An insight into the life of a trans man devoted to a quest for a better future for Trans folks around the world
Yvo Manuel Vas Dias was born in Amsterdam, Netherlands. He is a proud trans man; a Buddhist with a Portuguese-Jewish background. In 2014, he became the founder and chairman of Trans Amsterdam. From 2014 till 2018 he was the chair of the Amsterdam Trans Pride. As a token of appreciation for his commitment to combating inequality and connecting Amsterdam citizens, the Amsterdam police and LGBT police network awarded him a certificate in 2017. In 2018, he was appointed the Amsterdam Hero for his work for Trans Amsterdam by the Network Amsterdam Hero. In 2019, Yvo established with his team a “Trans Art School” which offers various artistic workshops for trans individuals. In 2020, Yvo had the honor to become the ambassador of the “Sahodari Foundation” to build a bridge between Amsterdam and the Indian trans community.
I had the pleasure of interviewing this inspirational person who stands out from many others not just in his society but also globally because of the nature of his work and that is to uplift the trans community at a time when still there needs to be done a lot for this community globally and the community still yearns for a greater degree of acceptance, tolerance, and love from others in society. I did ask some questions to Yvo and his answers have been quite impressive, here’s a look into our Q and A session:
Q1). What does it mean to you to be transgender?
Ans). I found the man in me. I connected my inner soul with my appearance through my spiritual path, social, mental, and physical transition.
Psychologically, I had been a man for a lot longer, always actually, but I kept putting off my transition because I wanted to find peace within my spiritual self-first. My Jewish background was in that sense an extra challenge for me.
Buddhism and my Buddhist teacher helped me my Buddhist path and to deal with my feelings and emotions. More than that: it taught me how to assemble the various types of man that I have in me and weld them together into one entity. The teachings of Buddha, meditation, and reciting mantras led me to see that my masculinity expresses itself in various ways. Through years of meditation and mantra practice, as well as doing several retreats, my transition has been a good one. Now I am happy and at peace with myself as an older trans man.
Q2). What solutions you would like to put forth for the problems faced by the transgender community worldwide?
Ans). I am happy that it’s easier for trans people to contact each other around the world and find the information they need. But on the other hand, there is also a lot of ignorance, discrimination, transphobia, and violence that can lead to death.
In recent years, the trans community has become more visible. As trans people, we have made beautiful films, written books, organized exhibitions, events and have told our story in the media. But we are not there yet.
Education and information about trans people/topics are very important tools. Cis genders have to listen and talk with their trans friends, with trans people in their family, community, and country. Open up their heart and show compassion. We are your children, brother, sister, father, mother, greengrocer, teacher, accountant, lawyer, judge, etc. We also have to protect our trans children in our family, school, and society. To help them to feel safe, feel free, can develop and be themselves
The most important part is that trans people share their stories, feelings, strength, and show their talent. Set up our organizations, communities, events, and networks. Be a part of society.
Q3). What are the primary goals of your organization and how much has this organization been successful in achieving what it seeks to achieve?
Ans). Trans Amsterdam is a transgender organization for art, culture, and lifestyle. Our goal is to increase the visibility of transgender persons, transgender artist, and to improve the public image of transgender and non-binary people. We focus on art, trans artist, and give trans artists a podium.
In 2019, we set up our Trans Art School. We organize art workshops for trans people and non-binary people. The open day was a wonderful event where trans people share and show their talent. See the video of the open day: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AdPkp8T7UXs
Over the years we organize different kinds of festivals, theme meetings, meet-ups, international events with our partners from India, Pakistan, Brazil, Iran, South Africa, the USA, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Europe, and other countries. We work with stakeholders from all around the world.
Q4). How can hate crimes and instances of assault against trans folk be prevented?
Ans). There is still too much violence against trans people, trans men, trans women, and trans people of color. There is also a lot of suicide among trans people. We have a long journey to go in society before the world accepts trans people.
It’s very important that cisgender teachers, the police force, lawmakers, governments, health care, employers, companies, political, religious, and spiritual leaders support and protect trans people. Condemn transphobia and punish violence against trans people. Create an inclusive society? Where trans people can develop themselves and be themselves without our exclusion.
Q5). How successful are TransAmsterdam events in creating an environment of greater acceptance and tolerance for trans folk?
Ans). With our events, meetups, festivals, TransPodium, Trans Art School we allow trans people/trans artists to show that we are more than our gender. Help to connect the transgender community with general society. By promoting the positive visibility of transgender people, we are advancing the emancipation and empowerment of trans people in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and beyond.
Trans people can develop their skills in our Trans Art School through painting, drawing, writing stories, writing poetry, singing, dance, woodwork art, theatre, filming, photography, or any other form. It can be very liberating and build up your self-confidence. Empowerment, self-awareness, and self-esteem are the keywords to develop our talents and show that we are more than transgender.
Q6). How you and your team is coping with the current pandemic situation?
Ans). The pandemic is not an easy time for trans people. Unfortunately, we have to postpone several events due to coronavirus. Our team is very busy planning several “online” art projects. We hope as soon as possible to meet our Trans Amsterdam friends again.
Without any doubt, I can easily say that Yvo sounds extremely determined and passionate in his quest to make this world a better place for his community as unfortunately his community has been subjected to excruciating levels of marginalization and discrimination for a long time in many parts of the world. I wish Yvo and his team good luck in their productive and positive endeavors and I hope one day very soon this world will truly be a better place for everyone because at the end of the day we are all humans and we are bound together by that relationship. For updates on what goes on in the daily lives of those associated with TransAmsterdam , the official website of the organization can be visited ( Link : https://www.transamsterdam.nl/ ).