. Those breasts get in the way, but I've learned to accept them now.'
‘In the end I went to the theatre academy where I discovered dance was my language. But there, too, the pigeonholes were lurking. In the Netherlands people thought black dancers do jazz ballet. Modern dance and classical ballet were for white dancers. To me dance meansß freedom. I chose the freedom of modern dance. I went to New York because I could meet black dancers and choreographers in modern dance over there.’
‘I felt at home in New York. I started delving into what it means to be black. I discovered how white my thinking was, through the literature of black writers. I was raised in a white culture, with no black examples from family, friends, school or environment. Is being black or being a boy what others see? Or does it determine how I feel, who I am? I had to find that out myself.’