Verna Juliette, Mexico

Tomorrow, November 20, it is International Transgender Day of Remembrance. In 2018, I was asked to read out the names of people who were killed the previous year because they were trans. On average we read about 400 names, but there are many more of which the cause of death is officially ‘unknown’. Two-thirds of these crimes take place in Latin America, where I come from.

I read out names of people who I had never met and who were not alive anymore. Yet I felt connected to them. I wondered: why can I be here and you can’t?

I also got the chance to share my own story. That I felt trapped in Mexico – in my body and in my country. That despite being highly educated, I had no real career prospects – except for working as a hairdresser or sex worker. That my own family did initially not support me. Talking about all this, it became an emotional day for me.

I am Mexican. In 2015 I came to the Netherlands for my master’s degree in medical pharmaceutical sciences at the University of Groningen. I had already finished a bachelor in biology at the time. My plan was to start my transition right away, but it wasn’t as easy as I thought. That frustrated me and I ended up in a deep depression. The transition finally helped me recover.

Some years passed and I am studying in Leiden now. I have a boyfriend and we are happy. At first it was difficult for him to tell his family that I am trans, but that solved itself. Our love was stronger than that and I am fully accepted now.

It takes a little more time than I had hoped, but I will use all my talent to give back what this country did for me. It enabled me to be the best version of myself. I don’t feel like an activist but rather an educator. That is why I also want to participate in your project. We people who are transgender are the neglected child of the LGBT people. People know very little about us, even within our own community. While there are so many ways to be transgender!

Talking about names, one of my privileges is that I got to choose my own name, Verna Juliette. Verna was the name of a house slave in ancient Rome. I chose this name because we are all basically trapped in something. And Juliette is a character in a book by Marquis de Sade. She is strong and straightforward, just like me.