OUTcast S2, Ep 4 • 21 March 2022 • 25:35
00:00:05 Rosie: Welcome to OUTcast, the podcast where we catch up with some of the most engaging, courageous, and inspiring LGBTQ+ people from all over the world. We ask our lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and queer guests where their coming out journeys began, what they’ve gone through along the way – the joy and the pain, but we promise there will be more joy – and what gives them hope. I’ll be interviewing people from all walks of life, from hardworking, queer people behind the scenes to more familiar faces you might have never known even had the coming out stories they are about to share. You can follow us on social media, at @OUTcastLGBT, and you can find us online at outcastpod.com.
00:01:00 Rosie: This week, we’re welcoming Hanna van Vliet to the show. Hanna is a Dutch actor known for co-creating and playing the lead in the brilliant Dutch LGBTQ+ coming of age series and film ANNE+. She studied Drama and Contemporary Music Theatre at Amsterdam University of the Arts, and since graduating she’s appeared in the films Quicksand and Lost Transport, and she’s currently filming for the Dutch drama series, The dream of Youth. In 2020, Hanna was nominated for a Golden Calf Award at the Netherlands Film Festival for her portrayal of Anne in ANNE+. And she’s also been nominated for the Musical Award twice at the Prix Europe.
Hanna, welcome to OUTcast It’s so good to meet you. Where does your coming out story begin?
00:01:48 Hanna: I guess my coming out story begins at the moment that I fell in love with a girl for the first time. From that point on you are occupied thinking about when you will maybe tell your friends, or maybe tell the girl or maybe tell people. I didn’t right away, of course, but I think that’s where it started in a way. And that was when I was 16. And then when I think back on my earlier years, I feel like I might’ve been attracted to girls way earlier, but, yeah, that might be relatable for a lot of people.
00:02:27 Rosie: Yeah. And you sort of realised yourself, but what about, like, telling people? Did you tell friends first or parents first?
00:02:36 Hanna: I was in a youth theatre company with another friend of mine, a guy. And at the same time that I fell in love with this girl, he fell in love with a guy for the first time. So this was in a way, a very safe space or a safe way to discover a little bit and talk to each other about it. So I feel like I’ve always had this one friend and then like the two people we fell in love with, we were like a group of friends, the four of us. So there was this weird safe environment.
00:03:08 Rosie: Yeah. So, lovely.
00:03:10 Hanna: Yeah, I think that’s really nice. It helped me to not feel too weird about it, I think. But then in school, like in high school, I didn’t tell anyone, ever. Which is also interesting to me because I don’t remember struggling that much, or I don’t really remember having like a traumatised high school time because I couldn’t tell anything about the girl I was in love with. But still I didn’t tell anyone, so I bet I did struggle because otherwise I would have told my friends. Right?
00:03:47 Rosie: Yeah. And you’re wanting to talk about crushes and stuff of that age. That resonates with me. I didn’t feel like there was a struggle that I was aware of, but I certainly was … I was very delayed in telling people. It took me to go to university, and I didn’t talk to school either, yeah.
00:04:05 Hanna: No. Me either no. And maybe also not even to myself in a way. I kept telling myself, “oh, I think I’m bi.” I really think I thought I was bi also because I fell in love with guys before as well. And so I thought, “well, oh I’m in love with a girl now, but maybe there will be a guy after, I don’t know.” But I kept telling myself this for quite some years where I was actually maybe also a bit sure that wouldn’t happen again.
00:04:37 Rosie: And it turned out that it didn’t, I’m guessing?
00:04:40 Hanna: It didn’t. I would be very surprised if it would happen!
00:04:45 Rosie: And what about telling family or parents?
00:04:48 Hanna: Well, I remember talking with my mum a couple of years later already, but then she made it quite easy for me because she was like, “oh yeah, well, haven’t we all felt something for girls?” So I was like, “oh, okay.” But then I told my parents in the car, like another year later when I had my first girlfriend, I was just like, “Hey guys, I have some fun news. I’m in love. And, it’s mutual.” And then I was like, “and it’s a girl!” And then my parents are both doctors, so they were very, medical about it in anyway, they were like, “yeah, it’s a scale, sexuality is a scale.” And that was quite nice, yeah.
00:05:36 Rosie: Yeah. And supportive.
00:05:38 Hanna: Yeah.
00:05:39 Rosie: So you’ve mentioned high school and things, but since coming out to yourself, to your parents, since knowing you’re queer, are there any places where you still couldn’t come out or where you struggled to come out?
00:05:52 Hanna: Well, I think we all have days that we don’t come out right? In different situations. But, um, no, I have to say like all the big environments in my life, I’ve just been open about this luckily. But I mean, every time you go on a vacation and you’re in front of the reception desk and they keep telling you to change your double bed into two single beds. And you’re like, “no,” all those moments, they stay, right?
00:06:28 Rosie: Yeah. And you have to come out all the time, and…
00:06:31 Hanna: Yeah. Yeah. And then sometimes of course we’re not walking hand in hand all the time in every city in the world on every time of the day.
00:06:40 Rosie: Yeah. Yeah.
00:06:42 Hanna: I feel like it’s important to be open about this actually. Also sometimes when it’s a bit awkward, I also actively come out sometimes.
00:06:51 Rosie: Yeah. That’s it. Because you’re breaking down any kind of shame or perceived shame. And, you know, you’re trailing a path for people who are less able to be out for whatever reason, whether they’re in the country in the world where it’s illegal or if they’re struggling or they’ve got a difficult home environment.
00:07:11 Hanna: Exactly. Yeah. And sometimes when I’m like in countries where it’s not allowed, or not accepted, I do want to walk hand in hand, even though it’s weird. It might be weird. Or maybe my girlfriend’s like, “please, come on. Not here.” But then I feel like, yeah, but if they never see lesbians in real life, it will always be a big issue.
00:07:36 Rosie: That’s it. I had a guest at the beginning of the season talking about this and he said that if we come out in that tertiary way, every single day, we might just change the person who’s just heard that opinion, just very slightly. And we can make a, kind of, great change through all of those small coming outs.
00:07:56 Hanna: Yeah. Through a micro revolution.
00:08:13 Rosie: What are the biggest challenges facing the LGBTQ+ community today? We’ve made so much progress, but are there any sort of areas where you’re like the fight isn’t over and we need to keep talking about this?
00:08:27 Hanna: Oh yes, of course. The fight isn’t over at all. I mean, there is still a way higher rate of violence against LGBTQ people – either, physically or mentally, even in the Netherlands. I live in Amsterdam and we are considered one of the most open-minded countries or cities in the world. And we were the first to legalize gay marriage 20 years ago. But here it’s also happening. I mean, a trans woman was killed two weeks ago in the Netherlands. That’s a different fight now here, because people feel like they are very open-minded and progressive, but they’re not. So that sometimes it’s like an unclear enemy to fight, in a way. You know what I mean?
00:09:18 Rosie: I think some people think they’re so intelligent or woke or whatever it is, or they’re on the left side of the spectrum so they don’t need to worry any more. That they don’t need to think about things. I think that’s where you get these backlashes. I don’t know if it’s the same in the Netherlands, but coverage of trans rights and trans lives is so divisive in the media at the moment, all over the world, and arguments about trans rights are then coming into feminist discussions.
00:09:47 Hanna: Yeah.
00:09:48 Rosie: Especially mainstream feminist discussions. And it’s really frustrating because everyone’s losing the point that we all need to support each other.
00:09:58 Hanna: Sometimes I have the feeling we’re going back, a little bit, also in Amsterdam.
00:10:03 Rosie: Yeah. You go so far forward that then the backlash really takes traction and spoils it all.
00:10:11 Hanna: Yeah. But that’s hard to understand, I think. Even though I know that this is like the, a normal movement in time, but as a queer person, that’s really a weird feeling, you know? Because it’s so fundamentally about your self, about just being alive, about being in love, about the right to just walk on the street. I love Amsterdam and there’s a lot we have accomplished, but it’s weird that we still have this conversation about what we have accomplished. Where it just shouldn’t be a conversation at all, of course.
00:10:51 Rosie: It’s very interesting. And very interesting to hear the Netherlands perspective, especially. Because I think we do, I think we all go, “oh my God. Imagine living in Amsterdam?”
00:11:02 Hanna: It’s also true. I mean, there is a nice queer scene here. There’s bars and clubs and festivals and pride is fun and a very big mainstream event where a lot of straight people come to have beers and to have fun. But at the same time, that’s also the danger, you know. That pride here is pretty commercialised actually.
00:11:25 Rosie: Yeah. Yeah.
00:11:27 Hanna: But if you ask people; straight guys who are drunk, watching the boats, if you ask them, “why are you here? What is this day? What does it mean?” They have no clue. Where we should still have this conversation, you know? And sometimes it feels like the conversation doesn’t get the same amount of space as the commercial version of pride and they should both exist, I think. But it’s important to realise that it’s, that it’s not a party actually. It’s still a protest.
00:11:59 Rosie: Such a good point. I was speaking about something similar with another guest. We were talking about how it’s almost like we’ve sort of minimised ourselves and become a palatable version of things, to allow mainstream media, the mainstream in general, to support us whether it’s, you know, marriage equality or yeah, pride and Mardi Gras in Sydney as well, being super commercial. So that at least the heteronormative culture can get what it needs from us. And we all just sort of happily go along with it. So you’re right. I think we need to remember what it was all about and what we were fighting for. And I think having equality is so important. So marriage equality is important, as long as we can have it in our way and be queer people and celebrate being queer.
00:12:43 Hanna: Yeah. And we also should be inclusive. You know, also in pride. The Dutch pride is also very white. Very white and a lot of CIS gay guys.
00:12:56 Rosie: Yeah.
00:12:57 Hanna: But this is also something that’s not that widely discussed.
00:13:02 Rosie: Yeah. And I wanted to touch on that. How as an LGBTQ+ community, can we support the diversity of our community better?
00:13:11 Hanna: Well, I think it all starts with listening and with the realisation that you don’t know everything. Well, actually you don’t know anything about the life of a black trans person, even though you’re in the queer community. It’s a different experience. And I think if we would all just put down our egos and just have the ability to listen, really, that would be… that’s like the start, that’s a good start, I think.
00:13:42 Rosie: Yeah.
00:13:43 Hnna: And not be possessive about our, you know, our experience as queer people in a way.
00:13:50 Rosie: Yeah. Listening and reading.
00:14:11 Let’s talk about ANNE+. It’s amazing. You’re the co-creator and the lead of the TV series, which is now a film…
00:14:18 Hanna: Yes.
00:14:19 Rosie: Let’s go back to the beginning. How did it all come about?
00:14:22 Hanna: It started five years ago when Maud Wiemeijer and Valerie Bisscheroux, the creators, the writer and the director, were having a beer in a gay bar in Amsterdam. And they were talking about the lack of lesbian representation in the media, in film and TV. So they were like, “yeah, we should, we should try to make something. We should make a web series that would go all around the world and set in Amsterdam.” And then a couple of weeks later, I think Maud came with an idea for a show called ANNE+ with six episodes where we see six different, or five different, girls. And then it moved very quickly, I think. Then they sat together brainstorming about who should play this role. They found it very important that it should be a queer actor. And then they also saw me sometimes in this gay bar knowing I was an actor. It was a much smaller project back then.
00:15:25 Hanna: It just felt like, oh, this, you know, off-Broadway small, um, YouTube idea. So I said, “yes”, because I felt like, “oh, that’s cool. I can play a lesbian for once. I always play straight girls having to do like sex scenes with guys. It would be nice to, just to, play something that’s a little bit closer to me.” We tried to sell it to mainstream media, the idea, but a lot of people thought it was niche. It was quite hard to find the money. Actually it didn’t work at all. We also were very young of course, with like not big curriculums. And I have to say this as well, but also this point of, “oh, it’s a lesbian series. That’s such a small group, such a small audience. It’s never gonna work.” It turns out to be a big mistake!
00:16:18 Rosie: Every day, nearly, me and my partner were like, “we need something good lesbian to watch!”
00:16:23 Hanna: Yeah. Yeah. We needed to find the money. So we did a crowdfunding, there was a lot of enthusiasm in the Dutch community. And then the Mill Street Films, our producer, stepped in and we could finish the first season. And then from there, it just went on. We got to travel the world with our first little season, you know, that was really cool. And to meet other communities all around the world. I travelled to São Paulo for instance, to Brazil, with this very Dutch, very light happy series. And of course they live in a very different reality there with the president, like Bolsonaro. But to meet all those people and talk about the show and talk about the films they made. And it was really just such a big joy, not only as an actor, but also as a human being. This all happened, and then we were able to make a second season for Dutch television, and then Netflix was interested in buying the seasons, and they were interested in making a film with us. That’s of course a dream come true.
00:17:37 Rosie: Amazing. We discovered it in England and we just fell in love with the series. It’s so positive and it’s so ordinary, but beautiful. Why do you think it has resonated so strongly with audiences all over the world?
00:17:54 Hanna: I think, what you say. Like, it’s, it’s ordinary in a way. I think it’s relatable because it has very universal themes, like being in love and being heartbroken and being a 20-something person, not knowing what to do with your life. And I think it’s relatable for a lot of people, probably. Also for straight people, by the way. We also have a straight audience who likes the series and is surprised by it also because they were like, “oh, I don’t know why I started watching because yeah, I’m not sure if I’m the audience… and I like it so much in the scene where you, where you get this Tinder message, and, uh, it was so relatable and well…” that’s very funny to me that straight guys come up to me in the streets, telling me that they saw and like the show.
00:18:47 Rosie: I love that. It’s so relatable. Like I think a lot of the scenes, probably us in our twenties or thirties even can be like, “uh, yeah I remember a moment like that.”
00:18:58 Hanna: It’s the big talent also of the writer Maud Wiemeijer. I’ve never had a scenario, I think, with such natural dialogue, for instance. And there’s so much space also because of the director, there’s a lot of space to improvise or they like, they really like us to bring a lot of ourselves to the table. And I think those are all things you feel in the show. And also because we started it off all voluntarily, nobody got paid, a lot of the people cast and crew are queer themselves and do understand the importance and the necessity also of the show.
00:19:42 Rosie: Yeah, definitely. And did it feel very different? I mean, it sounds like it’s been a bit of an evolution, but did it feel different being on a set for the TV show compared to the film? Like, does that just involve a completely whole new world in terms of setting up production and things?
00:19:58 Hanna: Making a film, relatively you have more time and money for a film. Less days and more time. So you feel this, of course, that there’s more possibilities. If the director had an idea, the production team would just say, “oh yeah. Okay, well, we’re going to try, oh, that’s fun.” Where normally, always, it always was like, “yeah, but that’s too expensive. It’s impossible.” So all of a sudden there were, like, possibilities to grow up also in the way it looks in the cinematography. And I think on all levels, the film is a step for all of us.
00:20:36 Rosie: You’ve touched on it, but how did it feel getting that call or that news that it was going to be a feature film?
00:20:43 Hanna: Amazing, of course. Because Netflix has such a big audience. Yeah. It’s just an amazing feeling that you might be able to reach the whole earth, almost the entire world, like 190 countries. That’s insane for a web series that started so small. I mean, in the beginning we were all like, “yeah, okay. But will it really happen?” You know, so when we were on set, it was like, “oh my God, we’re really, we’re doing this!”
00:21:28 Hanna: In the beginning, there were people who were telling me like, “oh, Hanna, shouldn’t you, you know, be careful because you, you know, you play this lesbian role and then you talk in the media so much about yourself being a lesbian, and don’t get type cast. We’re a small country. If everyone thinks you can only play lesbians.” It’s true. I mean, there is a lot of typecasting in our world of course, but it really proved to be not true because the only thing that happened is that a lot of very nice, cool filmmakers just recognised something in the style of ANNE+ and came up to me and now we work together, you know, it’s really… it has been one of the best decisions of my life, I think, to join ANNE+.
00:22:18 Rosie: It reminds me of coming out in general. I don’t know if you’ve ever had friends or family, or acquaintances or anyone sort of warn you about coming out in general, but sometimes people can say, “you know, just leave it at home. Don’t come out at work.” And it’s a similar thing to typecasting. It’s like, “don’t risk it, you know, you might not get that promotion or you might not be able to rent that flat.” But actually when you come out and as time progresses and as we do make progress, it’s so worth it. It’s never a thing you regret.
00:22:49 Hanna: No.
00:22:50 Rosie: But it’s interesting you say that in the film world and in acting that that is, sort of, said.
00:22:57 Hanna: Yeah. I don’t know if it’s true anywhere, but I also think that it has something to do with being yourself, being able to be yourself. And in that way also work on your highest level.( The topniveau as we say….)
00:23:14 Rosie: One thing I love asking guests is what gives you hope, for now or for the future, as an LGBTQ plus person?
00:23:23 Hanna: I think that social media, like Instagram and TikTok, is good news, really for the community and for young people, because they can choose their own role models. And even though they might feel a bit alienated in high school, they can still find people who look like them or who, you know, who have the same feelings and they won’t feel this lonely or this weird. And by not feeling weird they can speak up. And by speaking up queers will be normalised. And by being normalised, there will be less violence. So I think this is nice. This is really nice. Also indeed, also for people who are not in this community, because I also learned so much from activists I follow that are in a different community than I am. So I also think that that might be the case for straight CIS people.
00:24:25 Rosie: Yeah. You can watch black activists documenting their work and speaking to millions, or you can watch trans heroes documenting their journeys and comforting people. So of course, like, of course, there is so much good.
00:24:40 Hanna: And this is something I didn’t have when I was younger. I grew up without Instagram. I feel so old now!
00:24:52 Rosie: Aww no! Well, Hanna, thank you so much for joining us on OUTcast and telling us about your coming out story, and also letting us in on what it’s been like to create and star in ANNE+.
00:25:04 Hanna: Thank you!
00:25:06 Rosie: Thank you for listening to OUTcast, a podcast with interviews and coming out stories from inspiring LGBTQ+ people. I’m your host, Rosie Pentreath. I hope you can join us again next week.