Not all Dutch people are fully supportive of LGBTQI+ people, but much has improved over the last decade. Also, legislation is improving through the advocacy of COC Netherlands, TNN, Transvisie (three advocacy organizations for the LGBTQI+ and transgender community) and three very active Dutch government MP’s.
Still, many transgender people are facing discrimination in daily life and in the workplace. 45% of those employed are not (very) open about their identity, afraid of being mocked and bullied or even losing their jobs.
Many publications both online and in print, as well as pieces on TV are somewhat helpful. A lot of people also share their experiences via YouTube. But not all representation is helpful though! Often the focus is on surgery and body parts and being portrayed in a questionable manner to say the least! Paradoxically, more visibility leads to more violence against mostly, trans women of color, mainly in the USA and Latin-American countries.
As a transgender woman I’ve also faced some challenges. Firstly, my internal struggle. Whether you start at a young age or at a later age, there is this feeling of not belonging, a feeling of discomfort with your own body and your binary role as a man or a woman in your family and in society. Secondly, I lost my family when I transitioned and I became unemployed for a year.
When you realize that you feel like someone of the opposite sex (or somewhere in between), there is this big question what to do about it. Run and hide and live under the radar, or stand strong be out and fight for your rights. A lot depends on your character and the support of your family and friends (or lack of). I became fully aware of my gender struggle when I was 18. Back then in the early 1980’s there was not much information about ‘transsexuals’ .There was no access to the internet, there were no TV shows about transgender people, only some strange characters, played by cis gender people, who lied and deceived and murdered, or did sex-work and were on drugs, etc. I couldn’t identify with those characters, and the burden of my struggle became too big. So when I was 23 I joined the army to become a ‘real man’. Spoiler alert: that didn’t work out!
I got married and raised two children. The internal struggle however remained the same all the years following and finally, when I became 50, I decided that I wanted to start transitioning. At the age of 52 I transitioned at my workplace. I prepared my processes carefully and thoroughly and all my colleagues, managers and HRM were very supportive, lucky me!
Now again, I feel very privileged because I recently joined a firm which supports trans people with coaching and job coaching. ‘Trans Werkt Nederland’ has the support of TNN (Transgender Netwerk Nederland) and Network Pink FNV (the largest workers union).
Together with my colleagues we offer coaching and job coaching. Our clients are UWV and several municipalities and we support employees and their management, HR, and colleagues, including mediation, education and workshops if needed.
My sincere thanks to Workplace Pride for this publication and support and that we all keep working for a better (work) place for all people.
You can contact Petra via email: [email protected]