It was really difficult for me to write this personal text. Partially because I had to reflect on the person that I’ve become and how I got there.

I realized that I’d hid the real me for several years. I made this ‘persona’ for my mostly straight environment. I played the role of ‘the funny gay friend’. I did this because that’s something straight people more or less know about because that’s the representation that we mostly get in the media.

I tried to minimize other parts of my queerness out of fear. Fear for homophobia, fear to get bullied and fear to get laughed at. To counter that I always tried to beat them to the punch and act like a clown. I’d rather have it that I was the one who was first to laugh with myself before they got the chance to do it. After a while I got so exceptionally good at this that ‘being funny’ stood around me like a big wall without any doors in it to let people in. It became a real struggle to keep this ‘persona’ alive. It became almost impossible for me to talk about my struggles without making a joke of myself.

What really helped me was moving to Antwerp. I had the chance to reinvent myself and explore which parts of me were a creation to please ‘the straights’ and which parts I hid out of fear. It did feel like going through puberty for a second time.

What also helped is that in Antwerp I met a lot of amazing queer people and I have the best roommate that I can always talk too. We’ve had the most amazing talks during the quarantine and I was finally able to let someone in.

A lot of people got to know me in a new way since a few months. A more authentic way. I don’t feel the need any more to have walls around me and that’s a big revelation for me. I do know that this will be a lifelong process and I’m just curious to learn who I really am. It is important to always reflect, learn and discover parts of yourself. The moment you stop doing that I don’t think you’re really living. I hope I’ll never be a ‘complete’ version of myself.

I hope I’ll always have this freedom to be myself, to grow and experience and to live an authentic life. This photo shoot for example was extremely liberating to me. One year ago I never would have dared to do this. For that reason I would like to thank the photographer and this beautiful project. Because of you I had the chance to discover a brand new piece of myself.