Wednesday 7 July 2021

Interview with Geneviève van Lynden

Monika: Today I have invited an inspirational woman. Geneviève van Lynden is a Dutch transgender woman, model, former police officer, mountains lover, and one of the icons of the Dutch transgender movement in the ’80s and ’90s. We are going to talk about her life and transgender experience in the previous century. Hello Geneviève! 
Geneviève: Hi Monika. Let me start by complimenting you on your great initiative. I love that you put so much time and energy into interviewing so many people for many years now. Your website has become a great time document; a resource that is rich in information about the past and presence of the lives of hundreds of transgender women.
You have interviewed so many inspiring transgender women. Like you, I admire many of them. How can I stand in their shadow? Nevertheless, I also have a story to tell and I am honored that you give me that chance.
Monika: Geneviève, you look like a million dollars. How are you doing this?
Geneviève: Thank you Monika. I'm happy and I radiate that, I think. In my younger years - I am now 62 years old - I knew of course that I looked good. At least that's what everyone told me. And I thoroughly enjoyed that. It pleases me that apparently I am still considered attractive to some even today.
The last 10 to 12 years of my life were not good. I was very overweight and looked death in the eye a few times. I was depressed, and in my mind I was ugly.
About 3 years ago I kicked myself in the ass, sought psychological help, and opted for a gastric bypass procedure. This operation has brought me a lot of good, both physically and mentally. It has also saved me from several diseases associated with morbid obesity. 
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Geneviève: I am married to the sweetest woman one could wish for. Her name is Connie, she is beautiful, very intelligent and she is always there for me.
When I was 17, I found a way to escape the parental home. I was admitted to the police academy, where I lived and studied during the week. Of my time in the police force, I have spent most of my time fighting serious organized crime.
For the last 15 years, I have worked as an information manager and business manager at mainly government organizations.

The picture is from the period that I made the decision
to start the transition in 1988, at age 30. I like it
because it brings back a lot of memories.

I have a lovely daughter from a previous relationship. She was born in 1989 when I was in the middle of the transition of MtF. My then partner's previous support flipped, and to save my relationship, I stopped transitioning after 8 months. Five years later, the relationship was over.
As you noted in the introduction, I did modeling in the 80's/90's, mainly as a woman or as a transgender if that was the intention. Photos of me have been used in commercials and to illustrate newspaper articles about transgenderism. After I stopped the transition process and the use of hormones around the birth of my daughter, I lived a double life. As a strategic analyst, the man was involved in catching big criminals. The woman occupied the rest of the time. And in that role, I call it that for convenience, I did a lot to gain my desire of validation, recognition of the person I was, and still am. For an enterprising friend, I became a representative of women's hairpieces at major fairs across Europe. Think of erotic fairs such as the Kamasutra in the Netherlands, but also ordinary fairs such as the household fair. During that time I participated in fashion shows, in my most cherished role. Getting accepted as just (!) another woman was my biggest motivation.
I especially received this acceptance from my current wife, whom I met 23 years ago. The rotten 10-12 year period I talked about earlier, I refer to it as the Gen sabbatical, is over. And together with Connie, I embarked on the path of my full transition.
Monika: Geneviève is a unique name. Why did you choose it?
Geneviève: Choosing a name is one of the perks of being transgender. In the "old days" I chose the name Annemarie, named after a girl with whom I went through kindergarten, primary and secondary school. I had an unrequited crush on her and watched her grow into the type of female girl I aspired to become. The biggest motivation for choosing that name was that it didn't end in A (Linda, Anita, Jolanda, Sandra, etc.). All transgender people I knew had names like this, so my "rebellious nature" chose something else.
Geneviève is the name of a dear friend. I thought it was a beautiful name that also didn't end in - absolute condition - A. I used this name - as a shield - when I became active on the internet/social media in the mid-nineties. What was then a pseudonym is now my name for over 25 years.

Old photo by unknown photographer.

Monika: Did you have a happy childhood?
Geneviève: Mmm, I knew this question was coming. I will answer that tactically. My childhood was okay, as long as I conformed to what my parents thought was normal. It was not normal for a boy to behave girlishly. It was certainly not normal to dress like that. Those were different times. Anything that deviated from the standard was not good.
I learned early on – since the age of 6 - that my feelings were bad. So I adapted to the norm. But those feelings remained, always. It was never talked about either, but if there was a manifestation of my feelings - in behavior or clothing - then it was made clear to me that I was bad, inferior.
Recently I wrote a letter to my mother who has been dead for a few years. That's not a loving letter. I still get tears in my eyes if I re-read it. It's on my Instagram page. I got a lot of reactions. Many had more or less the same experiences with their parents. And not only old twats like me, but also young people.
The essence of that letter is that nothing could be talked about. As long as you don't talk about it, it doesn't exist. That involved my deep-seated desire to be a real girl, but also years of abuse by an uncle. It was my fault. I was constantly mistrusted by my mother. From her point of view, this was not unjustified: secretly I continued to dress as a girl, and during the daytime, when my mother was at work, I went out into the streets like that.
Monika: Did you reunite with your mother? Did she finally accept you as her daughter? 
Geneviève: It was also around the birth of my daughter that the ties with my parents were strengthened again. She was never able to talk about essential matters. There was a certain amount of affection, but love (which I had missed so much in my childhood) I did not experience during that period either. She was my mother, but not the mother I would have chosen if I could. She never accepted me as her daughter. There was “an almost” moment: due to dementia, she didn't recognize the person who greeted her, and because I was standing in her way, she said, “Hello, ma'am, can I stop by?”. She died shortly afterwards. 
Monika: Our younger sisters can enjoy all the changes triggered by the invention of the Internet, medical feminization services, puberty blockers, and awareness of LGBT rights. How do you recall the 80s and 90s from the perspective of a Dutch transgender woman? 
Geneviève: In the Netherlands, we always pride ourselves on being liberal and understanding towards the LGBT community. In my perspective, that was especially true in the 80s and 90s. Never have I had a negative experience. But that is personal. Because of my involvement and activities in the T&T community, I am aware of bad experiences, sometimes involving violence. That’s no different today.

Old photo, photoshoot in the Bijenkorf.

People of all walks of life were genuinely interested in the transgender issue. I have been asked to speak in guest lectures at universities and colleges. I've given information and presentations for all sorts of organizations, from gay communities to the Rural Women's Union. I wrote a book about my youth up to adolescence for the “Landelijke Kontakt Groep T&T” (an advocacy organization, a predecessor of Transvisie, in which I was pretty active). 
Much has changed for our younger sisters (and brothers). Mostly for the better, but also for the worse. When I was diagnosed with gender dysphoria in 1988, I was able to start the transition process fairly quickly. That took a few weeks. There were several hospitals and experts specialized in the subject in the country.
The current situation with regard to transgender care is far from optimal. For decades, the growing number of adult transgender clients has been insufficiently addressed. This has resulted in waiting lists that are unacceptable. The main academic hospital where transgender people can go now has a waiting time of 720 days for an initial intake interview.
The waiting time for children is also unacceptably (18 months) long. The waiting time has remained broadly unchanged over the past few years, despite the continuing sharp increase in demand for this care and postponement due to corona. That is considered a huge achievement, which unfortunately makes no difference on an individual level.
There has been a lot of pressure on improvement in the field and from politics. Partly thanks to Lisa van Ginneken, there is a Future Vision on the table that states that diagnostics and indications must be carried out in a more limited way. You interviewed Lisa earlier, she is officially the first transgender person to become a member of the House of Representatives. Last February she (and her party D66) instructed the minister to 'force' the transgender caregivers to work towards a triage: a short intake.
All in all, we in the Netherlands can be very proud of a member of parliament who is actively committed to self-determination for transgender and intersex people and safety for all LGBTI people. I trust that the model of triage will be implemented quickly, so that the unacceptable long waiting time will become limited and that, where appropriate, it is possible to start faster with HRT.
Monika: Let’s elaborate more on Landelijke Kontakt Groep T&T. Did it attract many women and girls? How did the group operate?
Geneviève: That is a special question, which I can answer with YES. The monthly T&T evenings were open to everyone. There was a door policy. T&T Amsterdam was held in a canal house, close to the entertainment area. That sometimes attracted noisy drunk people. They were refused, but if you just behaved with respect for others, then you were welcome. 
Obviously, it was a self-help group, primarily for transgender people and/or their partners. It has always been the case that there are many non-transgender people who have a strong involvement with transgender people. That concerns men and women. In the years that I attended those T&T evenings, I have seen many relationships develop between transgender people with both men and women.

Old photo.

Monika: How did you start modeling? Do you remember your first time on the fashion catwalk? What did you feel?
Geneviève: The first time I was asked to model for a photoshoot was through a friend. It's a funny story. I was with other transgenders in a then famous dance club in Amsterdam, the Mazzo. A couple of girls were recruiting crossdressers for a TV production company for a "Miss Travestie Show". All the T-girls around me were asked, but they skipped me. I was a little offended. So I asked one of those girls in my deepest voice if I wasn't good enough for that stupid show... Turns out they mistook me for a regular girl. () Yipeee () That night it became very pleasant with the girl I had spoken to. We became friends. Her boyfriend was a photographer, and he was the first to ask me for a photoshoot.


All the photos: courtesy of Geneviève van Lynden.
© 2021 - Monika Kowalska

No comments:

Post a Comment

Search This Blog