【What’s Amsterdam like?】 is an irregular series of articles introducing LGBTQ+-related topics and events that are based on local interviews conducted in Amsterdam. Incidentally, Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands, which was the first country to legalize same-sex marriage, something worth remembering.
This third article is a report on Rick, a coordinator who accompanied us on our trip in the Netherlands. We were fascinated by their fashionable clothes and smile, so we decided to pay them a visit at their house and ask them about their lifestyle.
— A room in a renovated monastery flat is laid out with special items that Rick collected with their partner.
Hi everyone, nice to meet you. My name is Rick.I work for two organizations named「DutchCulture」 and 「Queer Network Amsterdam」. My work involves focusing on improving the rights of people of colour and transgenders, as well as building networks for LGBTQ+ people.
My goal is “to create a society where everyone can live safely.” Well then, will this do for a self-introduction? (Laughs)
— That’s perfect, thank you very much.Now then, can you tell us about your room?
OK, I’m a big fan of the American singer Cher. So, I have a lot of collectors’ items all over my room related to her.For example, this one. This is a clipping from a magazine that my partner gave me for my birthday.
It’s small and hard to read, but the message in the headline ‘Breaking-Barriers’ is also relevant to my own efforts. I like it so much that I had it framed and put on display.
Of course, I also hold a collection of rare records. One of my favorites is ‘Carousel Man’, released in 1973, which I even listen to in the car. Of course I also sing it a lot at karaoke.
I also have a large collection of books with lyrics, releases, biographies, and figurines. I have a lot of love for her.
This is a photo of me and my friend that was on display in the exhibition ‘Collecting The City’ at the Amsterdam Museum. It’s a photo exhibition about how Amsterdam residents went about their daily lives during the Corona disaster and how the city looked at the time.
The photo was shown as part of the ‘Cagde Night birds’ chapter that shows what people were like in the LGBTQ+ community at that time.
ーーIt’s such a beautiful space that I would love to live in this room right away. What is your favourite part of the house?
I’m happy to hear that, thank you.I like these big windows and the high ceilings. The windows overlook the canal and make me feel like I’m on holiday any time of the year. I also love the kitchen. I enjoy cooking, so I have lots of condiments. My specialty is beef stew.
I also like the overall atmosphere of the room, which is lined with knickknacks that I collected with my partner. And because this flat was originally a monastery but later was renovated, there are still stained glass windows in the common corridor, which become very beautiful when the light shines through.
ーYou believe that expressing your own identity will lead to ‘inspiring the next generation’.
― Now tell us about your sexuality and your way of life, Rick.
I’m non-binary and I don’t live in a binary realm, I live beyond them. So by wearing neutral and feminine clothes like I do now, I’m opening myself up and expressing that there are people like me. And I want society to accept people like me, so I express my thoughts through my clothes and make-up.
At the same time, it is a kind of protest against the heterosexual norm, and I want to continue until the heterosexual norm disappears.
ーーWhen I was walking around town, I saw people react negatively when they saw you, Rick. I think you are aware of this yourself, but what makes you still carry on?
There were many struggles for me to continue to dress the way I do now. But to take the negative stares and words from others head-on and quit would be the same as giving up on my own beliefs. I didn’t want to do that.
Besides, I believe that I can be a good inspiration for the next generation.For example, a small child might see what I’m doing now and be inspired to think that it’s okay for them to do this too, right? I will keep going on until the systemic social structure in which men are men and women are women, changes.
ーーSince you mentioned your partner, I would like to ask you whether you have introduced your partner to your parents and family?
My partner and I have been together for four years and on special occasions, such as birthdays, we sometimes spend two days travelling to visit family together. On the other hand, we also have them visit us at our home. Most of my family members accept me for who I am and our relationship.
Recently, we have also started to link and publicize each other’s accounts as partners on our Facebook pages. 80% of my friends are from the queer community and some of them are heterosexual, but they are all allies (people who understand and support us).
ーーIn the Japanese LGBTQ+ community, couples who have been together for four years have an image of a long-lasting relationship. What do you value in building a good relationship?
In queer culture, there is a lot of emphasis on sex isn’t there? But the most important thing for us is trust. As long as you have that, you can get through anything. Right now my partner is in Berlin on business, and maybe there is a chance that my partner will meet someone better than me, but I trust them.
Of course, we fight sometimes, but we don’t get jealous because there is love at the root. Oh, and I think it’s also important to make a conscious effort to have dinner together once a week.
ーーThank you very much. It was a pleasure listening to your story in your lovely room.
Thank you very much for your time here. Well then, we have a bit of time before today’s schedule, so let’s take a walk in Haarlem and then head to Amsterdam.
Interview and text/HAGA Takashi Photo/EISUKE
Interpreter/Kuwabara Karin (Saw Communications)
Cooperation/ The Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Japan, Dutch Culture
Article produced by/ newTOKYO
※This interview was conducted as part of a visitors program organized by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Japan.