Within Codarts or out there on the streets makes a big difference

International Coming Out Day – 11 October
Interview with Joep Heijkoop

‘I have never had any nasty comments here. There’s so much diversity here,’ says Joep Heijkoop, second-year student Music Theatre. He wears skirts and dresses. And a pearl necklace. ‘I’ve decided to wear heels to school, as this is the place where I can do that.’ But upon leaving Codarts he changes the heels for sneakers and covers his dress with a long coat.

‘I don’t say “I am gay” or “I am queer”. I don’t want to be labelled.’ says Joep. Still, he thinks the term LHBTQ is okay to use. ‘Just as an explanation. And we all have the need to belong to some group or other. At the moment it is still necessary to draw attention to all these various forms of sexuality, but one day we will just talk about people.’

Nothing special

People used to ask him: ‘What the hell are you wearing?’ but these days the response is simply: ‘how cool!’, when he’s wearing bright pink trousers. Joep explains: ‘If someone would say: “Well, you’ve got a nerve” upon seeing my outfit, then that would just make it clear that I look different. Whereas all I’m thinking is: I am Joep, and I wear these clothes. Nothing special about it.’ When it comes to dealing with diversity, he feels that at Codarts things go ‘exactly right’. ‘We shouldn’t make too big a thing of it, or emphasise it too much. For instance by stating that you can be one hundred percent yourself here. That would be overdoing it. As if you have to meet some kind of requirement.’ He smiles: ‘As if I am obliged to wear heels.’

‘We shouldn’t make too big a thing of it’

Unpleasant experiences

The 13-minute walk from Metro station Maashaven to his home are hell for Joep. ‘I feel very unsafe there. I’m extremely focused on what is going on around me. I’ve had some unpleasant experiences in the past. Once I was beaten up.’ He no longer buys his groceries in his own neighbourhood. He is fed up with getting nasty remarks or ‘be pushed up against the shelves’.

The same

Does he use his LHBTQ-ness in his performances? ‘Sometimes I write and sing a regular love song and wear outrageous clothing. What I wish to bring across then is “I am the same as you”. I also fall in love and I also have heartaches.’ Joep wants his audience to become used to the idea that things can be different, thereby broadening the norm. Outside Codarts he doesn’t do so. ‘I don’t want to take any chances out there.’

Dream part

To illustrate how great it is to be able to be who you are, he tells about his coming out when he was 12. ‘When I told everyone at school, I really became someone else. I no longer had to pretend to be someone I was not. The people I hung out with then are still my best friends.’ Music theatre is really his thing. He likes performing and singing. ‘My dream part would be Jamie in Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, about a boy who wants to be a drag queen.’

Text: Ilse Breget