The Amsterdam gay parade consists of a lot of boats that go all the way along the Prinsengracht around the ancient center of the city. Most of the boats have been decorated and the people on the boats have all dressed themselves for the occasion. Some groups start the preparations for this months before the event and they get very beautiful results.
Of course the main color used on most of the boats is pink. And on board we saw a lot of guys dressed as girls and also some girls dressed as boys.
Some boats were decorated in very special ways. One of them had an inflatable love-doll on it that stood 25 feet high. And they had to deflate it time and time again because she needed to pass under the bridges! There are at least ten bridges along the route of the parade and every time this poor inflatable girl had to arch her back as if she was doing a giant's limbo-dance.
There were also boats that were about supporting an organization or getting across a point of view, like the Amnesty International boat: "Gay rights are human rights" and the AIDS fund boat.
In this category there was also a boat on which everybody was holding up a sign with a text starting "I want to kiss again..." How about "I want to kiss again in Iran"
The boat from Shell company was very remarkable. It had a great banner saying: "Shell colleagues celebrate Diversity & Inclusiveness" It turns out that Shell organizes get-togethers for gays and transsexuals within the company! That sounds like a fine example of acceptance on the job!
On the last boat we saw Boy George. I don't know whether it was really him or just a very good imitation and that doesn't really matter. I like his looks because he is not a transvestite, but still he is about as feminine as a boy can get...
It took several hours for all the boats to pass and in the end I began to feel quite cold. I don't envy those guys who have to stand half naked on one of those boats. And for them it was not over yet, because they had to sail the full length of the Prinsengracht, all the way to the Amstel where they would all get together.
Such a parade is fun to watch, but I do have some objections to it.
On the boats we saw lots of "Bearded Beauties". It is easy to understand why this is the case. These people want the world to see they are gay, but that doesn't show! So that's why you see a lot of transvestism on these boats.
To the general public this can be confusing. It may strengthen the prejudice amongst the public that all transvestites are gay. It may even give the impression that most gay people are transvestites. And that is not the case!
But on the other hand it is just a nice party and we wouldn't want to spoil that. I enjoyed it very much and so did the hundred thousand people who came to watch it, not to mention the millions of people who have seen it on TV!
Those are very good questions. And believe me, I have struggled with those questions for years. And I went looking for information -- on the Internet of course. I found many diaries and stories written by transsexuals. They knew what was the matter with them. But I was looking for scientific material, Hard evidence, a litmus test, I needed to be sure.
And I did find material that was labeled 'scientific'. I found "The transsexual phenomenon", by Harry Benjamin, I found "The Man who would be Queen", by J. Michael Bailey.
Yes, Bailey's book! At the time I didn't know his book made many transsexual people very angry. I just thought I had found a reliable source of information.
In this book he presents the results of a research he claims to have done about transsexual people. In his view there are two types of transsexuals: Type one, which he calls the 'homosexual type' and type two, which he calls the 'autogynephilic type'.
He goes on to describe type one as misdirected gay men who want to transition because they think their attraction to men would be more acceptable and their chances of finding a man would increase if they were women. He also says these are the 'early onset' transsexuals, i.e. those who transition at a young age.
Type two is described as the group of misdirected heterosexual men, who sort of invert their attraction to women onto themselves, so that they can become the object of their own lust. He also calls this group the 'late onset' transsexuals, i.e. those who transition at an older age.
This book got me very confused. First of all, Bailey calls both types of transsexuals 'misdirected' in one way or another. Secondly I didn't fit into either of his categories, so the logical conclusion seemed to be that I was not a transsexual. Based on the book, one could even say that nobody is a transsexual. They are all just 'misdirected' people.
But the truth of the matter is that you only need to listen to your heart. You will know! I knew it! I was just looking for excuses for not admitting to this strong feeling. But that didn't work. The book didn't give me such an excuse. I felt the book just wasn't about me. Maybe I was a new kind of transsexual? The thought that Mr. Bailey could be all wrong didn't occur to me at the time...
In the three years since my transition I had only swum one time. That was in a swimming pool in Italy. Julia so much wanted to go for a swim, I couldn't refuse that. But I didn't feel ready for it. I hadn't started with my hormone treatment yet, so my body was still completely male, but I had to go dressed as a girl. With falsies in my bikini top and with an unnatural bulging in my panty. I didn't feel really at ease there, but afterwards it was a good feeling to know I had conquered my fear and done Julia a favor.
But it gets even more complicated. In the past Julia and I always went to naturist beaches. Yes, that's right: Skinny dipping! We always loved the atmosphere at naturist beaches: people are very friendly and they care about the environment. You won't find empty cans and bottles or cigarette buds on a naturist beach. These people clean up their mess when they leave.
Of course on a naturist beach transvestism is impossible. Without any clothes you cannot pretend to be anything but yourself. So I hadn't been there since my transition. It was impossible for me to go anywhere if I would have to look like a guy. But things have changed. Now that I am on hormones, my body is changing. I don't look like a man anymore, I look like a... SheMale!
Of course a SheMale is a rather unusual kind of person, but I had decided I wanted to go to the naturist beach again as soon as I didn't look like a man any more. So last week I took the big step and went to the beach for the first time in three years. I have to admit I was a bit scared to do that. But I am not sorry I did. It is so relaxing to let go of all pretending and make-believe. I was just me, nothing more, nothing less!
Of course people have looked at me. There is nothing wrong with that! Everybody looks at everybody else. Some people will have thought: "Hey, HE has breasts!" and others thought: "Hey SHE has a penis!" And they were right! So what!
When I got the idea to do my column about this subject I hesitated at first. In one of my previous columns I also touched another taboo and some people were confused by that. And I know nudity is much more taboo in the USA than it is in the Netherlands. So I did a little research on the internet to find out whether naturism would be acceptable in my column. The first hit I got on Google was a page with a picture of a nude couple on the beach at Cape Codd, so that was a good sign. And soon I found the pages of "The Naturist Society" at http://www.naturistsociety.com/.
They have a slogan that exactly expresses my feelings about my outing to the beach:
And article 1 of the Dutch constitution simple says: "Discrimination is prohibited."
So if they would have fired me because I am a transsexual, I could easily have sued them.
No, it was all done in small steps, in a much more subtle way. Since my transition, I have never had a positive performance review. There was always a lot of criticism about my performance on the job. The criticism ranged from brutal lies and half truths to vague accusations and subjective impressions.
Then I just happened to meet the criteria for lay-off in a reorganization. I was transferred to another company, but remained doing the same work, only now as a temp instead of a normal employee.
And the bad performance reviews continued. My former employer, who was now my customer was never satisfied. They tried to end my contract because my part in the project had allegedly been completed. That was another lie and I succeeded in continuing the contract two times because the work wasn't finished.
Now they have made a third attempt to kick me out and they have succeeded. My work still has not been finished, I have had to transfer it to a new colleague. Now that I am a temp it is really quite simple to get rid of me: They just needed to say to my new employer that they are not interested in hiring me any longer.
So my work has ended. It has been stolen away from me. I have cried a lot lately. It is all just so unfair! And there is very little I can do about it. It is very clear that the beautiful 'company Code of Conduct' is a paper tiger. To give one other example: Amongst 1000 employees there is not one single homosexual working for my former employer! Do you believe that? Neither do I. Clearly the homosexuals in the company keep quiet about their orientation, because they fear to be discriminated.
I am out of work now, but I am not out of a job yet. My new employer will have to come up with a new assignment for me. It will be a litmus test of their company Code of Conduct to watch closely how they are going to handle this.
The audience was free to walk the street and ask the actors to do their monologue. So each time they did their act for a small audience of 1 to 6 people inside a room -- quite an intimite setting for a theater play.
I was there with Julia and two very close friends and we went from building to building. We saw about a dozen of acts in one afternoon.
Most of the monologues were about the misery in the lives of the charaters that were enacted. And that made some of the performances seem a little too similar.
But there were acts that were remarkable in one way or another. One act was particularly interesting to me because of the subject matter. It was played by a guy in the age of sixty and it started something like this:
Everybody is a story. Each one of you standing in front of me is a unique story.
I am a story to. A lot of stories, really.
But there is one story I would like to tell you.
That is a story of me -- in a dress!
He told us he had been involved in a radical gay movement at the end of the seventies. They called themselves the 'Rooie Flikkers' ('Red Faggots') and they often dressed up as women for fun, but also to make a political statement.
Instead of assimilating in the society like most homoseksuals tried to do in those days, they stressed the fact that they were different from, or even better than, heteroseksuals.
When Anita Bryant did her anti-gay campaign as a reaction to the human-rights ordinance that passed in Miami-Dade County in Florida, many people in the Netherlands were worried and a large Anti-Anita happening was organized in the Amsterdam Orchestra Building under the name 'Miami Nightmare'.
The 'Rooie Flikkers' took even more radical action. They appeared en masse at a streetcar stop in front of the building, all dressed in frocks and skirts. They managed to shock the audience that felt comfortable to demonstrate against Anita from a safe distance, but was not able to cope with sight of transvestism yet...
I liked his story, but I was very curious whether he would notice anything special about me. After all I used to look like a guy in a dress myself until recently and I am still getting used to being accepted as a woman wherever I go.
If he did notice, he hid it very professionally.
Our friends were also convinced that he never knew how closely his story was related to mine. And throughout the afternoon they noticed how well I was accepted everywhere I went. They had noticed only one guy who stared at me as if he had seen a ghost.
It looks like I am really beginning to blend in as a woman in society. That feels absolutely great, I hadn't thought it possible for a long time!
In the Netherlands crossdressing was already legalized in 1978, so I never got into problems with that. But recently I found out that it is still illegal in Belgium, only thirty miles from my home! My Belgian friends have told me that it is illegal, but it isn't prosecuted. I didn't know about that, so I have broken the Belgian laws many times without even knowing it.
In the USA I think it depends on where you go. It wouldn't surprise me at all if crossdressing is still illegal in some of the more conservative states, counties, perishes or cities.
So there you are, driving home from a private party in the safe seclusion of your own car, still in your nicest dress and with make-up on you face when suddenly you are stopped by the police. Of course there are many things you can and should do to avoid such an encounter: Don't drink and drive, don't ignore stop-signs and traffic lights, don't speed! Just behave like a lady.
But you can always be stopped for a routine check.
What should you do?? Don't panic! It doesn't even matter whether crossdressing is illegal or not. If you lose your nerve now, you can only make things worse! Do not give the policemen extra reason to get angry or nervous. For all they know, you could be an Al-Quaida terrorist hiding behind a clean shave and a blond wig. Keep your hands on the wheel, tell them your real name as it appears on your driver's license. Admit to them that you are crossdressing. And above all: Do not try to flee by driving away! Fleeing is the best way to get the story of your behavior on TV, on the front page of the local newspapers or, even worse, to get your name on the second page of the newspaper with a black line around it. You have probably seen these TV shows where a dozen of police cars are in pursuit of a fleeing vehicle. They are always assisted by a helicopter with a TV camera on board. And they always get the fugitive; dead or alive! In several cases I saw on TV it turned out that the driver of the vehicle fled because he was crossdressed and afraid to expose himself.
Worldwide on TV! Do you call that avoiding exposure?
My mother often tried to console me by telling me the story of the Ugly Duckling. You must have heard of that one, or have you?
Once upon a time a mother duck was breeding on her eggs. After a few weeks six of them hatched and out came six beautiful little ducklings. The seventh egg was slightly bigger than the other ones and it hatched a little later. Out of it came a very ugly duckling. It was too large and it was the wrong color. Mother duck was first afraid it may not even be a duckling; maybe it was a turkey? But when she saw this duckling could swim, just like her other children, she was reassured. This was probably just a phase and her child would grow over it. She lovingly accepted him as one of her own.
But the other ducklings were not so tolerant. And the other animals on the farm didn't accept him either. After several miserable weeks the poor duckling fled from the farm. He went to a nearby moor and asked all the animals if they had ever seen a bird like him, but nobody had. One day he saw a flock a very beautiful, white birds. These were swans of course, but the young duckling didn't know that. And somehow he felt towards them as he had never felt for any other bird in the world. He deeply wished he could be as graceful as they were, if only for one day! The beautiful birds flew away to the south, because the winter was beginning.
The winter was a very harsh time for this poor, lonesome bird. He almost ended up in a cooking-pot, he nearly froze to death and he felt more and more miserable.
Then, when the spring began he witnessed the return of those beautiful, white birds. He wanted to go near them, ugly as he was. He humbly approached them, bending his head down towards the water. But then he saw his own reflection! He saw he had grown into a beautiful, young swan! He was now just like the birds he had admired so much! He was lovingly accepted amongst the swans and people said he was the most beautiful of them all!
Of course the swan was very happy. But he never became vain or conceited. He always remembered how it felt to be despised and teased, and he was very sorry for all the creatures who are so treated merely because they are different from those around them.
It is a beautiful story with a happy ending, but it wasn't very consoling. I knew I was not a swan and I didn't see how I could ever live to see a happy ending like he did. Little did my mother and I know what was to happen to me many decades later in my life...