Processing sorrowfulness…

Woke up this morning with a sorrow feeling and I think I had dreamt one or two rather bad dreams. Last day was very intense in many ways and I think that had made a dent in my mind. Not a big one but still I was affected. Since mid-august I have been feeling. longing, dreaming and hoping about love but a week ago that turned out to be nothing. I have had a small crush on her and it has been just wonderful to have these butterflies in the stomach. It tends to give me some extra energy and joy. I took it quite good I think and I wasn’t devastated or really sad maybe because there wasn’t really anything there to miss. On the contrary I have got to know a wonderful person I believe it is the right thing to do to cherish that friendship which we do have. The crush quickly fades away for me when there is no affirmations of love so over the last week that was what happened. Still I of course felt disappointed but I guess it is only natural to have these feelings. A very human reaction. Still the past week included my birthday which gave me a lot of positive feelings and work was intense so there wasn’t any time to think really either. That really help processing it for a distance I think.

Last day we met for dinner for the first time since that phone call a week ago and I did not found myself really nervous or anything but still of course wondered what I would feel when I met her. It turned out to be a nice evening where we talked about life as usual. However, both of us was a bit blue and we both seemed to be taken by the realities of life somehow. I think the sorrow feeling started there when I realized that it was over for this time – the butterflies had flown to someone else. For some reason they don’t seem to visit me more more than once a year or so I thought that it could take sometime before that feeling arrived again. Still it was nice to see her and I really want to keep her in my life as a friend. I feels very mature to be able to do so I think. So I guess all of this made my morning today a sorrow one so it was perfect that I had time for therapy this morning.

A month or so I decided I needed an external person to help me process my daily experiences as a woman with a transsexual background. Regular readers here know that now and then things happen that I get sad about and I think I need some help to deal with that. I have found a great therapist who I think mostly acts as my coach in life right now. I had the opportunity to talk about my emotions over that past week and it was great to get it out of my system and I felt rather good afterwords. Proud of myself for actually daring to say to someone that I am interested in her. I did not get the answer I so longed for this time but maybe the next time the butterflies come to visit me I will also dare to ask and maybe that woman will be my princess.

Back home I prepared for getting to work and found myself thinking I looked really good when I saw myself in the mirror. The sun was shining on my way to work and life seemed rather good after all. Emotions can surely shift quickly.

Anniversary in retrospect…

Over a year ago on Aug 22nd I had my last and hopefully final surgery at the Karolinska hospital. I did not think of this until a few days ago but checking the calendar revealed that my anniversary day became a just wonderful one. Definately top five this year. First I attended a absolutely wonderful lesbian wedding where I had the privilege of being the official wedding photgrapher and later that day I had a marvelous evening hosted by a wonderful woman I recently have got to know. It was a truly magic evening enjoying the Swedish summer and talking under a starlit sky.

I don’t think I really could imagine how important this breast augmentation surgery turned out to really be for me. I felt it was the natural and final step for me but it wasn’t until many months later that I really started to enjoy the completeness of my new body. The joy of being able to buy really nice underwear slowly made look at myself in the mirror in a new light. I actually felt pretty even with just my underwear on. I started realizing that using the changing room at stores was much more natural and even the locker room as well. I have started wearing more low cut tops and feel really proud of my cleavage. It makes me feel feminine in a very nice way and I can now wear more styles without being afraid. However, soon I also noticed that they brought some new attention to the game sometimes, especially among men.

I sometimes find myself admiring them because to me they are just perfect and in some way they also are a physical affirmation of me being the woman I have always dreamt of being. It is actually good to be able to feel them being a part party of my body when I am walking and moving around. Some kind of reminder of how lucky I am in that respect and it can actually make me smile just because of that sometimes. Being able to feel very much ok in my bikini among both men and women was another great step for me of course. I even managed to not feel that uncomfortable when a really cool, intelligent and cute woman happened to browse through my iPhone and seeing pictures of me in a bikini just after taking an outdoor bath this summer.

This summer I also started jogging again. Tried with my existing sports bra but it turned out to hurt a lot. Thanks to my good friend Linda A we ended up at a specialty shop for women runners and I got myself a sturdy sports bra together with some cute running clothes. Being able to feel pretty while running was quite a thing. A combination of my old life and the new one in a healthy way.

Happiness in a bikini!

Last evening became a wonderful experience for me. After a terrible Monday effort resulting in nothing (the bath was closed!) we decided to give it a new try on Tuesday evening. We had actually talked about this last summer when she helped me buy my very first bikini. Then I had my surgery and in the end I guess I was not ready to face my fears back then. So this would be my first time in a public ladies locker room, first time public in a bikini and my first time in the water in 7 years or so. My wonderful friend P suggested that we went there together and she had arranged so her boyfriend was home to take car of her little baby. After playing a little with her little cutiepie we headed off towards a spa bath in the central part of Stockholm. I had been nervous all day and it became even more intense when we were getting closer. I don’t think I manage to talk much at all. I was so fortunate to have her beside me but I was very nervous if my wonderful new body would be nice enough. The last thing I wanted was some kind of scene that would hurt my self esteem.

The inside of the 109 year old spa was beautiful and the atmosphere was very relaxed as we slowly made it down the stairways towards the cashier. I was very nervous and I think my friend understood that and took care of all the talking and getting us a locker key each. The girl behind the counter then smiled and said “…and you find the entrance to the women’s department over there”. I smiled and it felt really solemn to walk through the passage. There were only a few other women inside and we both found our lockers at the end of the room. I looked left and saw that my friend was already undressing so I took a deep sigh and starting doing the same as well. Before knowing it we both stood there in our bikinis and agreed that the bikini I bought last summer before my surgery fit me really well. It was nice to get some words of approval and we headed of towards the shower room.

I realised that it wasn’t only 7 years since I had been on a public bath but also in public locker rooms as well (brief visit around Christmas at work though) so it was almost a little bit exciting being there again. I relaxed a little bit when the water was starting pouring down over my body and realised that noone seem to take any notice of us at all. Standing there in my nice bikini and feeling the water almost made me more aware of my body and that it actually was ok and nice. I worried a little bit that my wet hair would affects my looks a little bit but then it was time. We took our towels and opened the door towards the public areas and before I really had time to react I was walking beside the bar area in the entrance wearing a bikini. It was a great feeling to be that natural and not having to worry about makeup and extra hair but also not anything to hide or be ashamed of. There I was, a woman walking beside another women who was my best friend. It was actually a very pure feeling that I had dreamt about for a long time to just the average woman and not feeling different compared to my dear female friend. We explored the relaxation area and passed along the table where some people were sitting and drinking. The rest of the area was taken up by a big bubble bath pool and a equally large salt-water thermal pool.

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We agreed on that swimming a few strokes would be a good start and started looking for the swimming pool and after a while we found some signs leading to a stairway. In the stairway I whispered happily that nobody had stared at me and she smiled back almost like she had expected just that. The pool room was a beautfiul place with nice chairs and small cabins by the side of the 18m long pool. I almost felt proud as I walked along the side behind her. Proud that I was finally there, proud of my body and very thankful for her support without which I would never be there.

We slowly entered the water on opposing stairways and it was a wonderful feeling to feel the water around my body and my long hair floating in the water as I took my first swim strokes in years. We swam together along one side of the pool and I felt just wonderful and smiled a lot. After a few turns I realised that I was getting tired really quickly but it felt great to get a little exercise at least.

Back in the relaxation area we had look at the bubble pool but it was cleaning its water just then so we ordered orange juice and a warm sandwich to eat. Sitting there waiting was great, people were walking by and I was feeling just normal (for lack of better words). I don’t remember all details but I think my friend noticed that the bubble pool was bubbling again so we headed off to it to try it out. At the same time what seemed like a bachelor party discovered the same thing and decided to bubble bath as well. The pool quickly filled up and me and P slided in on the front-end and the pool was full. I have to confess that my tension level jumped a few bits then. Here I was sitting in a bikini the first time in a bubble pool together with 8 strange men. I think my friend also was a little bit worried if something could happen. However, they seemed happy about the female company in the pool and I felt just wonderful. After being massaged by the jet streams for a while we switched pool to the warm salt-water one. It was also a very nice and warm to just enjoy the warm water in the pool beside the bar.

After a long time our food was ready and we got some really tasteful sandwiches and I just tried to enjoy every moment of this experience. We were getting a bit cool and closing time was getting nearer so we then headed for the sauna department. We choose the dry nordic sauna and ended up laying on our backs without the bikinis and with hair balm in our hair. Lying there naked with other women and feeling a sense of belonging was just great. It was really warm (around 90 degrees Celcius) and it was a great way to end the bath experience.

We showered and changed clothes in the locker room and headed back home to my friend in a beautiful Stockholm with warm summer wind and a lovely sunset. She called her boyfriend and we decided to pick him and her baby up and find a place to have coffee. Sitting at a nice café with them and enjoying a Latte was a perfect end on a truly magic evening for me. I was definately back on my pink cloud when I came home.

Everyday fears and challenges

The other evening I was sitting down with my closest friends and her super-cute baby (sleeping) and was talking about life. I think we started by discussing how she wanted us to do a short getaway at a spa or a nice bath to make me do my bikini-debut. It is not just about the bikini, it is the whole thing of being naked in a changing room with other women. I am very proud of my new body but also scared that I will be stared and feel that I don’t belong in a place which I have fighted so long to be in. It is a little strange because some people could easily think it would be easier for me to finally have a womans body and it would be a breeze to enter and feel right at home among the women.

That could of course be the case if it wasn’t for the fact that no matter what I do with my looks there is always that someone who for some reason sees something that makes them see my background. In that moment I am not just a woman but suddenly that strange person. I should of course not really have to care what every single person think about me and I like to think I actually can disregard that sometimes. However, what I am scared of is that I will end up creating somekind of “scene” because someone feel a need to point some strangeness about me to me or most often someone else around them. In the worst of cases that could of course develop into one of those situation where you feel really uncomfortable (or even scared) and just want to run out of the room.

The strangest part is that I had thought (or at least hoped) that these feelings would go away by now. I mean I remember how scared I was just going downtown shopping ten years ago. In many respects my life is so much easier now but I have realised that these situations takes me much harder now because I am less prepared and it feels much more unfair. Back then every step outside felt like a political action of visibility and even if I longed to just pass as the average girl I know I sometimes did not and was prepared for that. Nowadays I feel just great about myself when I leave my house and then suddenly from nowhere I cause some reaction just by being there which makes it so obvious for me that I am strange. Sure a lot of this is just in my head and a girlfriend of mine did point out that I had to learn to handle that some men does not look friendly at women. Maybe genetic women has become more used to this than I have but the thing is that I feel that I am getting these reactions from a lot of women as well.

I remember the joy of finally going to the women’s restroom back then and it truly felt “right” even though I did not have woman’s body back then. Therefore it is a bit sad that I still can be a little bit nervous to open that door not knowing what kind of reaction I will cause in there. Sure, in most cases there is no reaction but sometime there are. Especially late at night in cramped places and where people have had something to drink. I am actually a bit scared for what a group of drunk young women could say to me in that situation. To me that is also the worst thing – to be questioned as a women by other women. In these situations it does not matter what my ID-card says or how my body looks beneath my clothes. Isn’t that rather unfair?

Well, so that is the reason why I need my best friend’s hands when I take my first swim strokes in 8 years or so soon. Wish me luck!

Framtidens Ledare 2009

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I torsdags fick jag ta emot priset Framtidens Ledare av JCI Sweden (f.d. Juniorhandelskammaren). Priset delades ut av Handelsminister Ewa Björling som också talade vid prisutdelningen. Jag fick priset i kategorin “Personlig prestation” eller “Personal Improvement and/or Achievement” som den internationella kategorin heter.

JCI Sweden utser årligen ”Framtidens Ledare” i syfte att uppmärksamma framstående personer mellan 18 och 40 som är goda förebilder för världens unga. Vinnarna går vidare till den internationella tävlingen The Outstanding Young Persons of the World (TOYP). De slutgiltiga internationella pristagarna presenteras i november i samband med JCI: s världskongress i Tunisien i slutet av året.

Det kändes faktiskt riktigt fint att få priset och jag var mer nervös än jag trodde när jag skulle upp på scenen och ta emot priset. Det känns på något sätt lite extra att det är en icke-HBT organisation som ger priset till mig som HBT-person. Extra trevligt var det att min pappa Gordon var där tillsammans med min vän Martin men också Martin Bergstrand som är Public Affairs på den enhet inom Högkvarteret jag jobbar jobbar på.

Jag fick priset för att jag kämpat för att vara mig själv inte minst genom min utredningsprocess samtidigt som jag varit anställd i Försvarsmakten. I denna process har jag ju hela tiden försökt vara öppen och ärlig om vad jag går igenom och försökt hjälpa både mig och andra genom att sprida information om HBT-frågor i allmänhet och transsexualism i synnerhet.

Efter en liten paus hade vi som fått pris ombetts hålla ett tal på ca 15 min och i det försökte jag tala om hur jag faktiskt har information som tema i mitt liv. Jag insåg tidigt att det saknades bra information och jag har försökt skapa sådan information och hela tiden försökt använda teknik som hjälp för att sprida den. Jag pratade också om hur viktigt det är med de små handlingarna som bekräftar en och får en att känna sig mindre konstig. Det kan vara allt från ett leende till att bli inbjuden i någon hela liv. Jag har under min process träffat många underbara människor som gjort det där lilla extra precis när jag som bäst behövt det och de har därför verkligen varit med och förändrat mitt liv. Att få detta pris är för mig en sådan gest som gör skillnad för mig och förhoppningsvis för andra i min situation också.
Årets vinnare var:

Kategori 1 – Näringsliv, affärsmannaskap eller entreprenörskap: Charlie Hansson
Kategori 6 – Bidrag till barn, världsfred och/eller mänskliga rättigheter: Alice Bah Kuhnke
Kategori 7 – Humanitärt ledarskap och eller volontärarbete: Jonas Forsberg
Kategori 9 – Personlig prestation: Alexandra Larsson

Last Thursday I recieved the Future Leaders award from the hands of the Swedish Minister of Commerce Ewa Björling. The price is given by Junior Chambers International Sweden and I got it in the category for Personal Improvement and/or Achievement. I got the price for being myself while doing the journey as a transsexual woman within the Swedish Armed Forces and at the same time reaching out to others with information. All four winners will be submitted as candidates to the International part which is the The Outstanding Young Persons of the World (TOYP).

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Am I too hard on myself or too scared?

Me in front of the US Congress
I am back in the US again, this time for two weeks. The first one in the DC area and the second one in the Norfolk area. Decided to stay in the DC area over the weekend – assumed there would be more interesting things to do there. Today I have walked around at The Mall and saw the congress and then I went to the National Air & Space Museum. It was a good afternoon even though I was there by myself.

Most of the LGBT people I know they usually try to explore the LGBT-scene when they are visiting a city. Sure, most of them travel privately with LGBT-friends or partners so I guess it is a little bit different than for me. I usually end up travelling to nice places in the line of my work and that means spending time with heterosexual collegues nighttime. It is no problem really, I like to have the company and evening discussions are sometimes more productive than the formal meetings during the day. However this time was the first one in a long time where I will not have the company of a collegue all the time so I at least started to check out the local scene here in DC.

Generally, I still can think it is stressful to sit by myself at a restaurant. I guess it is because I project that I am a strange person that is sitting there by herself because she has no friends. Still, looking back 10 years I would have been terrified by going to a restaurant by myself and now I can just be uneasy at times.

So I found two cool places for lesbian women here in DC. The first one is called Lace and is an upscale bar-restaurant-nightclub which seem to be something I have not seen before. The other is a bar and nightclub called A Different Kind of Ladies Night and seem a bit more casual. I thought about going there but the whole concept of going there alone seemed a little bit too scary. I don’t really know if it is that I don’t trust my social skills of havinga at least a decent time or if it is because of my transsexual background. Sometime I feel that if I go there with another woman I am unconciously “vouched for” that I am ok because I have company and by another female. So I ended up staying at the hotel. I wonder if I should dare more or if I am just too hard on myself…on the good side is that I definately could see myself at both those places in somebody’s company. That is at least some kind of progress…

The importance of seeing someone like yourself

Transgendered people in media
I guess it a little bit late but today I learned that in the just finished (thanx Annelie for the update!) cycle of America’s Next Top Model featured a 22-year old woman called Isis (middle picture) which has a transsexual background. There wasn’t any mention about her background in the official release but just like me she seem to think that openness is the best strategy and came out in an article in the USMagazine.

First I was happy for her just for the chance of being a model because ten years ago I have to confess that I dreamt a little about being a model. I guess it is the ultimate affirmation of beauty and femininity. I got to know a photographer back then who took at a thousand images of me and I believe doing those photoshoots and seeing all the images meant a lot for my process. Then I thought about that this meant that she actually got a chance to follow her dream just as the other girls on the show. That is really something for a group of people unfortunately used to being treated badly (read the comments on the USMagazine page if you want to see ugly comments…).

However, I wonder if the biggest things isn’t that fact that transgendered people actually are starting to see someone who are like them in the media. Invisibility is a hard thing to handle. The review from the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) notes that a positive trend is that more transgendered characters are appearing in film and television. We have of course Alexis in Ugly Betty (left image) but she is played by a genetic female. In Dirty Sexy Money however the transgender character Carmelita is played by Candis Cayne (right image) who went through her transition 10 years ago. Not only a transgender character but also a transgender actress that has a successful career.

Further they noted transgendered Laverne Cox in VH1’s I Want to Work for Diddy and in America’s Got Talent Dorae Saunders, a transgender woman and Tina Turner impersonator, appeared. I had not heard about it but there apparently was a romantic reality series Transamerican Love Story which featured transgender actress Calpernia Addams as the bachelorette, and included a transgender man among the contenders vying for her affection. Read what Out&About wrote about the show.

Sure, there is always the argument of whether or not these are “good” representations of transgendered people but I guess it must not matter. It IS important to be visible and sooner or later people themselves find out that all transgendered are not the same while we shared some common experiences and problems in life. I think the future looks promising. It does not hurt that these women are stunningly beautiful either – seeing that your dream can become true!

The Land of Affirmations

I spent last week in Las Vegas, Nevada and as usual I enjoyed being in the United States again. On my way back home again last Friday/Saturday I started thinking what it is that makes me like it there. Sure I think I am more pro-US than most Swedes are and it always nice to go on a long trip – it is almost like an adventure. But there must be something more to it…

First of all I think the gender roles are a bit more accentuated in the US especially among the business (or military) people that I normally meet. It is something about how people dress I think. Women are in general a little bit more formal (during daytime) than what is common in Sweden and also in general a little bit more makeup. Match that to a style which favours sneakers (during leisure time) together with pink colors and it fits me like a glove 🙂 So I actually think I blend in better in terms of my looks in the US. All of this are generalisations of course but still. I actually feel a little less stared at in the US which of course is a big relief for me.

However, what really affects me is the constant affirmations I get everyday when I am being adressed as “Miss” or “M’am”. Lately I seem to have became more of a “M’am” than “Miss” actually I think I feel rather good about that. The first times years back I noticed this of course and became very happy but I guess I became used to it over the years while forgetting the effect it had on me. It is very good for my mind to get these affirmations when being addressed on the aircraft, at the hotel reception and at lunch. It secures me on my “pink cloud” where I feel secure and proud of myself.

Actually there are very few wrong pronouns when I am in the US also. I can hardly remember when anybody over there used the wrong one for me the last time. Here in Sweden it happened just a few weeks ago at the Headquarters in the middle of a meeting.

So I guess America is good for my self-esteem. Fortunately I am flying back there on Monday morning and will stay in the Virginia area for two weeks.

Note to non-Swedes: In Sweden the equivalents of Mr/Miss/Mrs are hardly used any more. Maybe if you get a very formal invitation from the King, otherwise it is usually done with some kind of humorous remark. It is very informal conversational climate.

Presents from Dad

Presents from Dad
Today my Dad came to visit me at work. We have not always had the best relationship because of my transition process which he had really hard to accept previously. However, it feels much better now and I think we are both are trying to make the best of our relationship. No matter how you put it family is family but on the other hand it is so important for me to be respected and accepted for who I am know. So I was a little bit nervous about his visit after all – not much but a little. Maybe because I feel so comfortable at work now that I don’t want them to see someone being less comfortable let alone my father. However it went just fine and I showed him around in our rather cool (and large) facilities at the experimentation lab. He had brought some presents for me from their last visit to France and it was a lot of nice herbs, soaps and the cutest node pad saying “Un petit mot d’Alexandra”. But there was a gift-wrapped thing as well and I was really touched by it. It was a beautiful necklace made of a piece of lava with silver details. It was exactly my style and taste and I could not have chosen anything better myself. No matter how I put it was a great affirmation that I really needed. Thank you, Dad!

Parallells with Obama and the race issue

I am watching CNN Live from Washington D.C. now and I am taken by the enthusiasm and mood that seems to be filling the city. Some expect 1 million people or more to see the inauguration tomorrow. Listening to all the comments from journalists and especially african-american civil rights activitists make me see a lot of parallells with the situation for transgendered people. The right to be treated equally in the judiciary system, discrimination, access to work and education. Comparing these statements with the viewpoint released recently by the Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner makes the parallell almost scary. Just replace a few words and it boils down to the same things. People are discriminated and abused based on the way they look. Just because they look a certain way (black or unclear gender expression) makes people with predjudices assume a lot of stuff about them as a group. I am also reading Barack Obama’s book “Dreams from my father” and I immediately recognised his experiences of being black as a young person with some of the experiences and fears I had 10 years ago. It is hard to be judged so hard just because you look a certain way.

I know the US is a very religious country and that the southern parts of the country (where many african-american people live) isn’t exactly known for being tolernant towards LGBT people but I hope that people who have experiences from being discriminated can also work to extend basic human rights also to our group someday. I hope President Obama will reach out to the LGBT community and use his own experiences to make true change happen. Maybe allow armed service members to transition while in service instead of a big risk of being discharged or otherwise treated badly based on a strict binary idea of gender.