Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Interview with Angela van Bebber

Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honor to interview Angela van Bebber, a Dutch transgender activist from Tilburg, the Netherlands, businesswoman, blogger, the author of “Eindelijk, ik lééf!” (Finally I live). Hello Angela!
Angela: Hello, thanks for the interview. 
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Angela: Well, where do I start. I’m 62 years old. Transsexual. Got out of the closet in 2001. Had my surgery in 2006. Life hasn’t been easy for me. I still have repercussions. In general, I’m doing fine. Nowadays I give lectures and I’m sharing my experiences at schools. I wrote a book about my life as it’s already mentioned. I have a website In English, you can say: It’s all good.

Her book via

Monika: What inspired you to write your autobiography titled “Eindelijk, ik lééf!” (2008)? 
Angela: I wanted to share the story of my life to give a brief view of what people like me go through once we find out that we are transgender.
Monika: Which aspects of your biography could be used by other transgender women planning their transitions?
Angela: Of course, you can follow my steps and make use of my expertise. But as I mentioned in my preface: make use of the tools but use them in your own way. Be authentic. What really can be an eye-opener is how I brought it out in the open.
Another piece of advice will be: to try to be open to everyone. Do not be afraid of negative reactions. That’s part of your process. No one does anything wrong, because they will respond to you the way they feel about it. No one can understand what you are going through.
Monika: Your life is full of incredible stories, which could constitute a perfect movie scenario: trapped in the male body for over 50 years, struggling with your gender identity, longing for your womanhood…
Angela: That’s right. I’m always open to that. Someone told me when I presented my book that it would be something for a movie. There are a lot of lessons to be told.
Monika: How did you find the courage and energy to cope with all those setbacks?
Angela: I have a lot of strength. All my life I solved all my problems myself. Never had any burnout. Never needed someone to help me out. I was always on my own. I still have setbacks, sometimes they last a few days, sometimes a few weeks, but always I get over them. And I strongly believe that I have to go through all of this because I’m the kind of person who wants to share and teach others. On stage, I have a universal story to share with the audience.

Courtesy of Angela van Bebber.

Monika: At the time of your transition did you have any transgender role models that you could follow?
Angela: No. I did it all by myself. I believe that everything in life has a meaning. Everything happens for a reason. Of course, some people encouraged me to take steps, but there was no role model.
Monika: What was the hardest thing about your coming out?
Angela: I still can’t find peace in my mind about my past. I’m still surviving and that’s not necessary anymore. That is why I still can’t enjoy life as much as I should do. That is a pity. But that will take time, step by step.
Monika: What do you think about the present situation of transgender women in Dutch society?
Angela: I believe that transgender women don’t meet with many problems. The ones I know have found their way.
Monika: The Dutch transgender society can boast a few well-known ladies, including Colette Berends, Romy Haag, Kelly van der Veer, Veronique Renard, and Valentijn de Hingh. Is there anyone in the Dutch transgender society whose actions, in your opinion, contribute to the promotion of a positive image of transgender women in the Netherlands? 
Angela: Oh yes. We have an organization called: Transgender Netwerk Nederland led by transgender women. For instance: they have debated with politicians about the new transgender law.

Courtesy of Angela van Bebber.

Monika: Are you active in politics? Do you participate in any lobbying campaigns? Do you think transgender women can make a difference in politics?
Angela: I’m not an active person in politics. I still have a lot to deal with my personal problems. I’m sure they can make a huge difference in politics to show how to be tolerant. How to be open-minded.
Monika: You give many lectures about transsexuality at universities, companies, and other institutions. What are the most frequent questions you are asked?
Angela: Why did I choose the name Angela? Why did it take almost 50 years to have my coming out? What was the reaction of my brothers, sisters, and parents? Did I lose my job because of my transition? What was the reaction of my colleagues? Especially from my siblings, I received very valuable lessons that I may now share on stage.
Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Angela: Nowadays love has become more important in my life. I would love to have a partner in my life. A woman. Before it was not easy for me to love someone. I still have problems loving myself. I’m working on it. I get help. And I ask for help nowadays. But before my coming out there was no love at all. I just couldn’t.
Monika: Are you working on any new projects now?
Angela: O yes. I have started to write a new book. And I’m working on a program that can be used at schools. But most importantly I have to work on myself in order to develop myself to get peace in my mind so that I can finally enjoy life at its best. That’s the biggest and most difficult project.

Courtesy of Angela van Bebber.

Monika: Having transitioned yourself, what would you recommend to all transgender women struggling with gender dysphoria? 
Angela: Be yourself. Regardless of what other people say. Be strong to talk about it and respect the opinions of those who do not agree with you. We are all entitled to have our own opinions. Do that and they will respect you.
Also, try to be as open as possible. I have been open from the very beginning. I never met with problems, so I was lucky. But I think that might also have to do with the fact that I have always treated everyone well.
Regardless of what they might think of me. I wish everyone all the best. A lot of love for yourself, a lot of self-esteem.
And don’t forget: you are special. We have to go through very tough times and that’s why we are not average. Would you like to be average? Sometimes: yes. Many times: no. Good luck.
Monika: Angela, thank you for the interview!
Angela: You’re most welcome.

All the photos: courtesy of Angela van Bebber.
© 2014 - Monika Kowalska

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