Every once in a while there are big military exercises here in Sweden that I participate in for different reasons. Most of them are so called staff exercises which means that the main focus is on working inside a simulated military HQ. All of the activities are indoor around computers and wyteboards but for some reason all participants are required to wear their battle dress uniform (BDU). Since I am part of the air force it means wearing the standard green camouflage uniform that most of the army uses every day. The last time I wore the BDU for a longer time was during an experiment we had in Enköping in late 2006 and I remembered that I really did not like that because I did not feel comfortable in that. Back then I had started living full time a year before and I soo enjoyed wearing my standard blue air force uniform with a skirt and high heels. My outfit have always been important to me because it is a way to make sure that I pass as the woman I am in different situations but I also realize that if I feel comfortable with my looks I get more secure. When I feel secure I think I really expresses my true self even better which makes the everyday life easier.
So when this exercise started I thought I had most of that behind me. However, even on day one when I was wearing my blue uniform I felt that walking around the exercise area was a bit different from my regular office at the armed forces experimentation center. People were looking at me more and it was not the usual friendly smile. I sat at a briefing and an officer from another country was staring at my for really long times. Made me feel rather uncomfortable actually. I realized that this was probably the true face of the Armed Forces and that I have been very lucky with my postings so far. I realize that a lot of this is just in my head but I have over the years developed a rather good sense of how people react on me. Maybe even some of the people looking at me did it because I am a woman and possibly even a good-looking one. However, I have a sense that the looks would have been a bit different from the ones I got.
So when I wore my green uniform the next day it became even worse since I felt uncomfortable in it. Clunky boots and loose fitting clothes does not exactly feel feminine. I almost felt that it was unfair, like I wanted to tell people that I normally look much better (more feminine). I think it also hampers my work a bit since I will have harder time reaching people and being able to discuss things that is vital for my work. Harder either because people actually are a bit wary of me or because I feel insecure and avoid approaching people some times. At the first day I even avoided going to the mess hall to eat because I feared that would not be able to handle the looks. However, after I got some company from some of my colleagues at the center it went just fine the day after. It bothers me that this happens because I really like working the Armed Forces and I want to be a capable officer. I tried talking with some of my colleagues about this because for me that is usually what it takes to feel better. Just being able to voice my frustration. But I really have to expressively ask for it.
I have tried to be open about my life all the time and at the team-building I told the whole department that there were some occasions where I feel a bit uncomfortable because of other people. So I decided to bring this up at the morning brief we had in our small cell and I told them that I would most likely need a pat in the back once in a while since I thought this environment was a bit tougher than usual. However, nothing happened. No one asked me how I was doing even once. And that is usually all that needs to be done. I had to bring the subject up myself which I did once and it worked.
So I was not feeling my best when I had some trouble with my accommodation. Usually at large exercises like this only the most high ranking officers are allowed to live at a hotel. However, one of my superiors had arranged a room for me but it was some mix up with the bookings and suddenly I was offered a room at a place called the Seahorse. I knew it was a boat but nothing more about it standards. Later in the afternoon I looked it up on the internet and found out that it was a hostel. So, that is no problem for a military officer, right? Better than living in the barracks like all the others. Well, I have so far special needs. I need to do my makeup, fix my hairpiece and that takes an hour or so. Does not work well in a hostel where 20-25 people share two small bathrooms. I am not comfortable running around naked yet either. I think I need my breast augmentation surgery before that, Finally I have to do my daily dilation training which I think requires having a bathroom in my room in order to avoid running around with a dildo in my hand. So, when I realized all of this I fell into tears in my office. I sat there alone crying for some time and realized that I was not crying only for this situation but also because I felt so clearly that I was not cut-out for the harsh environment of international work any longer. This is so sad because I am so passionate for what I do in the Armed Forces right now so it was a bit of chock to feel like this.
Things then went better and I had some nice talks even with old classmates which made me feel good. The exercise turned out rather good in the end and possibly it was even good for me to cry a little bit and let this out. Clearly I have to work on what I feel both in green (male-looking) clothes as well as how I handle things in large crowds of unknown people at work.
Today, I have done an interview for a magazine targeting women between 25-40. It is a new magazine that will debut soon so it is a little bit scary since you don’t have that gut feeling if you like the approach or not. I met the journalist at the Nordic Light Hotel in downtown Stockholm. It is one of those new design hotels that exists in big cities and it was pretty nice to experience the setting they have tried to create. Very stylished with a mix between warm colors and the sparse design that signifies nordic design.
Over a latte we had a twohour discussion about my life for the past 10 years or so. I always think twice before I do these things but I felt that this could be good. Since I believe in honesty and openness I think it is good to have good and hopefully balanced coverage about what it is like to go through the transition process. I hope it can give more people a more nuanced view of our situation and maybe even that article which make some TS-man or woman to take the first step towards a better life. I know that a couple of those articles meant a lot for me 15 years ago. I just hope that the short article she is writing will be something that I feel is true to me and what I stand for. I also find that it gives me something to talk to someone which is not part of my daily life about things in my life. I think I learn things about myself everytime I answer these questions.
What struck me again was that I have a wonderful treasure of stories about people how have been a part of my transition process the last ten years. So many people have done so many wonderful things to me and for that I am so grateful. You know who you are. Thank you so much!
On Wednesday it was time to go to see my plastic surgeon for a check-up. It is now over a year after my big surgery and it actually felt really good to go back there to see him and the wonderful nurse that takes care of all patient contacts. My surgeon is rather cool and we always find stuff to talk about. However, to me it felt safe to have him have a look to see how everything has healed up and that everything looks fine. We started talking about how the past year have been and if I have experienced any medical problems and I mentioned the few minor things that I have experienced.
Then he asked me if I wanted to discuss breast augmentation and that is something that has been on my mind for some time. The new medicine I am taking have had some more effect on that area but it is still far from what I expect to get reasonable feminine proportions. Immediately after the first two surgeries I would have said “no way” but now I think I am ready for another surgery and that will be the last one. I think I will be much more comfortable during summer time then, so I can wear bathing suits and nice dresses with comfort. He informed me about how the procedure is done. There are basically three different methods of placing the implant depending on how your body works and for me he seemed to settle for one where the implant is placed on the outside of the muscle. He also thought round ones would be best for me so now it is just to go home and experiment with rice bags to find the proper size.
Finally he examined my genital area and said that he thought it looked really really good. He had been on a visit to some surgeons in Gent, Belgium and said that my result was as good as the best ones they had shown. That made me rather relieved and rather proud of my new body which I really like now. I am still amazed of how my new body still develops each week and what a relief it is to feel that everything that happens is sooo right.
I just read a post about the need for taxonomies at Chuck’s blog and I found a need to discuss how I view taxonomies and why they still seem relevant to me. From my experience there are no silver-bullets and the most important thing to respect is the need for multiplicity and multiple perspectives on things.
In this case I actually see no contradiction between folksonomies and corporate taxonomies. We want to create context our our content, right? And we most likely need users to do some part of that since they know the subject best. So we need to motivate them to provide context on top of that which the tech platform automatically can provide.
That does also mean that there is no need use in choose between either of the approaches. The just provide a metadata layer on top of the content, right? And as someone said, you have really not have too much metadata. Sometimes we will have more and sometimes less depending on a lot of factors.
Folksonomies can be analysed and used to fuel taxonomy development. And taxonomies will most likely either inspire or deterr people from certain ways of tagging.
The key is that it does not matter HOW we provide context. The payback comes when we consume it. Then all these different context layers provide us means to provide many different views of the same information. Tags will provide one, taxonomies in metadata a second and relationships between objects a second.
The more I read about this subject I think a good way to solve this is to build your infrastructure around Documentum repositories and them provide a multitude of different interfaces on top of that. Maybe in the form of wikis, blogs, search, GIS, timelines and others. The key is to store stuff the the right way. Only then can we create cool and usable interfaces for consuming it.
I remember reading posts about this on another blog last year and I was rather firm in my belief that honesty works in the long run. That does not mean that it is the first thing I tell people when I meet them. However, sometimes I am put into situations where it is not that clear. This week I have got a new Documentum developer from Acando working for me on our platform. The cool things is that it is a cool young woman who is a great Java developer. I think it is so refreshing to talk to women who not only work with IT but also really like it. Maybe, it makes me feel a bit more normal in a world where women often are assumed to work in social services, retail or health care.
So why did this thing about openess come up then? Well, sometimes you start talking with people about more than work, you know when you connect in some way or just think it is great fun to talk while working. Sooner or later there will be discussions about why different things have happened and why I am working the way I do at the place I do. That is when my transsexual background suddenly is an very important factor to why things have turned out the way they have. Why I have not done service in peace-support operations for instance or other things which has some kind of connection to what I have been through the last few years.
Nowadays, there are days I think I am kind of cute and there are people who strongly argue that I pass as a women very good. Anyway, I sometimes tend to test people by saying something like “well, people in my situation have to consider a few things” and I look for a reaction. This girl seemed very surprised and did not seem to know what I was talking about at all. That made me smile a bit and though that maybe she had no idea that I had a transsexual background. However, today we ended up in similar discussions again and I felt once again that I would like to share this experience which has been so important for me while I still felt rather good being just another girl for her. So it is a struggle between being honest and proud of my life and the fact that sometimes it is great to just be me. Anyway, I ended up telling her and she said she had not thought of that at all. I felt great to share this important thing with her but also a bit curious what it would have been like not telling her. So I guess if I pass as woman it is a lot like being a lesbian (which I also am) – I need to figure out when and if it is relevant to “come out”.
I almost fell into tears when I saw this part of the Ellen show where she discusses the tragic death of 15-year-old Larry who was killed because he asked a fellow male schoolmate to be his Valentine’s. We need to make a stand and do it from the very beginning. For instance I no longer thing the Tonight Show with Jay Leno is as fun anymore because of his regular gay jokes.
A couple of months ago EMC and their Swedish partner Acando took the initiative to start a Swedish Documentum User Group. Since we have a rather cool installation of Documentum D6 at work I was invited to speak about our approach and how we use Documentum in Concept Development and Experimentation.
There were around 15-20 people present representing some of the current customers to EMC Documentum in Sweden and I looked forward to meeting other people and see how they were using the platform. However, since we only have used Documentum since May 2006 I was wondering what they would think about our approach. The unique thing about our approach is that it is not an IT-projekt, rather it a project set out to change the way we work and how to approach information management from the bottom. Documentum then becomes a tool rather than an end in itself.
The briefing went very well and I was amazed how amazed the other customers were from my presentation. Several people told me that they thought we were an inspiration in how Documentum could be used. The representative from EMC also invited me to submit a paper and briefing to the next Momentum conference in Prague. It felt really good to get that response and I was almost honored to be invited to speak at Momentum. To me that is something that other people do and now it could be me. Actually rather cool
Yesterday a good friend of mine had her birthday party on the boat called Patricia in the harbour of Stockholm. She had written really sweet notes about our neighbors at the table which was a good introduction for conversation. It was a very nice evening and I had a wonderful lobster soup which interestingly was served in a small porcelain pitcher. I have noticed that I nowadays like to have a nice calm evening with friends and eating really good. Sure, I still like to dance but it has not quite the same attraction as it had before. However, I also guess I still struggle a bit with myself and maybe avoid certain situations even if I maybe shouldn’t. I sometimes see these very self-confident sexy women on the dance floor and I would like to be like that for a while. Well, I guess it is only a matter of challenging yourself and accept that it also includes the risk of looking slightly stupid. But I guess I have over the years tried to know how to be the “perfect woman” in certain public situations which means that I have rather high expectations on myself.
A welcome surprise was that a fellow blogger was at the party as well. We have both read our respective blogs for sometime now and it was nice to meet her again. It is quite interesting that you through someone’s blogs get access to rather personal things in life even though you don’t meet that often. We decided that we should try to make it for a fika (a good Swedish word) soon. I think it could be really interesting to hear what she think of the things I have written about here. She looked really good in a bare shoulder dress and it made me look forward to have my breast augmentation surgery. After that I think I will be more confident wearing these kind of clothes.
After the wonderful dinner we went back to the birthday kid’s apartment and we were all mesmerized over two examples of iPod Touch. What a wonderful piece of technology!
Today I had an appointment at the Counselor at the Sex Change clinic at Karolinska Hospital. This was the first out of three interviews where the team try to follow up patients who have completed their transition. The first meeting is done after one year, the second after three years and the last after five years. I think it is great that they have this routine and just don’t leave patients on their own completely after this process. I was looking forward to the meeting today and I think it is great to have time with an outside professional to reflect about life.
It was actually the first time I met this Counselor. When I was in that part of the process I had an temporary acting Counselor when she was doing something else. It was a great meeting and we talked about a lot of different things connected to the whole process, if I was please with the results and also if I had any feedback on the way the Sex Change clinic conduct their work. We talked for almost two hours and it was great to talk about these things. I think everytime I do that I see new things and process things a bit more. I also got a referral to diathermy hair removal as a complement to my laser treatments. I would be great if I can rid of the final ugly things in my face. Will save time each morning and I would feel even better.
I must say I am rather pleased that my health care providers take the treatment of us transsexuals seriously here in Stockholm and do several types of follow-up activities. Now I have got a written survey from my plastic surgeon and his team regarding my health situation one year after the surgery. It consists of nine pages with questions about my general health situation but more importantly also questions about if I experience any pain, lessened ability to do certain things and of course my feelings about the result of the plastic surgery. I always find that these surveys require some time to reflect on the questions so I am doing some thinking now and will probably fill it in later this weekend. The hardest question is to decide what part of my new *you know what* that I like best and what I like the least…