A small, beautiful anecdote

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On Movisie.nl, the series of experience stories of Gay Games participants, visitors and organisers continues to grow. The latest story is of Joni Oyserman: ‘Veel dove mensen zeggen dat ze nooit meer zo’n fijne bubbel hebben meegemaakt.’ (‘Many deaf people say they have never experienced such a nice bubble again’ – Sorry it’s in Dutch!’)

The sign interpreter for the interview was Gerdinand Wagenaar, who also interpreted at Gay Games Amsterdam 1998. We also asked him about his best memory.

Gerdinand: ‘In 1989, I flew to America for the first time for The Deaf Way, the first global deaf culture festival. There I met a deaf man, Clayton Valli. A deaf poet, a linguist, who showed me for the first time that there was also sign language poetry.

‘He gave a lecture that has stayed with me forever. He became an idol for me. I had no idea what his sexual orientation was, but at the Gay Games, he was one of the volunteer interpreters.

‘At the opening ceremony in the ArenA, people were playing ‘Come together’ by The Beatles and that was the first time I saw a completely different sign language interpretation: Clayton was a gay man saying “and we all come together”.

‘I still have it on an old VHS tape. There was a poet at work who was allowed to be himself for a while. That’s how you can interpret that song.

‘It was also the first time that deaf people interpreted sign language at concerts themselves. I remember Tom Uitdenboogaard being allowed to interpret Willeke Alberti and he was so happy, so proud. I was his contact and Tom stood on stage next to Willeke Alberti and translated my Dutch sign language internationally. He went crazy.

‘Until now, the position of deaf sign language interpreters in the Netherlands has not been properly regulated. We are now finally at the point where the first two people who are deaf themselves are registered as interpreters. Looking back 24 years, this is quite a long process. Then there was a breakthrough and we showed it could be done, so let’s get on with it.’

Cover photo: Joni Oyserman interpreting at a meeting in Rialto, December 1996

until 1 August 2023, exactly 25 years after the start of the Gay Games Amsterdam 1998

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