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!!!)