En face foto van Kaye

Kaye – ‘It’s always the papers’

It’s not all just misery, says Kaye (34), after telling how she left her parents because they did not accept her being trans, how her partner in the Netherlands became violent and that institutions didn’t cooperate at all. A story of abuse, violence, bullying, racism, her head against the wall. “But my grandmother accepted me as I was,” she says, and there was also “the hairdresser’s around the corner where the women became family.”

(Een Nederlandse versie van dit interview staat hier.)

“Seven years ago I came from the Philippines, driven by love. The Netherlands attracted me. In trans rights and human rights the country is well-known as being progressive. At least that was my impression.”

“This image changed when I experienced domestic violence and found little response from the police. I was refused in the safe house because of my documentation, as I was still registered as a man in my Filipino passport. It turned out to be quite difficult to change this registration, it would take me five years.”

“The relationship seemed so beautiful from a distance, but once I came to the Netherlands and moved in with him, things changed. We decided to separate and he reported me to the IND. They revoked my residence permit. I had the choice: either go back to the Philippines or find a new partner. The first option was a no-go for me, as I had given up everything there.”

To the edge

“My new boyfriend turned out to be a psychopathic drug addict. He blackmailed me – “if you leave, I’ll report you” – and he isolated me. He didn’t want me to have friends or find work, but to depend on him. Back in the Philippines instead, I used to be very independent and I was working as a nurse. But he wanted power and control over me. He hit me almost every week and also used a taser, a device that the police sometimes uses. Then he would lock me up at home because he didn’t want neighbors or friends to notice my bruised face.”

“I have experienced domestic violence for four years. Yes, I called the police. Already after a few weeks. I reported him four times in all those years. They would put him in jail during the night and release him afterwards. Trying to escape from the violence, I slept under the bridge at times, but I could not leave. Friends said, “don’t go back!”, and I wanted to go to a safe house, but because of the documentation they rejected me.”

“We received guidance from the Oranje Huis (a house that offers shelter to women fleeing domestic violence and support victims and abusers in finding solutions). There he confessed that he had almost beaten me to death. He said he would stop taking drugs and treat me humanely, but most of all he just wanted me to withdraw the complaint. I hoped he would change, but that didn’t happen. He then went to Thailand for three weeks, but instead of a rehab, he and his friends hired sex workers.”

“He drove me to the edge. He hired a prostitute and used her while I was there. And on holidays in Madrid, he hit my head against the wall. I wanted to escape, but not without my passport. Back in Amsterdam I got the impression when I noticed his recent insurance papers, that he wanted me to disappear. I felt no longer certain about my life. Fortunately, I was able to escape and I went to my Filipino friends. The police said that, because they didn’t see a real murder threat, they couldn’t do anything. This happened in 2016.”

The papers

“Then I had to go back to the IND. I told them what had happened to me and showed them the charges I had made to the police. They finally apologized to me and I received a residence permit on humanitarian grounds.”

“I was able to find work at Schiphol. Great, but when the employer found out that I was trans, they wanted to know all kinds of details such as: did you have surgery already? They wanted me to use the accessible toilet as my locker room instead of the women’s locker room for almost two years. And by doing so they outed me to colleagues who wondered: what is wrong with her? The sexual harassment and transphobic bullying I experienced almost every day made me feel unsafe, sick and suicidal. I brought in TNN and the Meldpunt Discriminatie and they sent lawyers to the company to ask them why they treated me the way they did.”

“In the end my contract was not extended, probably for reporting about the discrimination. But now I have a Dutch passport and I am registered as a woman. Finally I am recognized as being myself. My new job is going well. It’s so nice if you have the right papers. I can see now how important this is, because you are very vulnerable if you don’t have them. All bad experiences – finding a safe house or asking for help at the police – it’s all because of those false papers. ”


“I’ve been committed to the rights of trans people for some time now. But those rights aren’t isolated. Migration, domestic violence and racism are also themes. Intersectional, because it all depends on each other. I don’t want people to experience what I have experienced. ”

“My activism didn’t just start in the Netherlands. My family did not accept it when I already felt like a girl three or four years old. They wanted me to change. When I was seven, I moved in with my grandmother who sent me to school and raised me as a girl. That’s why I never really needed a transition. Later on I was able to get hormones with the help of friends in nursing. Things were fine then, but when I was 16 my grandmother died, and I was on my own again. I returned to my family. I could only finish school because my aunt had promised my grandmother to let me. But there was no understanding and acceptance.”

“Fortunately, there was this nearby hairdresser’s. I went there after school to chat and to help. There were several trans women and they became a kind of family to me. More so than my real family. I found out that I wasn’t the only one who was rejected and disowned by their family. The Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines helped me when I asked them because I had to appear at school in male uniform and with short hair. The school adjusted its policy. My advocacy for trans rights started with that case.”

“I am now involved with Trans-United, a bi-cultural group that supports migrants. It is very important to help them with doctor’s statements, because they are often on waiting lists and have to fear rejection and deportation. The gatekeeping policy of the authorities here. I am now in the privileged situation that I am Dutch. But there is still a fight against transphobia, racism, misogyny and the vulnerability of bi-cultural trans women.”

“I’ve always been afraid of being misgendered, all those years. But it’s always about the damn papers. And now I want to tell the story, a story that unfortunately many organizations try to whitewash. It’s not the same for us, bi-cultural trans people, as for many others. And then, remember this – my motto – not all girls and women were assigned female at birth.”

Text and photo: Ton van den Born


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