1 Feb 2018

TV journalist to change gender in front of the camera

Belgian news reporter Boudewijn Van Spilbeeck announced Monday that he is becoming a woman at age 58 -- and will film the process for a TV broadcast.

Marjan Justaert
Marjan Justaert De Standaard, Belgium
Source: De Standaard
TV journalist to change gender in front of the camera - NewsMavens
Super 8 camera. Wikicommons

Why this story matters:

The story has had a direct impact on the LGBT population in Belgium: the Transgender Info Point and the Holebifoon -- a LGBT helpline -- have been getting more calls and questions.

Van Spilbeeck says she feels liberated and happy. Her openness about the process in media interviews -- including physical changes, speech therapy and her relatives' feelings -- is impressive and brave. As are her wife and two adult children, who accepted her transition a while ago.

Almost only positive reactions on the Belgian 'Caitlin Jenner'

  • Bo Van Spilbeeck, formerly known as Boudewijn Van Spilbeeck, is Belgium's first transgender journalist and will transition in front of the camera.
  • Van Spilbeeck said she wanted to come out as transgender 15 years ago but didn't believe that the time was right.
  • The decision of the American Olympic athlete Caitlyn Jenner to transition to a woman in 2015 made an impression on Van Spilbeeck: "That she made that decision at the age of 65 was the moment at which I realized that I still could."
  • Van Spilbeeck has cross dressed for years but only started taking hormones six months ago. The first operation on Bo's face is planned for next month.
  • Van Spilbeeck's bosses at VTM News are supporting her decision: "I was given the guarantee straight away that I can carry on doing what I do."
  • LGBT organizations have also applauded Van Spilbeeck's decision, saying that the more the media shares stories about transgender people, the more transgender people will be socially accepted.
  • "I see it as a moral duty to use my story to bring out and to support people in their body and their gender role is not feeling well," Van Spilbeeck says.
  • Not everyone has supported Van Spilbeeck's announcement. One catholic student organization criticized the media attention, saying changing gender is absurd and nothing more than "eccentric fantasies."
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