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UvA Pride Walk 2019. Photo: Jesper van de Vooren

‘Every LGBTQ+ student and staff member should be able to be themselves at the UvA.’

Published on 05-08-2022
An interview with UvA staff members Jesper van de Vooren & Jessica Fenenga who organised UvA's participation in Pride Amsterdam 2022
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Portret Jesper van de Vooren
Jesper van de Vooren
Portret Jessica Fenenga
Jessica Fenenga

After all the COVID restrictions threw a major spanner in the works over the past two years, UvA Pride is finally able to once again kick loose during Pride Amsterdam 2022! From Pride Walk to Pride University to Canal Parade: together with the VU Amsterdam, the AUAS and Inholland we join. In the light of the nine-day festival, dedicated to the celebration of the freedom to be able to be who you are and to love who you want to love, we will be getting acquainted with students and staff from the UvA who are involved in Pride Amsterdam this year. Last but not least: Jesper van de Vooren, Commercial Lead at the Amsterdam Business School of the Faculty of Economics and Business & Jessica Fenenga, Programme Support Officer for the MBA in General Management at the Faculty of Economics and Business. Through UvA Pride, they organised UvA's participation in Pride Amsterdam 2022.

Why is the UvA – via UvA Pride – taking part in Pride Amsterdam 2022? Why do you think it's important for the university to participate? In your opinion, what makes the organisational investment in this event worthwhile?

Jesper: ‘This participation sends the important message that the UvA advocates for every student and every member of staff to be free and able to be themselves and express themselves, and to feel confident that they will be met with empathy and recognition. Because the UvA – like the VU Amsterdam, AUAS and Inholland – is a study institution and therefore has an educational function in society, together we have applied the knowledge we possess to create a rich Pride University programme that is free for attendees and of which I'm proud. Also, sincere participation comes with an obligation for self-reflection. This means that we at the UvA also need to take a look in the mirror, and in doing so, we must make an honest, unflinching and critical assessment of the current state of LGBTQ+ inclusion within our organisation. Although some valuable things are happening, there are still opportunities left in this area. Capitalising on those opportunities will be the first step toward further progress.’

Jessica: ‘Participation means visibility and representation. Our LGBTQ+ staff and students must feel free, seen and valued. And they must know that we at the UvA and UvA Pride are here for them. Pride is not only a celebration, it's also a protest – with the traditional Pride Walk as its well-known symbol. I think that's necessary, because there's more than enough to protest when it comes to treating LHBTQ+ people with dignity and, therefore, as equals. Also within educational institutions, and also within “my” UvA.’

How are you involved in the LGBTQ+ community? How are you part of it?

Jesper: ‘Being a cisgender gay man makes me part of the LGBTQ+ community. Unlike people my age in the community, it seems like younger LGBTQ+ people are finding it increasingly easy to deviate from the heteronormative crowd. Seeing that, I hope it's right to conclude that we as a society – despite resistance – are becoming more tolerant and more inclusive, more emancipated in general. I'm kind of like the foreman here at UvA Pride; I lead the way. The desire to do that is in my nature. I also play tennis at an LGBTQ+ tennis club here in Amsterdam. Which is not only really friendly, but feels safe as well. I also volunteered with Pride & Sports until recently. Unfortunately, though, I had to stop because I was just too busy.’

Jessica: ‘I myself am non-binary and asexual. Being aware of those aspects of my identity is all still relatively new to me. Fortunately, at UvA Pride, I immediately felt like those aspects were okay. Waving a rainbow flag on behalf of my employer, the UvA, and being myself at work make me feel happy and proud. It's more than worth the effort.’

What does Pride mean for you? How do you yourself feel about Pride?

Jesper: ‘I strive for a society in which everyone is treated equally and therefore has equal opportunities as well. Regardless of their biological sex, sexual orientation and/or gender identity. A society like that would make the world a better place. That's the same message Pride is conveying, too.’

Jessica: ‘To me, Pride means being free to be my LGBTQ+ self, everywhere and at all times.’

With its theme of ‘My Gender, My Pride’, this year’s edition of Pride Amsterdam is the first to focus on gender identity rather than sexual orientation or diversity. How do you feel about that?

Jesper: ‘It's a good thing. Gender identity is still a bit of a neglected area. Which is why it's great that this edition of Pride Amsterdam is highlighting gender identity specifically.’

Jessica: ‘It's amazing! One issue that calls for protest is the ridiculously long waiting lists for trans care. Diversity in terms of gender identity can – no, must – become more visible. That visibility will get a boost from the fact that this year's Pride Amsterdam is highlighting the issue. Together with the VU Amsterdam, AUAS and Inholland, we in UvA Pride have looked at what this theme means to us and at how we could put it into visible practice as well. Then the idea for X=US arose, as a way to dispose of the binary distinction between male and female. If it's up to me, educational institutions - superfluously: including the UvA, should stop registering the gender of their students and staff members. After all: what you have in your pants is completely irrelevant to an educational institution, so why should they keep track?’