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Sophie Schers: ‘It’s Nice The Gender Registration Is Going To Be Taken Out Of Le

by Jos Verstegen in Health & Body , 12 juli 2010

Dit artikel is ook in het Nederlands beschikbaar


Every three days somebody somewhere is being killed for being transsexual. These murders generally take place in Latin America, the United States, or in Turkey. In many countries these victims are commemorated. In The Netherlands we do this during the annual Transsexual Memorial Day, we’ve had five so-far: four of them took place in Amsterdam and one in Utrecht. Embrace Pink also holds a memorial day in Tilburg.

Sophie Schers (28-year old student of Development Studies) from Nijmegen was born a boy and is now halfway her transformation into a woman. Every now and then she appears in the media to talk about transsexuality. She is the initiator of GenderQontrast, a group for transgender students, and she has repeatedly presented information at the Transgender Memorial Day. A conversation on commemoration and her ideal: gender registration taken out of legislation.

“Fortunately violence against transgenders is rare in The Netherlands. Still, we organize the Transgender Memorial Day because it’s essential we don’t forget what’s happening in other parts of the world. Recently a transgender woman in Mexico was brutally murdered, by decapitation. We hold our memorial day out of solidarity, a sense of being connected. Last November I had the privilege to speak at the Memorial Day in Utrecht; at the Dom tower we held a wake, with torches. I’ve never experienced violence but I know: if I lived in another country it could easily happen to me too. That’s what makes the Memorial Day very emotional for me.”

“I think it’s really important to generate publicity for the Memorial Day, and for transsexuality in general. It proves to be no easy task. If by accident someone is attacked just prior to the day, or killed, then we’d have a chance. Usually there’s not much attention. Small items here and there, last year I was on the radio and a year before that I was on ‘Goedemorgen Nederland,’ together with someone from Transvisie, a transgender organization.”


“In the media you’re confronted with questions of interviewers that are not familiar with the transgender issues. You have to keep your mind on why you’re in the program, and be aware that you don’t go along too much with what you think the interviewer wants to hear. They usually quickly skip to questions on where you are in the medical process, the operations, the hormones. To me the medical and personal issues are secondary to the why we’re holding a memorial day.I’ve received response on my media performances from other transgenders and my family. My father is very proud and sent the YouTube clip with my Utrecht speech around to his contacts.”

“I think attention in the media can help people to start talking about it at home. It can be important to parents, and to transgenders, to create understanding. For myself, it was the information I happened to pick up in the media that gave me little pushes to start thinking about thinks and getting ahead. In the student community I tried to set up GenderQontrast, a group for transgender students. But it’s hard to activate people, like when they’ve just started their transition. I think such a group is very important because then you don’t have to invent the wheel individually.”

“For example: you’re a student and you’d like to change something in your email address, or your name even, then it would be handy if you could ask someone who might have gone through the same thing. A group would be able to try and find a solution to the fact that in sports centers you’re often forced to walk through communal shower areas in order to get to an individual cubicle. Until now we’ve had no success with it. While there’s so much more that could be improved. Like, I can’t change my gender in the database of the university. To scrap gender registration altogether I think is a great cause. On the other hand, there are plenty of transgender people that like their new sex registered because they see it as a confirmation of their identity.”

“In England there’s a guideline for how to deal with transgenders. It says for example that one can’t just reveal someone’s transsexuality when that person is not living as their prospective gender yet. To out someone can turn out very embarrassing. Such a guideline offers some protection, to students and employees.”

“The English guideline also lists how to address transgender issues, because many people have no idea, no feeling for the subject. Minister Plasterk mentioned the ‘reconstruction process’ in a speech last January, while talking about the transition process of transgenders. I was in the room and thought: my God, even the minister doesn’t know the right terms to use. You use the word reconstruction when you’re turning a shed into a home, when you talk about things. We’re no things, no construction packet, we’re human beings.”

“In The Netherlands the situation is not that bad. We’ll even be ahead again once the law on gender registration is changed. But England is actually slightly ahead of us: aside from the Guideline, they also have the Gender Recognition Act, which stipulates that one can change their gender even before the operation. But there’s always room for improvement.

England hasn’t introduced gay marriages yet, so the marital bonds between for example a woman and a man going through the transition process, need to be severed; two women simply can’t be married in England. They are forced to change the marriage into a registered partnership.”



“This is obviously not necessary in The Netherlands anymore. One of my ideals is that everyone’s gender is respected and seen as authentic, and not as a deviation. That nobody’s looked down upon for what they are or feel that they are. But the truth is that people like forming groups and anyone on the outside is considered different, and perhaps even strange. That’s how it usually works. Another ideal of mine is the creation a professor’s position for transsexuality at a university. And a transgender in a soap would also be great. It’s wonderful that the gender registration in legislation is going to disappear. Also in letters and other documents it’s better to scrap the gender indication. It’s really weird for me to receive mail for Mr. Schers. It still happens every now and then.”

Recently “Dames, heren en anderen. Transgenders in Nijmegen” (Ladies, Gentlemen and Others. Transgenders in Nijmegen) was published by the municipality of Nijmegen, 2010. Text by Judith Schuyf, senior advisor of Movisie, Utrecht. In this book four transgenders tell their stories, amongst whom also Sophie Schers.



 







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