TRANSCENDING THROUGH THE TIMELINE OF QUEERNESS
Amsterdam’s reputation as a city that is welcoming and accepting to LGBTQ+ has taken many shapes over the decades. Rene Mobis has seen and experienced the many of the milestones of progress, and takes on a journey exploring how they impacted the city and his own queer identity. Highlighting the unique perspectives and differences in the development of the city’s queer population.
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Well, can you introduce yourself a bit?
My name is Rene and I’m 57 years old. I’ve been working as a storemanager at American Vintage for a year now. Before this, I was in high-end fashion retail, I did the buying and selling. I started at Shoebaloo. A family-owned shoe store that is now closed down. After that I started working at Oger. So actually I went from up here to down here, selling T-shirts!
So we wanted to meet you to hear your thoughts on and experience with the queer community in Amsterdam. So where do you see yourself within the community?
I was never largely involved in the activism aspect of the community but I am quite social. The community, friends and genuinity of living life is the biggest appeal to me. But also, growing up in the 80s and 90s in The Netherlands, I saw the movement grow and as such I was developing my identity during this huge and momentous time.
Coming into your adolescence and adulthood, what was the level of acceptance and tolerance towards queer communities in Amsterdam?
I think in a way it was a lot more open. It was the 80s, the decade of freedom, the time to be alive regardless of what you looked like or who you loved. I remember being about
seventeen or sixteen years old. I’d be walking about the city during summer and would think to myself, “Wow, everybody’s on the streets, drinking.” There were drag queens. There were beautiful people. There was love. It was really entertaining, especially because as I lived in a small town, so the city was so freeing. Back then nobody was shouting anything offensive, now if you wear a skirt or when you’re dressed in drag, people will stare at least.
How would you compare the ‘old days’ to now? Have you noticed any significant shifts in societal attitudes?
I would say the 60s and beginning of the 70s were difficult. It was those before us, before my generation, who did a lot of good work that allowed Amsterdammers to feel free and liberated in what would be those previously mentioned times to come.
From the post-war underground parties to the Cafe ‘t Mandje was started back in 1927 by Bet van Beeren, a lesbian, and she didn’t hide it from anyone. Although my parents were quite accepting, I still come from a smaller town where it was a bit more misunderstood. It was still necessary, hiding in the shadows of the cruising areas and forbidden meetings or so. There is and will always be an inner conflict not only when coming to others but yourself. I think now it’s much easier now, there is so much choice!
As an older queer individual, what advice or insights would you offer to younger generations who are navigating their own experiences within the Amsterdam queer community?
Trust yourself. Trust your guts and get out there, find your people and stick by them. Explore this world and yourself and don’t overthink it, in the end you know what is good for you deep down. You know I’ve started my life over four times and I always knew I was going to be okay. You will be okay too. So enjoy being young and alive, it goes quickly.