We sit down with Sean-Claude Neufville, trans advocate and motivational speaker, and active member and ambassador of TransUnited Amsterdam.
By Marc McClain
Sean-Claude, a trans man in transition, left Jamaica almost two years ago for the Netherlands after receiving several threats and experiencing discrimination at work and home. He applied for asylum in the Netherlands based on gender discrimination and was granted asylum. The subject of being transgender is very much taboo in Jamaica, and there is little room for discussion due to a lack of knowledge and the religious values that exist. Here in the Netherlands, he feels more secure, more accepted, and there is more space here for transgenders to be themselves.
When did you realise that you were more comfortable as a man rather than woman?
I recognised I was different as early as age 4-5. I was never comfortable with my biological sex, I always realized I was different but could not put a finger on it. I realized I was attracted to women at a young age already, but as mentioned earlier, in Jamaica there is little room to talk about this, so I suppressed it. I realized I was not only attracted to women, but also felt very uncomfortable wearing girls’ clothes. Only as a teenager, I started to express myself in a more masculine way.
How far are you in your transition?
My transition started 3 years ago, when I met a transgender woman at a workshop in Jamaica. I then realized I was not alone and she taught me to be bold and speak up. That’s when I addressed the members of the workshop and told them I would like to be called Sean-Claude instead of Sáde and wanted to be referred to as he or him. In the period after that, I came out to myself as trans, and started learning more about myself and how to accept being trans. I believe that transitioning is a process which starts first in the mind, then continues through the spirit and body.
At first, it was intimidating, but I gradually grew into my new self. This included acknowledging that I also still have a feminine side, even though I am very much a man. Someone once remarked that they saw two sides of me, a man and a woman. The boy hates the girl, but the girl loves the boy. Having this feminine side, while identifying as a male, and being attracted women, is something quite unique that I have not often encountered in trans males. I am still growing spiritually and started my physical transition on December 22, 2016 with hormone replacement therapy.
How is the acceptance of bi-cultural transgenders in the Netherlands?
There is still a lack of visibility of the trans community, as many are still closeted. Also, there is little information available about being transgender. People often do not realize that it more than a question of sexual orientation or preference, but rather a question of gender, which is more complex and difficult to understand. And what people do not know or understand, they fear.
What needs to be done to increase acceptance of the transgender community in the Netherlands?
More visibility needs to be created above anything else. Also a safe space where trans people can be themselves is necessary. There needs to be more of a community, which does currently exist, but consists mainly of a core trans advocates, which are building the community on a wider spectrum.
My message to others: be your authentic self, find support, take time to get to know yourself and love yourself. Never lose sight of who are. Take the time to get to know a transgender person and you will see that they are just people like you and me. Our journey is just different, but we have just as much of a right to be here as you do.