“I was very lucky to have had Henny as a role model for myself. Henny was an unmarried woman teaching at a Jesuit School I attended in the late 1960s when she gave birth to her child. At the time that was really very unusual. But she was such a wise and brilliant teacher, and so popular, like a mother figure to many of her students. Despite of all the Jesuit rules she stayed teaching at our school. Years later, I learned she also came out as a lesbian. Because she dared to be different, we all loved and celebrated her. Everyone did, even the priests. She encouraged everyone to be more open-minded just by being herself. I often think about the impact she had on so many lives, mine included. I feel grateful that I had the chance to be near her. It’s a good reminder for me about how important it is to have inspiring role models, and the need for proper education about homosexuality at a young age for everybody.
When I started volunteering in the gay community at the age of 24, I discovered that the focus of gay activism was mainly negative and that it was centered on the problems and suffering around being gay. I knew that was true for a lot of us, but thanks to Henny I could feel that there were also many other aspects of being gay that needed to be celebrated. So I set up a theater café within the COC gay organization using performing arts such as poetry, cabaret and even puppetry to share stories and celebrate and support gay identity. I also became manager of a gay theatre group that performed a strong content variety show all over the country. I can still see the faces of the audiences being moved in so many different ways on so many different levels being connected to the subject of homosexuality.
I hope I can be a kind of role model for the next generation. I want to celebrate the beautiful variations of human beings and share about how important diversity is for everybody. It’s not just important to gays and lesbians. I see it as essential for everyone to be true to themselves. How else can you really breathe and function in life without being open about who you are?”