Many transgender individuals and interest groups welcome the Cabinet‘s apologies for the old Trans Gender Act. They see it as recognition of the suffering caused by the law, in force between 1985 and 2014. “They admit it was wrong. And everyone should know,” says duped Sem.
The law required physical sex change and sterilization in people who wanted to adjust their gender in their birth certificate. “That means that as a transperson or intersex person in the Netherlands you did not have autonomy over your body, as one of the few,” says Brand Berghouwer, chairman of Transgender Netwerk Nederland. About 2,000 people had to deal with the consequences of the law.
A number of transgender persons joined the Transgender Collective, which held the State liable in 2019. According to the collective, the law was contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights. The Cabinet believes that recognition and apology are appropriate and also comes with a financial concession.
Corine van Dun was forced to sterilize herself in order to allow a change in her sex in her birth certificate. She had two children by then. “You may no longer bear or conceive offspring, in my case. And that’s been so derogatory. That you really think: hello, I‘m a normal person, right?”
A possible third child was made impossible for Corine:
Sem (29) was in his early 20s when he wanted to change his gender in his birth certificate. That was necessary and urgent at that stage of his life, he says. He doesn’t want to be mentioned by last name, but he‘s well known to the editors.
“ I studied and then lived in rooms, men among themselves. But I still got mail with my old name on it. I was very afraid my roommates would see that name. I also wanted my diploma to be the right sex, especially in connection with the application afterwards. I didn’t feel comfortable answering to anyone.”
Sem did not know that a legal sex change at that time required sterilization. “I had bad feelings when I found out about it. I thought: ‘This is not right, why is this allowed in the Netherlands? ‘. Like you‘re a second-class citizen, you’re not good enough to reproduce. I did not dare to speak publicly about that, because I did not want to be outted as a transgender.”
‘Totally no choice’
Yet he decided to continue the adaptation in his birth certificate. “If your ID doesn‘t match who you are, you can experience a lot of problems with that. In my opinion, I had no choice not to be sterilized. I wasn’t busy with a child‘s wish then. I was busy with my studies and being able to live with full life.”
In 2013, sterilization took place. Sem then fell into a deep depression, partly because the Transgender Act was amended on 1 July 2014. The mandatory sterilization was then removed. “Had I waited a little longer, I would have been spared. There was also no communication that the law would change. If I had known it was coming, I would never have had the sterilization done.”
In recent times, Sem spoke twice with the national attorney and several ministers about his experience. He thinks it is “incredibly beautiful” that the Cabinet now apologises to transgender persons on behalf of the State. “They admit it was wrong. That the human rights of transgender people have been violated. And everyone should know.” In his view, the apologies are also a clear message to other countries, where transgender persons are ‘not considered to be full-fledged. ‘
He is less enthusiastic about the ‘compensation‘ of EUR 5000 for victims of the old Transgender Act. “It’s a lot of money, but this amount does not send out the right signal. This is not a wrong haircut; this law has been vital for transgender people. When I‘m in a nursing home later, I don’t have any children or grandchildren to visit me.”