A unique conference around transgender military service

In late October 2014 I had the opportunity to go to the United States to participate in a conference called “Perspectives on International Transgender Military Service”. The Swedish Armed Forces were officially invited by the Palm Center to participate and a decision was made on by Director General and Deputy Head of Personell to send me and Helena Hoffman from our HR Centre to the conference. The decision of our participation came swiftly and to me it says something about the changed culture on the command level in the Swedish Armed Forces and their understanding of the importance of LGBT issues. In the center of the organizers were Mr Aaron Belkin who also was a key player in the work around abolishing the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell-act which made it possible for homosexuals and bisexuals to serve openly in the United States Armed Forces. This conference was part of a longer set of activities to provide academic insights into why it is time to abolish the ban on military service for transgender persons as well. Even during the preparations I was struck by the passion and professionalism in the way he and his team worked with the conference.

Previous US studies
One of the efforts provide academic insights are these studies published ahead of the conference:

Even the release of these studies gained a lot of press coverage like this article in the Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/checkpoint/wp/2014/08/25/the-pentagon-can-easily-drop-its-ban-on-transgender-troops-study-finds/

Present at the conference were participants from Sweden, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and the UK, some of the 18 countries that currently allow open transgender military service. In addition to that there were many former services members from the United States who had lost their jobs just because of them being transgender.

The conference was organized around different panels where some where focused on the policy makers from the respective countries and some were focused on sharing the concrete evidences from transgender military services members both from the United States and the invited countries. The schedule looked like this.

9:15 am

Lessons Learned & Best Practices (HR & Policy Officers)

10:45 am

Break

11:00 am

Foreign Military Experiences: Transgender Troops Tell Their Stories

12:30 pm

Working Lunch on Military Diversity (Research etc)

1:30 pm

Break

1:45 pm

Deployment in Austere Conditions: Stories from Combat Zones

3:15 pm

Break

3:30 pm

Next Steps for America: Applying Allied Lessons in the US Military

I was part of the second panel together with Lucy from New Zealand, Donna from Australia and Natalie from Canada. My colleague Helena was on the first panel. To read more about each participants see their individual bios at the ACLU page: https://www.aclu.org/perspectives-transgender-military-service-around-globe

An emotional day
That Monday in Washington D.C. turned out to be a very intense but also emotional day. I realized that was probably the first time that I had been around that many transgender military service members ever. My previous experiences in LGBT Military issues actually involved mostly gay men and the occasional lesbian woman. I have often been the only transsexual present and to some degree put into an ambassador’s role where I could be the representative and “expert” on transgender issues. I have always tried to not be limited to my own personal experiences but rather tried to show the spectrum of approaches transgender people can have on their job and life in general.

In this case however it was a unique experience to be part of a fairly large group of people which all had transgender experiences in the military. I think that also meant that it became way more personal for me. Partly because my approach no longer would be just accepted but rather challenged (although politely) and partly because there suddenly were people around me who had chosen different ways of handling their transition process, their job and their way of life. That of course triggers questions about my own choices in life. We were not only from different countries with different cultures but also from different armed forces around the world. Each with a slight variation of core values and best practices but also their own set of military rules and regulations. That means that we all had different context and circumstances in which we have dealt with us being transgendered.

Hearing about hardships others have gone through is never easy and it sure affects me on a deep emotional level. Maybe the most obvious example was all the people from the US who shared the experience of being force out of their job in the Armed Forces just because they were transgendered. Imagine just having found out who you really are and in the midst of that relief and joy you realize that you are fired from your job just because of that. Especially in the United States where a lot of the benefits around health care, dental care and housing are connected to your employment. That is lost in addition to the salary and job. These men and women also seemed very brave and full of resolve since many of them today are activists trying to change that antiquated policy – something that can be done solely by President Obama himself.

Important information sharing
Just as when we gathered for the NATO LGBT Working Group this summer in Stockholm I was again reminded of the importance that we meet in person and share not only personal experiences but also discuss best practices and policy options in real life. There is still such a shortage on information that being able to get updated on that is a goal in itself. This was of course unique because it focused soley on the T letter in LGBT which is even more important since transgender issues are even less covered than gay (men) issues. I was again amazed of how much work is actually going on around transgender military service around the world. Policy documents are being written, studies are being done and support organizations are being formed. The United Kingdom is once again impressive in the professional way they approach transgender issues. They seem to have a more direct logical approach between decision being made and what is actually needed in terms of policy changes and resource in order to make it happen. The way they have formed formal support networks within the ranks and their LGBT mentor system is very impressive. In Sweden we tend to be vary of large comprehensive measures as and rather take “one step at a time” with little or small resources being committed. Instead it is supposed to be handled by people doing more general equality or gender-related work.

It is quite hard
Being transgendered is hard, that was obvious after the conference. We mixed hearing rather disturbing stories of bullying and bad mental health together with more positive ones indicating that it is very possible to serve in the military with a transsexual background. Still most of us seem to face very real and hard challenges both at work and in society in general. Even though we need to discuss bullying in the military culture we also desperately need some good role models to point to the future with. It seems like the main challenge is changing the culture so these organisations develops a climate where both transgendered people and women can serve with equal opportunity in a safe workplace environment. When you are fighting real enemies with guns you don’t want to be challenged by your colleagues.

A tale from the “paradise”
Telling my story sometimes felt like a tale from the paradise which I guess it is compared to a lot of other experiences. However, it is just me and my very unique personal journey through the armed forces which has work better than all expectations. I feel safe at work in the Swedish Armed Forces HQ and I feel respected for what I do. Nothing to take for granted if you have a transsexual background unfortunately. However, from a personal perspective it is not really a tale from paradise but that is not something that is discussed more than briefly during events like this. In the end finding love and someone to share your life with is just as important as being respected at work. I got the sense that many of us with a transsexual background struggle really hard with dating and relationships. It is a fairly cruel world in that respect.

Five of us women which all belonged to the Air Force decided to take this unique group photo as seen below:

Women with transgender background from five different air forces around the world.
Women with transgender background from five different air forces our the world.

So the day was emotional but also filled with lots of interesting seminars where all of us shared experience from each nation. A lot of new facts and reflections was presented to us in away that I think never had been done before. I really felt each minute was worth focusing on and my head was filled of thoughts from each one and half hour sessions. The third component was the media which was present in the room. Journalists from big media organisations like AP, Huffington Post and ABC was there covering the event. So it wasn’t just us discussing amongst lgbT people but also something for the general public. Something the world would see. I was asked several times by the organizer to do interviews which become a stark contrast to the emotional experiences of listening to my colleagues all over the world. Instead I needed to snap into “interview mode” and be able to be that ambassador myself for a few minutes. One of whose was an interviewed with WJLA – ABC which you can see here in both video and audio: http://bcove.me/mvu2egk2

The media coverage from this conference was nothing short of impressive. A lot of the major media outlets around the world wrote a piece of this event. Well, in Sweden it was not noticed at all. Here are some examples:

The Daily Mail

CNN

The Guardian

Huffington Post

Pink News UK

alexandra-helena-transgender-workshop-dc
Me and Helena outside the ACLU Office. Photograph by Lucy Jordan, New Zeeland Air Force

Utanför normen på flera sätt – det kanske inte bara mig det är fel på?

Normerna i samhället sätter liksom standarden för vad som anses bra och i viss mån “säkert” att göra för att kunna passa in. Vi styrs av dem i vårt dagliga handlade och säkert en hel del vid lite mer ytliga vardagskonversationer. Då tror jag många väljer att ta upp “säkra” områden som samtalsämnen utifrån just normerna i samhället. De säger också en del om vad vi som grupp anses tycka är viktigt i livet. Det blir väl ibland svårt att se exakt vad skillnaden går mellan en egen stark övertygelse och dröm och vad som är att göra “som man ska”. Jag reser en hel del med jobbet och det är ett område där det märks så tydligt vad det är som anses vara viktigt. Till saken hör att jag är passionerat intresserad för mitt jobb och tycker också att det jag gör är viktigt på riktigt. Det är inte bara ett jobb men redan där upplever jag att jag är utanför normen. Ofta när jag kommer hem helt uppfylld av en intensiv vecka från en konferens i USA så får jag frågan direkt efter jag berättat var jag var: “Jaha, gjorde du något annat (=roligt) också när du var i USA?”. Då går liksom luften ur mig för ofta har jag så mycket som jag vill dela med mig av att jag då får klämma ur mig något om vi var och shoppade lite en eftermiddag innan konferensens registrering öppnade. Det blir så tydligt att det som egentligen är viktigt och roligt, det kan bara inte handla om jobbet och att prata jobb är ju per definition tråkigt antar jag. Nu är jag ju också med om en massa saker under de här intensiva jobbdagarna som inte handlar om produktstrategier och exakta features i olika mjukvarureleaser. Det är en i högsta grad social aktivitet med gemensamma frukostar, luncher, middagar och social aktiviteter med både kollegor och andra. Under de tillfällena finns det möjlighet att skapa relationer av yrkesmässig karaktär som sedan kan visa sig helt avgörande för att som i veckan får högsta attention på ett problem vi haft.

Men ärligt talat så visst, jag tycker väl inte heller att jobbet är viktigast. Det är klart att jag också har det i mig att kärleken, en familj, barn och umgänge med vänner är det som egentligen ger livskvalitet. Jag har fått uppleva korta glimtar av detta och det är klart. Det är riktigt fina ögonblick i livet. Som den där morgonen när bästa vännen sovit över med hennes lilla son och morgonen blir liksom så där som en familj. Jag har nog aldrig lämnat min egen lägenhet så harmonisk som just den dagen. Men det var just bara den dagen och hela tiden en känsla av att inte våga tro att den känslan kan komma åter. Jag fyller 40 nu på måndag och har inte så mycket av det där som ska vara det viktiga och fina i livet. Lever liksom mest i svallvågorna av andras liv men utan en egen båt att kunna styra. Nånstans försöker jag tänka att det är inte bara mig det är fel på, bilden av vad det där viktiga är kommer från normerna också och vi har inte kommit på allt själv. Det är jag i samhällets normsystem som just nu inte klickar alls. Jag har inte så mycket att säga om de där säkra sakerna som vad man ska göra till helgen, vilken semester man varit på (ska åka på) eller vad barnen och partnern hittar på därhemma.

Lyssnade idag på serietecknaren Liv Strömkvist som menade att det privata projektet med den eviga kärleksrelationen blivit lite som religionen var förut. Normerna fylls ständigt på med bilden av att den ultimata lyckan (himlen) uppnås genom det privata projektet och relationen. Planeringen av semestern och nästa bostadsköp blir liksom konkreta hållpunkter på vägen mot lyckan där borta.

Jag har dock mitt jobb som ankare i livet och jag vill faktiskt kunna göra något bra av det jag har utan att känna mig dålig för att jag inte också “gjort något annat”. Men visst, längtar jag. Frågan är vad som är normen och vad som är jag.

Tankar efter “Women’s panel & reception” på konferensen IBM Impact 2014

The Panel.
Paneldeltagarna från KPMG, Analysföretag, Target, IBM-partnern Prolifics och IBM

 

När jag är ute och reser på mina konferenser så försöker jag alltid delta i de kvinnliga nätverk som förekommer. Dels för att jag tycker det är intressant och dels för att stödja en viktig verksamhet faktiskt komma dit när någon ser till att organisera något. Denna gången var jag i Las Vegas och konferensen IBM Impact 2014 som är en lagom stor konferens (ca 7500) med högt teknikinnehåll och fokus på IBMs breda flora av integrationsprodukter och infrastruktur för att köra applikationer. Jag börjar faktiskt känna igen mig i såväl format som innehåll från nätverksträffar inom mansdominerade branscher och det var som tidigare intressanta att få ta del av röster som jag sällan hör men samtidigt många tankar kring vad som faktiskt sägs. Att vara kvinna handlar även denna gången väldigt mycket om att vara mamma och ha en familj

 

Impact2014_Womens_Flyer
Invitation Flyer

Evenemanget fått titeln “Women’s Panel & Reception on Innovation & Technology” med Marie Wieck som värd. Hon är General Manager, Application & Integration Middleware, IBM Software Group och en av flera kvinnor som höll i flera keynotes från den gigantiska scenen. Jag älskar att gå på denna typen av teknikkonferenser och gör allt i ett högt tempo så det var lite med andan i halsen som jag dök upp i det ballroom på The Ventian & The Palazzo kasino där allt skulle äga rum. Möts av en lokal med ståbord närmast dörren och stolar i rader mot scenen längre fram. I rummet vimlar det av kvinnor med vinglas i händerna och två barer är uppställda längs kanten. Kan inte undgå att reflektera över kopplingen mellan rött/vitt vin i vinglas och kvinnor, det verkar vara en tydlig och populär markör. Jag fångar ett glas Sprite (tranbärsjuice finns bara i Executive lounge där jag var tidigare under dagen) och blir snart infångad av en entusiastisk kvinna med afro-amerikansk bakgrund och i ett rum med i huvudsak vita kvinnor så tänker still att här blev ett litet “diversity corner” och att det inte är bara jag som är i minoritet. Vi pratar om ditt och datt och blir snabbt exotisk bara av att komma hela vägen från Sverige till Las Vegas. Är lite nöjd med att jag inte blev stående själv utan hamnade i ett gäng kvinnor som ständigt fylls på av nya som ansluter. En av de som ansluter är Executive Assistant till just Marie Wieck och hela hennes aura andas tillförsikt över året som EA till en kvinnlig executive på IBM. Vet inte hur noga jag egentligen hade orkat läsa texten om evenemanget mellan faktaspäckade föreläsningar om IBM API Management och utvecklingsstegen i kommande versioner av IBM WebSphere Application Server (WAS). Nu hemma i Sverige så tittar jag igenom texten och den ser ut så här:

Join our distinguished panel of women executives, hosted by Marie Wieck, General Manager for IBM Application and Integration Middleware, for an interactive discussion on how technological innovation has allowed women to take advantage of more opportunities in their career and life. We are pleased to host a reception immediately following to network with your peers.

Vet inte vad ni tänker om vad detta panelsamtal ska handla om men jag hade nog på något sätt fått för mig att det skulle handla lite om IT och teknik. Presentationerna av kvinnor i flyern är tydliga med att peka ut deras nuvarande roller och sin professionella erfarenhet. Inte ett ord om man, barn och familj såklart. Kvinnorna kommer från IBM, Target, en IBM-partner, KPMG och en branchanalysfirma.

Moderator är Kristen Lauria, Vice President Marketing IBM Mobile Enterprise och hon välkomnar upp kvinnorna på scenen som ser lite klädsamt blyga ut. Hon gör ett stort nummer över hur coola titlar som alla dessa kvinnor har vilket jag reagerar lite på. Till och med hon som har en sån titel tycker det är lite overkligt liksom och man kan ju undra vad det kommer ifrån. Tänker att detta lite lättsamma sätt bara kommer fram i slutna rum för kvinnor, vad nu det är ett tecken på. Någonstans är det väl också både beundran och stolthet att alla de alla lyckats trots att de är kvinnor.

När de sedan fick möjlighet att presentera sig själva så var det lite annorlunda än de officiella presentationerna i flyern. Då fick vi veta hur många barn de hade, hur de levde och vad deras man gjorde. Vi fick också veta att flera av dem inte alls hade tänkt sig en karriär inom IT och speglar såklart föreställningen att man som ung kvinna inte alltid kan se sig själv i den branschen. Samtalet handlade sedan mycket om utmaningen att förena barn/familj med ett krävande jobb och hur det ansvaret tas emot i ledningsrummen. Flera av dem verkade också ha höga krav på sig att ansvara för att hemmet fungerade och en av kvinnorna erbjöd sig att dela med sig av ett excelblad där hon i detalj hade schemalagt vilka åtgärder som skulle göras när i hemmet 6 månader framåt. Den listan fick sedan städhjälpen som jag förstod det. Det pratades om att det måste vara ok att ha med sig barnen på jobbet ibland och möjligheten att med modern teknik kunna åka hem till middagen och sedan efter barnen har lagt sig sätta sig i en videokonferens på kvällen. IBM verkade också vara tydliga med att ha t.ex. program för att jobba deltid som s.k. Executive vilket nog inte är helt vanligt i USA. Stödet från omgivningen diskuterades och där hade de faktiskt lite olika situation. Någon var ensamstående eller nyskild medan en annan hade en man som fanns hemma med barnen. Helt klart poängterade behovet av stöd i form av partners, vänner och grannar för att få livspusslet att gå ihop.

Sen 45 minuter in i sessionen så kom då frågan från en av kvinnorna i publiken: “So, you are all beautiful women….and smart too…you are obviously fit…how do you find the time for that?” Vet inte men jag blev såklart förvånad och kanske ännu mer förvånad när samtliga paneldeltagare log, nickadet till varandra och mumlade “Yea, that is a good question”. Sen blev det en diskussion om träning, kost och hur man håller sig i form inte sällan genom att just leka aktiva lekar mellan barnen eller klämma in ett löppass utan dusch mellan två möten mitt på dagen.

En mer positiv aspekt på utseendefrågan kom dock från en av kvinnorna som berättade att när hon skulle bli partner i sitt företag så fick hon diskreta tips från kollegor om att det nog var dags att ändra utseendet lite och sätta upp håret. Det var liksom passande för en som ville bli partner. Hon funderade då ett tag på det och bestämde sig för att strunta i det och menade att om hon inte blev partner pga att hon inte hade håret uppsatt då fick det faktiskt vara. Intressant att just hur man har håret verkar vara lika mycket av en issue på KPMG som i Försvarsmakten. Har vi inte viktigare saker att bry oss om?!

Det är otroligt fascinerande att gång efter gång hamna i dessa sammanhang och höra det som aldrig verkar våga sägas i mansdominerande sammanhang. Vad vet jag, det kanske är så samtalen alltid ser ut i kvinnodominerade yrken. Samtidigt så är det så tydligt att man alltid väljer att prata om sig själv som kvinna i IT-branchen nästan uteslutande i relation till att man är mamma och har familj. Strukturella frågor eller ren diskriminering tas liksom aldrig upp utan det som definierar en som IT-kvinna är i stort att man har barn. Pratas nästan aldrig om bilden av kvinnlighet i relation till t.ex. IT-intresset annat än allmänna coachande ord om att göra unga kvinnor medvetna om att man kan jobba med IT som kvinna också.

Efter panelsamtalet slut så hamnade jag i en diskussion om lämpliga skor för att just gå på konferenser av det här jätteformatet (där man lätt får gå 10-15 min mellan båda ändarna) och vilken klackhöjd som är rimlig. Också sådant som bara förekommer där det nästan bara är kvinnor. Fick dock också chansen att prata lite med några av de kvinnliga cheferna och fastnade såklart igen för hon som var från Canada. Det är något att skandinaver och kanadensare ofta verkar hitta varandra. Vi hade en trevlig pratstund och jag fick höra lite om hur hon förbereder sig för att gå upp på scenen inför 7500 personer i Las Vegas.

Slutligen kan jag konstatera att det inte blev mycket av ämnet “Innovation & Technology” som stod i inbjudan men det kanske inte heller var meningen. Alla de andra 700 sessionerna handlade ju om det. Jag kan också stilla undra om jag som inte har barn och är singel då kanske inte har så mycket utmaningar för att jag är kvinna. I alla fall i skenet av de här diskussionerna. Nästa helg är det dags för Geek Girl Meetup Unconference och då blir det helt säkert ett mer feministiskt anslag.

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.

[nggallery id=2]

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!

Those annoying reminders about my background

The past week I have been traveling again. First to Switzerland and then to Rome in Italy, both were business trips. Last year I had some bad experiences were I obviously was not passing and got some really bad comments from people. For some reasons these things seem to be more common during spring and summer time so I really hope the experiences over the past week is a precursor of that this year as well.

There were two different kind of situations. The first one was when I together with three older male collegues were visiting Switzerland and one of them several time addressed the Swedish team with expressions like “Hey, boys lets have something to eat” (Grabbar, nu ska vi…). The hard part is that it is from a person that I have worked with for some time and really respects me for my knowledge and experience. So it is not at all meant to disrespect me but said spontaneuosly and almost without even noticing his error himself. I guess it has something to do with the English expressions “Hey, guys…” which can be used for both males and females in some occasions. What really sucks is that when collegues such as him has spent sometime with me there is obviously something about my appearance or voice that makes them not clearly see me as a female. At least not completely. Sure, these kind of comments can happen to genetic females as well but during the trip one of the Swiss officers even said “Let’s have the woman in the middle in the photo…” and he was referring to the other woman in the group. Again clearly spontaneously not thinking of me as a woman. Again not meant to be disrespectful because this was a high-level visit between two countries. Still it happens.

When I think about this I realise that this “Hey, boys…” happens to me at least every months or so at work. Or some other situations were someone starts by saying that, than pauses for quite a while and adds “…and girls…”. It happens in emails were they can start with “Gents, lets have a teleconference….”. It does not hurt the same way as when someone says “he…” maybe because it is an effect of a male-dominated workplace but somehow it adds to put a dent in my self-confidence.

The second situation was the Ergife Palace Hotel in Rome when I went to my room during lunch time and found the cleaning staff working in my room. I was wearing my pink shirt, jeans, Coach sneakers and Coach handbag. I met the young women working there for maybe 10 seconds before they went into the room again. Inside the room I heard them whispering in Italian and I understood that they were discussion whether or not I was a transvestite. I became cold and it felt so unfair. What did I do so wrong that they read my so fast? It is of course an impolite and unprofessional behaviour from hotel staff but that is not the thing. The thing is that it put another dent in the self-esteem saying I am not seen as real woman. Again.

All of this puts my recent issues of feeling very uncomfortable at bars and my feeling of not being able to believe in myself as being attractive in the eyes of lesbian women. I mean what is the chance that I am passing at all? And if I am not, what is the chances that she thinks it is ok even though she reads me as woman with transsexual background.

EMC World 2009: Enterprise Search Server (ESS)

To me one of the biggest news delivered during the conference was the new generation of Documentum full text indexing called the Enterprise Serch Server (ESS). This marks the first official message that EMC Documentum will move away from the OEM-version of FAST ESP which has been in use since Documentum 5.3 (2005). The inclusion of FAST back then meant that Documentum got a solution where metadata from the relational database where merged with text from the content file into an XML-file (FTXML) that could be queried using DQL. Before diving into the features of the new technology I guess everyone wonders about the reason for this decision. The main reasons are said to be:

  • Performance. 1 FAST Full-text node supports up to around 20 Million objects in the repository (some customers commented that their experience were closer to 10 M…) and it requires in memory indices. With Documentum installations containing Billions of objects that means 100+ nodes and that has been a hard sell in terms of hardware requirements.
  • Virtualisation. Apparently talks with Microsoft/FAST about the requirement on supportin all Documentum products on VMWare made no progress. This has been a customer demand for some time. MS/FAST cites intensive I/O-demands as a reason why they where not interested in certifying the full-text index on virtualisation.
  • NAS-support.
  • More flexible High Availability (HA) options. Today FAST can be clustered by adding new nodes which leads to a requirement of having the same amount of nodes for backup/high availability.

From a performance stand-point I personally think that the current implementation of FAST lead to slow end-user experience when searching in Documentum. One reason for this is that a search is first triggered to FAST which then delivers a search result set irrespective of my permissions. Instead the whole result set must be filtered by quering it towards the relational database. That takes time. This is also a reason why we have integrated an external search engone based on the more modern FAST ESP 5.x server with Security Access Module which means that acl:s are indexed and filtering can be done in one step when searching in the external FAST Search Front-end (SFE). More about how that is solved in ESS later on.

From a business perspective EMC outlines these challenges they see a need to satisfy:

  • End users expect Google/Yahoo search paradigms
  • IT-managers want low cost, scalable, ease of deployment and easy admininstration.
  • Requirements for large scale, distributed deployments with multiingual support.
  • Enterprise requirements such as low cost HA, backup/restore and SAN/NAS-suppprt.

New new ESS is based on the xDb technology coming from the aquisition of the company X-hive and leveraging the open source full-text indexing technology in the Lucene project. The goal for ESS is to leverage the existing open indexing architecture in Documentum. The idea is both to create a solution that really scales but of course with some trade-offs when it comes to space vs query performance.

ESS supports structured and unstructed search by leveraging best of breeed XML Database and XQuery Standards. It is designed for Enterprise readiness, scalabiity, ingestion throughput and high quality of search as core features. It also provides Advanced Data Management (enables control where placement of data on disk is done) functionality necessary for large scale systems. The intention is to give EMC to continue to develop and provide new search features and functionality required by their customer base.

It is architected for greater scalability and gives smaller footprint than current Full-Text Search as well as scale both horisontally (more nodes) as vertically (more servers on the same node). It is designed to support tens to hundreds of millions of objects per node.

This allows for solutions such as Archiving where there can be Billion+ emails/documents while preserving the high quality of search while still achieving scale. The query response time can be throttled up or down based on needs – priority can be shifted between indexing and quering.

The installation procedure is also simplified and EMC promises that a two node deployment can be up and running in less than 20 minutes. The solution is also designed to easily allow to add new nodes to an installation.

ESS is much more than a simple replacement of the full-text engne. It will focus on deliver these additional features compared to existing solutions:
– Low cost HA (n+1 Server based)
– Disaster Recovery
– Data Mangement
– VMWare Support
– NAS Support
– New Administration Framework

The new admin features includes a new ESS Admin interface which has a look and feel very similar to CenterStage. Since the intention is to support ESS on non-Documentum installation it is a separate web client. The framwoork also supports Web Services, Java API, JMX and it is open for administration using OpenView, Tivoli, MMC etc.

The server consists of:

  • ESS API
  • Indexing Services will have document batching capability, callback support for searchable indication and a Content Processing Pipeline with text extraction and linguistic analysis via CPS.
  • Search Services. This will provide search for meta-data, content or both (XQuery based) as well as multiple search options such as batching, spooling, filters, language, analyser etc. It will return results in a XML format and provides term highlight, summary and relevancy. The thread execution management support multi-query and parallell query. It also includes low level security filtering.
  • Content Processing Services is responsible for language detection, text extraction and linguistic analysis. The CPS can be local or remote (co-located with content for improved performance). It will have a pluggable architecture to support various analysers and/or text extractors. It will include out of the box support for Basis RLP and Apache SnowBall analysers. However only one analyser can be configured per ESS. (My question: Can I have different analysers on different nodes?). Content Processing can be extended by plugins.
  • Node and Data Management Services is the primary interface for all data and node management within ESS. It provides ability to control routing of documents and placements of collections and indices on disk. It deals with index management and supports bind, detach, attach, merge, freeze, read-only etc.
  • Analytics includes API’s and Data model for logging, metrics and auditing, ingestion and search analysis and facet computation services.
  • Admin Services. The example shown was really powerfull very an admin could view all searches made by a user by time and see what time it took to first result set. The one with a longer time could be explored by viewing the query to analyse why it took so long.

Below that the xDB can be found and in the botton the Lucene indices. The whole solution is 100% Java and xDb stores XML Documents in a Persistend DOM formats and support XQuery and XPath. Indices conists of a combination of native B-tree indices + Lucene. The xDb supports single and multi-node architecture and has support for multi-statement transactions and full ACID support. In additon it supports XQFT (see introduction it here) which is a proposed standard extension to XQuery which includes:

  • LQL via a full text entension
  • Logical full-text operator
  • Wildcard option
  • Anyall options
  • Positional filters
  • Score variables

ESS includes native security which means that security is replicated into the search server and security filtering is done on a low level in the xDb database. This means effective searches on large result sets and enables facet computation on entire result sets.

Native facet computation is a key feature in ESS which is of course linked to the new search interface in CenterStage which is based on facets in an iTunes-like interface. Facets are of course nothing new but it is good that EMC has finally realised that it is a powerful but still easy way to give users “advanced search”.

ESS Leverages a Distributed Content Architecture (for instance using BOCS) by only sendning the raw text (DFTXML) over the network instead of the binary file which can be very much larger in many cases (such as big PowerPoint files). ESS also utilizes the new Content Processing Services (CPS) as well as ACS.

The new solutions also makes it possible to do hot backups without taking the index server down before as it is today. Backup and restore can be done on a sub-index level. The new options for High Availability include:

  • Active/active shared data (the only one available for FAST)
  • Active/passive with clusters
  • N+1 Server based

Things I like to see but have not heard yet:

  • Word frequency analysis (word clouds based on document content)
  • Clustering and categorisation (maybe done by Content Intelligence Services)
  • Synonym management
  • Query-expansion management
  • How document similarity is handled by vector-space search (I guess done by Lucene?)
  • Boosting & Blocking of specific content connected to a query
  • Multiple search-views (different settings for synonyms, boost&blocking etc)
  • Visualisation of entity extraction and other annotations
  • Functionality or at least an API to manually edit entity extraction within the index. Semi-automatic solutions are the best.
  • Freshness management.
  • Speech-to-text integration (maybe from Audio/Video Transformation Services)

Personally I think this is a much needed move to really improve the internal search in Documentum and make much better use of the underlying information infrastructure in Documentum. It will be interesting to see what effect this has on Microsoft/FAST ambitions to support the Documentum connector. Maybe the remaining resources (no OEM to develop) can focus on bringing the connector from an old 5.3 API to a modern 6.5 API. I still see a need for utilising multiple search engines but as ESS gains more advanced features the rationale for an expensive external solution can change. The beta for Content Intelligence Studio will be one important step in outlining the overall enterprise search architecture for big ECM-solutions. In this lies of course tracking what Autonomy brings to market in the near future.

Another thing worth mentioning is that I during the past four conferences have heard quite a few complaints about the stability of the current FAST-based full-text index. It crashes/stops reguarly and often without letting anybody knowing it before users start complaing about strange search results.

A public beta will be released in Q3 2009 and customers are invited to participate. Participants will recieve a piece of hardware with the ESS pre-installed and pre-configured and after a few configuration changes in Content Server it should be up an running.

Customers will have the option of upgrading existing FAST full-text index  or run the new ESS side-by-side with FAST. ECM will also market ESS for non-Documentum solutions.

Be sure to also read Word of Pie’s notes as well as my previous notes from FAST Forward 09 around the future of FAST ESP.

EMC World 2009: Reflections from the Momentum conference

A very hectic week has passed by and EMC World 2009 is over. Just as I did last year I felt like reflecting a about the conference.

First of all many thanks to EMC for listening us and improving a lot of things from the last year. I have been to EMC World 07 and 08 and during both these occasions I felt a little lost as a Documentum customer among all these storage and virtualisation people. Back then I heard people referring with love to past Momentum conferences where the sense of community was there. In November 08 I had the chance to go to Momemtum in Prague as a speaker and it was actually a bit different from EMC World. Suddenly all the focus was on Documentum.

Things well done

So the establishment of a Content Management & Archiving (CMA) Community was just what we all needed. We all got yellow ribbons with text “Momentum” to attach to our badges which made us all much more visible to each other. We got all the sessions in the same area which meant no more running around and the chance to bump into people with those ribbons. Intead of having a very thick catalogue with all sessions merged together into a giant schedule we got our own CMA Show Guide which was really easy to use and made life much easier to me. Next to all the sessions we had a beautiful  Momentum Lounge which was manned all day around. You could even meet CMA executives for drinks after sessions on Wednesday and Thursday. It had nice sofas and chairs togeter with soft red lighting which made it quite cosy. In the solutions exhibitions all CMA Booths were gathered in the same area with a separate graphic profile then the rest of the EMC booths. Around the CMA booth you found all the CMA partners co-located. Finally we had our own CMA Party on Monday evening which was well attended as far I saw. In addition to that we finally seem to have a working online community both for Documentum and XML Technologies.

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There was also a great thing to create a Blogger’s lounge where all people who blogged and Twittered could register. Outside the lounge there was a large screen displaying what we all were saying more or less live. And the Vanilla Latte served there was a life saver! On Tuesday their Barista started making mine as soon as I passed the entrance 🙂 What a service! I think EMC actually made social media into a working business tool here. Really something to build on. If you have not done it search for #emcworld on Twitter to see what it was all about.

I attened one Product Advisory Forum (PAF) around the new Enterprise Search Server (ESS) and that was a great experience. Ed Bueche and Aamir Farooq did a great job to inspire great discussions between us customers and the engineering team. I attended PAFs in Prague as well and those were also a great part of the conference.

We had access to wireless internet all around the conference area and that is vital for a conference like this. Especially for us who Blog and Tweet!

Things to improve

First of all EMC is a company which has a payoff saying “Where Information Lives” and touts itself as an information infrastructure company. I assume that all means digital information and is it something we Documentum people care about then it is information management. Then it does make a lot of sense taking notes and searching the web on a laptop computer during sessions. After all we are IT-nerds 🙂 Please get us some rooms with sufficient number of power outlets!

Why not even extend it further and use your own technology to integrate Tweets, Blog posts with the conference schedule so we more or less can interact live around sessions. It would even make sense for me at least to being able to register that I am attending a conference (voluntary of course) using the online profile community that alre which would make it even easier

There seem to be fewer sessions in general and especially I believe the number of developer oriented ones have become significantly fewer. I am not a coder myself so I actually think it makes sense to have sessions focused on people writing code and other with different advancement levels for us focusing on architectures, features and business cases. Another thing I noted is that there are no call for papers to EMC World the same way it works for Momentum (Europe). I think use cases from customers are an important part of the conference and it would be great to find a way to get them back in.

Please also have a look at what Word of Pie had to say about this year’s conference.

See you next year in Boston!

EMC World 2009: What is new with Digital Asset Management

Media Work Space
Controlled release in June 30th targetted at internal use at EMC Marketing, General Availability will come later this year. Still licensed with DAM. The new release will support Images, Presentation, Audio and video.

It will introduce a new gridless view which lists all objects as list with columns for attributs. Gridless view also can can show thumbnails at the left end of each line. There will also be a storyboard view much like the one existing in today’s Digital Asset Manager.

MWS will now have support for comments – which can interact with CenterStage comments.

Personalised Dashboard include the following views:

  • QuickFlows
  • Most Popular Assets
  • Recently Viewed Assets
  • Recently Updated Assets

To met that looks like they have starting to think in terms of Information Analytics…There is now also a feature to show the accumulative rating among users.

They see a need for customisations and an SDK or similar will be released during 2009

The Inbox allows to open a quickflow which actually was really nice-looking with attached images as thumbnails below. Looked rather similar to an email message which is the right way to go I think.

QuickSearch now supports searching on any index data.

Advanced Search has a tab called General and then for Presenation, Video, Audio and Images which allows for a higher level restriction of search.
Search on properties for instances image with a certain pixels…

There is new Presentation slide view which looks way more flexible than current PowerPoint assembly. Looks actually like viewing/reviewing slides now can be done completely without opening the application.

The view below the preview of the slides has tabs for Metadata, Versions, Rendtions, Comments, Permission Relationships

Slides can be rated and metadata can be editied just by clicking in the fields.

Video view supports thumbnails but also preview of the video utilzing FlipFactory. Looked like the previewer was using Flash.

FileSharing Services, My Documentum and Documentum for Outlook will be merged into a new MyDocumentum product and then moved into the Knowledge Worker group. Documentum Connector for InDesign & Quark Xpress are also part of My Documentum but from a Digital Asset Management side of  the house.

Many companies have 3D-data which comes from different CA-systems. Therefore they have started to develop CAD Integration with in Documentum with support of Right Hemisphere Integration (press release) which supports viewing data from 80 CAD/PLM-systems.

The solutions allows customers to request and repurpose derivatives
Flat Iron Solutions have a demonstration in the exhibition area at EMC World 2009.

Content Transformation Services

There are mainly bug fixes and some Improvements on the performance for the OEM products they are using mainly on the image side of the house.

CTS now includes support for for Adobe CS3 & CS4
There is an SDK for CTS which can be used to handle custom encoders….from my point of view the obvious question is whether or not i make sense to develop support for GIS-formats?

The next release of MWS will probably be available in September 2009.

There is available technology in the the platform to support annotations on video files but not yet exposed.

Aility to show forms in a Flex environment is something they are working on and it seems fairly important especially for us who use both TaskSpace and DAM with Forms.

VISION
The main areas which they focus on are:

Web Experience Management
Customer Comms Management (build websites based on preferences)
Customer Intelligence Management
Marketing Process Management
Brand Management include:
– Presentation
– Video
– Image
– Collateral
– 3D Image
– Agency Collaboration

MidYear
– New version of Presentation Assembly

End of Year
– MWS Pro
– Integrated Collaboration and Publsihing
– Campaign Management
– Marketiing and Web Metrics Tracking
– KPI
– Rapid and Setup of Brand

D7 – 2010
– MWS Field Editin
– SalesForce integration
– Support of Personalised Customer

MWS Pro
– Different Libraries as Tabs

Q1 2010 MWS & DAM Sp3

Reconnecting with an old friend

Today I met an old friend who has known me from my first years as an officer in the Armed Forces. She learned quite early about my life situation and was nice and supportive back then. However, it was before I had been able to make the decision to start the formal transition process (which I did in 2004). We lost contact after that I and was a little bit worried that I had lost her and it was maybe natural to think it had to do with the transition process since I have lost a few other friends (from the Armed Forces) who were close to me back then. Mainly I guess it was my own insecurity. However, this New Year I suddenly got a New Year’s wish on my phone and it was her. We decided to meet for coffeé (what else nowadays:) and I was really looking forward to seeing her but I guess a tiny bit nervous as well. The feeling when I saw her and the warm hug removed all of this and I was so happy to see her. We spent the evening talking about life, love and work and it felt like it was only a few months since we met. I remembered how wise she is and how I value talking about her about the experience of being a woman in the society but also in the Armed Forces of course.

Transitioning while in the Armed Forces went more or less just fine for me but there is always the past to relate to. I have found that people from Air Force that I have been working with during my early days in uniform are the ones that seem most insecure or even uncomfortable around me. It is of course a little bit strange for me because the natural instinct when you see somebody that you recognize you smile and says hello. Sometimes it seems like they don’t recognize me (which I guess is good) or they seem to be a little unsure how to react. So I usually have to wait until I have met them a few times before things starts to return somewhat to normal. This still makes me a bit nervous when I go bigger meetings where these people might show up.

Therefore it means so much to me to have at least a few people in Armed Forces who know me from before but still respect and value me as a woman. And being a good friend as well just adds icing to the cake.

A summary of 2008

This has been a really intensive year for me. A lot things happened I think it could be good to try to summarize it a bit. Maybe I can go back later and compare my summary with what I have written during the year. In all I posted 134 different posts to this blog during 2008 so I guess there are plenty of emotions and experiences in there.

Work
This I year I finally got my transfer to the Joint Concept Development and Experimentation Centre in Enköping and it was great to start working there, especially since the people there had been struggling to get me transferred there. It was great to focus on our project and I think we made nice progress over the year ending in a rather extensive report in the summer. Had a chance to visit Las Vegas this year which was great despite a nasty cold and the EMC World 2008 conference was just very interesting. Spent a lot time in the United Kingdom this year too which resulted in a lot of interesting discussions with smart people. I the autumn we worked like crazy to have our experiment up and running in early November. Made a speech at the Swedish Documentum User Group which later took me to Prague as a speaker at Momentum 08 which was also a great experience. Good some really nice feedback on my speech and had really interesting discussions with Managers of different Documentum products and solutions. It turned out that we are doing pretty cool stuff in our lab.

Health
So that was work. On the personal side I think I got my energy back after last Christmas. The time after the second surgery was tougher than expected and it was great to be able to let that go. I started taking a new medication and I got another welcome boost in body a months or so after which felt great. Had my one-year checkups in Spring and everything seemed to be great but it was also rather nice to have a chance to sit back and talk to my counselor and psychaistrist at the Transgender clinic again. There are always experiences in life which is nice to talk about. The big thing this year was of course my breast augmentation surgery which I did in late August. I decided that I wanted to do it in January or so but it was not after seeing my surgeon in May it was decided for real. Looked forward to it but I did not really think I understood how important it was for me until now more or less. I was a bit nervous before the surgery but everything went fine and was at home 24 hours after the procedure. The pain wasn’t so bad this time (I have been lucky there) so again it was the psychologial aspect that was the hardest this time again. The mobility restrictions and sick leave made me feel a bit lonely and I struggled again to be able to ask my friends for help but I was glad I did although. This year I also felt more emotional than ever before and it made the summer the most intense one I have had so far. Being closer to my emotions is both great and scary at the same time because of the vulnerability it brings along. One of my dearest friends helped my buy a bathing suit which was an important step for me although I ended up being to scared and shy to actually use it later in the summer. However in December I felt really good about my new body and it was pure joy to go shopping for lingerie which also made me strong enough to use the women’s locker room for the first time. Those boobs really made a huge difference for me and I am not ashamed of my body the same way as before any longer.

Love
The other big thing this year was that I met A and felt love for the first time in a long time, if ever. I think I felt more relaxed and open this Spring than ever before and felt more comfortable with myself then ever before. We started seeing each other in March and we found each other right away and soon sensed that there something special about her. We took it real slow and it wasn’t until Stockholm Pride that we got some more extensive quality time together. The evening at the opening ceremony at Skansen was just magical where I sort of felt “love is in the air” and the special feeling of being with someone enclosed by the spirit of Pride. Later in the evening we “talked” for the first time and things turned out to be more complicated then I thought. She wanted to take things further but couldn’t but I kept my hopes up anyway a couple of more months. Maybe I should have understood but I guess feeling the hope of love was a great feeling and it felt right to not give up. She seemed worth waiting for I thought but in November I guess I felt a need for some affirmation at least and ended up wanting to know how she felt for me again. Then it unfortunately became very clear that she wasn’t ready for a relationship for a while. I took it real hard so the autumn became a tough one of first feeling a bit lonely in my everyday life which I guess was because I longed for someone to be there for me. Losing the hope of love at this time did not exactly made it easier. A months or so later I feel much better and I am really starting to leave the sad feelings behind me and I hope we can continue a friends. I had a chat with her today on my computer and it felt better than I expected and her suggestion of us being able to talk about our feelings seemed healthy. I guess it is still hard to keep it on a good level. Sometimes I guess I also forget that this has not been easy for her either. Got a little sad anyway in the end and I guess that is why I am writing this post to be able to process it a bit further.

I hope 2009 will be the year when my princess will show up, seduce me and let me give her my love. I guess I can only be as open and positive as I can.