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17.01.2018 | Words by: Emma van Meyeren

This Sunday Job Jobse is taking over the club for a 12-hour marathon in honor of the Queer Welfare Project. Financing welfare expenses of queer refugees, the project is initiated by and for bicultural LGBT+ people. The Queer Welfare project offers financial support to enhance wellbeing of those part of both the refugee community, as well as the LBGT+ community. Expenses such as covering travel costs of refugees who live in asylum centers in all corners of the country to the cities where events for their community are organized, for instance.

Nightlife has long been one of those spaces created for and by queer people’s welfare. As professor Luis-Manuel Garcia wrote in this Resident Advisor piece, queer people of color founded and sustained the now very profitable world of Electronic Dance Music. The current erasure of that legacy as the industry is growing is not only dishonest towards the music’s history and culture, it also forms a constraint on queer welfare – as aggression towards queer people in nightlife is not uncommon.

Amsterdam-based dancers Ahmed Mahamed and Aura Lydon therefore create awareness and visibility for the queer community in EDM through their project Dance With Pride. Their T-shirts are a colorful and empowering reminder of the queer roots of EDM and their profits are donated to The Queer Welfare Project. Bringing these communities together, we asked both Job Jobse and one of the initiators of The Queer Welfare Project, Isjed Hussain, some questions about queerness and nightlife.

Q: Could you tell me something about what The Queer Welfare Project means to you?

Isjed: As a bicultural queer person working with refugees for De Veilige Haven I have noticed over these past years how the rules for financial support of refugees become more and more strict. Especially for refugees who have been here for a long time, access to financial support is very limited. This means that it’s incredibly hard for them to participate in Dutch society and to navigate the infrastructure here because the Netherlands is a very bureaucratic country. I started The Queer Welfare Project together with a few friends to help out people with getting more social contacts. Battling solitude amongst this group is incredibly important as it can take very long for the asylum process to finalize. With this project we also aim to empower people from another perspective than most projects that are being set up for bicultural LGBT+ people. A lot of the time people talk about us but they don’t talk with us. This is something we try to change by dividing the power. From this year onwards, queer refugees can write their own projects and get funding with us.

Job: I found out about it last summer through Aura and Ahmed’s Dance With Pride project. I immediately felt personally connected to it. I think it’s such important and urgent cause. So when De School’s programmer Luc Mastenbroek and I were planning another fundraiser at De School it was clear from the start that we wanted to ask them to be involved in the event.

Q: When I visited the Museum of Sex this summer I walked through an exhibition that paid homage to the “sexually and socially radical multiculturalism embraced by the New York disco clubs of the late ‘70s”. It showed pictures of a type of nightlife we often hear about: an open and inclusive space where people can be who they want to be. At the same time, we don’t always experience nightlife in that way. I’m thinking, for instance, about Ten Walls' homophobic comments from 2015, but I’m sure you know many other examples. How do you experience queerness in nightlife?

Job: On the one hand things are definitely moving forward. I see things getting better around me day by day. For example, playing a queer night at Bassiani in Tbilisi, Georgia last year felt super special. Seeing two guys kiss in a place where that used to be kind of unthinkable was really beautiful. I also think De School is feeling more queer every weekend, more than Trouw or 11 ever did. On the other hand there are still so many terrible things happening, like people being beaten up on the streets of Amsterdam because of their sexuality.

Isjed: I have actually fairly recently started to consider myself queer. Before I used to go to a lot of Gay parties and nights but I’ve always noticed how it didn’t entirely fit with my identity. As a bicultural born male (who is feminine) going out for me is never really feels safe. I encounter racism, transphobia and also sexism.

Q: Some types of music or parties have especially important roles for queer people. I think for instance of the first time I saw the movie Paris is Burning, and learned about the ballroom community and the influence The Ha Dance had on the music I love. Are there specific tracks or styles or parties that have (had) an important impact on you?

Job: The list is endless. I dream about dancing at the Paradise Garage in 1981. When Larry Levan played Is It All Over My Face? several times a night. I fantasize about how Arthur Russell wrote that record, challenging the social norms when it came to queer lyrics, expressing what he was going through at the time. I daydream about being at one of those balls from Paris is Burning, seeing Venus Xtravaganza walk to that very same song.

I imagine visiting Le Pulp in ’98 when Jennifer, Chloé and Ivan were everything, being at the old Ostgut for a Snax night or hearing Joost van Bellen play house for the first time at the RoXY. I remember dancing in the Lab at Berghain on New Year’s Day, screaming the lyrics of Always On My Mind by The Pet Shop Boys from the top of my lungs, thinking this is where I belong.

I’m eternally grateful to Carlos and Sandrien for taking me to De Trut, giving me my first real queer clubbing experience in Amsterdam and showing me what a safe space really is. They’ve been pushing queerness in nightlife for as long I’ve been around and are doing an incredible job with their Is Burning parties right now.

My last tour in the US was also really inspiring. It was great to meet and truly get to know the people behind Honcho in Pittsburgh, Spotlight in LA, Honey in SF and Men’s Room, Hugo Ball and Queen in Chicago. To see how they run their events and how they work together. The queer scene over there is really killing it.

Q: Do you think nightlife can be, or already is, one of the ways the community of the Queer Welfare Project connects with each other?

Isjed: That can be the case, people can meet each other in clubs and make really good connections. I met some of my friends and colleagues while clubbing. Now we see each other in more empowering environments like projects and meetings we or other people organize.

I think nightlife can be a difficult place to navigate for queer refugees because of the racism they face. There is a lot of racism in nightlife in the Netherlands, even when some people don’t want to acknowledge it. So that can mean that people who are refugees would rather hang out with each other because it feels safer with their “own” people.

For the community of The Queer Welfare Project it’s important that we can talk and learn more about the issues we face. Recently I attended a workshop with people from the University of Colour about decolonizing beauty. I think events like that where we can talk about racism and westernized beauty standards are empowering for us. We try to focus on self-education and role models that look like us.

Q: In the spirit of queer welfare and the start of a new year, what can we do in 2018 to take better care of ourselves and our communities?

Isjed: It is really important not to judge people. That is also the most difficult thing, because we are all human beings. Just try to always be nice to people even if you don't agree with them. It is also important to say sorry to people you might have hurt. Help people without expecting anything back and the universe will give back so much positivity and love to you.

Job: Spread more love. Try to include people that feel left out. Stay open minded to other people’s feelings or opinions. Always strive to do better. I think that’s the key… Maybe you haven’t always exactly handled things the right way, and that’s okay, but if someone calls you out on it don’t get defensive. Instead – just listen, accept it, apologize and make sure to do better next time.

Job Jobse is donating his fee and De School is donating 3 euros off every ticket for this Sunday. Job will play from 15.00 unitl 03.00 at night. Pre sale tickets are sold out, but there are plenty of tickets available at the door. Dance with Pride shirts will be up for sale in De School.
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