This image is part of the project ESTRANGED

What are things that make you uncomfortable? Would you start to feel uncomfortable if people said to your face that you belong in hell and must suffer there forever? Or does discomfort creep up on you when you are shut out, humiliated and condemned for something you can't do anything about.


I get uncomfortable with the statement: in the Netherlands we are so acceptable and here everyone is accepted. I know from experience as a homosexual that this is something that is said so that we can all feel good about ourselves, but the reality is painful and uncomfortable.


Painful is not daring to hold your boyfriend's hand because you know that if you did you could just get beaten up. It is uncomfortable to be called a dirty faggot for crossing a crosswalk. Or to be humiliated every week for not achieving the set masculinity standard.


Being accepted for who you are is something everyone wants at the end of the day. I yearned the most for acceptance in high school. Not just from others but from myself. I was resisting the realization that I was different from everyone else. This was largely because in school, the word gay was widely used as a swear word. But this was also because I had ''friends'' who excluded me and sometimes didn't talk to me for days.


The discomfort and shame was strong during this period. How uncomfortable it is when you spend the break in the library because your ''friends'' pretend you don't exist anymore and you don't even know what to do with yourself. Hoping only that the teachers or librarian didn't notice, because that would be even more embarrassing.


Fortunately, things can't be bad forever and after a while I became comfortable with myself. As a result, I became less dependent on these ''friends'' and thus formed real friendships with people who didn't hurt me on a daily basis. I came out of the closet overcoming discomfort with myself to finally get the acceptance I had been desperately seeking for years both from myself and others. It offered a new perspective with new opportunities and possibilities that I hardly dared to dream about in my adolescence, such as love.


This picture is called ESTRANGED and was made by Arjan Spannenburg. It is a retrospective on the period that I did not know who I was and what I had to do with myself. I felt completely lost, alienated, alone and vulnerable. This fitted well with the project about young people who hide part of their identity for fear of reactions from society, because they do not meet the socially established standards that still often apply.