Fusing two of my worlds and meeting the queen

I recently spent a week in The Hague and it turned out to be a much stronger experiences than I could possibly expect. To me a sense of belonging is as precious as it is sometimes hard to experience. I feel very different in so many ways and it is sometimes frustrating to always feel wrong in some aspect of life. I have tried to handle that by having multiple groups where each group gives me some part of that sense of belonging and when things you share makes sense to others. Multiple groups with different context and where different parts of me are appreciated and understood. Two major contexts for me have been my work in the Armed Forces and my work with LGBT rights. Add to that the special environment of working in multinational groups within the Armed Forces context, an environment which I really enjoy. Never have these worlds been fused as they did this week in May together with the NATO LGBT Working Group and it was just a great feeling.

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It took a while before it really dawned on me. The very special environment I was in. The trip started more or less as usual, very similar to one of the many trips I have made to multinational working groups in the military. Sure, this time I was traveling with the Swedish Armed Forces Diversity and Gender Advisor and that is of course different. Different in the way that LGBT issues and gender issues is a natural topic of conversation. It is not with most of my other colleagues. Even meeting the group for an informal get together at the evening did not really made realize how cool this was. I mean, they were military people from 8 nations and we were in the middle of getting to know each other. It wasn’t until we all gathered the next morning in the conference room, where most of us wore the military service dress. Then it suddenly became more and more obvious how different this was despite the familiar surface. This was a group of multi-national people were I could be completely open with both being a gay woman and a woman with a transsexual background. It also meant that if I did not pass as a woman that would not render any suspicious looks but instead even a possibility that people liked that someone had a trans experiences. That was a much more different feeling than I had ever expected. A situation where you were welcome because who you are and not just tolerated.

On top of that we were all engaged in talks about how to make life better for LGBTI people serving in the Armed Forces. Even cooler! We were not just a social group of military LGBT people but also people wanted to change and improve respect for human rights. Human rights that we in the Armed Forces are there to defend. That was strikingly similar to my experiences from my many meetings at the federation board of RFSL, Sweden’s biggest LGBTQ organisation. However, in that organization my military work was something that made me very different and something not everybody really supported. So here in The Hague at the NATO (Informal) LGBT Working group these two worlds just fused in a way that felt really great. Could be me in way I really never experienced before really. Made me realize that my military identity is rather strong after all. I felt even more passionate when we kind of realized that the best selling point of our work there was that we can improve coalition effectiveness. By making sure that LGBT people can serve with equal opportunities we can really make the most of all the skills we have access to which improve the way we conduct military operations. Strangely most of my previous work from 2005-2010 focused on just that, improving multinational effectiveness in operations. This time with a completely different approach though. An approach very close to my own heart and personal experiences.

I was impressed by the work being done in countries like the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and New Zealand. Swedes tend to think we have “come so far” but it turned out (as usual) that we have a lot more work to do. The national society of Sweden is a great place to be a LGBT person from a formal perspective. Our legal rights are quite good. However, that also means that people have a tendency to think we have “solved the problem” and each individual has no responsibility of understanding the issue and doing something. Very much so in the Armed Forces. I often find people who really don’t understand why LGBT or Gender work needs to be done in the Armed Forces. They have no idea of what women and LGBT people goes through and therefore also quite insensitive to need to change behavior in the way we talk, the way we judge and the way we promote and recruit. Male heterosexual norms are reproduced with out a second thought. From the traditional gathering at the sauna to what constitutes professional characteristics of a person (=man).

We really need to start working in this again in Sweden. Not because members of the Armed Forces should be nice towards women or LGBT people but because it is our damn human right to be treated with equal value. That is not negotiable. Really, it isn’t and people need to start reflecting on what they can do, not just trust some HR department to spread the occasional brochure. I think it is great that we have a military LGBT organization in Sweden, one which I founded in 2002 with 8 other people. During this conference I represented both that organization and the Swedish Armed Forces.

Our conference is an initiative from the Dutch Government and they really showed tremendous leadership. They took really good care of us and created a very good environment for us to work with these issues. This year the number of nations was increased from 5 to 8 and we thus form the “LGBT Coalition of the Willing” in some respect. I hope countries like Sweden and Norway can move fast to showcase a similar commitment. Sweden is of course not a member of NATO but we have a close partnership with NATO through the PfP programme. Together with New Zealand we form some kind of NATO + (plus) group which are willing to tackle these issues. Our conference was also a part of the bigger IDAHO 2013 Forum where hundreds of people gathered in the same place from various sectors of the society.

One of the more concrete steps we identify on our way forward was to create a LGBTI rights map for those serving in Armed Forces around the world. The inspiration is of course the LGBTI rights map by ILGA-Europe and the transgender rights map made by Transgender Europe. I think it would also be possible to start some small study on how LGBTI people serving really experiences life in the Armed Forces. Our legal rights tells only half the story on our situation.

The high-level nature of the big conference also dawned on me. We understood that members of cabinets from 12 EU countries were present on Thursday and the Dutch delegation proudly told us that Her Majesty the Queen Maxima would attend the dinner on Thursday evening. I found it so important that these high-profile people like Hiliary Clinton and now both the General Secretary of the United Nations and his Comissioner for Human Rights have started to speak very clearly of LGBT rights as human rights. It makes it so much harder to ignore then. Add some royalty on that and most senior decisionmakers have a tendency to listen, especially in the Armed Forces.

After some clothing anxiety before the formal dinner we were standing there having drinks before the dinner when one of members of the Dutch delegation came up to me and proudly explained that I have been selected to meet the Queen after dinner. We were having coffee I was told. I felt really honored and the grand nature of this became even more obvious. Here I was as a representative of the Swedish Armed Forces and the first (?) openly serving transsexual woman and the Dutch team wanted me to represent the LGBT Group together with the Italian representative. What a difference compared to Sweden, where I have always have been put in the background and never been ushered forward to make the T-group visible. Here it was the opposite and I felt very proud. And yes, a little nervous too. I do tend to like Royalties and especially princesses and queens I have to confess.

During dinner I was briefed on the formalities of our meeting and soon I was in this room together with 25-30 people who were scheduled to chat with Queen. We were positioned in small groups and told to wait for her. She was wearing a clear red pant suit of some kind and had her blond her in a simple but big hairdo. She looked just stunning! After a while she approached us and she kind of stopped just in front of me. I hesitated a bit, unsure of who would take the initiative but we ended up greeting each other. However, she looked confused and asked if I was from the Dutch police and I said no and explained. Then she smiled and said the Police group was first and she headed away from me. So typical me 🙂 Always a little but confused. Anyway, ten minutes later it was our turned and she smiled again and said we had already met. She established that English would be the language of choice and we started talking. A strong wave of presence (and crazy beautiful brown eyes) hit me and I was really on my toes in very way possible. What an experience it is to meet people with that presence. Sharp yet listening and very kind. We talked about the situation for LGBT people in the Armed Forces and I told her how important she is to give us access to our senior generals. We need door openers like her. We also talked about the fact that our crown princess Victoria had attended our Gay Awards ceremony earlier this year. The encounter lasted 6-7 minutes I think and I was high for hours after words.

On Friday I left The Hague with a completely renewed energy and commitment to continue working with LGBT issues in the military. I just hope I can find a way to continue do that in this wonderful multinational context. I had a great time with great people. Thank you all!

Det hĂ€r med att gĂ„ till frisören…och komma ut…

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Nyligen skrev jag om behovet av att ta igen upplevelser som jag kÀnner borde hÀnt för lÀnge sen. I torsdags hade jag en sÄdan stark men ocksÄ positiv upplevelse hos frisören som jag gÀrna vill dela med mig av. Det Àr ju faktiskt inte alla som njuter av att gÄ till frisören, men det gjorde jag dÄ. Det var dock en resa att ta sig dit minst sagt och jag tÀnkte försöka berÀtta lite om det. Hur jag gick frÄn att knappt ha behövt bry mig till att bli sÄdÀr frisörnervös som jag sett en del andra bli och sen till slut ta mig över min egen tröskel. Att finna den dÀr tryggheten som jag tydligen verkar söka hela tiden.

Jag började spara ut mitt hĂ„r för lĂ€nge sen nu, det Ă€r sĂ€kert 12-13 Ă„r sedan. Under lĂ„ng tid anvĂ€nde jag olika peruker och det blev helt normalt för mig. Dels för att jag inte tyckte att mitt eget hĂ„r rĂ€ckte till och dels för att jag nog tyckte mitt utseende blev mer balanserat med ett “perfekt” hĂ„r som var tjockt och fylligt. Det hĂ€r med att styla mitt eget hĂ„r var dĂ„ inget jag riktigt tog tag i och det var den upplevda fumligheten och osĂ€kerheten som jag skrev om tidigare. Till frisören gick jag nĂ„gra gĂ„nger, visst, men det var aldrig för att fixa min riktiga och viktiga frisyr. NĂ€r mitt hĂ„r blev lĂ€ngre och finare sĂ„ blandade jag in det i peruken vilket vĂ€l pĂ„ ett sĂ€tt var en slags sĂ€tt att börja övergĂ„ngen men ocksĂ„ sĂ„klart att minska askunge-kĂ€nslan varje kvĂ€ll nĂ€r den Ă„kte av. SĂ„ i maj 2010 sĂ„ Ă„kte den av för gott i och med att jag för första gĂ„ngen hade mitt eget hĂ„r pĂ„ jobbet. Det var den sista situationen dĂ€r jag bara hade haft peruk hitintills.

Jag insĂ„g att jag behövde och borde gĂ„ till frisören men haken var ju att jag inte riktigt hade nĂ„gon. Hade försökt med en salong i Vasastaden och en hĂ€r pĂ„ Lilla Essingen ett tag men tyckte aldrig att jag kĂ€nde mig helt nöjd och trygg dĂ€r. Blev klippt men inte sĂ„ mycket mer och alldeles för sĂ€llan. För mig blir det alltid en tröskel att ta tag i det dĂ€r med att vĂ€lja ett nytt stĂ€lle oavsett om det Ă€r frisör, tandlĂ€kare, lĂ€kare eller nĂ„gon annan serviceinrĂ€ttning. Funderar hur jag ska vĂ€lja ut eller möjligen till och med utvĂ€rdera hur jag kĂ€nner mig behandlad. KĂ€nner mig nog lite avundsjuk pĂ„ de som har “sin” frisör eller tandlĂ€kare som de haft i mĂ„nga Ă„r och som de kĂ€nner sig trygga med. Jag nĂ€rmar mig alltid den situationen med lite ont i magen för hur jag ska bli behandlad. Det betyder ocksĂ„ att jag vill ha en slags möjlig retrĂ€ttvĂ€g dĂ€r jag sĂ€ger “tack, men nej tack” om det inte kĂ€nns bra. Just frisör blir kanske extra viktigt för att den personen ska ju helst förstĂ„ att det viktigaste för mig Ă€r att plocka fram de kvinnliga dragen hos mig sĂ„ att jag kĂ€nner mig fin och att jag passerar sĂ„ bra det gĂ„r i vardagen. DĂ„ mĂ„ste man liksom “komma-ut” ironiskt nog Ă€ven om jag vĂ€l oftast kĂ€nner att det inte riktigt behövs. KĂ€nns sĂ€llan som jag berĂ€ttar nĂ„got nytt. Hursomhelst sĂ„ innebĂ€r första besöket hos frisören att planera “komma-ut”-situationen. Och sedan vĂ€nta pĂ„ reaktionen och bestĂ€mma sig vad jag ska göra med den. SĂ„ det Ă€r riktigt svĂ„rt att vĂ€lja frisör för hur tusan ska man försöka göra ett urval pĂ„ hur den situationen ska gĂ„. Det slutar vĂ€l med att hon (för det det Ă€r det oftast och nog bra för mig) ska vara snĂ€ll och möjligen trygg.

Det Ă€r vĂ€l nĂ„got med att gĂ„ till frisören som liknar en del tidiga “gör om mig”-kĂ€nslor kanske. Hur centralt det Ă€r att spegelbilden blir den dĂ€r sĂ„ viktiga bekrĂ€ftelsen. Lite som en miniversion över att i perukbutiken prova den dĂ€r frisyren som passar sĂ„ bra och som lockar fram ett nöjd men ocksĂ„ sĂ„rbart leende ur mig. Att jag kĂ€nner mig fin och rĂ€tt. Det Ă€r vĂ€l det som stĂ„r pĂ„ spel dĂ€r hos frisören. Att vardagsflytet stĂ„r pĂ„ spel bĂ„de i hur jag ser men ocksĂ„ och kanske viktigare hur jag kĂ€nner mig.

Sommaren 2012 hade det vĂ€l gĂ„tt ett och ett halvt Ă„r sedan det sista besöket pĂ„ salongen hĂ€r pĂ„ ön och jag kĂ€nde att jag mĂ„ste verkligen ta tag i det. Hade fĂ„tt ett tips av en bög-kompis som innehöll just orden snĂ€ll och jag tĂ€nkte jag mĂ„ste ju börja nĂ„gonstans. Jag var dock sjukt nervös och tyckte hela situationen att gĂ„ in dĂ€r bland nĂ„gra unga tjejer pĂ„ den lite hippa salongen pĂ„ Östermalm kĂ€ndes riktigt jobbig. Tillsammans med en vĂ€n kom jag pĂ„ att man faktiskt kan boka tid för en konsultation för att slippa bli neddragen i stolen och i ren förskrĂ€ckelse bli klippt. Att gĂ„ dit och boka den tiden var jobbigt men inför konsultationen hade jag rejĂ€lt ont i magen.

Gick till frisören halv fem pĂ„ kvĂ€llen den dĂ€r mĂ„ndagen i augusti och skulle dĂ„ berĂ€tta. BerĂ€tta om min bakgrund och sen förhoppningsvis bli trygg med hur hon tĂ€nkte lĂ€gga upp en eventuell klippning av mig. Ellinor hette hon och hade kort blonderat hĂ„r. NĂ„gonting i mig reagerade positivt nĂ€r jag liksom tusen andra möten med mĂ€nniskor försökte fĂ„ en kĂ€nsla för om de tillhörde den “bra” sorten eller den andra. NĂ„got med henne andades lite mod och attityd, kanske hon hade lite förstĂ„else för att mĂ€nniskor Ă€r annorlunda. Jag hamnade i stolen framför spegeln och vi började prata. Hon började kĂ€nna pĂ„ mitt hĂ„r och nĂ„nstans dĂ€r i början kom min “komma ut”-line. Hon reagerade inte sĂ„ mycket (vilket fĂ„ gör) men det kĂ€ndes bra. Hon förmedlade kĂ€nslan av att det var viktigast för henne att ta fram ett utseende som passade mig snarare Ă€n en kul teknisk utmaning som frisör och det var ju precis det jag ville höra. Vi pratade lite om klippningen och jag insĂ„g ju pĂ„ en gĂ„ng att jag inte Ă€r van att prata om hĂ„r och klippning. Har nog inte sĂ„ mycket bilder i huvudet med alternativ men inte heller orden för det liksom. Kanske för att jag insett att det blir farligt att föra över en i sig snygg frisyr pĂ„ mig som oftast har en lite annorlunda ansiktsform Ă€n fotomodellerna. HĂ€pnar ofta hur mina kvinnliga vĂ€nner sett ut nĂ€r provat min peruk förut. Jag tyckte jag var fin men de ser ut som amerikanska filmstjĂ€rnor, förmodligen pĂ„ att de har nĂ€ttare ansiktsform. Tror det Ă€r dĂ€rför jag bestĂ€mt mig för att bilder pĂ„ frisyrer pĂ„ kvinnor inte fungerar för mig. Förmaningen frĂ„n min vĂ€n om att vara tydlig med att förmedla att hon inte skulle klippa för mycket mindes jag. Men en fĂ€rgning eller intensivtoning som det tydligen hette ville jag ha och efter en stund hade vi bokat in en tid pĂ„ torsdagen kl 9 pĂ„ morgonen.

Klippningen pĂ„ tordagen gick bra. Det var pĂ„ mĂ„nga sĂ€tt en ny upplevelse – en sĂ„dan dĂ€r “första gĂ„ngen”-upplevelse faktiskt. Flera timmar i stolen med flera olika moment med fĂ€rgning, hĂ„rtvĂ€tt, klippning och föning. KĂ€nde mig riktigt fin efterĂ„t Ă€ven om det blev lite mörkare Ă€n jag trott faktiskt. Men det passar mig tycker jag. Bilden till höger Ă€r frĂ„n maj 2013 och bilden till vĂ€nster Ă€r frĂ„n augusti 2012.

SĂ„ i torsdags nu i maj var det alltsĂ„ dags igen. Hade först anvĂ€nt bokningsfunktionen pĂ„ deras hemsida (det gillar jag!) men hittade ingen tid för bĂ„de valen klippning (dam hette det) och föning. Jag skrev ett litet meddelande om att jag var pĂ„ vĂ€g till USA och gĂ€rna ville vara fin. Ellinor ringde upp mig dagen efter och jag kĂ€nde Ă„terigen att jag hittat rĂ€tt. Hon kĂ€nns snĂ€ll pĂ„ nĂ„got sĂ€tt och vips sĂ„ hade jag Ă€ndĂ„ en tid innan jag skulle resa. Denna gĂ„ngen ville jag prova slingor ocksĂ„ – har ju aldrig testat det förut. SĂ„ det blev en riktigt fin förmiddag dĂ€r hos henne. Lite spa-aktig upplevelse pĂ„ nĂ„got sĂ€tt. Fick kaffe i en vacker mugg medan jag vĂ€ntade pĂ„ fĂ€rgen. Underbart skön hĂ„rtvĂ€tt med varmt vatten och massage. InsĂ„g dock hur utsvulten jag faktiskt Ă€r pĂ„ beröring dĂ„ med. Slingor med massa aluminiumfolie i hĂ„ret var ju en ny upplevelse men jag tyckte det tillsammans med den lite ljusare bruna fĂ€rgen blev riktigt bra. Det kĂ€nns faktiskt som jag tagit mig över den hĂ€r tröskeln nu och det kĂ€nns himla skönt att kunna göra frisörbesök till mer av en rutingrej i vardagen.

Slutligen sÄ fÄr jag ocksÄ erkÀnna en sak. Det Àr nog inte förrÀn nyligen som jag aktivt förstÄr och tar in att mÄnga kvinnor (och mÀn) faktiskt har fÀrgat sitt hÄr. Alltför mÄnga Är trodde jag att de hade en helt naturlig hÄrfÀrg och jag undrade hur i hela friden de hade sÄ fint hÄr. Jag lÀr mig hur det Àr att vara kvinna hela tiden mÀrker jag.