Tom, in his own words:“Being gay means accepting myself 100%. Being gay means knowing who I am. Being gay means being proud of who I am. Being gay means having a unique shared experience with millions of people around the world. Being gay means being strong. Being gay means being me.
Mark and I had an instant connection when we first met each other – almost 10 years ago now – and our bond is still growing by the day. We share many of the same interests and values, which makes us such a strong and happy couple. Our relationship has evolved naturally and smoothly. We met at university and started out as friends. We both were in love with each other, but didn’t talk about it, afraid to ruin our friendship. During a study trip to Paris, we finally kissed – the city of love indeed! We were past the dating stage immediately: we knew we were in for the long haul.
Early 2013, my younger brother died. It was a really tough time that really gets you thinking about life. Before my brother’s death, marriage was never on the table. We always felt it was an outdated concept, and what use is getting married really? But then we realized that we wanted and needed some official document saying we’re together, and as we can get married in the Netherlands we really should take advantage of that privilege.
We wanted to get married in our own way. So no big extravaganza, but a small ceremony with our family and closest friends. And no expensive tuxedos we’d never wear again, but both wearing vintage denim jackets, pug shirts, black skinny jeans and Converse All Stars – hey, if people stop us in the streets asking if we’re twins, why not play with that?
I came out to my parents shortly after Mark and I got together. I told them pretty casually in their kitchen during lunch – even though it by no means felt casual. They reacted well, accepting and supportive, like everyone hopes their parents will. They made very clear to me that they love me and that it’s not my problem if people have an issue with my sexuality – it’s their problem. Still, I found it hard to come out to the rest of my family.
Growing up in a small town, I wasn’t aware of any gay people around me. I only knew about gay jokes, village rumors and exaggerated portrayals of gay life in the media, which were all reasons for me to not come out. So for some years, I was out in my life in Amsterdam, but still in the closet when I visited my family. I felt bad about my dishonesty – towards Mark, my parents, my family and also myself. And when I finally did come out, it really was not an issue at all. I should’ve given them more credit!
In the end, I think I needed to work through all that, get over my insecurities and truly become at peace with myself before I could fully come out.
The Amsterdam gay community doesn’t play a huge role in my life, but I really enjoy going to gay bars, clubs and parties from time to time. Just like I enjoy visiting non-specifically gay bars, clubs and parties.
If I could go back in time and talk to my younger self, I’d tell him to not be afraid and to just come out already. Life is so much better, easier and happier when you’re out!”
Mark, in his own words: “Being gay means being myself and making choices that I want to make without conforming to the expectations of other people. Being part of an minority has an impact on my view of the world. It made me realize that I can question social conventions and I am thankful for that. All that being said, I am aware of the fact that I’ve had it quite easy growing up with great friends and family in an progressive country.
So far, I’ve had an easy life. I think my biggest challenge so far was coming to terms with my being gay. It was a slow process, and I can’t pinpoint a precise moment, but once I did, everything became easier. Some people say that my being together with Tom for 9 years is an accomplishment, but I disagree. Living with Tom (and staying together) is probably the easiest thing I have ever done.
I guess I have always known I was gay. Growing up in a small town, I never got in contact with other gay people. Gay people weren’t visible. Because of this, it took a while for me to get to terms with my being gay. Even though I knew I was gay, I still had problems with being myself. I tried not to be feminine (whatever that may be), since no one seemed to be in the town I grew up in. I was 17 when I came out to my best friend, and one by one I told my other friends. When I was 18, my sister found out by accident and in a panic she told my parents. They all were very supportive. I could talk to them about my struggles, but I never had the feeling that they saw me in another light after coming out.
I moved to Amsterdam a few months after coming out to my family. It took some time to come out to my friends in Amsterdam. It never seemed the right moment to tell someone. Tom also had a big part in this. I met Tom when I just moved to Amsterdam and even though I liked him from the start, we started out as friends. We became so close, that we both didn’t come out, too afraid to lose our friendship. We went on so many dates, without even knowing it. We danced around each other for 6 months, and we finally became a thing when we got drunk on a study-trip to Paris. After that, we came out to everyone in an instant. I think coming out together to our friends made us as close as we are. We have shared the experience and we have basically been together for all our ‘out’ lives.
Nowadays I have no problem with telling people I am gay. I truly can say that I am proud of who I am and if someone thinks otherwise, it’s their problem.
The gay community in Amsterdam is quite small. Everyone knows someone you know. There are a lot of gay cultural and sport activities. There are gay bars and gay clubs, but not that many. A lot of bars and clubs are gay-friendly and some host gay nights. I don’t have to go to a gay bar to feel accepted and have fun. That being said, Amsterdam isn’t as openminded as it is portrayed. You usually do not see two men or women walk down the street holding hands. It is not my experience, but most gay people I know have been called names for ‘acting gay’ in public.
My advice to my younger self would be to trust your gut and just be yourself. Do not hide or change who you are because of someone else.”