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. In this week’s edition, we get to meet lovebirds Michelle and Rianne.
“I am absolutely in love with Utrecht, I wouldn’t change much.” (Michelle)
“It quickly felt like home for me because a lot of people are open to new contacts.” (Rianne)
Rianne & Michelle
Name: Rianne Baan & Michelle Peeters
From: Haaksbergen (Rianne), Nuenen (Michelle)
Pronouns: she/her (both)
Age: 29 (Rianne), 32 (Michelle)
Both identify as lesbian.
Vocation: nurse at a prison (Rianne), marketing specialist (Michelle)
Interests: sports, going out (both), boardgames, 2D-design (Michelle)
Current location: Utrecht
Michelle and Rianne lived miles apart when they met each other, but it didn’t stop them from falling in love. Now they have merged homes in Utrecht. A big step for Rianne, who is new to the city. This week we chat with the couple about their active lives in Utrecht.
What are your favourite places in Utrecht to visit?
I can end up anywhere, I’m very spontaneous. Usually, I check the UitAgenda to see what’s going on, like a wine festival or a party in Tivoli. I used to go there a lot before Corona. I went to BodyTalk every week. We also walk a lot or go to Roost or Soia in good weather. We might go to Griftpark. There’s a green area near our place where we often go running or cycling. Sometimes we just go for a drink by the canals.
If you could change anything about the city, what would it be?
I am absolutely in love with Utrecht, so I wouldn’t change much. Sometimes there’s a lot of construction going on, I’m not a fan of that. If I look at my interests overall though, there’s plenty to do; enough opportunity for exercising and going to festivals.
I think it’s good the city is growing because of course there’s a structural housing shortage, so we should be building more. However, I fell in love with Utrecht because it’s Amsterdam’s little sibling and it feels friendlier. There’s enough space and you may not know everybody, but sometimes it does feel that way. I don’t want it to become a tourist attraction or overpopulated.
Rianne: one thing I’d like to add is that recycling doesn’t get enough attention here. There’s a lot of trash in the street. That’s something I’d like to see change.
How would you describe your lifestyle?
Very sporty and spontaneous. I’m active and enthusiastic. People often say I have an open demeanour and I get approached a lot in the street by people I don’t know, just to have a chat. I am outgoing that way.
Utrecht quickly felt like home for me because a lot of people are open to new contacts. Many have moved here from outside of town, for school or their loved ones. Everybody’s always smiling.
What does “home” mean to you?
Ever since I’ve left Twente behind, Michelle has been my home. It is based around her: I want to live with her and explore new things together. Home for me also means comfort (“gezelligheid”), safety, feeling at ease. Going for walks and exploring nature are also part of it. And my cats, Simba and Lila.
Michelle & Rianne
What misconception about the queer community would you like to rectify?
Rianne: I’m often proud that I live in the Netherlands and we can be open about things. For the most part, we can be ourselves here.
Michelle: I do think we’re lucky though – of course we’re glad we live in the Netherlands, that we haven’t had any nasty experiences, and that we get to feel safe. However, I know this isn’t always the case.
Rianne: I find it gross that so many men get off on lesbians. Sometimes if we’re kissing in public, people shout, whistle, or make comments.
Michelle: we’re also quite feminine, and it feels like that isn’t “allowed”. People wonder who “the man” in the relationship is, even women themselves. I know they mean something different, but still, it signals that apparently a femme relationship is not possible.
Rianne: there’s this prejudice that you can’t be a lesbian and attractive.