“I’M ON FIRE”
Text: Paul Hofman
Foto: Remon van den Kommer
Video: Paradox Productions
‘It is a recognition of my efforts as a professional for the transgender community’. BeyonG Veldkamp (36) is the perfect ambassador 2022: activist and networker at heart. In 2017, together with an Amsterdam police spokesperson, she won the Jos Brink Innovation Award. Not much later, she and a number of other outstanding people were guests of King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima. On 7 December 2021, COC Netherlands crowned a new generation of LHBTI activists. BeyonG was one of them and received a wonderful ‘Stars of the Future’ award for her tireless efforts for our community. But this ambassadorship is one of the most beautiful things so far. It takes the crown. Everything comes together in this.
Somewhere in the centre of Amsterdam lies the Trans House. BeyonG is here every first and third Wednesday of the month with a walk-in consultancy for LGBT people of colour. It is part of Buurtteam Amsterdam Centrum, an institution for social services. ‘I myself came here years ago as a client for help and now I work there as an experience expert.’
At lightning speed, she talks about her gender, life, work, love and the Pride 2022 theme My Gender, My Pride. She knows the transgender community like no other. When we interviewed her, we found out that she just got a new job. As of this spring, she will be the Social Media Event Manager of Pride Amsterdam. BeyonG is very enthusiastic: ‘A wonderful challenge that is made for me’. Just like the ambassadorship, by the way.
Her life is not easy. I was born as a boy in Paramaribo 36 years ago. That is also where I grew up. When I was fifteen, I went with my mother and brother to the Netherlands. Not much later I started having problems with myself. She noticed that she is ‘different’. She had just turned eighteen and came out of the closet as a teenager. I was falling for boys.
Six years later, she experienced another coming-out: this time as transgender. An intense period of pain and sorrow followed. She could count on a lot of incomprehension in her environment. Conversations with psychiatrists and various hormone treatments follow each other in rapid succession. And many suicidal thoughts. But in the end it leads to transition. The result? Finally, I became myself, just BeyonG.’ But it leaves deep scars. After that tough transition trajectory, she had to deal with domestic violence, manipulation, discrimination and racism. My own father did not accept me, but after a lot of time and regret, he said sorry. No, it really did not sit well with me. Just like many other transgenders, by the way. Soon BeyonG became active in the trans community. Her dedication, involvement, enthusiasm and warmth were noticed. She became the vice-president of Trans United, which promotes the interests of trans people.
When she had to do an internship during her higher education, she chose to do so at the national COC. She became Project Manager of Respect2love’. This is a group of people who are committed to LGBT people with a different cultural background. In 2013, she is one of the founders of Trans United Europe and in 2016 BeyonG becomes vice president of Trans United Europe’. It marks the beginning of a beautiful journey. ‘Also a journey into my gender and sexuality.’
‘I have not regretted my transition for a moment. Musing, ‘I have come a long way. But I always believed in myself. If you do, you will get there.’ BeyonG compares it to the image of a tunnel in which you cannot see the light. It was a difficult journey but I am so glad I did it. It was worth it. I am completely happy now.’
FREEDOM AND SECURITY
The lack of safety towards LGBT people and especially transgender people worries her. A lot has been done for the acceptance but in my opinion there is still room for improvement. Think about visibility and laws and regulations. BeyonG: ‘There is still a lot of ignorance about trans people. As an ambassador, I can play a good role in increasing that visibility. According to her, a lot has been done, but the education in schools about trans persons and gender diversity could be much better. I experience that there is still a lot of unawareness. That is what I want to fight against as an ambassador. Do you know that I was recently rejected for a job? Purely because I am transgender’. She suppresses her anger.
BeyonG is eagerly looking forward to Pride 2022. Due to the many lockdowns, many activities could not take place. But now that almost everything is possible again, BeyonG will definitely go wild during Pride. I’m on fire’, it sounds convincing.
TRANS WOMAN OF COLOUR
‘I am really looking forward to it. You can bet I’m going to enjoy it to the fullest. I want to tell everyone that freedom, safety and being yourself are the most important things in life. That is what it is all about. As a trans woman of colour, I hope to be an inspiration. Although you have to work four times as hard as a transgender person, it’s worth the effort. My motto: ‘Nothing is black and white. And about being trans: that never ends. I want to share my story with everyone. Here I am: this is what I am. A trans woman who is not ashamed of anything.
Pride ambassador since 2022