My best friends 

At this months support group meeting there was a new face. To me anyway, he attended the group for the first time last month when I was unable to. We said hello when hanging our coats and when we were seated he wanted to introduce himself/make me introduce myself more formally. Apparently that included shaking hands, presenting name and then state gender expression (transvestite, “but still happy to be a man”) and time being so (came out six months ago). In that order. Then it was my turn and I stated my name. Since I wouldn’t give him information easily he then proceeded by asking me “so you’ve known you’re a guy your whole life, right?”I mean, whoa! I just met the person! I’m not comfortable charging that information with anyone. Mostly because I’m not entirely sure myself. Have I known my whole life that I’m a guy? If not – when did I realize? Like most other trans* people I have no clue, and that is just fine. Well, maybe not with this dude, but still, it should be fine and people should stop ask that kind of questions! Especially to strangers, even at support group meetings…
But the question remains. For how long have I known? It’s not an easy question to answer for anyone, cis or trans, since you can know these kind of things without having words for them. And then knowing and accepting is quite different…

I grew up in a time when AIDS still was an epidemic that only affected gay men. Given that perspective it doesn’t take a brainiac to figure out that our parents and other grown ups tried their best to keep us kids form acting on anything LGBTQ+. I don’t blame them, I would’ve done the same thing as a parent. But the result was that we were never exposed to people or images from the LGBTQ+ community. We didn’t know it existed! 

When you don’t know something exist it’s really hard to know if you identify like that. If I was 15 years younger I could have searched the Internet for answers when I felt I didn’t fit in. I could have seen LGBTQ+ people in mainstream media. Maybe then I would have had a fair chance to know.

One part of the GIC assessment is a social investigation. In order to allow me to make changes, if my counsellor misunderstood anything, she called me to read what she had written.

It’s really, really weird to hear the story of your life, written by someone else for a third part. I know the story. I know it so intimately that I could repeat it in my sleep, but then I’m always me. I’m in charge and I have a genuine positive view of my life. But hearing someone describing your lived life using he and Fredrik make it more unfamiliar. Suddenly it could be about someone else and if it were, it would be an exceptional and hard life that I wouldn’t want to live. If it were about someone else, I would’ve felt very sorry for him!

One interesting aspect of the story was that suddenly all my friends were male. I’ve always thought that I mostly had female friends, but when we talked the counsellor asked about friendships that truly mattered to me, an sometimes she asked specifically for how my friendship with boys looked like growing up.

It dawned on me that all my “best” friends were male even though I haven’t kept contact with them since it wasn’t socially acceptable. There’s especially one guy that I still miss a lot. We were in the same class and spent most of the breaks together, playing pool, cards, floor ball or just chatting. I can honestly say that he was my best friend!

Officially I was best friends with a group of girls and in hindsight I guess most people around us must have thought he and I were an item (due to the opposite gender thing) but I still mourn the day he and his family moved away half away across the country. Since we were opposite gender at the time there were no natural or legitimate way for us to keep in contact. Instead I stalked his male friends hoping to be able to make them my friends, which probably creeped them out a bit.

I knew. The only thing I didn’t know was what word to use.

Summertime

Well, summer just arrived. At the same time winter ended. This is the year spring forgot to appear.Last week we had snow, hail and blistering winds. This week it’s clear sky and summer temperatures! I know this is summer because I just got the first sunburn of the year and we’re having picnics and excursions every day.

Swedes are funny that way. We literally hibernate during winter. Everyone is dressed in black, or if you’re daring – navy blue, and move quickly through the streets between work and home. We stay indoors, watch movies and drink hot coffee, tea, cocoa or glögg an munch on cookies and sweets. 

Occasionally we leave the comfort of our home to do Christmas shopping on the first of advent, search for bargains between Christmas and New Year’s Eve or ski/skate/walk in the snow for a week in February during “sport break” aka winter break. But that’s basically it. We rarely meet with friends and we don’t spend time outside our homes.

But the moment the sun appears cloudless on the sky the towns are suddenly filled with people in t-shirts, shorts, flip flops and sunglasses. Regardless of the temperature. Like my friend who won’t take out the long legged trousers again until September. Everyone is munching ice cream and enjoy lunches with friends and colleagues on restaurant patios that suddenly fill the streets. Every one of them have blankets on every chair for guest to use and if it’s more than a lunch-restaurant they also have outdoor heating.

And, let’s face it, it’s needed. All to often we have the same temperature at Christmas Eve as we have on Midsummers eve. The only difference is that on Midsummers Eve we all sit outdoors in summer-outfits, trying to have meaningful conversations with (or as) wasted people while we’re shivering so much our teeth are chattering.

There’s one more difference; we have sour cream with our herring, don’t eat pork and we have strawberries for dessert. Honestly, that’s the only difference food wise. Swedes eat the same food at every big celebration during the year: Christmas Eve, Easter (Eve) and partly Midsummers Eve! It consists of herring (of 101 different flavors) with either boiled potatoes or a potato casserole with sardines (tastes better than it sounds), eggs in halves garnished with mayonnaise and rom, ham, sausages, meatballs, bead, butter, cheese, snaps and a sweet, carbonated, spicy version of coke called “must”. For dessert we usually have a cake of some sort. For Midsummers Eve we only have herring, potatoes, sour cream and chives followed by strawberries and whipped cream. Period. And no, I didn’t forget to mention the veggies – I did write down potatoes and chives didn’t I?

Since summer arrived so quickly without warning I didn’t check my summer wardrobe properly before I needed summer clothes. It turned out that all my shorts are too big. As in will-fall-of-my-hips-even-though-they’re-buttoned-up-and-have-a-belt. Apparently I’ve lost quite some weight since last summer.

So, on my shopping list on an already strained budget I have to put down two pair of shorts, swim trunks, swim t-shirt, linen shirt (to cover up when it’s sunny, I burn really easy), cap/hat (for the same reason), garden shoes and polo shirts (I can fold up the collar to protect my neck from the sun). And that’s just the things I NEED, not the things I want.

What I really want is to start on testosterone, preferably yesterday, so I can have some body changes done and over with so I can buy my new wardrobe. Everything is a bit too big at the moment, too worn out or too washed out to be good looking. I need new underwear, shorts and trousers, but since I know there will be some changes on T I don’t want to spend a lot of money on clothes I won’t be able to wear for more than half a year. I think I’ll prioritize shorts, polos and a new belt and wait as long as possible with everything else, my appointment for the endocrinologist should arrive in the mail soon.

Locker room human and 3/4

I attended a meeting for volunteers from an organization I work with. It’s really a weekend with different workshops, but I couldn’t attend until Sunday afternoon. When I came a lot of new faces greeted me, saying how nice it was to finally meet me, how much they had heard about me and how glad they were that I could come and so on. One guy kept insisting that we had met before but I’m sure we haven’t.I’m not used to be the center of attention like this and normally I would detest it, but for some reason it was a nice experience in a weird way. It’s like that saying; everybody knows the monkey, but the monkey knows no one!

This is the first non-local event that I’ve attended. When it comes to this organization I’m more of a online and telephone person than an IRL person. And I guess being nominated for volunteer of the year two consecutive years does affect how many people in the organization know my name and face, especially those who use to attend these kind of events.

Between meetings a guy came up to me and asked when I was away on my exchange year (it’s an exchangestudent organization). My answer 1999/2000 resulted in a brief glazed gaze from him, like he had to think really hard to process the information. He then concluded that I look very young (I’m guessing he was barely born back then) and I was a smudge from answering “it’s because I haven’t gone through puberty yet.” Ha, I’m so funny! My non-spoken comment have cheered me up all week!

I feel that my transitioning, especially the social one, is taking up some speed. Today I went to the swimming hall with my family. Before we went there I was agonizing over which locker room to use. Since I was arriving there with my wife and daughter I chose to use the women’s, although I regretted it immediately. It just doesn’t feel right anymore. I’m a man, I want to be seen as a man and I’m read as a man more and more. I don’t belong in the women’s locker room anymore. Fortunately there weren’t any people in the locker room when we arrived and I had showered at home so I changed quickly to my swim wear and slipped out of there. 

When it was time for snacks my wife sent me in to the locker room to get our bag, despite my opposition. I knew what was coming, but couldn’t really speak up properly since we had company. Of course the room was filled with women!!! I almost had an anxiety attack, looked at the floor the entire time and just rushed through. Now that more and more people only know me as Fredrik, it would be a nightmare to meet someone I know in the women’s department! 

When it was time to go I picked up my bag in the women’s locker room and got dressed in the handicap, single, lockable locker room instead. Unfortunately you have to walk through either the women’s or the men’s locker room to get to the handicap one, but next time I will walk through the men’s department!

I feel so empowered just by making that statement. And I’m so relieved that my wife finally sees how wrong it is for me to be in the women’s. She’s hesitated a lot about whether she’s ok with me going to the men’s locker room or not. She’s concerned for my safety there and I guess that as long as I’m with her she feels that she can stand up for me if necessary. 

I think the switch between locker rooms are one of the most significant part of transitioning because it’s so definite. Transitioning is a process, often quite slow, but locker rooms doesn’t acknowledge a sliding scale. It’s extremely binary, one or the other, and it’s not socially acceptable to switch between them from time to time. Sometimes I wish there would be a locker room human and 3/4.

Despite all the locker room nightmares and the usual swim wear issues, I really enjoyed swimming with my family. Our daughter LOVES the water and later on her other dads joined us. She now has one mum, three dads, six dogs, one cat, four grandmas and three grandpas! She is one deeply loved child!

The story of my binder

I’ve lost some weight over the last year or so and until a few weeks ago I was happy about this. A little overweight lost and more importantly I’ve now got a smaller chest. Smaller and loser boobs means easier binding and my chest isn’t as prominent anymore. I look more like a dude and I like it.

The binder I use is LesLoveBoats Original Jersey Mesh Velcro Short Binder, and it has 4 inches of Velcro to close it. The Velcro part have made it possible for me to bind tighter as I’ve lost weight but a few weeks ago I reached the limit of my binders. When I got them I could hardly close them properly. Now the Velcro is overlapping completely, leaving me with a loose binder that my floppy boobs are able to escape from. The sexy look of a male, flat chest – with bumps sticking out just above the tummy…

I desperately need to buy a new binder, but the truth is that I don’t want to. I’ve procrastinated too long and now it’s urgent, so last night I went online to look at binders. Just typing in the address mad me feel nauseous and as I started to navigate around the site I had a full blown anxiety attack and had to stop. Apparently I really don’t want to buy a new binder!

Things have moved along so fast at the Gender Identity Clinic that top surgery might happen before this year is over. In my mind I’ll be rid of the binder really soon, so there’s no real point in buying a new one. But in the worst case scenario I’ll have to put up with my old binders close to a year.

The prospect of having too big binders with boobs slipping out all day for a year is horrible. When I think of it like that I don’t even want to wear them another week. I really do need to find a new binder soon!

I’ve been really happy with the binders I have now, so the obvious choice would be to get the same model a size smaller. Unfortunately I couldn’t find them in the web shop when I was looking, it seems like they’ve gone out of stock. On the other hand I could just have missed them when my mind were panicking.Then again, if they’re out of stock I have to look around for something else. I could just try to find something similar, but I could also looks around to see if I can find something else I might like better.

The Velcro has it perks. It’s easy to put on and it’s adjustable, perfect for when I have a bad day or feel bloated. On the other hand it can make velcro noises when I move, depending on how I managed to close it in the morning. Now when I’ve out-shrunken them the sharp Velcro is wider than the soft one when I close them, so it’s also scratching my skin if I’m not careful. At the moment I have to fasten the front panel at an angle and then fold it under the back panel to avoid severe chafe.

So on one side I’d like to continue with a Velcro binder, but on the other hand it would be nice to not having the problems with it. I’m just afraid that I’ll have problem getting a non-velcro binder on, from what I’ve heard it can require some acrobatic movements and that’s not my strong side. I can only imagine what my family (and my body) will think of me in the morning jumping around, trying to be an athlete! I think I’ll have to go with a Velcro binder after all.

Update: I found my current binder in the web shop but finally settled on the Cool Mesh Velcro Short Chest Binder instead, just because the Velcro seemed a bit more suited for me on this one. Now I just have to take out the tape measure to make sue I get the right size. Yet another hurdle to get over, I don’t think I’ll be able to order it until next week. Somehow I manage to suppress the fact that I need to take my measurements – every single time I order clothes…

Overwhelmed

Lately I’ve felt that I’ve neglected a lot of things in my life and I’ve blamed it on coming back to work. But that’s only one part of the issue. It was only today, when I made a call I should have made months ago, that I realized that I’ve taken on more things than I can manage. It’s not unusual for me to do this, but I’m kind of mad at myself for not being able to say no in time. While on sick leave and parent leave I had plenty of time – and energy – to take on voluntary work, and I did. 
I love to go dancing once a week, and when they needed a secretary for the board I accepted the position. Then I accepted to be the groups party planner together with my wife, planning two big and three minor events every year, and before our baby arrived I also sat in the building committee. I wisely resigned from that, somehow thinking I downsized my workload. A little clue: I didn’t. And if I did, I soon replaced it with other commitments.
Apart from dancing I’m also engaged in voluntary work for Youth For Understanding, an organization that arranges for teenagers to be exchange students. Again doing one thing isn’t enough for me, I’m both a host parent and a contact person for another host family and student. Then, a month ago, I was asked to be part of the small group who will create a much needed improvement in the voluntary community for the organization. It’s right up my ally and I couldn’t refuse… Again…

I also have this blog that I want to work more with and I’ve also just added a Twitter account as a complement to it, @fredrication. Feel free to follow my absolutely fabulous and oh so interesting tweets there!

That’s as far as my voluntary work goes. I also have a paid day job and before my parent leave I did pretty mundane work, answering emails, the phone and tweaking settings for users. Now I’ve got the opportunity to develop and plan a big change in systems. I’m really looking forward to this, but Its a completely different kind of work and I have to learn to work in a different way. With this its quality, not quantity, that counts. In the midst of this I feel the pressure to perform and show what I’m capable of doing, and most importantly show them that they were right to assign this work to me.

All of this, and I haven’t even started to write about the most important work in my life! I’m a family man, playing with my kid and serving approx three meals a day to my family. Saving a little for myself I try to squeeze in time with my friends, exercise and trans support groups too. 

Way to much on one plate you say? Well, so I just realized. No wonder I don’t have energy to plan dinners like I used to, don’t have as much time for friends that I want, make calls to my contact family and student a month or two late and so on. No wonder I feel drained and no wonder I was stressed over Christmas…

I know I must downsize a lot in order to keep my sanity. I started to prioritize all the things I do and was surprised by how easy it was for me: family first, then friends and dancing, thirdly blogging and twittering. In order to have energy left for support groups and other odd events I know I have to let the rest go even though it stings in my heart to do so. Unfortunately I can’t resign from all my commitments right away like I need to, but at least I’ve made a plan.

Next step is one thing I should know by now; saying no. But how do you decline offers of work that you really would enjoy doing? Especially when they plead to you and flatter you since no one else is interested? And then it bothers me if someone else ends up doing a half job about it when I could have done it better… How do I stop caring about what the result looks like? How do I stop caring about so much all the time? Why can’t I just be happy focusing on the few things that obviously matters the most to me? How do I let go of the rest???

Male privilege 

Male privilege is interesting. When I still defined myself as female I was unsure in every part of my life and I didn’t feel entitled to any space – just like all women I know. I was self conscious whenever I walked into a room. I was desperately trying to determine how other people perceived me and then change my behavior accordingly to be perceived as favorable as possible. As a man however, I feel entitlement wherever I go. I feel that whenever I walk into a room, I have the right to be there. I have the right to be seen and heard just the way I am and I have the right to not be gossiped about. I feel this so strongly that I wouldn’t even get upset if I found out that someone’s talking behind my back. As a female I felt that gossip about me was critique that I needed to listen to, a hint that I needed to change something. As male I feel that gossip is others business, what they say about me has nothing to do with me as long as they don’t tell me up front. Then I’ll listen.

This change has been gradient. It wasn’t like I woke up one day and said “sod it, I’m gonna stop caring about what other people think or say about me”. I don’t know what sparked the change and it was certainly not something I expected to happen. The only thing I can think about is that when I started to define myself as male I started to look at what and how I did things in a feminine or masculine way. I was very close to changing one ill fitting box for another, so there and then I decided to take my transition as an opportunity to be the authentic me. I will no longer do things because I feel that they are expected of me, I will do them because I want to do them. Essentially I stopped to give sh*t about what other thought I should be doing. My energy is way to precious to be spent on trivial stuff.

It’s a liberating feeling that have snowballed through almost every part of my life. I’ve even stopped worrying about people assaulting me when I walk alone at night. Before I thought “better to be safe than sorry”, “you never know” and “where’s my phone and keys.” Now I’m thinking more in the lines of “why would anyone even bother”. If it happens, then I’ll deal with it then. Of course it helps to be generally read as male and therefore more unlikely to be a target for unwanted attention…

It’s hard to describe what it means to me to not be afraid or worried all the time, but I’m constantly reminded when I meet women. Their flacking eyes, shifting from one foot to another, talking fast, being eager to please and all the time trying to determine what I expect from them. It must be exhausting! I’M exhausted just by interacting with them and instinctually I want to tell them to chill down. There’s no fire and I don’t expect anything from them. I only want them to relax and enjoy their day!

I met one woman like that today and she was constantly apologizing, mostly for things she’s not responsible for or able to change. Of all people it’s the psychologist in my GIC team! In an ideal world working with people trying to break free from social expectations should’ve rubbed off on her. I know I used to do exactly what she was doing, which makes it even more painful to watch. One thing that I’ve stopped putting energy on is buying into this insecurity. I’m not giving any tilted head, chin forward, friendly smile and puppy-eyes (signaling in every way that I’m not a threat to her). Instead I try to simply say “you can’t help that” and “don’t worry about it”. 

Ideally I would tell her to just chill down, but I don’t because I know that if a guy told me to chill down two years ago I wouldn’t even know what he meant. It’s like this internal self consciousness is socially hard coded in women and they’re not even aware of it because ALL women feel the same way. Socially, they’re just “normal”. Damn you patriarchal society!

Imagine what a relaxed place this world would be if everyone in it were allowed to feel secure and entitled. Imagine all the fun we could have if we didn’t have to worry so much about what other people might think about us!

I know I can’t heal all women, not in my lifetime, but I aim to save my daughter from this toxic waste of energy. I demand that she’ll experience the same inner calm that I do now. That she feel that she’s enough just the way she is.

You, my supportgroup

Ever wanted to know why I persist in writing this blog? So do I from time to time. Back in the days I was already reading and commenting on a lot of blogs, primarily written by non-binary trans persons since that’s how I identified back then, but they were all in English and I missed this kind of blogs in Swedish. So I created the blog I wanted to read myself, thinking I wasn’t alone wanting to read a blog like this in Swedish. As it turned out, 99% of my readers were non-swedes using google translate to try to comprehend what I was writing. And google translate being what it is I don’t think they understand much. So, after blogging in Swedish for a few months I translated everything and began to write my posts in English instead (lucky you… I think…) 

I’ve always been a very creative person, I started out as a dancer and a musician but when illness stopped me from practicing literally over night I kind of went mad from not being able to express myself fully. After a few years of doing nothing I took up painting but with a full time job, a family, dogs, friends and a child I don’t feel like I have time for painting anymore. I mean I easily loose myself for a whole day when I paint… Writing this blog has given me an outlet for my creative side. It keeps me sane while allowing me to spend as much time as possible with those that matter the most to me – my family. 

What I love about blogging, and what drives me to produce texts every week (well, almost anyway), is the feedback I get from you. You have so much knowledge and wise things to say and every comment makes me feel closer to you. In a part of the world where support groups are scarce that means a lot! A lot, a lot! I feel that all of you are part of my personal support group and the best thing is that I can “meet” you whenever I need to. Of course I hope that you get something out of reading/commenting my posts to!

My aim is to keep this blog for many years to come, and with medical transitioning progressing so slowly I don’t think I will run out of things to write about anytime soon. However I do think about what else to write about. Transitioning in all its glory, but there’s so much more to life. Unfortunately I doubt that you would be interested in reading about anything else in my life as it is quite mundane. But maybe I’m wrong, if there’s anything you’re dying to know about me or if there’s anything you would want me to write about please let me know in the comments!

Now I have a confession to make. I have a secret dream that my blogging magically will open doors for me to become an public speaker. I’m not even sure that I really want it or that I would like it, I did give up teaching for a reason, but the idea of being a lecturer really appeals to me and I look up to the public speakers that I know. They seem to have a very fun job that bring joy to many other people, and I want to be just as cool as they are. I just had to get that of my chest, thanks for listening.