Meet Alex (part 2 of 2)

If you have not read the first part of Alex’s narrative, please do! In this part Alex writes about the transition process and the many challenges that he has faced seeking appropriate medical care in Sweden. From Alex I learned that the state of Connecticut (where I live in the US) has more and better laws to protect trans people than the country of Sweden.

I have come a long way since then at many levels. I couldn’t even think about correcting my physical errors then, I had just turned it upside down and was stuck in not being able to change my soul. But I’m still very afraid of God but now I think it’s mostly my own insecurities and I have at least hope that God doesn’t hate me for having this conflict between body and soul. Something I do know is that it’s very destructive and probably deadly to keep on living with that conflict. At least for me

It was only last year I started my bodily transition. Me and my husband had been a part of a Anabaptist church for the last couple of years. When we told our pastors about my condition we got kicked out in a heartbeat. I think that it was their trans- and homophobic reaction that made me believe that God probably likes me even if I try to be me.

Their reaction lacked any form of love, compassion or even care. They just wanted to protect their own group and when I saw that men of God could be that wrong I finally started to question everything Church ever taught me.

Here in Sweden health care is covered mostly by taxes. You pay a small fee every time you see a doctor or nurse, but there is a cost limit of 900 SEK (120 USD) for health care and 1800 SEK (240 USD) for prescribed medicine every year. It’s completely free until you turn 21. Because the care is free, it can be hard to get the care you need, they always need to save money on your expense.

Transsexuals make up a small population in Sweden. There are about 40 people in the whole country who finish the transition every year so we can’t really demand better service. At my hospital they have a bout a 12-month wait for transsexuals just before you can even start the “health care”.

The first step after the wait is called the Inquiry. From the first meeting at the Inquiry it takes 12 month until you can get your hormones. It doesn’t matter if everyone you meet knows from the start that you are transsexual. At my hospital you get your top surgery during the year of Inquiry and the bottom a year after. The Inquiry is lead by a specialized psychiatrist who sets the diagnosis and you will also meet a welfare officer and a psychologist and they will inquiry if you have the mental strength to handle the sex change and everything that comes with that.

The purpose of the Inquiry is not to take care of you, but to try to sort you out. It is a year of many breakdowns. The law says that it has to be at least two years from you start the Inquiry until you can meet The National Board of Health and Welfare.

It’s at that meeting or interrogation you have the chance to get a new personal number, a name that is gender correct and the opportunity to change all old papers to fit your identity. The personal number is our social security number and it’s used all the time. Its last digits tell what gender the government thinks you are. Your teachers, your landlord, pretty much everyone sees your personal number. If you use a credit card and have to sign the receipt you have to show your personal number.

So for transpersons who want to have a sex change, its often three years of trying to live under the radar. We don’t have any legal protection. We have agitation laws and discrimination laws to protect LGB-persons but not (yet) T-persons.

Two years ago the GLBT organization in Sweden included trans issues and they are good lobbyists so it’s reasonable to think that we will be included in the laws in a couple of years. Hopefully they will change the law who says that everyone who does a sexchange has to be sterile and now that includes saving your eggs or sperm at clinics. Now the rules are like this: if a transwoman saves her sperm before her transition she can use them to make her girlfriend pregnant until she meets with the Board of Health and Welfare, then she have to throw them away and use someone else’s sperm to have a child. It’s a strange law I think.

Now I have to stop writing. Its time for Church. After a couple of months of mourning our former pastors contempt for us, I went to the Lutheran Church of Sweden. They have a magnificent cathedral from the 11th century and I went to a Friday lunch mass and just stared at the altar and wonder how God could accept all suffering and how many wrongs the church have done since the 9th century when the first church was built on this place.

I didn’t really notice that mass was over and the bishop came to me and asked “how is it my son”. I broke down and started sob on his shoulder. I guess his liturgy clothes was ancient and priceless but he just stood there in silence and held me. After a couple of minutes he asked me why I was so sad and I just told him everything and I was sure that he would almost throw me out of the cathedral but instead he talked about Jesus and led me in to the sakristia (don’t know the English word for the room where priests change clothes) and he Gave me a name and a number to a priest he recommended and he said three times that he was sorry that he himself couldn’t give me more of his time.

It was such a relief and I smiled for the first time in a long time. He has so much to do and he took the time to not only notice me but to really see me and meet me. Now he knows my whole family and even though he is really busy he still takes the time to listen and make sure that I still feel welcome. Now it’s time for me to go to mass.

(Thank you Alex for sharing so much of yourself with us here!!!)

This post has 12 Comments

  1. Willie Hewes on October 18, 2006 at 7:09 am Reply

    Wow. Thank you for the story Alex (and Peterson). I agree that that’s a very strange law. :/ There are so many barriers to changing (or correcting) your gender. I understand why, but sometimes I wonder if it’s really necessary.

  2. alex. on October 18, 2006 at 7:43 am Reply

    a sad example of our laws: I got a mail from a transman in tears. A newspaper wanted to do a article about him and his transition. He asked them to write without his name and any photos and they accepted his terms. When the article was printed they did not only have his face and his name in the article, they also told where he lived and what his two erlier names was. He lost his job and his teachers in school talked about his past infront of the other students.

    No one broke the law. He has to move, change his name yet another time and try to find a new job and a new school where no one has read the article or is more humane at least.

  3. Calia77 on October 18, 2006 at 7:53 pm Reply

    Alex, your story is so moving. How sad that you experienced such exclusion and feel so far from God. Your story makes me think how much we – how much I – need to change how we are to one another.

    Thank you for sharing your story and I pray you find that your hope in God is enough.

  4. alex. on October 18, 2006 at 8:47 pm Reply

    Thank you Calia77 for your prayers they really mean a lot!

  5. p.alan on October 19, 2006 at 9:55 pm Reply

    Alex, Many many people can really see you, just as the priest. God does too. I know it is a difficult time, but continue to follow your heart and you will be blessed many times more than you’ll ever think you deserved. God walks beside you always. Peace & Love & HOPE. Alan

  6. Anonymous on October 20, 2006 at 12:48 am Reply

    Alex, since you can read these comments…

    Your english is perfect!

    You mentioned in your meet and greet note about mentioning to your first Pastor your situation and he asked you to leave?

    I have a couple of questions…

    1.) Could you write more about what lead to that….and what you said and specifically how he responded? You went over that incident a little too quickly. Many of us gay Christians are in the same boat, some belong to affirming churches….and some (I would say most) gays who go to Church haver to keep it a secret.

    2.) What led up to your telling your pastor….and didn’t you know what his response would be? Most of us, even if we don’t broach the topic, can tell how someone might react, based on other signals they give us.

    Your picture is cute. 😉

    Thanks!

  7. alex. on October 20, 2006 at 9:09 am Reply

    Anonymous: I’m happy that you can read my writing. My world has grown quite a bit now when I dare to try to write in English.

    About my old Pastors. Well, it’s a hard thing for me to write about and I tried to write more about it but it became to long. But now in the comments I can take some more space.

    Me, my husband and our three children was quite involved in our Church as a heterosexual couple and I was about to start my physical transition and I wanted to tell my Pastors about it myself. I told one of the Pastors at church one Sunday. He smiled and said that he had to talk abouth this with the other Pastors and the church board. He was really nice but then he didn’t say anything for weeks. At last he summoned me and my husband to a meeting. Both him and the other Pastor was there when we came and they where so nice and asked about the kids, talked abot the weather and gave us some coffee. Then they asked us to tell them again what was going on in ouur lifes. We told them in our own words for about 10 mnts and they smilied and nodded all the time.

    Then it was their turn and they said that they thought we were sinners and that we wasn’t welcome but that they couldn’t force us away from the services because it’s against the law but that they dinied us membership. We asked them if we would be welcome if we got a divorce or what to do but they said that it was no way that we could change to be welcome again. They were very clear that it was their own opinion and that they didn’t say that we weren’t Christians, but that they just did’nt want us to be around them because it felt so odd for them. We really wanted to study the scripture ith them but they sad that it was no use because we didn’t have the right spirutal insight as them. That really hurt. Pastors that said that we was no good and that it was meaningless to read the bible with us.

    I was so sad and depressed after that. A couple of days later I wrote a very personal sort of pre suicide e-mail to one of my Pastors check if they would welcome my husband if I took my life. I was desperate and so sad. If I died my husband was not trapped in a homosexual relationship with a freak like me. Two days later I got a very nonchalant response with the meaning that we wasn’t his problem any more. He didn’t call to check in, he didn’t say that it would be better if I stayed alive. He just didn’t care. That was the big moment when I realized that he had no love at all and that I couldn’t take his words as Gods.

    I’m often quite good at reading people to know when they are going to reject me. I did not se the pastors reaction coming at all! If I had know that they would be nonaffirming I probably would not have told them about me straight up but asked around about their knowledge about GLBT-stuff. But they often preach about tolerance, that we have to really listen to our next and things like that and I was so sure they would want to listen to us.

    A good thing with that mis-reading of them is that I now try to not read people but to do what my hart tells me to do. Before the thing with my Pastors I always tried to be invisible and never do anything out of line, now I take up some space.

    It’s because of that learning I dare to write this even if my gut feeling still is that I’m taking up to much space. If I had not misread them I would never had agreed to meet with Peterson because I think that he could do better things with his short time in Sweden and that it would probably be uncomfortable for him to try to listen to my bad english. I’m very happy for what my old Pastors involuntary taught me but all of this still hurts bad.

  8. Diana_CT on October 20, 2006 at 12:46 pm Reply

    Alex, I know how hard it can be; I am a trans-woman and in the process of coming out to my family. I told my cousins at the beginning of October, I was so worried about how they would take the news because they a devout Catholics but the welcomed me with open arms. They haven’t met me as Diana yet but I hope to do it around the end of the year.
    I haven’t transitioned yet but hope to do so some time next year when I retire. I am looking forward to transitioning but I am at the same time scared. I know it will be hard for me because I do not pass that well.

    Diana

  9. alex. on October 21, 2006 at 8:23 pm Reply

    Hi Diana! Thanks for your comment. I’m glas to hear that your cousins welcomed you. It is very empowering to start living as the one you truly are even if the road can be bumpy.

    I understand your fear and I wont say that it will be easy but it will be worth it!

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