Knap.chat 11: Jan Janssensenswillen (he/him)

Creator of @genderlanguage

Freelance Graphic Designer

Marketing + Communication @radionamsterdam

Marketing+ Production @auraamsterdam

You’re very dynamic in what you do, you’re a designer, with a background in fashion, a creative in nightlife, and you started @genderlanguage, can you tell us about your creativity and connection in culture?

I graduated in 2019 from Graphic Design at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam, but I always find the content and essence of what I am doing or working on the most important. In everything I do, whether it’s design, event production or marketing, I try to look for projects that matter, to me or others.

Every project is a form of communication, where a story needs to be told, through design or an experience. It’s up to me to search for the suitable medium to tell this story. And why do I think it’s important to tell this story? Why do people need to see, hear or experience this? Who are you giving a platform to and who are you trying to reach?

You mentioned you find yourself questioning what is the standard in the spaces you play and work, and the politics behind fashion, nightlife and language, can you talk a bit more about his?

Most projects I work on have a relation to gender or queer identity and to a form of questioning the status quo. Through working in and around (queer) nightlife, I get to give a voice and platform to those who don’t normally have one. We can create a space for them to feel safe and to be or discover themselves. Next to this, I have had the honour to work with organisations such as State of Fashion who in their own way are searching for alternative fashion (systems) whilst questioning the existing fashion system.

When it comes to my project Gender*Language (@genderlanguage), an online reader platform on the intersection of Gender and Language, it is a way of sharing knowledge. The complex relationship and entanglement of gender and language really influence the way in which we look at the world and gender. By researching and sharing knowledge on this subject, I try to make people question what they take for granted and possibly open up to new perspectives.

Binary is often mainly associated with Gender, what’s your view on gender binary and how is binary much broader?

To me personally, the binary is the root of our society and therefore the root of most of our problems. Our society is build upon different forms of binaries, male-female binary, political left-right binary, racial/racist black-white binary, etc. We tend to brutally categorise everything and everyone to simply understand the world around us, which leaves no room for the huge grey areas. Nothing is ever 100% this or that, whatever criteria you use.

Same goes for the gender binary, it is a completely imaginary and social construct. Even if you use biology to categorise gender, you can easily create 5 to up to 12 different gender categories (purely based on sex). This doesn’t even consider the complexity of lived gender identity and expression.

What’s your utopia and is it queer?

I don’t believe a utopia exists, since every benefit for one could potentially mean a disadvantage for the other. But this is why I have such a love for queer nightlife, it is a testing ground for society, one that is more inclusive, diverse and open to everyone. Would I like the world to be queer? Yes please! Queer to me is very political and against heteronormativity, so if that’s a world we can strive for, I will do be part to make this happen!

Cultural Strategist and Founder of KnapHouse — Queer Culture Consultancy