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I receive a message from a mutual friend telling me about the “Street Heart Festival” on the Kerkstraat near Club Church. I already knew it from previous editions and remembered having a great time last year.

by Wil Groot - 22 November 2019

length: 4 min. Printer Friendly Page  
'You Can Really Be Who You Want To Be,' A Conversation with Jennifer Hopelezz

Dit artikel is ook in het Nederlands beschikbaar
length: 4 minuten

Jennifer Hopelezz (l)
Upon my arrival, I immediately see Jennifer with some of her street hearts. We agree to meet after the party. A week later, we meet at Club Church on a rainy afternoon.

You have been busy lately?
“Yes, rather busy. I thought that after Pride Amsterdam it would slow down a bit, but to be honest that still hasn’t happened. We had performances in Carré where we were invited to ‘Wende’s Kaleidoscope Festival’ by Wende Snijders. It is a kind of variety show. This was followed by the Street Heart Festival and in turn by the presentation of the book ‘Julian’ written by Fleur Pierets. This book launch was presented by Arie Boomsma at Church. It was all great fun. Yet, my heart lies in activism.”
So, you follow your heart?
“I am more of an activist by nature, and I like to combine that with drag. I have been doing this for ten years now, and have combined it since I was running for Amsterdam Night Mayor. Then, I noticed that combining activism with drag was a powerful combination. You get more attention and it is press-friendly. I’m not at all good at lip-syncing and performing, but the combination of drag and activism suits me well. ‘I am Drag.’ "

"This of course has a backlash, as, especially at night, I am often discriminated against by groups of men. For a number of years now, my group of drag kings and queens The Begging Babes has also been performing at the ‘LoveDance’ in Paradiso on World AIDS Day. In drag, we do not walk the streets by ourselves, but with the entire group for safety reasons. Then there is the drama with the Uber taxis. Also, because I am in drag.”

“Before that I’ve put Jennifer to work as a PrEP activist and fighting the HIV stigma. This is especially important for youth. Many say that when they have drunk too much, they lose control and safe sex goes out the window. I see that happening around me, as I own a nightclub and a gay sauna, with many young visitors. Activism and discrimination combined are broad concepts. I focus on the whole of LGTBI+, with a particular focus on gender.”

“Gender is a broad spectrum. Nowadays, many young people feel male at one point in time, then female, or something in between. There are more and more people who call themselves gender fluid.”
Gender fluid, could you explain?
“These are people who don’t want or can’t adhere to the binary characteristics of male/female. Nowadays, there are many words for this - gender fluid, gender free, gender queer, non-binary, and so on. They are people who want to be free from gender boxes and stereotypes.”

House of Hopelezz and the House of Lost Bois
I am familiar with the House of Hopelezz. The House of Løst Bois: The Drag Kings House I got to know through the Street Heart Festival. Who are they?
“This is a new group of young people who have been active for about six months now. They act as a group and were also at Carré. The Drag Kings are also doing Boylesque, and they give the ‘How to Drag My King’ workshop with us at Church. In cooperation with the Kings, we also do the ‘Sexy mess ADE’ party in Sexyland at the NDSM dockyards. They are invited to parties, do shows and will also participate in the Superball next year. It is a group that is gender free, androgyn, and gender fluid.”

So, if I understand correctly, different groups are mixing?
“Yes, it’s a combination of everyone together. Everyone can be who they want to be. They feel neither male nor female, but accept both and are primarily US. Boxes are merging. There are also changes happening in drag. The new generation is going through its own development. All these different streams come together in Church and at parties.
How do you see the future?
“You can be of influence as just one individual. The future is ours if we want to change it. We should certainly try. If we want Amsterdam to be a city with freedom and not discrimination, with sexual freedom, then we have to fight for it. I think we have to constantly fight for what we want. I hope to inspire people to do things while continuing to do things myself. We can make a difference. If you take a chance to actually change something, people often follow in your footsteps. I’m a doer anyway, so that’s why I want to do something.
I do recognize myself in this and realize that we are both activists in our own way. Are there any important upcoming items on your agenda?
“I have been invited to the Uber conference in London because of taxi discrimination. Perhaps it would be good to go as Jennifer. Then there is the exhibition ‘Drag Power - Gender, Pride and Glamour’ at the CODA Museum in Apeldoorn, together with Lady Galore. It’s from November 3 to March 1, 2020.”

When I get home, I google “Gender.” I come across Lisa Peters who has done a study on Gender. A question fascinated me: “What is the difference between Sex and Gender?” The answer: “The notion of Sex is between your legs and Gender is between your ears.”

foto’s © Jon Haywood



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