Sunday, 20 April 2014

Interview with Johanna Kamermans

Monika: Today is my pleasure and honor to interview Johanna Kamermans (born 1938), a writer, translator, and former striptease dancer from the Netherlands. For nearly 15 years, she worked in cabarets in Germany, Belgium, and Luxembourg as a striptease dancer named Gina de Senfal (for a short time as Gigi Deloran), the author of the autobiographical novel titled "Schlauchgelüste" (2012) and other 10 books of all kinds. Hello Johanna!
Johanna: Hello dear Monika! Many thanks for your invitation and I am very glad that you give me the possibility to say something about my transgender life especially in the former times. I always say: “Future and past belong together, especially for us transgender people, because also we – like other people too - become elder and elder (help !)…”
Monika: You come from a very cosmopolitan family with parental roots in Germany (mother), the Netherlands (father), and in Flanders (paternal ancestors)...
Johanna: Yes, in 1933 my beautiful mother came from Gelsenkirchen-Buer (Ruhr-Region) to Vlissingen (a seaside resort on the Dutch North Sea coast). She worked there in the famous “Grand Hotel Britannia” and there she met my father. I wrote 4 genealogical books about both of them and my worldwide family.

Photo by Werner-Viktor Schwalbe of Trier.

Monika: When did you start your stage career?
Johanna: Well, that is easier said than done because, when I was so wonderfully young, I was already dreaming for a long time of what I wanted to become: “a beautiful woman on stage”. I did not think at that moment, that it was perhaps impossible to reach this big wish.
Then of course I realized very well, that I was a man and not a woman. But I just started the process to reach this destination without thinking in advance what could happen: ”I did it”! Without any help or any knowledge. Because I just wanted it…! With all possible power in me. I always say now looking back: "you can only live forward and you can only understand backward!"
Monika: How did you start your performances especially in the Pigalle cabaret in Mannheim?
Johanna: I had 3 agents that contacted the international cabarets with my photos and dates. In the 60s, 70s, and 80s there existed a lot of nightclubs/cabarets (there was nothing else) till TV and video began to fulfill all desires at home in a completely different way. In my time “striptease” meant undressing very slowly, very sexy, and revealing a perfect body, becoming more and more naked at the end of the show.
Our contracts were drafted for 4 different shows every evening/night with a length of 10-12 minutes each (sometimes a very very long time….!) and the shows should have, of course, pleased the public (and the management too).
For me, every time it was also very strenuous because I did not undergo GRS. Yes, I got “stuck” with sellotape (Leukoplast-tape) and on stage, I had a wonderful “pussy” with a lot of hairs. You could not see the difference but it was crazy, a lot of work to get it fixed before. And it should have held, of course, for some hours. 
Monika: You were a lot of times in Luxembourg in the Palace Cabaret…
Johanna: Yes, I was many times in wonderful Luxembourg-town because there were a lot of cabarets and a lot of “night-visitors” with a lot of money (banking) there. In Luxembourg, I made all my contracts by myself because a cabaret-director named Marchetti invited me to work in his several cabarets (especially Palace Cabaret) when he saw me once in Germany. I was only one dancer of the whole cabaret program (normally there were 8 – 10 dancers) but I was very successful. And often re-engaged.

Photo by Werner-Viktor Schwalbe of Trier.

Monika: Did you play in any other cabarets …
Johanna: Of course. I think that it must have been more than 80 cabarets in the course of my nearly 15 stage years. The best cabarets were, of course, those where I could come back (re-engagement) - and I had a lot of re-engagements.
Because I was beautiful, with a perfect body (long hair, long legs. big tits, a wonderful pussy (!), and very successful in drinking (very expensive) champagne with the guests. It was regular that we got a part of those champagne prices. At the bar or in the separee.
I had no problem with men because I had a very sexy female voice, no Adam’s apple, and could “handle” them, as they wanted to be “handled” by an “erotic woman”. In my time men (most cabaret-visitors were men) were grateful and curious for good “entertainment”, on stage or in separee, for which they were willing to spend a lot of money. One of my favorite German cabarets was the Pigalle Cabaret in Mannheim with many well-paying guests of the big BASF-chemical factory in Ludwigshafen on the other Rhine side.
Monika: What was the cabaret/striptease stage like in the 60s and 70s?
Johanna: A I said already, cabarets/nightclubs were in my time, and especially for transgender people like me, like a “real eldorado”. We were “new” on stage, offered the most attractive stage shows and could “handle” men very well (“Wir kannten unsere Pappenheimer!” is said in Germany). Don’t forget: because we were also men before “the change”, operated or not operated…!
Monika: For nearly 15 years you performed on the stage as a striptease dancer. Was the audience aware of your transgender status?
Johanna: No, not in the cabarets. Only my agents and the cabaret-managements knew it (I did not undergo the gender reassignment surgery.) For them, it was unimportant because I was such a good dancer and performer. “Sex is selling” and I was very successful in my performance, also in the daytime.
I was “normal” and always treated like a woman by the (male) guests or the (female) colleagues. It was one of the most beautiful experiences in my whole stage-life that I was “one of them” and therefore I can say backward: “I experienced femininity in the wardrobe and masculinity in the separee”. Because we were all “no children of sadness !” Homosexual. heterosexual, bisexual, transsexual: “Forget it and enjoy your (sexual) life!!!”

Photo by Werner-Viktor Schwalbe of Trier.

Monika: Did you work with any other transgender performers?
Johanna: Yes, sometimes, especially in Luxembourg. But they were in the same position as me. We were women for the guests and the colleagues and nothing else. A “closed community” to be beautiful all the time and earn good money all the time.
Of course, I remember very nice transgender dancers but we had all artist names and therefore it is very difficult to re-find them later by their real names. We were talking about our contracts and where we possibly would meet again. And of course, about the experiences with the guests. An exciting life and not focused on “later”!
Monika: At that time did you have any transgender role models that you could follow?
 Johanna: No, I had no role models and I thought in the beginning that I was even alone in the whole world with that extravagant wish: "To be a beautiful woman on stage". You cannot compare it with actual times with all the kinds of theories and “advice” offered by transsexual internet platforms.
You cannot “buy” your "femininity" by operations of your body; you have to work on yourself every day so that people can believe that you are what you want to be: “a beautiful woman on stage (of life)”.
It is not enough to declare: “I am a woman now”. You have to do a lot for that! For me I can say with big pride "I did it !" Just like in the Dutch/Belgian film “I am a Woman Now” (Michiel van Erp, 2011) concerning 5 women, operated in the 70s in Casablanca (in Dr. Burou's clinic).
Monika: You included a lot of memories in your autobiographical novel “Schlauchgelüste” (2012). What inspired you to write that book after such a long time?
Johanna: In 2011, I was attacked by bad people with (naked) pictures of my first Transmythos homepage, which had existed for more than 10 years without any problems and with a lot of “applause”. On this website, I had documented my whole life till that moment with a lot of “from man to woman” pictures.
As a result, I had to remove my beautiful website from the Internet (advice from the Dutch police) and swore that I would have my “revenge”. Because I wanted to show already on my website that you can reach your destination if you do everything for it! And now I want to continue by writing a book (but without pictures). In 2012 I chose the form of an autobiographical novel and the pseudonym Jacob Winter.

"Schlauchgelüste" (2012).

Monika: Which aspects of your experience can be useful for other transwomen?
Johanna: It is also useful these days, carrying the message that you must believe in yourself and - of course - that you know your (physical and psychological) possibilities of becoming/being a woman. I believe that today a lot of (transgender) people mean they can “order” their “identity change” by surgery without doing something “social” to be accepted at the other side of society.
Don’t believe in all that you can find and read on the Internet (I think there is too much (different) information now). You can also try to live like a “social” woman, without operations. And think of will be afterwards, 20, 30, 40 or 50 years later.
Monika: Unfortunately the book is no longer available on Amazon …
Johanna: Yes, I realized that my autobiographical novel "Schlauchgelüste" was too long for an eBook and should be issued as a print book. In addition, I also had to change the structure of my book, and very importantly, I understood that I didn't need a pseudonym (Jacob Winter).
Therefore I stopped publishing “Schlauchgelüste” as an eBook (you cannot download it anymore) but you can find the eBook still everywhere on the Internet.
I will make a restart as writer Johanna Kamermans and with a new title and a new cover. It is very funny that Amazon USA has forced my "Schlauchgelüste" editor to put bars on my breasts and my “stuck pussy”. The cover was “too naked” and could not be published in this way!

Monika: Could you elaborate more on your other books?
Johanna: You can find information about my 11 books on my website, including my print book "Euregio Carolus Magnus – Grenzen in Fluss" (2004, with the second edition in 2013) about the culture and people of the “Euregio Maas-Rhine” region (also called “Mini-Europe). "Grenzen in Fluss" means that the borders in this Dutch, Belgian and German area have changed a lot of times in the course of the centuries and the people had to adapt themselves to the new circumstances.
Like also transgender people have to do in their new situations to survive in society. Transgender “frontiers” are also “flushing”. And suddenly we are back in the little town where I was born: Vlissingen, also called “Flushing”.

Photo by Werner-Viktor Schwalbe of Trier.

Monika: In 1993 you were also featured in the German documentary “Freier Fall: Johanna K.” How do you recollect shooting the film?
Johanna: This documentary of nearly 90 minutes was a very beautiful and good experience in my life. My director was famous Klaus Wildenhahn, which directed a lot of documentaries for the German TV “Norddeutscher Rundfunk” (NDR) in Hamburg.
In 1993 the documentary was even presented at the “Berlinale Film Festival” in Berlin and I was invited there to tell about my life. It is said that “Freier Fall: Johanna Kamermans” is a movie without the word "transgender" or "transsexual" (according to the director: it was “not important”) and one of the best documentaries of Klaus Wildenhahn. I am very proud of this film, which is sometimes broadcast on TV again or showed at film festivals.


All the photos: courtesy of Johanna Kamermans.
© 2014 - Monika Kowalska

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