1929 – 2008

Dirkje Kuik

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Artist and transgender activist


Dirkje Kuik (1929-2008) is the most famous Utrecht transgender. She was an artist. As an activist, she laid the foundations for changing gender in passports.


Artist Dirkje Kuik was born in 1929 as William Diederich Kuik. Dirkje was one of the first public transgenders in the Netherlands. As a young child she already wore dresses, which were unfortunately mocked by her classmates. After periods of bullying and fighting, she decided to wear trousers after all and went through life as a man for a long time.



Dirkje studied visual arts at the Rijksacademie in Amsterdam, worked as an art critic at the neuwspaper ‘Het Parool’ and drew for the weekly ‘Vrij Nederland’. Together with Joop Moesman and Henc van Maarseveen, Dirkje founded the graphic company ‘de Luis’. Dirkje is particularly known for her graphic work and illustrations. In her work cityscapes, figure representations and portraits predominate. Dirkje was also active as a writer and poet.

“I never decided to become a woman. I should have been from the start.”



Dirkje, then still William, married Marieke van Vuren in 1958, who gave her the freedom to wear women’s clothing at home. In the mid-sixties, Dirkje and Marieke separated. In 1979 Dirkje changed her first name and gender. She travelled to London for her surgery. She wrote extensively about her sex change, most famously in her ‘Housekeeping booklet with raisins’ (Huishoudboekje met rozijnen) in which she talks about a doctor who gave her a ‘neovagina’ made of ‘penile remains’. Dirkje preferred not to describe herself as transsexual but as a gender diaspora patient.



Life was not easy for Dirkje after her operation. Friends turned their backs on her and people only wanted to buy art from the artist William D. Kuik, not from Dirkje. After her operation, Dirkje was also a full-time activist and filed a lawsuit against the Dutch State. She believed that people should be able to choose their own name and gender. The Supreme Court agreed with her. Shortly afterwards it became possible for transgender people to change their gender for the law.



In 2008, a museum in honor of her work was set up in Dirkje’s former home at Oudekamp 1 in Utrecht, which existed for about four years. Jos te Water Mulder is chair of the Dirkje Kuik foundation, which manages her artistic legacy.

Simone Versteeg