Since I work in the Swedish Armed Forces workplace issues is of course of great interest for me. I think many in my situation to some degree are worried about this. Some choose to change their line of work completely and other decide to remain and need find a way to approach transitioning at work. Lately I do a lot of work with international partners and to me it feels important to know a little bit of the climate in the respective countries. I know that the risk is that I have some prejudices about how people I meet may see me but I still find it interesting.
One important recognition is that a former Army Special Former commander has won a lawsuit for discrimination. Diane Shroder applied for a job as a senior terrorism analyst at the Library of Congress but was declined the job after the employer learned about her transition.
Another is Breanna L. Speed who have experienced nothing but support in her transition while working as a database administrator. Yet another example is Christine Daniels who works as journalist at the LA Times Sports department.
I also just can’t help saying something about the young and very beautiful Kim Petras who at age 16 is having great success as a singer in Germany. She also has a transsexual background. Makes me almost as happy as when Dana International won the Eurovision Song Contest. When it comes to Kim the beutiful part is to read about the support she has from her parents.
Finally, we have the “Don’t ask – Don’t Tell”-policy of the US Armed Forces which relates to me as a lesbian woman. Former Navy Captain Joan Darrah worked at the Pentagon as an intelligence officer and reading about her experiences related to the 911 tragedy. She tells about the fact that if she had stayed a little longer in that particular room there wouldn’t have been any phone call to her partner that she had been injured or killed since now one at work know anything about her partner. Because of the law many cards of “who to call in case of emergency” have very relevant blanks. See her statement at the Congress in this YouTube clip. Even if we don’t have this kind of law in Sweden I bet there are members of our Armed Forces who not yet have told anyone at work and their cards will also have blanks.
In late april I did an interview with a journalist writing for the celebrity and fashion magazine Glaze. Later on I did a photoshoot with photographer Fabian Öhrn just before I flew off to Las Vegas. I had real trouble finding the magazine in the stores but suddenly my mum told me she had seen the article and liked it. After I while I got my own copy in the mail and I really liked the way it turned out. Sure I would have selected another picture but it turned out good anyway. I realized it was the first time I had really talked anything about my childhood and the “early days” in an interview. I guess this is a way to come to terms with the history especially today when all of that feels soo distant.
Download the article here: PDF av artikeln i Glaze
I had dinner together with a friend tonight and as we were talking about life and everything I think I came to realize one thing. This past year I have been feeling more vulnerable than ever and I think I know why now. You see back in 2001 when I joined the RFSL everything happened more or less by itself. I was the new person, one of the first transsexuals in the board and I quickly became involved in a lot of things. I was trying to make myself useful and got a lot of credit for good I stuff I did. This is the same pattern I had in school where I always was a good student scoring high on all tests and that made me feel good. So I became very used to and dependent on all these affirmations. The same things goes for my self-esteem where I for some time really was not sure that people liked me or even accepted me before they said so.
Anyway, years passed on and I got used to being Alexandra the board member, Alexandra the transgender activist, Alexandra the movie maker, Alexandra the computer expert and so on. I know that since I was engaged in a lot of activities I always knew what I was going to do and I often ended up in a lot of social situations and had a lot of fun together with many different people. However, the key thing I guess was that I felt I had to do something and preferably do it good to be invited to all of these occasions. I guess I did not really felt it was just me but rather the things I did that brought me there.
Now when I have scaled down on all these commitments the situation is somewhat quieter. It is actually just me left and that is a lot scarier for someone like me. Now I must believe that people can like me just because who I am and not what I am doing. It also means that I have to take a lot of initiatives to hang out with people and that means that I am asking for their company instead of others asking for my help. Well, the situation is not all bad since I do meet my friends quite a lot but I am not good at initiating this myself since it is more difficult than being invited. It is my birthday on Monday as well and I haven’t made any big plans for that which I guess in some ways depend on these issues I have. Instead one of my best friends stepped in and made sure that we could meet and have something to eat at their place tomorrow. Something that I truly appreciate very much. Now I feel good that I have figured this out and will try to work on it during my next year. Hopefully I will dare to invited people to my home next year. That will be my long-term goal.
I have just had a long conversation with a very dear friend of mine. For natural reasons we talked a lot about what I experienced this Saturday night and how I could relate and deal with that. In retrospect I can see that I have changed a lot compared to just a few years ago. I am way more confident about myself nowdays and more and more often I am just being me. However, what happened on Saturday told me that being just me is not enough. Even though I feel right and just feel like Alexandra a 33-year-old woman, people mistake me for not being a woman. And I guess that is someway the key thing. She pointed out that before I needed affirmation and whenever I passed as the woman I was I was happy and also dared to believe it. Nowadays when I AM a women or a least have developed into one people actually are mistaken when they think I am not. Today it is much easier to believe that they actually are wrong. My body is female and I know that.
It also strange how different people have their own set of ideas of what constitutes a proper woman. I don’t know what this man had a problem with but someway I was not a woman to hime and that was something that he decided in a blink of a moment. She pointed out that because of my background and also my professional career as a military officer make me a bit more confident and strong than most women are (unfortunately). So do I really want to “learn” to be less confident as well to pass a the woman I am? Probably not, especially since I am a feminist and believe in strong women. So maybe it was not just my looks but also some other thing that he reacted on and something that I actually could be a bit proud of.
She said many wise things today but one of them was an idea how people around me can support me if they have chance or possibility. If I am in a situation where I need some extra support and feel sure that I will be treated they way I want people around me can do that by setting the tone themselves. If I am doing an important presentation I can have some colleague introduce me and be sure to pronounce my name very clearly and refer to me as SHE a couple of times. That way there can be no doubt. The same thing can be used in a situation where a person not have referred to me as she. One way to tell someone that they have mistaken is to have someone close to me to say something like “SHE will pay for the pizzas” to highlight for the other person that I am a women and nothing else. That way it is not always up to me to stand up for myself. Of course I can never expect people to be ready to do that but I can ask that people do it if they can and have possibility to.
Today I was rather happy on my little cloud when lightning struck me without warning again. We had ordered some pizzas at the local pizza place and went there to get them. When we approached the counter I got the first punch. The man behind said “Hi there boys!” and I was surprised and became also annoyed. Sure I wasn’t wearing any makeup and my additional hair piece but still after all that I have gone through I thought I look feminine. I pulled my credit card and gave it to him and I saw him reading it carefully, looked confused and came back for and asked if I had an ID. I gave him my military ID and he seemed amused and asked “Is that really you?” I snapped back and said “What the hell do think, it is my ID”. He did not looked that convinced but took the card and charged me the money.
When we left the place it fell over me and I felt really really sad. Is it supposed to be like this the rest of my life? Even though my sweet friends think I look really nice “au naturelle” it is obviously not enough and I seem to need my makeup and hair to pass. The hard part is that I try to not think about this and it really works but the effect is that it affects me so much harder when it happens. I am confident most of my daily life but I am still struggling with my self-esteem in believing that I am not only welcome among the girls but also feeling and being accepted as one of them. And especially feel that I can be attractive to other lesbians as a potential partner. These incidents surely does not help me in being confident. Hopefully the last diathermy sessions will help make my face even nicer but I wonder if it will be enough. In times like this I am so envy of my friends who were born female.
A while after I had wakened a friend of mine appeared on iChat and asked if I wanted to join them for brunch. That sounded like and excellent idea so I took my little Mini to meet them. We found a nice café and I had orange juice, a café latte and a warm sandwich with parma ham and mozzarella cheese. After that me and R decided to do something downtown and we ended up checking out almost all electronic stores for interesting things such as Macs, GPS and flatscreen TVs in all sizes and prices. We also spent some time at a rather exclusive bed store and they sure had nice beds there. I fell in love with an adjustable bed with a Tempur-mattress.
Today it has passed three weeks since my surgery and it is time to switch from the soft bra I got at the hospital to a regular sport bra. I am supposed to wear that for another 2-3 weeks during daytime and after that I can go back to whatever I like. However, for natural reasons I did not own any sport bra so I was a little bit worried about getting one. After all you end up in a store with I don’t know many models and I think many women can be a bit stressed out about that. I had a little bit of luck today because Mia happened to be available for some shopping assistance and it felt great to have someone to discuss this with. At the first store we did not find anything that was remotely what I was looking about but it was so nice to have her reflecting on different models and how she would wear them. I had got a tip earlier this day about Twilfit so we decided to have a look there. Rather quickly we found a great model called Kimberly which was not only rather firm but also had “hooks” in the back so you can put it on without have to stick your arms up (which still hurts a little). It came in black and white so I bought one each. I think these will really become handy later on when I start exercising again also. Felt great to have done this too. We finished off the evening by having a Café Mocha and talking about Enterprise Content Management 🙂 Great fun to be a little nerdy with another nerdy girl…
För ett tag sedan berättade jag att jag blivit intervjuad av Borlänge Tidning – lokaltidningen i kommunen där jag växte upp. Idag fick jag reda på av mamma att den var publicerad i helgbilagan Pralin och jag är tydligen på förstasidan både på bilagan och själva tidningen. Kändes rätt bra att läsa reportaget så här i efterhand ändå. Det är lite roligt skrivet för texten hoppar lite fram och tillbaka men det blir ett bra berättande tycker jag. Lite synd att de inte köpte loss de snygga uniformsbilderna från EnköpingsPosten bara.
Today the article from the local newspaper where I grew up was published and apparently I am on the first page of both the weekend attachment and the paper itself. The article is in Swedish.
Since I have been home resting after my surgery I have had a lot of time to watch CNN and the coverage of the US Presidential Election 08. I live in Sweden and Swedes seem to have a mixed relationship to the US. On one hand we think we are pretty much the same and we consume a lot of American culture over here. The absolute majority of feature movies and the most popular TV-shows are made in the US and most American brands have a strong visibility in Swedish society. Still many Swedes have rather sceptic view of what the US stands for in politics and for most left-wing people (around 50%) the US society does not represent good things. However, I like the US and even consider myself as pro-american sometimes. So I wondered if we see different things of this great country.
Watching the two main parties’ conventions made me realize that my America is a democratic one because when I hear people speaking at the DNC I agree with a lot of what they are saying and I am really caught by the spirit of diversity, the importance of taking climate change serious, abortion rights and the need for a health care reform. Since I am a LGBT person the views on my rights is of course really important and seeing this statement coming from the Democratic party makes me feel good:
“We will also put national security above divisive politics… At a time when the military is having a tough time recruiting and retaining troops, it is wrong to deny our country the service of brave, qualified people. We support the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” and the implementation of policies to allow qualified men and women to serve openly regardless of sexual orientation.”
I am sorry to say but watching the Republican National Convention (RNC) almost makes me scared from a Swedish and European perspective. The way patriotism is being displayed there is something you only see in extreme right-wing and neonazi gatherings here in Sweden. I think Americans need to understand that the Republicans actually look extreme compared to other parts of the world. Sure I understand the feeling of loving your country and the US has a different history than Sweden but I think images like that actually scare people here in Sweden. On top of that we see the central place that religion have in the party (and in the US in general). The fact that every politicians end their speech with “God bless America” is something that a Swedish politician NEVER would say. Again I understand that most of the world is religious and some 100 million or so in Europe aren’t but still seeing all this religious talk from the RNC in particular is very unusual from a Swedish perspective. I even sometimes wonder how George W. Bush can talk about muslim extremists while himself expressing (Christian) faith-based viewpoints all the time. So today I learned that the RNC had made a statements on LGBT-people in the Armed Forces and it made me real sad:
“To protect our servicemen and women and ensure that America’s Armed Forces remain the best in the world, we affirm the timeliness of those values, the benefits of traditional military culture, and the incompatibility of homosexuality with military service.”
So again, I love being in the US but I guess the America I like is a Democratic one where human rights are respected for all people – not just white Christian men. I also feel so lucky that both my sexual orientation and my gender identity is compatible with serving in the Swedish Armed Forces. You see I think I pretty good at some things I do and some of that may actually come from me going through a difficult process.
I have just finished watching the cutest movie which is called “Definitely, maybe” (IMDB, Official site). It is a wonderful romantic movie about the complexity of love. The main character is getting divorced from his wife and his 10-year old daughter who is just adorable and can’t really understand why they are divorcing. So he ends up telling her a story about his different relationships but swaps out the women’s names so she have to guess who is her mum. It turns out to be a long story starting in 1992 and show how frictions and timings have a tendency to screw everything up. Expectations, mistakes, plans, lack of plans, career, geography – almost everything can be in the way if you are unlucky. Of course I cried a little bit in the end because it is was soo beautiful. Thank god for happy endings!