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Student Life: The Importance of a Safe Haven

by Andra Geurtz in Columns & Opinions , 20 januari 2018

Dit artikel is ook in het Nederlands beschikbaar

In Amsterdam on the night of November 20-21, two kissing women were assaulted in Amsterdam by a group of guys. The women, including Brazilian documentary filmmaker Denise Kelm Soares, were both in Amsterdam for the International Documentary Filmfestival Amsterdam (IDFA).

In a brief statement, the film festival announced that it was shocked, while utterly committed to diversity within the world of film and documentaries. Although IDFA’s support and sympathy is obviously appreciated, the news for most GLBTQ+ people certainly didn’t come as a shock. That feeling you get when you are walking hand in hand with your partner, is only too familiar to us. Those staring eyes burning in your back, or the whispers that suddenly can turn into nasty remarks or abuse, easily escalating into violence.

Even in relatively tolerant Amsterdam, events like this cannot be written off as incidents; GLBTQ+ people are regularly spat at or even kicked off their bikes. For this reason, it is all the more important that we have a safe haven. Some will find this in a nice gay bar or club, or at the COC. I found it at A.S.V.Gay. It was one of the main reasons to become a member. You don’t have to explain your sexual orientation or gender identity, and it is not a big shock when two people of the same sex are kissing. You don’t have to look around first or be afraid that you’ll get annoying questions because you are “different.” On the contrary, all of a sudden you are in the majority! I certainly was not used to that.

I had a girlfriend at secondary school; we regularly walked hand in hand at school. I can’t remember a single occasion we were not stared at. We were often yelled at and called “dyke.” This, of course, cannot be compared to what happened to Denise Kelm Soares last month, but it is still completely unacceptable. As I mentioned earlier, becoming a member of A.S.V.Gay to me was a way to show commitment to the GLBTQ+ community in a social and fun way. From the beginning I felt safe, giving me the space to discover my identity and my sexuality.

Also, let’s be honest here, the space to discover how much beer I could handle. My point is that everyone needs space to discover himself or herself. As long as GLBTQ+ people are not yet accepted everywhere, not everyone will actually get that space. I find this unacceptable, which is one of the reasons I will dedicate myself to a fantastic year on the board of A.S.V.Gay, the Amsterdam student’s union for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer students!

 Andra Geurtz is chairwoman of the Student body ASV Gay,
see for more information.





In the New Issue of Gay News, 335, July 2019

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