Roberta Joanna Vandermeer, known by her stage name Robbie Van, is hosting what she calls an “awake;” a coming-out party and funeral for her male self June 26 in Parksville. — Naomi Peter-Simons photo

Parksville woman invites community to ‘awake’ party

Robbie Van hosts funeral for male self

Robbie Van will be attending her own funeral — for her male self.

Roberta Joanna Vandermeer, who is going by the stage name Robbie Van, has been transitioning to a female from a male. For the past eight months, she said, she as been on hormones.

But Van, 66, began dressing as a woman in Parksville about three years ago.

“The first time I went out dressed as a female… The first time I finally had the courage and dressed as a female in Parksville, I went to Thrifty’s ,and the girl behind the counter goes, ‘Doesn’t that feel marvelous? You look amazing.’”

So as a way to say thank you for the community support, Van is holding what she calls an “awake” party.

Van is holding the awake, a coming out party, at the Parksville Community and Conference Centre Tuesday (June 26) from 9 p.m. to midnight.

There will be music from Groundswell, a cash bar and a table for donations for Manna Homeless Society.

The following day, Van told The NEWS, she will be holding a more personal and private funeral.

“It’s about introducing Robbie Van to the world, and also for me to say ‘thank you’ to Parksville for how kind they are.”

While the awake party is a way for Van to say goodbye to her male self, it’s also a way for her to introduce her musician side.

Van said she has been working on her music career for nine years, but now finally being able to be her true self, she has the confidence to go with it.

“If you look at people with open eyes and honesty and say, ‘Hey, this is me; take me or leave me,’ there’s nothing people can do.”

Over the years, Van said, she has had a couple of bad reactions to dressing as a woman before she began transitioning.

“What I usually do is blow them a kiss or wink at them and give them a smile. It diffuses all kinds of anger.”

Before going out as a woman in Parksville, Van said she went out a couple of times “nervously” in Vancouver and Langley.

“It’s pretty tough when you come from a male’s body and then try to emanate female,” Van said. “I’m fortunate that I’ve got a thin body and I can sort of blend in, but some of these girls (and women) are having a much more difficult time.”

She said there is an artistry in being a woman, especially when it comes to makeup.

“You know what you were like as a little girl, well that’s what I’m like as an adult male going to female.”

There are some support groups on the Island for people transitioning, Van said, but she hasn’t gone to any for herself. In her own family, Van said family support is “tentative.”

“It’s coming back as I become more confident in who I am and as they see I’m not a flake and just doing this for the kicks — this is who I’ve always wanted to be.”

She said her son is beginning to respect her again and her daughter is just worried about what other people will think.

“Fear is the thing that stops people from growing, stops people from accepting,” she said.

“For me, that was many, many years… I had to wait for my dad to pass away before I could say, ‘Yeah, I can’t do this anymore. I’m so broken, I feel like I’m trapped.’”

To find out more about Van’s music, visit www.robbievan.ca.

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