2023 Hermesdorf Awards go to Platform Diversity in Sex and Gender and to Paul Reef

This year, the Hermesdorf Award and the Hermesdorf Talent Award go to the Platform Diversity in Sex and Gender Platform and to Paul Reef. The prizes are awarded every year to researchers from Radboud University and Radboud university medical center who have stuck their necks out and refused to flinch in the face of opposition in the public domain and in the media. This year’s winners have spoken out in the social debate on the healthcare needs of trans people and on sportswashing.

he two prizes are awarded every year to researchers from Radboud University and/or Radboud university medical center who have shown a certain degree of courage, stuck their necks out or refused to flinch in the face of opposition. Every year, the Hermesdorf Award goes to at least one senior researcher, while the Hermesdorf Talent Award goes to an academic at the start of their career. Both prizes will be presented on 8 January 2024, during Radboud University’s New Year’s Gathering.

The Hermesdorf Award is named after Prof. B.H.D. Hermesdorf, Rector Magnificus of Radboud University from late 1942 to September 1945. For reasons of principle he - as the sole Dutch Rector Magnificus - refused to present students with a declaration of loyalty to the German occupying forces, which inevitably led to the university’s closure in April 1943. He refrained from compromising his principles in trying times.

Winner of the 2023 Hermesdorf Award: Platform Diversity in Sex and Gender

Demand for transgender healthcare has been rising rapidly in recent years. There are waiting lists of up to three years, with increasing pressure on healthcare providers. At the same time, society has a bullish attitude towards anyone who deviates from ’traditional’ gender norms. As such, there was a lot of anticipation ahead of the publication this spring of a report by the Platform Diversity in Sex and Gender Platform, commissioned by the Ministry of Health. The report was a collaboration between Radboud University and Radboud university medical center.

In the report, the researchers discuss in detail the underlying reasons behind the increase in demand for transgender healthcare in the Netherlands. This collaboration between Radboud university medical center and the Faculties of Arts and Management combines several theoretical perspectives and insights from numerous focus discussions with analyses of interactions on social media. The conclusions reveal that trans people do not yet have an equal place in society. The tone of the debate has also hardened, and acceptance has declined. In the context of waiting lists, it has become clear that it is currently only within medical clinical care that there is sufficient ’specialist knowledge, attention and care’. This is why primary healthcare providers refer first to clinical specialists in university medical centres because knowledge in primary and secondary care and the healthcare chain is often still absent or deficient.

The researchers offered several recommendations in their report. From these it is evident that a solution to acceptance lies in various places in society. In addition, the healthcare chain can provide healthcare solutions for trans people in a number of areas. Before, during and after publication, Enny Das, Chris Verhaak, Hedi Claahsen and other Platform researchers talked to national media to ensure that the report received the attention it deserved and to debunk erroneous assumptions made by society, politicians and others involved in the debate. Transgenderism is not a fashion trend, and gender dysphoria is not created by social media or friends. With their appearances in the media, the researchers have constantly refuted the perspectives of those media by placing the solution in a broader context; it lies not just in clinical solutions and not just with trans people themselves. This is thanks to all the researchers involved in the platform: Hedi Claahsen, Enny Das, Anke Oerlemans, Wyke Stommel, Chris Verhaak, Mieke Verloo, Anna van der Vleuten and Marion Wasserbauer. Additional contributors to the report were Aafke Uilhoorn, Charlie Loopuijt, Ilona Plug and Wolter de Boer.

Winner of the 2023 Hermesdorf Talent Award: Paul Reef

Historian Paul Reef gets involved in the sometimes fierce debates about sporting events in countries that violate human rights. Reef investigates protests against the organisation of international sporting events such as the Olympic Games and the FIFA World Cup. In the lead-up to the Football World Cup in Qatar, he regularly spoke out in the media about the political tensions surrounding the event. Prior to that, he reflected on the organisation of the Olympics in Russia and Beijing and the Grand Prix in Saudi Arabia. 

In the past year, Reef has been willing to stir up the debate at sensitive moments. For instance, he has previously spoken out about the exorbitant cost of sporting events in the Netherlands and commented that this is actually indefensible considering what these events have delivered for the Netherlands in the past. Statements he made on the weekend of the Formula 1 Grand Prix in Zandvoort appeared in the Netherlands’ biggest sports newspaper, no less.

Not only does Reef draw comparisons with historic sport protests such as those during the 1968 Olympics, but he also actively advocates for sport boycotts through opinion pieces. He therefore uses his academic knowledge of sports history to take a stand in the social debate. In doing so, he emphasises the power of sports federations such as FIFA, the IOC and the FIA and the signal they can send out to regimes that violate human rights or oppress population groups. He reminds athletes and politicians of the options they have to put pressure on those federations through protests or boycotts.