Sunday, 20 April 2014

Interview with Johanna Kamermans

Monika: Today is my pleasure and honour 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 specially 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 at 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 as done because, when I was so wonderful young, I was already dreaming since a long time of what I wanted to become: “a beautiful woman on stage”. I did not think in that moment, that is was perhaps impossible to reach this big wish.
Then of course I realised 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 specially 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 complete 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 “sticked” 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 a 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 (specially 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 hairs, 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 favourite 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 specially for transgender-people like me, like a “real eldorado”. We were “new” on stage, offered 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 my 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, specially in Luxembourg. But they were in the same position like 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 kind 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 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 what 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 not longer available on Amazon …
Johanna: Yes, I realised that my autobiographical novel "Schlauchgelüste" was too long for an eBook and should be issued as a printbook. In addition, I also had to change the structure of my book and, very important, I understood that I didn't need a pseudonym (Jacob Winter).
Therefore I stopped publishing “Schlauchgelüste” as an eBook (you cannot download it no more) 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 “sticked 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 printbook "Euregio Carolus Magnus – Grenzen in Fluss" (2004, with a 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 the 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 on film festivals.
Monika: Did you take part in any other film projects?
Johanna: No, but I was after my two TS/TG printbooks “Mythos Geschlechtswandel (1992) and “Künstliche Geschlechter (1995) a lot of times in TV- talkshows like “Hans Meiser” (RTL), Ilona Christen” (RTL), “Arabella Kiesbauer” (Pro Sieben ), Vera in ‘t Ven (SAT1), DAS-N3-Talk (NDR) asf. People were also interested of my life because I was – in their eyes - so “normal” and authentic, like I was already in my dancer-years. This is also what Johanna Hackl and me connects: Our “normality”!
Monika: What was the hardest thing about your coming out?
Johanna: How people and my bank treated me after the bankruptcy of my nightclub “Cruising Checkpoint” in Hamburg. Suddenly it became clear to all people that I was transgender and it caused a problem for a lot of them!
Monika: What do you think about the present situation of transgender women compared to what you had to go through the 60s, 70s and 80s?
Johanna: It has become easier to change your identity because acceptance, circumstances and society have changed more positively in the meantime. You can be, for instance, a steward at “Austria Airlines” and than become - without losing the job - a stewardess like nice and very “normal” Johanna Hackl in Vienna.
But if I consult internet-forums I can also ascertain that a lot of young transgender people have not the foggiest idea what “sex change” means concerning physical, psychological and social risks. They want only “to have” and everybody must “help” them to reach their “sex change” purposes. I always say: the sex change phenomenon has got a strong religious component in the meantime: : “believing” instead of “knowing”!
Photo by Werner-Viktor Schwalbe of Trier.
Monika: What do you think about transgender beauty pageants?
Johanna: I think that it will be the same problem like other “beauty pageants”. The girls there – transgender or not - are far away from “normal” women, giving them a bad conscience and let them forget their own possibilities. You can compare it with my time as a striptease dancer.
In the night I was a beautiful and sexy striptease dancer by a lot of special “tricks” and in the daytime I was a “normal” woman like all others around me. That will be also the same at transgender beauty pageants. It’s a make-believe world and not a real world. It’s “showtime” but only for a short time.
Monika: Are you active in politics? Do you participate in any lobbying campaigns? Do you think transgender women can make a difference in politics?
Johanna: The first question: No! The second question: No! The third question: Forget it! Beware of transgender in politics!
Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Johanna:I was really loved by my mother, also after my identity-change. But falling in love was not so important for me during and after my change, because I had a very exciting life, with every evening new contacts and a lot of sex. I enjoyed my sexual life in all dimensions and was completely happy.
When I was elder I loved my little Yorkshire-Terrier Alexander that accompanied me nearly 18 unforgettable years. Little Alexander died four years ago but I still talk with him and let sometimes my tears come. And of course, I love ABBA and I have adored Amanda Lear since I heard her wonderful song “Follow me” in 1978 for the first time. It is a really formidable woman and a real “entertainer”. Thank you Amanda Lear!
Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colours or trends?
Johanna: Yes, of course I like fashion. But in a more convenient style. Only in my stage years I preferred expensive leather, silk and fur clothes from the best boutique shops anywhere. And of course, shoes: 14 cm high heels from Paris! I have collected them all those years and sometimes I take them in my hands: Incredible, that I could walk so elegant and sexy with them.
When being 76 years old now, I look back on all those pictures of the former times I cannot believe, that I have ever been this most attractive and well dressed woman. “As time goes by !” In my actual life I wear “between” clothing: “I am what I am !”
Photo by Werner-Viktor Schwalbe of Trier.
Monika: Are you working on any new projects now?
Johanna:I will continue with writing a new novel of my time as a stage-dancer and my experiences with all kinds of men. It is working in my head and suddenly I will sit down and begin.
Till that moment I have collected all “plot-ingredients” on a lot of little papers and in (long) lists of special expressions. Sometimes I notice my “brainstorming” thoughts even in the midst of the night.
Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender girls, thinking about the entertainment career?
Johanna: I cannot recommend anything about an entertainment career to transgender girls of today because they go their own ways without “looking back”. I can only speak for my own generation and I reckon that young people – like I used to do in the former times – must experience everything themselves. They don’t want to hear!
And don’t forget: The cabaret and nightclub scene of the sixties, seventies and eighties – when everything was/seemed possible - is over and exists no more. I have been a witness of this wonderful “spirit of the age” of that time and I am very grateful for all my experiences. Therefore I created my first Transmythos website and therefore I wrote "Schlauchgelüste"! In order not to forget about this unforgettable time in which everything was/seemed possible!
Monika: Johanna, thank you for the interview!

All the photos: courtesy of Johanna Kamermans.
 Done on 20 April 2014
© 2014 - Monika Kowalska

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