The queer and lebsian side of Brussels with Jessica Gysel

Brussels with Jessica Gysel

Jessica Gysel. She is a woman you should know. Jessica describes herself in 5 words: Curious, inclusive, collaborative, critical and straightforward. These strengths brings Jessica in her projects together: She is the founder of “Girls Heart Brussels”, a weekend-festival and travel-offer to Brussels for women. The next edition is on April 20-22. She also founded the magazine “Girls Like Us” which started as a lesbian and queer fanzine. And these days? This is a STRAIGHT FAQ with Jessica Gysel.

Girls Like us. Are you gay or queer? Is the difference important for you?

We are lesbian and queer. Both with Girls Like Us and Girls Heart Brussels. Lesbian as a nod to the older generation, who fought so hard to get us where we are now. And queer because we’re open to all genders and identities.

What means “Girls Heart Brussels” for you?

A great opportunity to put Brussels on the map as a LGBTQI-friendly city. And a city that is home to many fantastic women and female-run / queer collectives, especially in the cultural scene. Girls Heart Brussels was conceived as a platform to put all these women and initiatives in the spotlight, by creating a nice programmed weekend around it. The idea is to have interested women, both local and (international) to meet and inspire each other and discover Brussels from within.

Is it easy to do something “with”queer and culture in Brussels/belgian?

There are so many nice initiatives, it’s really a pleasure to select the most fitting ones for every edition. We work together with LGBTQU Film Festival Pink Screens for instance, or the queer artists collective Buenos Tiempos Int., or Beursschouwburg, who have a rather queer programmation or Warrior Poets, who specialize in slam and poetry. To name just a few.

Favourite Places of Jessica Gysel in Brussels:

Where do you go when the night calls you? (bars, clubs, locations)

Bars: Fontainas, Jane’s, Lord Byron, Baragouine (a once every month pop-up dyke bar)

Clubs: Cat Club (they also have smaller events like Black Out that are great), Beursschouwburg

Soirées Chaudières at Barlok, this is a very nice queer party.

Why do you like it there?

Intimate atmosphere, partying with friends and likeminded people.

What is more beautiful about: the night or the day in Brussels?

Unfortunately Brussels is mostly knows for its nightlife, but the daytime is really beautiful too!

What is your happiest moment during the night?

Honestly, when I can go home, to sleep, haha. I’m personally not that much of a night person.

What is your happiest moment during the day?

At this moment, the sunrises and sunsets. I live in a top floor apartment, with amazing views. It’s so nice to see the days lengthening and have an idea of Spring slowly approaching…

In which mood do you prefer staying in your apartment?

I love to be at home, doesn’t really matter which mood. I change music, interior, clothes, food etc. depending on my mood. Eating at different corners of the house, sitting and reading in different corners, like really ‘move’ around the house and explore it from different angles.

How much alcohol do you need to feel free when you’re out?

Not that much, I’m a bad drinker and get drunk very fast.

Watching or Dancing?

First watching, than dancing. Of course.

What’s your most favourite combination to go out? Alone, with a couple of friends or do you prefer big groups?

Depending on my mood, I like all these combinations. I’m not a huge fan of big groups though, and don’t really go to really big parties.

How relaxed can you be yourself at your own parties or own festivals?

Not very, haha. Always something to stress about. But when everything goes smoothly and people seem to enjoy, that’s the most amazing feeling.

When do you say: “This was amazing.” ?

See previous question 😉

Is Brussel home for you and why?

At the moment yes. I moved back 4 years ago, I lived here in my early 20s, but lived in Amsterdam most of my professional life. It’s nice to be back, and it’s a city with so many possibilities still. Still very unfinished, lots of things to explore. This can be annoying at times as well, but there’s a beauty to it too.

Where is the place to be for chocolate?

I’m a big fan of Godiva, and I love the name, too. Not chocolate, but great biscuits are found at Maison Dandoy, a family run business who still bakes its cookies in their own workshop in Brussels. And this place Elisabeth, which offers the most delicious candies, all Belgian originals.

Where is the place to be for queer women?

At the moment, there’s no permanent lesbian bar in Brussels. But happy to announce that “Mothers and Daughters”, a project we are involved in will open for two months in May and June, and hopefully will be back for a longer period later in the year…

Where are the perfect places for eating?

Les Filles, all female run

OR Coffee (Rue A. Orts)

A Moroccan pancake on Sunday on Marché du Midi, with obligatory mint tea.

Knees to Chin, for Dinner, they serve really nice rice rolls

Friture Rene, a bit outside of the centre, but amazing brasserie.

Fritland, close to Beurs, which has really the best fries in town.


What is a good route for a walk?

There are so many ones… Here’s one for the first-timers. Starting downtown, near Place Ste Catherine, slowly making your way uptown, via Gallerie St Hubert, Mont des Arts, to Palais de Justice (Place Poelaert, with great views over the downtown part of Brussels), then via Avenue Louise towards Ixelles and ending in the Bois de La Cambre and exploring the villas in neighbouring hoods such as Uccle and Watermael-Boisfort.

If you know the city, I Iove to walk form Altitude 100 (the highest part of Brussels) down via Parc Duden and Parc de Forest, via bohemian St Gilles, through very busy and happening Anderlecht and Molenbeek towards Laeken and its beautifully renovated urban site Tour & Taxi.

By the way, there’s also a list of nice places to go on the Girls Heart Brussels website, where you can find more information about the Art Edition of Girls Heart Brussels on April 20-22. An interview with the lesbian activist Marian Lens can you find with a click here.

Headerphoto by Katja Mater

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