This is a real joke. “Hello my Frau,” hears a woman walking down the street dressed up in a cowboy outfit, looking “fucking ace” with her “arse and tits hanging out”. She sees her students.
This is Luan Bjorkvoll, a former lecturer at the Robert Gordon and Noorderpoort Universities, sitting in bar “Der Witz” (translation: “A Joke”) and waving to almost every person that passes by. It seems she knows everyone in Groningen. But she is not really here; neither is she in her home country Scotland, her city Aberdeen, the city that “has a heart”.
This is a fake joke, but Luan is “floating in the middle of the North sea”, probably on a box, but for sure not in it. This is simply not possible as something would stick out anyway: arse, tits, tattoos, golf stick, intelligence or cigarette.
Life has been playing with this woman since her childhood. She was born in 1979 to a wealthy Scottish family. “My parents were strict”, recalls Luan, who unlike her two year older sister never enjoyed “black or white, right or wrong kind of subjects like science or math”. She wanted to play basketball. She wanted to play in life but she lost. After Luan failed her exams, her parents told her to find a job. The teenager started to work in a private nursery for children from 0 to 18 months. After her first night at work, she returned to school to study business and marketing. At the age of 20, Luan started lecturing at The Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen. She was lecturing in London, France, Germany and Spain.
“You forgot your glass, Luan”, says the bartender, smiling. Paradoxical that the woman who talks so much, who talks with everyone, who turns to a person eating ice cream and invites him for a beer, is actually lonely. “I can come here, be completely plastic and go back home”, says Luan who moved to Groningen for love; for Inna, the 23 years older Dutch teacher. “My father told me, ‘You will find it difficult between two homes’, but I didn’t believe him”, says the woman.
12 years ago, Luan was sitting in the very same bar thinking about how to deal with her new job, new country, different culture, different duvet measurements. If she was not with Inna, she was alone, she felt lonely. Her parents didn’t talk to her for one year as they were upset about their daughter’s choice to leave home as well as her suddenly changed orientation. “Father accepted and understood me easiest. Of course, he likes women. It was more difficult for my mother. My sister was like ‘God’,” says Luan and screws up her face.
She started to work as a lecturer in an international business course in Noorderpoort school in Groningen. She did not feel accepted by her colleagues. Meetings were held in Dutch and she was asked to speak in Dutch as well, however, “when I tried, they laughed at me”.
“Men stopped being friendly with me as soon as they found out I am lesbian”, says Luan and adds that “it is hard to function here as a foreigner”. “People are always putting others in boxes and I am sick of it”, she says. Apparently the measurements of boxes in Aberdeen and Groningen were different as well.
She kept playing. “I like to talk, to motivate people and help them. I stayed at my job for my students”. However, in April 2012 Luan had a burnout. At that time she was doing the work of 3 teachers. She had to leave. In the same year, on April 28th, her second relationship ended when Nancy left her after 6.5 years. “I think Nancy just got bored at some point. Her behaviour had changed so I faced her and asked her what was going on. She was having an affair,” says Luan. In 24 hours she was left with the only thing that has always sticked around: the box she could not fit into
“Lesbian – I didn’t like that word,” says Luan, who is so versatile and multifaceted. She is serious, fun, loving, emotional and sad – she is a living “blended lifestyle,” as she describes it herself. If you ever hear rumors about a woman with tattoos and piercings wandering around a golf course, it was most probably Luan. Golf has been her passion for 23 years already.
During the burnout, the game of life was just on pause. After 6 months she went back to work. However, her comeback didn’t last that long. The school she was teaching at got involved in a scandal and was sued. Luan was suspended. But the suspension was illegal, so she was able to continue lecturing soon after.
“Game over,” said the woman still recovering from depression and anxiety. In 2014, after 10 years of being bullied at her job, Luan took sick leave for 2 years as she had an emotional break down. She recently left her job for good and started her own company named “Don’t label me”.
“I would be straight,” answers Luan when asked what she would change in her life if she could. “Being attracted to women annoys me and they don’t like me. I look too straight. I even shaved my head – didn’t work. I want children. I want family.”
She says “game over”, but she keeps “kicking around” on her too small box somewhere in the middle of the North Sea, between her two homes: one with a heart and one without.
“Oscar, I saw you on Tinder, I denied”, screams Luan to a man passing by. Then she looks at me and says, “My student”.