Since the 1990s already, vreer verkerke, who always writes their name with lower case letters, has been waging a struggle for trans peoples’ rights. The more insight they got into power structures and oppression, the more they spoke out about other peoples’ rights as well, like Palestinians and Kurds.
What is the source of your struggle?
“My struggle for trans rights started when I discovered that the whole procedure to change your body and gender was very unfair. I started my changes towards who I am now in the beginning of the 1990s and in those days and you had to undergo all sorts of psychiatric testing and it took a long time before you received the medical assistance that you needed. It also took a court case to change the legal aspects of your gender. I came to realize that that was a case of inequality. So together with a couple of other people I started fighting for change. First is was on a small scale, just to get the treatment we wanted for our bodies and not the treatment the medical establishment wanted. It took us some time to phrase our oppression in human rights terms, to see that human rights were being violated.”
There has been more attention for the rights of trans people lately, but the existence of trans people is nothing new. Can you tell us more about it?
“Trans people have been present always, everywhere. Gender diversity is a global phenomenon. How it plays out, how people present and identify themselves, is regional. Saying ‘I’m a non-binary trans person’ is rather common in the western world nowadays, it may be a new phrasing, but people who don’t identify with either male or female have been always everywhere. When we look for example at Latin-America before the Dutch, Portugese and Spaniards came, there was gender diversity. The Spaniards choked it, literally killed the people who were gender digressing. In the Middle East, with all the occupations, that has also been the case.”
“There have been gender diverse people in royal courts, and sometimes being gender gender was a position of honour, being seen as the mediator between heaven and earth. We have a rich past. In the western world, this has been destroyed by the nazis in the 1930s.”
Over time, your struggle has become less personal and more political, right?
“As you can see with women’s emancipation, with emancipation of gay and lesbian people, with LGBTQIA emancipation, with all emancipations, at first you discover something is wrong, I feel oppressed, or I feel not taken seriously in my wishes. Then you think: ‘Hey, if this is an oppression, it is about power relations, and then it becomes political.”
It’s connected to patriarchy also.
“Yes, definitely. Now that I’m in sort of a Kurdish environment, well, I don’t have to tell them much about patriarchy do I? Kurdish society is very patriarchal but on the other side there is the liberation struggle in Rojava and in many cities where feminism and to a lesser extent probably queerness is very present. We are all in resistance against an imposed idea of how and what people should be.”
As an activist for trans rights, you feel very connected to the Kurdish struggle and the Palestinian struggle. Can you elaborate on that?
“The best slogan to explain this is: ‘Nobody is free until we are all free.’ My freedom is connected to yours, is again connected to other women’s freedom, to Palestinian women, to Kurdish women, to all Kurds. It is everywhere a struggle against patriarchy and capitalism.Those are the systems that inhibit us from living our lives to the fullest, and the systems destroying our planet. Everything is connected.”
For you personally, it is not about being male or female anymore, is it?
“True, I don’t understand gender in that sense anymore. I refuse the power construct behind it. I grew towards a different solution. Maybe I am multi-gender, as I always say, ‘As the wind blows, blows my gender.’ In that sense, gender is irrelevant to me.”