I was working at Amsterdam City Hall at the department of Public Open Space. With working schedules in hand, I regularly had meetings with a group of men who had to do work on the streets in the city center. They used to make fun of me. “Baby doll, you forgot to wear your heels.” “Did you always speak like a little queen?” “What is it like to be a caveman?” And so on.
Well, I was ready for them! “No, I left my heels at home.” With a low voice I’d say: “No, I can talk like a real man.” “Didn’t cavemen live in the stone age?” In the office, the men had placed their desks adjacent, but there was a man sitting by himself in the corner of the room. His name was Jan. “Why is Jan not sitting with you?,” I asked. “Jan is a camper,” the chief said. “Oh, that’s nice,” I retaliated. “My sister also lives in a camper. She’s parked next to Artis Zoo.” I had won Jan over immediately. So much so that he came into my office one day and told me: “My brother has a son who wants to walk around in girl’s clothes all the time. They agreed with him that he can wear earrings and dresses at the camping site. He does that for six whole weeks. Will he become gay?”
And then I hear that my once dream boyfriend Errol Brown had died at his house on the Bahamas. Errol was seventy-one and died of liver cancer. John Lennon once heard a reggae version of his song “Give Peace a Change” by “Band Hot Chocolate.” He liked it so much that he arranged a recording contract for them, and the name of the band was changed in “Hot Chocolate.” They sold millions of records, and Errol Brown became a celebrity. The native Jamaican was honored by Queen Elizabeth II for his services to pop music.
Dear Errol, in this column I want to thank you for what you have meant to me all those years ago in my times of uncertainty.
I thought of the nephew of my colleague Jan while watching the documentary “Transgender Kids” by that wonderful journalist Louis Theroux. Louis visited a number of children who are trapped in the wrong body. In San Francisco’s Benioff Children Hospital he spoke with several children, their parents and doctors. He also visited some children at their homes. Sebastian is now called Camille and is five years old. You see her in her girl’s room. With her cheeky voice, she tells Louis: “Sebastian was very unhappy. Then he became a girl. Camille. Now he is happy.” Camille’s parents give their child their full support. Louis also spoke with a handsome young boy. Shea is twelve years old and is getting puberty inhibitors at the advice of Dr. Steve Rosenthal. “Why?,” Louis asks the boy. Shea replies: “Because I don’t want to be a girl. The inhibitors will make my voice stay low, and I will not develop breasts for a while.” His mother added: “It started very early. I would say: ‘You are such a good girl.’ And Shea would immediately say: ‘No mummy, I’m a boy.’”
Dear Errol. I want to thank you for the time you were of such great comfort to me. I used to dream about you in the days I was not out of the closet yet. I saw you a lot on Dutch television program “Top Pop.” You were not exactly a black man with the right moves. Your moves even were a bit rigid, and you had a feminine side. But that was precisely what was so sexy about you! How you would look at me... I used to be in front of my mirror to see if my bulge could be just as big as yours. And it could. We both had “showers” and not “growers.”
Oh Errol. In Dutch the ugly terms are “vleeslul” (meat dick) and “bloedlul” (blood dick). At night in my bed you were beside me in my thoughts. I felt your hands on my body and tasted your magnificent mouth. We were so happy together. You were mine, and I was yours. You were my Prince Charming. Especially when you sang “I’ll put you together again.” Errol, in hindsight it’s a bit of a slobber song. But it was so comforting. You kept me hanging on and would make everything all right.
When you can’t take anymore / When you feel life is over / Put down your tablets and pick up your pen // And I’ll put you together again // If there’s no light anywhere / And you’ve got no one to turn to / I’ll lead you out of the darkness and then / I’ll put you together again
In Louis Theroux’s documentary, Camille’s mother also talks. She shows a picture of a handsome boy with a crew cut. She starts crying and says: “We will support Camille to the end. It’s about her happiness. But this is the last picture I have of her as Sebastian, and there are moments I miss my son so very much.”
And finally Errol. I have things I still need to tell you. Thank you for my dreams about you. I’m so happy there was no Internet at the time. I would have found out on Google that you were married to your lovely Ginette, and that you had two wonderful daughters, Colette and Leonie. I hope they were there during those final hours, like my sisters and I were with my mother. I hope, Errol, that you didn’t suffer too much, and that you, just like my mother, got the help you needed from doctors.