Yvo Manuel Vas Dias, Provider of Platform for the Transgender Community, Honoured with Prize
Original Dutch text by Michiel Klaassen https://www.at5.nl/artikelen/218764/yvo-manuel-vas-dias-podiumbouwer-voor-transgemeenschap-geeerd-met-prijs English translation by Julien S, editing Jon Kendall and photographer Claire Bamplekou
“A pioneer!” That’s how the Dutch Queen Awards board has described Yvo Manuel Vas Dias, founder of TransAmsterdam and this year’s recipient of the Star. The Star is awarded each year to a person or organisation who has shown a vital commitment to the queer community. Vas Dias was presented with the award at a gathering at the Manor Hotel on 27 January 2023.
Dozens of people were in attendance for the event, enjoying conversation with each other. Just before ten o’clock, champagne was served, and glasses raised in honour of the special occasion.
Lio, a regular attender at TransAmsterdam’s frequent get-togethers, was very happy to be present at the gathering. “It’s a refuge!” she said of TransAmsterdam. “The diversity, the people, the fact you can walk around without fear. Really wonderful.”
“Yvo is TransAmsterdam’s linchpin,” said Touria Meliani, Deputy Mayor of Amsterdam and Counsellor for Inclusivity and Anti-discrimination Policy. “As a builder of bridges between various communities in our city, he is essential to the public perception of trans and non-binary individuals in Amsterdam. Like me, he believes in the power of art and cultural expression, and with TransAmsterdam, he provides a platform for diverse talent, especially for young people and for people from migrant backgrounds.’
TransAmsterdam, which was founded in 2014, organized the TransPride from 2014 through 2018. “2017’s edition was a real highlight,” recounts Carlo van der Linden. He’s known Vas Dias since 1988 and befriended him during the Jongensuur. “There were a lot of foreign activists back then. Kami Sid, a model and transgender activist from Pakistan did the opening of the Amsterdam TransPride in 2017 . Yvo was really at ease. It was beautiful to see how he took care of everyone.”
A Man of Conviction
In the early years, TransAmsterdam’s base was in the Manor Hotel at the Oosterpark, and the monthly get-together, Trans & Friends Café InClusion, still happens there. Police Officer Edwin Baltes says, “Our precinct is a hundred metres from there, so I regularly come and visit. I’ve hardly missed any get-togethers. I’m very active in the Roze in Blauw police network, and I want to support the trans community.”
Baltes explains how easy it has been to work with Vas Dias. “We clicked immediately, and we often hang out together.” Baltes is impressed with Yvo’s willingness to strike up conversations with people. “This is also because of his Buddhist background, I think. Last year during Trans Flag Day in the Oosterpark, a group of young people came planning to spoil the atmosphere. Afterwards, Yvo asked himself, ‘How could I have better approached these boys for a conversation?’ He really lives according to his own convictions.’”
Dutch Queen Awards
The Dutch Queen Awards (DQA) is mostly an annual contest for drag artists. “But alongside that,” says DQA-founder Jan Glas, “the board also awards the Star to an individual who has meant a lot to the community.” As drag queen Jeanine, Glas has been touring Europe for years, including countries where the position of the queer community is not as strong as in the Netherlands. “Italy, Russia, Bulgaria, you name it,” Glas explains. “But every time Jeanine got in trouble, it was in Amsterdam!”
Glas believes Amsterdam to be in the top five most unsafe cities for the queer community. “Very unfortunate,” he says. “I’ve had to run for my life a few times. This is exactly why Yvo’s work is so important. He provides a home for transgender people. That is special.”
Meanwhile Vas Dias reports that he and his team are dedicating most of their time to the Trans Art School. “The Trans Art School aims to give people from the community an opportunity to develop their talents. We give transgender and non-binary individuals a platform and a safe space, where you can work on your self-esteem and your talent. If you have talent, you have to share it, I think. You can continue to preach to your own choir, but you should also show it to your friends and the world.”
TransAmsterdam has already established contact with many art organizations, both domestic and abroad. “Some members of our community are already well-known to the general public,” Vas Dias explains. “But there is also a large group that doesn’t have a platform. We want to give them that platform, so they can show the world: This is me. This is us.”