Category Archives: Vrerigheden

Dingen uit mijn leven, die niet specifiek met (bijv) Latijns-Amerika te maken hebben.

The Right to Life for Trans* Persons, and Why Normal is Boring

Vreer Verkerke

Guest post on darafhoffmanfox.com

I have been asked by Dara Hoffman-Fox to write a piece for her site as a genderqueer gender educator and human rights advocate for the rights of trans* and inter* people. And I gladly comply with her request.

[Before I continue, a short orthographic notice: I write “trans*” and “inter*” without meaning to refer to a footnote, but the asterisk implies the vastness of trans and inter(sex/gender) identities and expressions.]

Dara’s eyes fell on this part of the vision page on my professional website:

We aim to break through (apart?) stereotypes around gender, gender identities and gender expressions. This goes for both trans people and non-trans people. The cisgendered (i.e. non-trans) are also entitled to be free from stereotypes about their way of life. We do this through gender education.

This Thursday trans* people and friends, partners, allies all over the world will pay attention to Transgender Day of Remembrance. This day started 16 years ago in a reaction to the murder of Rita Hester from Allston, MA.

As still is the case in the United States (10 killings this year), and in Brazil (the country with again the highest count of trans* murders with 113 this year) most victims of murders are black trans* women of African-African heritage, which makes this, apart from a gender issue, also a race and class issue.

Transgender Europe’s Trans Murder Monitoring project counted 226 killings worldwide this year only. Since the start of the project in 2008 we have counted 1,612 murders against trans* people. The Americas are the most dangerous place to live for trans people, surely for trans* people of color. This year 176 killings, with high proportions for tiny countries as Honduras (10 people). But also the Netherlands knows a trans related killing this year.

For trans* people, nowhere is really safe.

The Western societies we live in and its influence sphere have a political and economic system that systematically favors white (middle and upper class) heterosexual cisgender men. All cis men in the end. But also cis women. Think of the incident in the Baltimore McDonald’s where a trans woman was heavily attacked by a group of cis girls.

Women, cis or trans or intersex suffer under this patriarchal system. We trans* and gender-non conforming people are the first ones cis male anger is taken out at. That is criminal and against all human rights, amongst which the most basic one: The right to life. The system creates specific forms of masculinity and femininity and thinks trans* people have no place in that.

There are, however, possibilities to make life for trans* people easier. On the legal front slowly we are getting to possibilities for gender recognition without the need for medical intervention. And several health clinics over the States provide services to trans* people without the need of a pathologizing mental health diagnosis of “Gender Identity Disorder” (DSM-IV and ICD-10) or “Gender Dysphoria” (DSM-5). Health centers like of Callen-Lorde in New York City, or Howard Brown in Chicago, or Tom Waddell in San Francisco.

As trans* people we are very often frowned upon and people have absolutely no clue about us, our lives, our joys and our issues. Helped by crazy sensational TV programs or impertinent questions by many other talk show hosts we are the gender weirdos. Living la vida loca. Prejudice and lack of knowledge. If we could, we would for sure. Even for well off trans people life isn’t ideal.

And as a non-binary trans person (a “Nobi,” as I call it) I have more and more trouble in understanding all those normatively gendered people. Personally I have lost my gender ages ago and I am not really inclined in finding it again. I am a happy multiple/multi-gender.

On good days I can be fascinated by how the “normal” people do. Gender stereotypes – the way most “men” or “women” behave – are fascinating. If you’re not confronted by them. If the normatively gendered people don’t bother you for going to the wrong bathroom or looking too male for a woman, being too much a sissy for a “Real Man.”

I guess my being different makes me great for educating people on gender diversity. I see all those weird gender expressions by the majority of people and can explain our “weirdness” to the normal people. Because gender stereotypes are nasty things everybody suffers from. Even – and mostly – for those enforcing them. Because they miss out a whole lot of opportunities for more (gender) freedom. Sometimes I feel so sorry for them. Not sure they care, but still.

Cis and trans* women know quite well what it is to live under gender stereotypes. Cis women are to marry and take care of the kids. Sexual and reproductive autonomy is not accepted. Of course there are lovely cis men (even straight ones!). Only, in the morals of power, women’s autonomy is heavily fought over. Abortion clinic after clinic is forced to close, because the idea that a woman has a choice over her pregnancy is anathema.

Many times trans* people will have to comply to a similar moral scrutiny and only if you are “really” a woman and thus willing to sacrifice your fertility then you are allowed to change the gender marker on your birth certificate and their ID papers.

So yes, surely trans* people actively suffer under gender stereotypes and we shouldn’t. The situation is partially better with you in the USA, partially way worse. Not that The Netherlands or Western-Europe for that part is even remotely near trans* heaven. Trans* utopia is nowhere, not even in Argentina with its great legislation.

I feel a bit sorry for complaining so much, instead of immediately bringing you the Gleeful Gender Gospel. There is so much trouble and it so strongly interconnected, that I have to pay attention to it.

But as I say, the non-standard life, being gender non-conforming can be great. And the good news to the cis people over here is: you don’t have to become trans*. Usually I really advocate for people to become trans, to really change their gender identity and gender expression from the one belonging to the gender they have been assigned a birth to something completely different. It can be a great time. Like the book Dick For a Day in which the (female) authors fantasize what they would do if they had one.

But you don’t have to. Secretly we are pretty happy to be exceptional, to be “living la gender loca,” so to say.

In my workshops I dissect the working of gender norms, how they are very productive in enabling only certain gender roles and identities and how others are then violently or friendly.

Dear cis people, open up, be straight but not narrow. Really, being a soft open-minded man who understands his own feelings and that of others, who can deal with emotions in a sensible way, is more an asset to a better world and to better relationships than you may think.

You have got nothing to lose but your gender chains.

People (sensible people at least) will love you. Prissy peers may not, they may try to keep you inside the snake pit, but that has to do with your leaving the group, breaking group discipline or doing what they don’t dare to do. The problem with group culture often is that it only works with group discipline. Find yourself a best friend, of whatever gender, to support you.

You don’t have to become trans* to change your gender. Look at the Gender Identity Map from the Impact Project. There are so many possibilities for gender identity and expressions…No need to stick with what you learned in school or from your peers.

There is life out there. Don’t despair.

My biggest complaint around standard gender expressions and people living them is that it is so utterly boring. Who the hell wants to be a healthy, organic whole when you can be a brilliant, injured fragment, after all. This whole investment in wholeness, the whole expectation of living neatly in boxes (even round ones) so doesn’t comply with my jumpiness. I consider it so unhealthy.

Yes, I can associate healthiness etc. in a positive sense. Of course. But not default lives. Default lives are – on the political level – bad and dangerous. They are responsible for the zillions of trans related killings. Fitting in is unhealthy. But falling out may be dangerous.

The forces of normality are strong, the need to find your own way is bigger.

So here’s to the crazy ones, with their shiny gender and their sparkling identities. May we live long and prosper. With lovely, friendly cis people who love us dearly and don’t invest so much in being “normal.”

Author Bio

VreerFrom the perspective that there are more than two sexes and more than two genders, that being trans or gender-non conforming is diversity instead of an aberration, Vreer Verkerke of Vreerwerk does gender education and human rights education with students, sex educators, lawyers, politicians in The Netherlands and beyond.

Toen een paar weken geleden Australië wijselijk besloot een optie voor  “gender niet vastgesteld” in de bevolkingsregistratie op te nemen, en die niet intersekse te noemen (want dat is wat heel anders), ben ik gevraagd voor Trouw. Ik vind het wel een leuk idee om een X te hebben in m’n papieren in plaats van een M of een V. Als er dan toch iets moet staan. En dan moet iedereen vrijelijk kunnen kiezen.

Afijn, hier de tekst. Geschreven door Bas Maliepaard en gefotografeerd door Jörgen Caris. Het is allemaal niet precies correct, maar het ging om de geest van wat ik heb gezegd en mijn woorden komen er aardig uit.

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Internationale brigades

Op de terugweg naar de stad fietste ik in Amsterdam-Noord door het park naar de pont. Vanuit de verte zag ik een monument en vroeg me af of dat inderdaad het Spanjegangesrs monument was.  Ja dus. Thuisgekomen de toespraak van Dolores Ibarruri naluisterend zat ik te janken. Vanwege het begin van de grote verliezen, het verraad en de hoop.

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In 1936 viel generaal Francisco Franco Spanje binnen vanuit Marokko waar hij gestationeerd was om de revolutie in de kiem te smoren, af te slachten. Deze fascsitische overval riep wereldwijd verzet op en uit vele landen sgtroomnden vrijwilligers naar Spanje om zich te melden bij de Internationale Brigades die het Spaanse revolutionaire volksleger van de Tweede Republiek moesten helpen de fascisten te verslaan. Er is heel veel over geschreven. Een van de bekendste boeken is “Salute to Catalonia” van George Orwell. Over de Nederlanders is in de jaren 1980 het een en ander verschenen (“Wat dunkt u van Spanje”, Frans Groot et al.), en de Brigadisten heben lange tijd hun Nederlanderschap verloren omdat ze in militaire dienst traden van een andere mogendheid. Ze eindigden statenloos. In die jaren 1980 is daar vrij veel publiciteit over gemaakt. In 1997 overleed in Nijkerk als een van de laatsten  de beroemde Spanjegaanger “Hollander Piet”, Piet Laros op 95-jarige leeftijd.

Ik heb kennisgemaakt met “Spanje” door een demonstratie met mijn vader toen ik nog jong was  (11,12 jaar) en later door het lezen van geschriften van Anton Constandse en Arthur Lehning, de peetvaders van het Nederlands anarchisme. Die  strijd tegen het fascisme en voor zelfbestuur sprak uiteraad ernstig tot de verbeelding.  Al was ik 200% overtuigd van geweldloosheid, dit was een heroïsche strijd. De men verloor door sabotage van de usual suspects maar ook door gebrek aan organsatie, gebrek aan eenheid (die ook weer versterkt werd door de Stalinisten en Trotskisten)

Hieronder de afscheidsrede van La Pasionaria bij de uittocht van de Internationale Brigades van uit Barcelona.  Uitgesproken door de actrice Esperanza Alonso uit 2011:

Met tekst en beelden, stemmig, de 60-jarige herdenking:

Verhalen en beelden van een strijd die verloren is doordat Stalin geld wilde zien voor z’n steun en niet zo’n beetje ook. Doordat de Fransen de wapens aan de grens met de Pyreneeën tegenhielden. En dan nog het bombardement natuurlijk op Gernika (Baskische spelling) waar Picasso zijn grote muurstuk over had gemaakt en welk bombardement in de Francotijd (1938-1978) als gedaan door de antifa was afgeschilderd, door de geallieerden.

Het einde van de dictatuur was als het oplichten van een bedompende grauwsluier die over het land en de bevolking lag. De uitbarstingen van verandering die daarna kwam noemt men de “Movida” en o.m. de beroemde filmregisseur Pedro Almodovar is daaruit voort gekomen. De dictatuur is over, maar inhoeverre Spanje een echte democratie is, kan men betwijfelen en des te sterker wanneer de Partido Poupular aan de macht is, zoals nu.

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Aan de Hollandse mannen en vrouwen die deelnamen aan de Spaanse Burgeroorlog en viielen ind estrijd tegen het fascisme. Hun waakzame houding en verzet is een waarschuwing tegen elke vorm van fascisme.

 

Dag voor Trans zichtbaarheid – Int’l Trans Visibility Day

Vandaag. 31 maart. Sinds 2009.  Internationale Dag voor Trans Zichtbaarheid. Geen VN-dag (die hebben nog niks voor ons, al zegt de assistent van de Hoge Commissaris voor de Mensenrechten dat Transgender Gedenkdag wel die status van VN-dag zou moeten kunnen hebben). Gewoon uitgeroepen door een transpersoon in MIchigan, VS. Omdat er zo weinig positiefs was voor trans* mensen.

Vandaag is het dus  internationale dag voor trans zichtbaarheid. Dus voor alle trans-hoe-of-wat-dan-ook mensen, alle gender-non-conformen en gender-variante personen: HIeperdepiep hoera dat wij er zijn. Dankzij ons is de wereld mooier en raarder. Trans-zijn is Goed. Vandaag (en alle andere dagen wat mij betreft) trekken we een lange neus naar wie ons liever niet ziet: de zon is ook van ons. Wij weten dat je kunt vliegen als een vlinder.

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Today is international Day of Trans Visibility. A 2009 Rachel Crandall invention. Already taken up in many places over this world (and maybe others?). Congrats to all of us trans*, GNC, gender variant people. Happy Day also for those who live with us and celebrate with us. Let us change this world for the better. And don’t let anyone tell you are not beautiful.

In my eternal search for phrasing alternative ways of loving people, I found this piece. A bit heavy handed, almost taking with the other hand what the first one gives, but it captures some of my thoughts and feelings. I adapted the text to be a little bit more me-friendly. For me the “you” is plural. If you find nice queer texts on this topic, let me know.

I want to love you.*

I want to love you whether you are male, female or “other”, young or old or “just right”, single or married or “taken”…

When I see you we will embrace and hold a hug long enough to glimpse some insight from each other’s heartbeat.

When we walk down the street we shall link arms, pause frequently, and turn our toes and noses towards the other to speak directly without modesty.

I would like us to share the couch together, rather than creating a “do not cross” line where we may as well be sitting on brick blocks seated four feet away. Give me your knee, your foot, your thigh—let your body dangle on top of my body so I can know you the way litters of kittens know each other.

I want to show up to you and look into your eyes instead at your eyes. I want to feel your hand and be consumed by it until the rest of the world ceases to exist. I want to be in your presence and be in want of nothing.

I would like you to leave our time together feeling loved and free and full of your most vibrant and luscious hue of you-ness.

I have no sexual agenda, as you know, because we laugh at the freedom we feel to speak to strangers for reasons other than because we have to or because we’re hitting on them.

For me, sharing sex with someone requires a certain alignment, and I do not take that lightly. My sex requires that I can possibly foresee living with a person and combining all my stuff with all of their stuff (and I mean physical, emotional, cognitive and spiritual stuff—the stuff that just feels heavy if it’s not the right fit, but feels buoyant beyond imagination when it is). It is delicate, it is careful, it is not presumptuous or impulsive.

And I do not think that our connection is somehow weakened because we do not share our bodies with each other.

For love is love is love is love, and that is what I want.

I only want us to fall in love.

Now I realize that at some point, either you or I may change our minds and crave sexual expression with each other.

For I am human—as are you—and we have wants that change and grow.

But if that desire should spring upon one of us, I hope that we will talk about it, the way we talk about the universe, cultural tropes, the nature of depression, what makes a good cup of coffee, and how your day was yesterday.

I hope that that topic of conversation is no more avoided than talking about the latest episode of Doctor Who or how to effectively clean one’s mouth from Oreo breath.

I would like you to share yourself with me—every stitch of you—so that I may be warmed and nourished by your tapestry. And I would not like you to worry that some of your threading is inappropriate or uncomfortable to share with me, because I am only here to accept you exactly as you are and to take interest in the way you step through life.

So lay on me your doubts, your troubles, your faux pas, your suffering, your sadness. Lay on me your hopes, your dreams, your excitements, your curiosities, your guilty pleasures.

I want to see you how you see yourself.

And while you tell me all of this and more, I would like to rest my eyes upon your eyes, and take my hand upon your back, and laugh up to the ceiling as you divulge, because it is in these moments of pure exposure that I bask in the ever-so-specific you, and I become the ever-so-specific me, and even though you’ve never stepped into the tides of the pacific and I’ve never ridden a skateboard, I am more sure than I’ve ever been that we are the same.

I don’t care if I see you everyday or if I see you only just the one time when I happened to be in that coffee shop and you happened to be making my drink (which was delicious, by the way, and thank you for not rolling your eyes when I asked if your only non-dairy milk was soy)—I want to be your lover.

And I will have the lover whom I share a bed with, and it will be none the less—on the contrary, that love will be all the more—because I take on another million lovers.

So if you’re ready, let me see you and let me love you.

My insides, my arm, my couch, my laugh, my eyes, my toes are all for you.

I hope that is enough.

—–
(Adapted from Elephantjournal, original by Brental Schellenbach)

I wear it just for you

I have a tattoo, on my left arm. It symbolises the vortex of gender. The design is from the French artist Monoïk who made it for the then existing trans organisation Caritig. For some reason the Dropkick Murphys’ song “A Rose Tattoo” sprang to mind a couple of days ago and in day and nightly dreaming a fantasy starts developing. Continue reading

Another year gone by

Another year passed by. Another year older and deeper in debt as the song goes. Another year wiser also. These non-days at the end of the year are good for looking back, not in anger. Starting with a broken ankle but ending with the biggest gathering of queers and LGBTI people I’ve been part of. Not bad.

I have not paid very much attention to my private weblog lately. Much energy went into creating and starting Vreerwerk, my way of trying to make money while doing what I do best: trans and inter* and queer advocacy on an international level. The Netherlands is too small and too narrow minded. A Dutch (as in based in the Netherlands and Dutch speaking) queer movement doesn’t exist. Any form of intersex movement is absent also. A trans movement exists neither. But that is very Dutch.

In the meantime I have been busy, not only work-wise. Although … almost all new friends have some connection with activism and work. I do not know many queer/trans*/inter* people that are not somehow active changing their life, their environment, their body.

This year again I made fabulous new friends, or got to know some people better so they became fabulous friends. Thinking back to some important moments and how they influenced me, I must acknowledge that although escaping every time I can, I am definitely also a product of the mainstream society and morals I grew up with. I see it in my expecting comments or frowns when I tell people that also my relationships are strange. That some people mean so much to me and I to them, in their way, that I call them my loves. Although to most people it might look like another fad, it is not. Sometimes I wish we met more frequently, other days I just live happily musing about these great people in my life. I suspect everything in our relationships, our contact, is queer. Sometimes I feel an uneasiness (in me) but still also then I feel loved. And not being a poet, these things are not easy to put into words. Being someone’s very best queer and Dutch friend, hearing that going early will make someone else happy, in capitals, constant mutual flirting, being virtually polygamous, feeling the energy, the love … it makes me very happy.  Well, hardly a thing with me is traditional so I guess this construction is only fitting ;o)

As a longtime chat and beer friend recently pointed out, in a way I don’t do holidays, even when I am on vacation. When cycling in Latin America I visit queer communities in La Paz, Rancagua and Osorno. In Barcelona I slept in Barrilonia, the Vrankrijk of Barcelona, sadly evicted some months ago. I go to a queer, feminist cafete. Meet up with queer/trans  friends. I go on a safari with in total three trans people and a local (cis) gay man. And a very religious driver. I picnic in an Istanbul park with a bunch of trans people.

And lately I found a new tribe. When in 2011 I went to the First International Intersex Forum under the auspices of ILGA and ILGA Europe, I was cautiously happy, as an outsider. Now, with meeting old and new faces at the Second Forum in Stockholm, I am actually delighted. Meeting with so many great people, of who I sometimes maybe knew the names, not the faces, work and life. Some old, some new; all great, with all of our differences. We all come from different backgrounds, have different reasons for our being there and then, but still: all with a strong wish to change the world, for the better, in again another aspect. Herms, merms, ferms, querms, wotevers, I love you. We’ll make a fabulous movement. Those to come will stand on the shoulders of giants, as we do. Happy to be your transqueer sibling.

To peruse a commercial text:

Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can praise them, disagree with them, quote them, disbelieve them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things 

And in the meantime I hang out, sing, fight, cry, pray, laugh and admire. All in all I think it has been a good year for me. So I bring out a toast. To a queer world! Where we may flourish and be happy!

Thank you for being there, for being you.

Twijfels

Laatst zag ik een bericht van Hivos dat ze met Human Rights Watch een groot project morgen gaan doen voor  het bestrijden van homofobie in (sub-Sahara) Afrika. En ik zag dat diverse vrienden/collega’s op St Lucia zaten om te werken aan het versterken van LGBTI bewegingen. En ik zit thuis. Continue reading

Let the whirlwind blow!

Happy new queer! Or new beer, or new year, or new life. Or whatever. My wish to all of us is to let the whirlwind blow. Because I saw what was the winning side, but still I joined the other. The order has no sense of history! We will win! Thousandfold! Marichi weu!

I felt a shiver in the heat-haze: the waiting time is over
Strange tongues on the airwaves as the voices call from distant lands.

Let the whirlwind blow! Through the ice, the melting, melting snows
Let the whirlwind blow! Across the freezing skies and the tiny lights below

And so we shutter up the doorways as the ripples move towards us
For a moment stop breathing; she wakes and stirs beneath our feet
I saw which was the winning side but still I joined the other
And I’m in love with every strange unfolding day as the storm begins to break cover.
The order try to stand their ground while every battlefront is shifting. Well, they still believe that they can hold the reins but then they’ve got no sense of history!

Let the whirlwind blow
Through the ice, the melting, melting snows
Let the whirlwind blow
Across the freezing skies and the tiny lights below

Let the whirlwind blow
The waters seething, bubbling out of control
Let the whirlwind blow
Come on take my hand and we’ll dive!