Being lesbian (1920’s – 2010’s).

I live a quite liberal life. In my own country and my own culture. Which means I do not hide my gender or my sexual prevalence. Of course I am open about both as my friends, family and readers know. After all, it’s 2012 and we live in a modern world, don’t we?

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1928 American Novel

But this is certainly not true everywhere. There are still many societies and cultures (and / or religions) that disapprove homosexuality and transgenderism. And being confronted with that after many years of being out of the closet is ehm, well ehm, confronting… Without giving away too much details I can safely say that it’s ok to be lesbian and travel and work in Nepal. As long as you stay beneith the radar. So for most of the time I did so. On the few occasions that I was open on myself I received mixed reactions. Some people, including my best friends there, didn’t make a fuss. Others however said they didn understand and as for most people the standard question for a western woman traveling alone is “do you have a husband?”. When answering no most people gave me some sort of pityful look and sometimes even said: “oh how sad.”. In most cases I didn continue conversation on the relationshsip line so that was it. And some specific situations turned awkward when people simply said “We don have that in our society.” Which is of course total crap.

I do honor other cultures and religions I am not familiair with so I just go things out of the way. Why would I make life more difficult than necessary?

But then love strikes and after an initially good time things turned for the worse. And I learned. The hard way. I learned that some things are simply not possible in traditional societies for all kinds of reasons. And I realized that although in many places on the globe people like me are gathered equal to anyone else there still are many, many places where that is certainly not true. That in itself makes me sad. Very sad. Because it takes away the opportunity for that one most beautiful thing on earth: love.

This world is not as modern is it looks like. Unfortunately.

Alice (c) 2012

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2011, a review.

It’s two weeks after the demise of 2011. A good moment for a quick review of my life in that year.

First of all, I’m getting used to realizing that part of my life actually is not following the western calendar but the Nepali calendar which means that this review is some three months too early. Anyway 3.5/12(2067)+8.5/12(2068)=2011 in a somewhat nonmathematical way the reality of last year but for the sake of readability and because I just happened to live in Europe until last year let’s review the past twelve months as the 2011. Thing is, 2011 has become a very surprising year in almost all aspects of life. So much has happened and although some things were really bad most of the year has brought me happiness. Reviewing is not an easy thing in my life as it might very well become a rollercoaster reading experience so I will try to stay chronologically correct.

End of 2010 I had started working on the Headwind project (then Atma project) to bring myself to Nepal and become useful for society in a place that is not as selfish and egocentric as the west. At the same time I had to experience a conflict in the lesbian scene in the Netherlands that pretty much made me sick to my stomach and desiring even more to let it all go and go elsewhere. Little did I know of what would happen.

In january the Atma Project turned into a project for filming a documentary and the decision was made to make a research trip to Nepal and hopefully to ‘a refugee camp’ to find out if making a film would be feasible. We left in February with three team members and it became an amazing trip. We did see a camp, we talked to UNHCR and affiliate organizations and we decided to go on with the filming. That is to say we decided I would continue filming. One team member couldn’t cope working in Nepal. In March we returned to Holland.
Back in Holland that lesbian thing had become worse and so did my disgust with it. It’s not nice to see how a friends business is destroyed by cybercrime and idiots spreading false information on the internet and in the scene. It’s even worse to find out that most lesbians and even some lgbt organizations swiftly hopped on the crucifixion bandwagon pushing for the destruction of an honest business and not caring one bit for the person who runs it. It became the downfall of many lesbian ‘icons’ for as far as I am concerned. So I wrote about that shit.

Then on March 22 the Goldhap camp in Nepal burned down and I just had to leave for Nepal to go to the site as soon as possible. Which meant that I left for Kathmandu in April and stayed there until August. That whole summer including the monsoon I worked and filmed there. I wrote my novel in June (to be published within a couple of months) and I came back with almost all the footage I had set out to get. I visited three major camps including the unfortunate Goldhap camp and the huge Beldangi refugee camp. I gained friendships with amazing people and in the end I lost my heart in Nepal. In August I returned, in love with the country, the people and a woman that I’d met. I had not intended to fall in love, but I did. Still I didn’t know if the feeling was mutual in spite of the special friendship we already had developed. From September disaster (relative disaster that is) struck. The investments for the film had been high and financial support extremely low basically draining my last financial means to the extend that I had to leave my house. Eviction, a traumatic experience.

But I found out that friends do exist and to my great surprise within weeks I found a much cheaper and much nicer place to live. Within a group of people in a beatiful city house and for the first time in ten years I really felt at home. Home is not about the roof above the head but about the people one lives with. A great lesson to learn. And although the financial troubles were big, and still are unsolvable, I felt much happier. The filmwork was in good progress although the Dutch shooting took much longer than anticipated. And then after a couple of month filled with homesickness for the beautiful Nepal countryside and missing my dear friends there all of a sudden that phonecall was there. My co-producer / co-director suggesting me to travel to Nepal and India to escape the grey Dutch winter.

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I knew it was my chance to do extra fieldwork of the things I had missed and, more important, to find out wether my love was something that could be mutual. To find out if she loved me too. So we went on December 10. Back to Kathmandu, back to Jhapa, Damak, the camps, the little farm, to my love. The trip to Nepal and India was amazing. A true adventure shared with the best travel and working companion imaginable and resulting in more than 10.000 photo’s, 8 hours of great video and in the end with a new love in my life. December has been the best month in the year for me which is in itself miraculous as I tend to hate that month.

So it worked out pretty well. And here I am now, fresh in the new year, counting the days before I can travel back to Nepal and start a new life, living together with my love in Kathmandu for at least half of the year and maybe longer when we’re smart. Only months before the release of Headwind, the documentary and the publication of not one but three books. Only months before I will be able to hold her again with the solid intention to start sharing life again.

In the meanwhile that gruesome Dutch lesbian community affair had escalated into the courtroom and end of the coming week a verdict will be read by a judge against one of the people who’ve been rightfully accused of setting up a slanker campaign to kill some other woman’s business. I’m curious wether justice will be done.

As for me, this year will be different from other years, this year I will divide my life between time in my country of birth and time in my country of love. This year will be the year that I am finally done with the biggest perils in my life and restart into another stage of my life with better, more important and more creative work and for the most of it together with that one woman I love so much.

2011 has been a miracle, 2012 is going to be magic!

Alice © 2012

Havoc on Lesbos.

ANOTHER UPDATE (November 7):
Today I receive d a threatening email from a Dutch lawyer summoning me to take back the article you can read underneath these lines. Of course I shall not do that. My public reaction to this can be read here: http://wp.me/p29zz-1KP.

UPDATE:
As the latest reactions on this article do not add anything to what’s already been written the possibility to file any further comments is closed as of now. If you want to react further, please email me directly on alice.schrijft@xs4all.nl.

As the writer of this article I do understand that some people who have additional information are afraid to react publicly but still want to share that information. That is possible! Any reactions containing new information and additional facts are most welcome. Sources will be protected by me as I never reveal them according to normal journalistic standards. New information is welcome and will possibly be used for a follow up article that is currently being composed by me.

Alice Verheij 

English translation of a previously published Dutch language article on this website.

Sometimes I would like that lesbians, or maybe the whole gay community, would behave themselves a little bit more like the heterosexual mainstream. Mind you, sometimes, only sometimes. A lesbian businesswoman operating in the lesbian market told me a while ago that she didn’t understand why some lesbian businesswomen in ‘the community’ behaved themselves the way they do without scruples. My curiosity was awakened and I wondered what had happened. After a few months of research in the dark dungeons of the lesbian business community I got my answer. Which was not a very nice answer because it seemed that there were very dubious, if not Mafioso, practices going on out there. Healthy competition seems to be banned, just like a free market. Intimidation and manipulation rule.

Since many years a festival is being organized on the Greek island of Lesbos aimed at lesbian women. For the outsiders: on Lesbos once lived Sappho, a famous Greek female poet who wrote about lesbian love. The lesbian pilgrimage is visited yearly by a large number of lesbian women from all over the globe around the solstice during summer. Women who collectively enjoy sun, sea, food, hospitality and each other, celebrating the lesbian lifestyle. The ‘International Eressos Women’s Festival’ in Skala Eressos is an attraction for many lesbians and many have been there or will go there because one should go there at someday. If you like great music you wait every year for the Dutch Pinkpop Festival and if you as a woman love women   Lesbos lures you in the summer. It’s a great festival. Or rather: it was a great festival.

Where many people travel rises business interest. It’s like that in the hetero world and the lesbian community obviously is just like that. And although the Netherlands is a small country, it certainly is not without importance in the international lesbian community. That business interest, thus money, translates itself normally into a healthy competition between businesspeople and companies. The hundreds of women who travel to the Skala Eressos festival every year represent (travel, accommodation and expenses added up) the equivalent of a couple of hundred thousand Euro’s potentially rising to about a quarter million Euro’s. A bag full of money who for some is so attractive that they choose to fight newcomers in that market. That fight, according to the lamentation of the business woman, knows no scruples. Literally.

What’s the issue? Since April 2010 the Dutch based travel agency TravelWomen, which aimes specifically at the lesbian market, is trying to monopolize the market. That is done by at least supporting a (now after nine months of creating havoc) slander campaign against their newcomer competitor Pink Pearls. Which, when the issue escalated to Dutch soil, ended up in threats and intimidation and even blackmail of artists who were booked to perform on women parties organized by that same newcomer competitor. A slander campaign orchestrated by an anonymous group of lesbian women. This group a.k.a. ‘De Moraalprincessen’ (the Morale princesses), succeeded in their endeavor with a social media (Facebook and Hyves) centered slander campaign. They were able to do that because on the one hand the victimized business woman was not able to respond timely and adequately because of very sad personal circumstances and on the other hand because many women in the lesbian community hopped on the slandering bandwagon. Tempted by the sensationalist gossiping of populistic lesbians mainly from the Amsterdam lesbian community. No means were shunned to push the competition out of the market and as a smart distraction maneuver the organization of parties was spearheaded to ‘get their point across’ within the community, sidelining the concerned businesswoman. The parties organized by ‘Garbo for Women’, previously organized by two (now former) businesspartners (the women behind ‘Garbo for Women’ and ‘Garbo Amsterdam’) were monopolized by the first. Although both business partners had previously agreed that they would both follow their own track to organize their own parties ad lib, ‘Garbo Amsterdam’ was falsely accused of name stealing the Garbo name. Social media were extensively used to blacken and destroy ‘Garbo Amsterdam’. Even an (expensive) name change to ‘Pink Pearls’ was to no avail. Women were pressed through social media to boycott the Pink Pearls parties. The organization behind Garbo for Women stayed silent, they were not attacked end pushing out Garbo Amsterdam was beneficial for the business. They enjoyed that the uncritically community morally allotted the Garbo name to them. But it didn’t end there.

Garbo Amsterdam (now Pink Pearls), who organized the Garbo Amsterdam parties (later the Pink Pearls parties), owns some other businesses. A datingsite, a webzine and the organization of travels to the Eressos festival on Lesbos. Which was the original target. So, coincidentally , in April another group of again anonymous lesbian women started, in close cooperation with a German company (Skytravel24 from Wiesbaden) a slander campaign by publishing a Europe wide press statement. From early 2009 it was reported in the media that the festival in september on Lesbos was organized by TravelWomen. This, of course was not true because the real organizers of the festival, Sappho Women, is a Greek organization based on the island. Even a respectable newspaper like the ‘Volkskrant’ was misguided in a published interview with the editor in chief of the ‘Zij Aan Zij’, a Dutch lesbian monthly, in which again this false image of reality was painted. In June the campaign intensified en as said, a press statement was issued and distributed on June 28 on Lesbos. Again social and traditional media were used. That misguiding press statement kept on circulating until the September festival amongst women visiting Lesbos. Those campaigns were led by the anonymous groups ‘The Lesbian Veterans of Eressos’ on Lesbos and ‘De Moraalprincessen’ on Facebook and Hyves in the Netherlands. But with some digging it was not that difficult to unveil the people behind these anonymous groups until last week the Facebook and Hyves groups disappeared from the net.

TravelWomen, the travel agency in Utrecht, the Netherlands, succeeded as an effect of this campaign in pushing Pink Pearls out of the market (temporarily). Business benefits: an estimated €150.000 2011 turnover from travels and accommodations that would not have to be shared with a competitor. The prognosed turnover for 2012 is considerably higher. Pink Pearls was forced to annul the September journeys to Lesbos to prevent further damage to the festival. The Greeks (Sappho Women) were not amused with this pause in their working relationship but also didn’t want to become victims of the business issues of Dutch companies. The Zij aan Zij magazine, the as mentioned earlier leading (young, hip, tolerant and sexy) monthly for lesbian women let themselves once again to be the promotional channel and publicized in January 2011 an insinuation against Pink Pearls regarding the Garbo womens parties. Of course not mentioned by name, but that obviously is not necessary in the lesbian community where most readers know very well who is intended. That this magazine is disregarding normal journalistic practice is obvious but that it by doing that became part of a criminal conspiracy is naive, to say the least. That magazine is not the only organization that was led by the nose. Even known organizations and individuals in the gay scene have compromised themselves by supporting comments to the ‘Moraalprincessen’ on their Facebook and Hyves pages. Demonstrating that populistic and publicity horny gays are uncritically following slander campaigns easily. Especialle when personal or business  profits are out there. Of course a magazine needs content and workshops need to be sold.

In the meanwhile in Greece in the Lesbos capitol Myitilini a court case is filed concerning Mafioso practices against the German company. The Dutch court case around these slander campaigns concerning the Garbo name and travel business is upcoming. In the past nine months proof has been gathered on both slander campaigns against the originators. It now is a solid legal case. When the summons will be send it is to be expected that a small shockwave will go through the lesbian community. Because who would have thought that Dutch lesbian business women would use Mafioso practices or let themselves be dragged into that? Who would have thought the lesbian business community in the Netherlands is so sock that even abroad court cases are being held? And  who would have thought that lesbian business women have so few scruples in shitting their own nests.

Soon I will publish more information about this case. The waiting now is on the summons to go out and the moves made by the involved businesses in Greece and the Netherlands. The sad thing is of course that the business woman at the start of this article, Annelies Hintjes, as the driving force behind Pink Pearls, is being forced to follow the legal path out of self protection. That while the only thing she really wanted to do was organize compelling parties and beautiful travels for lesbian women together with Sappho Women, the Greek organizers of the festivals in Skala Eressos. That lesbian women choose to fight commercial interests with illegal practices is as far as I am concerned shocking.

Alice Verheij © 2011

Alice Verheij is a Dutch novelist, film maker and journalist writing about social topics including refugees, womens and gay rights and the lgbt community. Many of her publications can be read at www.aliceverheij.net

Proud@.nl

Every picture tells a story. As Rod Stewart once sang on just another one of his albums. And it’s true. Just like that a picture is a thousand words. My life and work now is all about pictures. Pictures made by me and other photographers. The culmination of my work over the recent months at this stage is the photo exhibition, hopefully soon to be followed by the film. But there’s more happening around me.

Some time ago, early this year, I met Johan Brouwer. He is an artist, photographer, who works on the empowerment of gay people in the Netherlands and he does so in a vey positive way. His response to the increasingly bad sentiments in Dutch society regarding gay people was his idea to make a photo and storybook that will show the beauty of the diversity that the gay, or better lgbt, world in the Netherlands has. We talked about it and he asked me if I was available to be part of it. Like publishing a portrait of me in his book ‘Proud@.nl‘.

I suggested not to print a couple of photos but to use one, made by him at a place that’s somehow special to me, and publish that accompanied by a story of me. We agreed and the photo that you see here was taken at the Lange Voorhout, close to Pulchri, in the city where I was born, raised and where I now live. During the summer I wrote a story for the book while I was in Kathmandu.

Johan’s book, that I already love before I have seen the whole book, is soon to be published. Early Oktober there will be a presentation in Amsterdam. I’ll be there with a performance. What I’ll do there is a surprise, even for Johan. I am happy that in this way, by being involved and having a portrait of me published together with a short story in Johan’s book, I can contribute to a different style of gay pride than that was is usually regarded as pride.

There are very few transgender lesbian artists who are public on their gender and sexuality up to the level of being open, out and visible. It’s a choice I made to do this. I did so because of Johan’s positive angle on the topic and the quality of the book he is making. I feel proud to be part of it. Also because I’m part of a selection of people in that book that is a great selection with amazing people. So, if you want to see more of what Johan made: buy the book once it hits the bookstores. It’s worth your money. Check out www.proudat.nl for a sneak peak.

Alice © 2011