[email protected] community “Gender Euphoria: What is Trans Joy?” hybrid workshop 30 March 2023

20 April 2023

“It’s not the big things but the little things that make life valuable.”

The five designated Workplace Pride Communities regularly host events to connect our members and learn from each other. On Thursday, 30 March, the Trans+@Workplacepride Community organized this workshop with the Erasmus School of Social and Behavioural Sciences, part of the Erasmus University in Rotterdam, to bring extra attention to the International Transgender Day of Visibility on 31 March.

Trans Joy is also shining in front of the (online) audience

The context of the workshop

In these times of anti-transgender sentiments, it is essential to make positive voices heard. The panel discussion-shaped workshop was aimed to highlight the positive aspects of being transgender. Unfortunately, too much attention on the trans+ experience in the media is focused on the negative aspects. Not only is this evident from the term “gender dysphoria”, which carries the negative dys- prefix, as is it emphasized by the medical community, pop culture, or academia. While that focus is indeed needed to bring attention to and help with pressing issues, the risk is that the community might let itself be defined by this negative sentiment. However, for many, there is a lot of joy in truly living as yourself. A more appropriate term describing this positive, forward-looking view would be gender euphoria. For the trans+ community, this can come from bodily experience, physical presentation, social relationships, inclusion, and cultural representation, similar to cis people’s affirmation of their identities.

Marjolein Verkouter kicks off the workshop

Introduction of the workshop

The workshop was introduced by Marjolein Verkouter (she/her) – A trans woman and head of Technical Operations and R&D Joint Institute for VLBI ERIC. Marjolein gave more meaning to the term dysphoria and shared her personal story. Dysphoria comes from the old Greek “dys”, meaning heavy and “pherein” to bear: so heavy to bear. Without a noun it doesn’t even mean anything. Gender dysphoria is a thing: finding your gender hard to bear. From this explanation, I like to take the leap to the other end of the spectrum, namely the concept of euphoria. Gender Euphoria is the term used to indicate that a person is feeling well, feeling comfortable and healthy. Of course, “something” was the matter: I was not feeling well! Living a depressed and retracted life. And I am not alone. Some big problems and challenges need attention, such as; social acceptance, recognition, active support from healthcare professionals and active support from employers. From the day in 2021 when I stepped out of our front door as myself, all the years of depression fell off my shoulders. That is when I realized I really don’t want to look back. Even though what you are looking at and what you’re hearing has not received any help: no psychological help, no financial help, no medical help. 

I have only been on the waiting list since 2021. The fine print is that I am very privileged. I grew up in the Netherlands as a Dutch white male. That is a stable social environment, having access to education, and even making a career before transitioning. But it is safe to say I have been genuinely experiencing euphoria ever since. 

From left to right:  Sophie Jeckmans, Kaye Candaza, Dylan Drenk and Savannah Fischer 

The excellent panel went on to discuss the topic what Gender Euphoria – Trans Joy means, what the implications are, and what can be done at work and in social reality. 

Personal experiences and favourite stories of Trans Joy
Trans Joy = human joy and is in the small details and in significant changes. Being called out to you in the desired gender identity: “Hey girl, how are you doing?” is already a fantastic start. And then the support of your parents, who embrace and accept you and try to listen carefully to you and share their “new” daughter or son with the world. Transgender persons want to live an everyday social life just like everyone else. Trans persons also live an ordinary “boring” life, running errands and going to work. The bottom line is that you hope the world around you will look at you similarly. It helps tremendously to have role models, in the media, at work and in society. This makes you think, I can be that too, and then stepping over the threshold suddenly becomes more manageable. Even taking hormones can give you joy because you experience the burdens and the happiness in your new gender identity. It is a complex but good exercise to let go of negative aspects, such as a voice that does not fit the gender. Constantly focusing on such issues causes unnecessary energy loss. Helping others in their search can also give you much positivity. This is supported by some panellists in feeling like a mother figure for the community. Trans Joy is also supporting LBTI refugee women in their new motherland. Even though it is still a long problematic journey, from the seemingly impossible to the possible, everyone on the panel wants to emphasize that each individual is only too happy to continue this journey.

The hot topics of the workshop

Impactful Stories for the Workplace

A healthy and safe workplace is essential for everyone. For this, there needs to be a good foundation based on equality, listening to each other and mutual understanding. Not so long ago, being transgender was referred to as a disorder. Fortunately, according to the DSM 5, Gender Dysphoria is no longer considered a mental illness. This paves the way for society and organizations to begin the dialogue about the representation of transgender people in an organization. Trans joy can also be experienced by not being a burden. For example, when it’s seamless to transform name and gender in the administration. However, this shouldn’t spark joy; this should be the norm. A well-founded self-id system, based on the 3 pillars of access, promotion and protection, is beneficial. A global well-being program could also help in actually understanding the needs and desires of transgender people. This requires the will of HR, D&I and the (senior) leadership to serve and support everyone in the organization and then to do so with the correct and appropriate service and support. 

Good news 

On Thursday, March 30 – 2023, Niels Mulder, president of the Dutch Association for Psychiatry (NVvP) addressed an expression of regret for the harm done to people with LGBTIQ+ identities in the past. This was based on the belief at the time that being lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex or queer was an illness that needed treatment.
Read the entire statement of regret here

Missing puzzle piece for parents: from son, to child to daughter

The future of the discussion of transgender people in society and the workplace
“Give it time and be patient”.
 Every journey begins with small steps and can then begin to grow and bloom. Remember, policy-making always starts with individuals. Put the organization’s policies and guidelines against a critical yardstick. Do you have policies, and do they work? Are the measures in an organization for transgender people compliant with daily practice? Ensure that HR, D&I and representatives of the target group (ERGs) are conversing with senior management and asking for accurate support to further develop and implement policies. And ensure the policy is compliant with local legislation. And again, a big shout out to getting transgender role models to speak, or if you don’t have role models in your organization, “fly” someone from another organization in. Workplace Pride can assist with this if needed.

Answers to questions from the room and online

Click here to view the video of the event.