As a kid growing up in a big very religious family I always felt kind of different. I was also more creative and never felt understood, my parents sent me to karate, youth movement and music school but all I wanted to do was going to drawing class but of course there was no time left for that. Drawing and being creative was a way to express myself.

Coming out at 19 was a huge struggle as some family members consider(ed) being gay as a disease. Some turned their back or told me I needed to see a doctor, that’s was very shocking for me as I had always been an exemplary child and their behavior felt like a serious punishment and me me feel like a very bad person. Now I realize they have a problem, not me, but it took me years to realize that. 

I have my own business since 15 years and sometimes I work 70 hours a week. Now with this pandemic going on, I am not able to work but I turned it in a positive thing for myself. After 15 years I feel I can breathe again, take better care of myself and feel and look better. I make more time to cook, rest, paint, read and go hiking. Being surrounded by nature gives me tons of energy. My ex told me once ‘i am not your coach, sometimes I feel like your cheerleader’ those words were hard to hear but I realized they were true, it made me realize life is more than work only and at a certain point you have to make choices and I decide to choose for ME for the first time in 15 years.

I have an unusual name and as a kid I always hated it. Kids in school were making fun of it sometimes, not in a mean way but still I was sick of always pronouncing and explaining it. I sometimes invented another name if kids asked me my name just to get rid of comments. Witse is a very popular Flemish crime drama series and Inspector Witses name was kept secret for several years, only in the 9th season it is revealed his first name is actually Werenfried. Suddenly I got interviewed by some newspapers and magazines, as this name is so uncommon.

It was around that time, my 30th birthday that I realized my name suits me very well, it is an old German name and it means ‘peacekeeper’ . So around that time I was travelling in Israel and I asked someone to write my name in Hebrew, I liked it so much that I had it made as a tattoo as a sign of my acceptance and start a new chapter in life. 

Some people tell me I have changed; yes and no. Yes because due to lockdown I had some time for myself, for the first time in 15 years I could ‘breathe’ again. No because this version of me had always been deep inside of me but had been covered with layers of stress, migraines and bad relationships or toxic people. This break gave me time to rediscover myself and who I truly am and stand for.