van der Pijl et al., ‘”We Do Not Matter”: Transgender Migrants/Refugees in the Dutch Asylum System’, 2018

Subject Area

Gender Identity







Year Published



Yvon van der Pijl, Brenda Oude Breuil, Lene Swetzer, Marilena Drymioti, M Goderie, ‘”We Do Not Matter”: Transgender Migrants/Refugees in the Dutch Asylum System’ 2018 Violence and Gender, 5 (1) 1-11


Although the Netherlands is renowned for its forerunner position in lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender/transsexual, and intersex (LGBTI) rights, this study urges one to question whether it can still live up to that image. Reports, news items, and signals from non-governmental organizations, such as Transgender Network Netherlands in the field show that especially transgender migrants/refugees regularly face abuse and discrimination. Yet, academic research underlying such findings is scarce. Moreover, a highly gendered discourse on the current migration/refugee crisis makes transgender migrants/refugees even more invisible. This article presents an interpretive approach to the institutional and disciplinary realities they become part of. The approach comes from (1) a literature review, surveying both scholarly publications and other sources; (2) patchwork or instant ethnography, thickening the findings from the literature; (3) and foremostly a theoretical interpretation of the precarious situation in which many transgender migrants/refugees find themselves. We draw upon synthesizing concepts such as ”total institution” (Goffman 1961; Henry 1963), ”human waste” (Bauman 2004), and ”armed love” (Ticktin 2011) to constitute our theoretical framework, through which we show that transgender migrants/refugees are met with compassion and pity, rather than equal rights and full citizenship. This bitter logic leads us to the conclusion that within the Dutch asylum system, transgender migrants/refugees are rendered politically irrelevant, which eventually reflects the main priority of the Dutch authorities (and society at large) to control the boundaries of the nation-state, rather than to address the needs and rights of those people who seek, on legitimate grounds, a passport to a better, that is, a full life.