In Queer in Utrecht we share portraits of queer people in and around the city of Utrecht. Through these short profile sketches we aim to represent and celebrate the local queer community in its diverse ways. For this week’s spot, we had a chat with Jesse.
“Growing up, the only gay characters I saw on TV were stereotypes. Because I didn’t relate to them, I thought that meant I couldn’t be gay. It took me a long time to realize, being gay doesn’t mean I am anyone other than myself.”
Name: Jesse Kroon
From: Utrecht/United States
Identifies as a gay man.
Vocation: game designer
Interests: cooking, going to the gym, playing games, music
Current location: Lombok, Utrecht
Jesse was born in Utrecht but grew up in the United States from ages 12-18. He moved back here on his own for university, where he achieved a master’s in New Media and Digital Culture. Now he works as a game designer, taking special interest into how games have become a new form of storytelling.
How would you like to bring your own identity into your work?
I haven’t really had the explicit opportunity yet, but if I’m going to make a game, there isn’t going to be a needless gay stereotype, for example, that only serves the purpose of being laughed at. I think it’s quite important to normalise these things through media. I grew up with gay characters that were like a clown character or a complete and total totem of a certain depiction of gay people, and that stuck with me as a kid. I didn’t really relate to that, I didn’t feel like I was that person, and therefore I couldn’t be gay. That’s what made me take a very long time to realise I was gay: it doesn’t mean I am also that stereotype.
Describe a place in Utrecht that carries a special memory for you.
Wilhelminapark. When I was little and we lived in the US, we would come back to visit my uncle who lived right around the corner. We would go play there with my cousins in the play area. That was special, because coming to Utrecht felt like coming home. That’s a really strong memory of being with family, being happy, being in a good place.
The other one is the flower market on Saturdays. I started doing that recently. You go, you buy some flowers, you put them in your house. It’s wonderful to have flowers at home, it has a certain kind of effect on you.
What choice in your life has had the biggest influence?
The choice to come study here. It wasn’t necessarily a given; I got into theatre school in Chicago. It was a good school and good program, but it cost $60,000 a year. I came here almost as a back-up option, but also as a journey to see: am I really Dutch? Coming here, I realised I’m not truly Dutch, but I still feel more at home; the people I’ve met, the opportunities I’ve gotten, the way that I’ve grown by being exposed to a different place. That has been the most influential decision that I’ve made – to move away from my family. Now they’re here, but I lived by myself for seven years. That gave me a sense of independence. I’m used to being by myself.
I think that wherever there is art, there are queer people, and they leave their mark.
What prides you most about this city?
What I like about Utrecht, is its attitude. It doesn’t consider itself very important. It’s like Amsterdam in terms of its looks, but the people here are very relaxed. I like their energy, it’s a bit more low-key.
There are two gay bars, and there are a couple more places that fly the flag, but I don’t think we necessarily have a space. I do think we have a lot of queer people in this place: it’s a student city, it’s an artistic city, it’s a place where a lot of music is being made. I think that wherever there is art, there are queer people, and they leave their mark. I have to say it feels very small; in terms of queer spaces there aren’t very many that I know of. It’s a bit limited, I think. Speaking as a gay man, there are two bars; there are only two flavours to choose from. I think the queer community infuses many places with their energy. There are places that fly the flag that aren’t exclusively gay bars, but you know that you’re welcome there and it’s an inclusive space.