Is your name really Alexandra now?
Yes, it is. As of late October 2006 my offcial name is Alexandra and I have now changed all my IDs, passport and credit cards.
What did the process look like for me?
In Sweden transsexuality (transsexualism) is considered to be a health condition that requires medical care and is part of the public health care plan. In order to get the treatment the patient has to go through a certain process which generally takes 2-3 years. The first part of that process is a medical, sociological and psychological review of the patient and at the end the specialist team establish the diagnosis called transsexuality. After that first phase the treatment phase is started and that includes hormone replacement therapy, speech training, the so called Real Life Experience and then finally the sex reassignment surgeryThere is really no connection between the legal status of what sex one have and their name. In Sweden the social security number (personnummer) is put together in a way that you can see whether a person is male or female. After seeing the TS-unit at Karolinska Hospital I did get the doctor’s statement after just short of 2 years. That meant that I could submit the application the National Health Board for formal approval to gender reassignment surgery and legal status as woman. That was approved in 2006, did my surgery in March 2007 got my new social security number in april of 2007. In late 2008 I had did my surgeries and was fully recovered which was a great relief.
Why did you wait until October 2005 to change your name?
In Sweden there is a law that dictates what kind of names people can have and what is not allowed as names. There is nothing in the law that explicitly says that a (biological) man can not have what is considered female names and vice versa. However, the legal experts have decided that certain names have tradition of being either male or female and they think is reason enough to deny applications by saying that is considered to “be impropriate for man having a traditional female name”. The fun part is that because of immigration there are a growing number of names that apparently are used by persons of both sexes and those names are put on a certain list which is called “gender-neutral names”. To me that is just evidence that the implementation of the law have become rather dated and need to be reformed.
In the end I needed a statement from my psychiatrist in order to get my name change approved before my legal status as woman is ready. I also realized that I for practical reasons really need to have a new name during my Real Life Experience period.
How long have you lived socially as a woman?
Well, more or less since 2001 and forward I have spent more or less all my private social life as a woman. My first time as a woman was in december 1996 and that is still the most important event in my life! Everything felt just right!
Why did you wait until 2005 to live as woman at work
Well, I work in the Armed Forces as an officer and a lot the activities there is based on your name and you being able to show proper identification every day. Therefore I decided that looking as a woman but still have a male name would feel very strange for me and also risk sending the wrong signals to the people around me (that I might still want to be seen as man). However, in order to not go completely mad I decided that I did not want to do any thing to my looks that would make my private life as woman more difficult. Therefore I had long hair, nails, earrings and my “female” glasses at work and maybe become somewhat an odd character in military occasions. But I honestly did not see any other way to do it.
Are you attracted to men or women?
I am attracted to women and that means that I am now a lesbian or gay woman. (Transsexuals can be either heterosexual, bisexual or homosexual just as everybody else.)
Why I am so open about what is happening in my life?
People handle this in different ways and I have done what I think feels best for me. I believe in honesty and openness and prefer to openly discuss what is happening in my life. Some people fear things they do not know and the best way to handle predjudices is information. I think that is best for both me and the people around me. Some people may think these are very private things but I think they in reality are not more private than other very important things in life that people often feel a need to discuss. For some that is things like their marriage and kids and for other´s it is sickness or accidents that all are moments that profoundly change they way we look upon our lifes.
What does the concept of “coming out” mean to you?
I started to get to terms with my transsexuality in the late 1990-ies and for most LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered) people that is an experience that can be as tough as it is important. The process of showing other´s who you really are is a period that usually is filled with anxiety, nervousness, fear but also incredible moments of relief, joy and love. Afterword, I wonder why it felt so difficult to start saying these words “I have something to tell you..” but I guess going through that process is the very thing that makes you strong and self-confident. For some transsexual people the period after their transition process sometimes mean getting into a “new” closet where the question of whether or not to tell people about their history (as a transsexual). Some people feel it is important to blend in as much as possible but I don´t want to get into that “closet” again and I prefer to be judge for person I am: A woman with some unusual experiences….
Do you always wear makeup?
No, I don´t 🙂 But the process of changing my body into a womans takes sometime and for now I need the help from makeup to be seen as the woman I feel I am. Maybe, after the affects of hormones and beard removal (with laser) people will think I look female even without any makeup . It is a long tedious and painful process and I skip makeup more and more often on my spare-time.
Is that your own hair?
Yes, it is I am starting to be very proud of it. Earlier in my life I used wigs and then a combination of both. The main reason was because my own hair wasn’t thick and long enough but I guess also because the wig provided me with a nice hairdo which made me feel more complete as a woman back then. I think I needed it then but I luckily don’t need it now although I would consider some extra extension if going to an officer’s ball or something.
What about my name and he/she?
That is very important to me and I hope people can respect that I want to referenced as “her” or “she” and be called “Alexandra”. Back in 2006 it was an adjustment for some but nowadays I expect people to have adjusted, otherwise I think it is lack of respect to call me anything else. However, it still happens each an every month that someone calls me “him” which surprises me and makes me sad. It can put off of really some days but the worst part is that people usually don’t say they are sorry and people around me rarely step up. I would really appreciate that.
Whay have you been wearing civilian clothes so much?
Since the Swedish uniform (the blue ones for the Air Force) more is less is the same for men and women (except for the skirt) I felt it would be easier for both me and the people around me to notice an obvious difference in my appearance. That way I hope it is easier to start seeing me as a woman and it would also feel more natural to call me Alexandra. I wore civilian clothes early in my transition both for me but also for people around me. Nowadays I have actually started to feel more comfortable in uniform but at my work place it is not that important what we wear as long as we do our job. So maybe I use the uniform once or twice a week. Still, I like myself in civilian clothes because it shows who I really am just as the uniform show what I believe in.
What can you as a collegue do?
Those working with me will probably get questions about me and I think it is good to start thinking about how you would answer some of these questions. After all, people are a bit afraid to asked me questions directly but they are still rather curious. Answer the questions if you feel like doing it and just keep in mind that what you say will probably have an effect on what people think of me. Please do not hesitate to direct people to ask their questions to me directly or point them to this website where a lot of answers can be found.