Happy Friday! In this week’s Feature Friday, Wouter (pronounced WOW-ter) talks about his internal struggle with coming out, even though his older brother had already come out as gay and was accepted by their friends and family. Read on below to find out more about Wouter and his journey with self-acceptance.
Where are you from? I was born and raised in Groenveld (Noord-Holland), The Netherlands
Where do you live? I currently live in Deventer (Overijssel), The Netherlands
Instagram handle: @koenraadkulture
Age: I’m 21 years old
On an unforgettable trip: My favorite place I’ve ever traveled to is Curaçao! I study archaeology in Deventer, and a part of my education is that we have to do internships, which may take place in The Netherlands or abroad. Together with a really good friend of mine, Esther, we chose something very different than Holland and traveled to Curacao for an internship.
It was my first time really out of Europe (I had been to Turkey several times, but that is relatively speaking still close to home) and it was also the first time that I flew across the Atlantic! It was also my longest trip I’ve ever traveled, as I lived for three months there. Together with Esther, I had the time of my life! From swimming with sea turtles to climbing the St. Christoffel mountain and from dance party’s on the beach to help excavate a Caquetio-settlement site in the Midlands: It was something I had never experienced before. I’ve met a lot of great friends during this trip that I still speak with today. I think about this magical time on a daily basis, as it has made a real impact on me as a person and my perception of the world & what it has to offer. I learned a lot about myself on this trip, being away from home for so long. Sometimes bad things, but most of the time good things, like growing my self-confidence, which made this trip so special to me.
On always being curious: I have a lot of things I want to do in life, but for now, I think I would like to do a lot of traveling! There are so many places in the world I wish to visit, such as Japan, South-Africa, The US, and Australia. I’m really curious about what the world has to offer! I want to live in another country for a certain period! Or build out my carreer as a heritage young professional. It’s hard to choose one!
“My biggest obstacle in the process was that I dislike “Coming out”. I always thought: “Why does society expect me to do that? Straight people don’t have to come out as straight!’”
On coming out: Well… I remember it as a struggling time. Not because of fearing the reaction from the people close to me, because I knew my friends and family wouldn’t mind, as they were always spoken out about supporting LGBTQ+. I knew this because my older brother had already come out as gay and the support he got was amazing.
It was an internal battle for me with society and things I didn’t understand. For most of my life, I’ve felt like a freak. I’m a bit of a weirdo and a nerd, which I nowadays really appreciate about myself. I didn’t really fit in, as far as I felt.
In high school, I knew that something was different, but I really couldn’t point out what it was. This is also the time that some people started picking on me for showing “The gay-stereotypes”. This frustrated me so much. I have never seen “being gay” as something that was bad, and it angered me that people could be so mean about people that had a different preference when it comes to love. As I got older, I knew that I wasn’t straight. Thank you, Josh Hutcherson, for portraying Peeta Melark in The Hunger Games, that was a real eyeopener!
My biggest obstacle in the process was that I dislike “Coming out”. I always thought: “Why does society expect me to do that? Straight people don’t have to come out as straight!”. I also didn’t wanted to validate the people who always called me gay, because I thought they didn’t deserve the feeling that they were right. I completely wanted to be in charge of this journey myself and in that mindset, I only told the people that are close to me. Others could find out later, “Not my problem”, I thought.
On being being able to express yourself: In that period of my life, I finally stood up for myself and just did what I wanted to do and not what people expected me to do. After I got comfortable with myself, I started to truly live my life. It maybe sounds dramatic, but this is how it feels to me. There was always something missing. Now I feel so much better and feel lucky that I can also talk about this time with my brother, who went through the same process, and with my parents and friends. I feel confident most of the time and it is just a wonderful feeling to have the abillity to fully express myself.
On having a support system: My family and friends are super supportive of me and they don’t mind at all. They don’t treat me differently! The worst I’ve had so far is person yelling at me and calling me names, but it was never someone I knew personally.
On interior design: I think I would describe my interior style as young, nerdy & modern, but also with a touch of tradition. I like bright colors and patterns, but I also like the simplicity of a white room where the furniture and objects speak for itself. As a student, I don’t have a big spending budget, so I own a lot of second-hand pieces. Because I have always been fascinated by history, I like to show pieces that have a story behind them or that have a personal connection to me.
On growing up gay in the Netherlands: I am very lucky to have grown up in The Netherlands. Most of society and politics are accepting of the LGBTQ+ community and feel comfortable with my sexuality in public life. Just as in any other country, The Netherlands also has it’s bullies, anti-LGBTQ+ parties and people who are strongly opposed to people that don’t fit in the heteronormative culture, but these form a small minority. in the beginning of coming to terms with my orientation, these people could really irritate me. Now I try not to spend too much of my time on them. In the wise words of Kimberly “Sweet Brown” Wilkins: ‘Aint nobody got time for that!’.
On religion: I’m irreligious. My parents wanted me and my brothers to choose our own faith (if we wanted to) based on our own beliefs. I chose not to, as I can’t find myself in a religion.
On life in the Netherlands. Life in The Netherlands is good! I am finishing up my bachelor's degree in archaeology at Saxion University with a research about the history of the Roman Empire in the Netherlands. I have a great room in my student lodging house, where I live with one other roommate. Deventer is a very old city with a lot of great shops, restaurants, and bars. A lot of friends of mine are also studying archaeology and live in Deventer too! We often have a movie night at someone’s house or we go out for dinner and drinks. Every once in a while I’ll meet up with my friends to go out and dance in Amsterdam, Groningen or Utrecht, because Deventer doesn’t have that many clubs or bars with a dancefloor!
In the weekends, I travel back home to Groenveld to stay at my parents' house with my parents, brothers and our dog Risto! Groenveld, on the contrary to Deventer, is a very small village in the countryside, not far from the beach and the sea. I really like going there, because I can meet up with my high school friends and distance myself from the city life.
Noord-Holland has a lot of great spots to visit, like the beach, the duneforests or one of the old towns, so I like to go out on road trips with my best friend Marijn to hit these places up! We always have a blast and talk about gay-stuff, because we both don’t have a lot of gay friends that we can discuss these things with! When I’m alone I usually write, read, draw, play The Sims, Netflix or sing (I am not saying that I’m a good singer).
On his biggest inspirations: I have a lot of great inspirations in my life for different aspects of life! For example, I hugely look up to Lady Gaga as a musical artist and creator. But when it comes down to it, my biggest inspirations are my mum and dad. I know it sounds cliché, but it is true. My mama has always been very vocal about injustice in life as she faced it herself when she was younger, because she was a woman that didn’t wanted to do things traditionally. My mama is in my eyes the definition of a strong independent woman. My papa is such a hard working man who will do anything to support his loved ones. The way that he keeps going on, even when the odds aren’t in his favor, really inspire me. The amount of love, respect, and support that I’ve gotten from my parents throughout my life is priceless and I couldn’t be more grateful to have them.