Sex-change? No visa!

Anne Willemstein is suing the state. She couldn’t get a visa because her dad is now a woman. Now, Anne wants to make sure this ‘bureaucratic bullshit’ won’t bother other kids with trans parents. 

Text and photo Julia van den Muijsenberg

This autumn, Anne Willemstein (24) is planning on living in Suriname. Her girlfriend already moved there and when the two fell in love, Anne decided to join her. She has already found a job and a house, the only thing left to do this October, was to get some paperwork in order to apply for a visa. She didn’t think twice about her dad’s gender-change being a problem. Then, she discovered that her forms don’t match. Her birth certificate still has her dad’s old name on it, while her details in the Dutch population registration carry her dad’s new name: Lisa. On paper it seems like they are two different people. An error in the system that makes applying for a visa a bureaucratic nightmare; “a battle that should not be my battle”, Anne explains. 

It seems like they just forgot to make the system work for people like me.

“My dad had her transition in 2016, that’s perfectly fine, but I have nothing to do with that. It seems like they just forgot to make the system work for people like me.” She laughs loudly, although it doesn’t seem like any of this is funny to her. “My dad’s papers are all in order, she is covered, but the kids? It’s as if I don’t exist. Luckily, there are a lot of people supporting me. We are going to take this on, we are going to make a change.” 

Anne Willemstein (24).

As soon as Anne found the negligent mistake, she rushed to the city council of the place she is born, Nissewaard. She asked to add an attachment to her birth certificate that clarifies her dad’s transition. But the officer simply told her no. “Nothing could be done, there is no procedure to add such an attachment whatsoever”. She asked them what she should do then. ‘Go into politics’, the officer mocked. “So that’s what I did”, she says with a nonchalant smile.

“What the city council didn’t know is that my mom knows people in politics.” Anne contacted Jaqcueline Hoogland, a former councilor of the city of Rotterdam. She linked Anne to a lawyer who will work on her case pro bono. Because the attachment of her birth certificate can only be added if Anne sues the state and wins. “It’s so important, and so, so cool if we win. Because if just one case wins, all the others like it will too. From that moment on, no kids with trans parents  will ever have this problem again.” 

If you’re privileged, I believe it’s your duty to use that privilege.

Anne posted her story on Instagram, asking her followers to tag all the influencers and politicians they knew. Just a few days later, she had reactions from many Dutch political parties. Chairperson of Groenlinks Rotterdam, Lies Roest, sent a letter to the major and councilors of the city. Even Rob Jetten, the national chairperson of D66 asked his college, Vera Bergkamp, to get involved. And also the political party PvdA in the small community of Nissewaard told Anne they support her cause. 

Though she was frustrated at first, Anne now feels supported and is determined to win this battle: “I have an amazing network.” She thinks there might have been other kids that had the same problems but didn’t have the means to do anything about it. “If you’re privileged, I believe it’s your duty to use that privilege, to make a change for everyone”, Anne states.