Hey, did you know that if you want to be recognised as a transexual in Sweden, you are going to have to get sterilised? Because I didn’t. I thought Sweden was a liberal wonderland right up until about a week ago, when I received this email from AllOut.org calling me to sign a petition to end the forced sterilisation of transgender people in Sweden.
Included in the email was this video:
Last Wednesday, January 18, about 400 people gathered outside the Swedish Parliament in Stockholm to protest for their right not to be spayed just because they want to have their gender in their passports changed.
According to All Out, Sweden is not the only country that likes to play Mengele. "'Forcible sterilisation' has been quietly practiced for decades in countries typically cast as progressive on LGBT rights," Guillaume Bonnet, All Out's European Campaigner, told me. "France, the Netherlands, Australia and a number of U.S. states still require it. Italy and Germany have just recently overturned similar legislation.
"Some European countries, including the UK, Austria, Germany and Portugal, have already put an end to sterilisation as a prerequisite for recognition. Hopefully, others will follow soon."
This is all pretty dark, so I picked up the phone and called the handsome young man in the above video, Love Georg Elfvelin. (It's pronounced Luuurve, disappointingly).
VICE: Hey Love, what you up to?
Love Georg Elfvelin: Well, it’s ten in the morning over here, so I’m having coffee.
Sounds reasonable. What did you do last night? Anything fun?
I’m back in Karlstad, actually, my hometown, visiting my family. So last night I went out with a few old friends.
How have your family and friends reacted to your sex change?
Well, everyone took it differently but mostly well. My mum was fantastic; Really supportive but also a little sad after realising what I had to go through. My father is not as much of a talker so the only thing he said was, “I don’t care, you’re my child, we’ll always love you”.
Sounds like you’ve been quite fortunate.
Yes, absolutely. It was only my older brother who couldn’t come to terms with it, and that was really hard for me at the time. We didn’t speak for a year. But he came around, and I went to live with him for six months in Norway – now we are best friends. I think it was because he’s nine years older than me.
How old are you?
When did you decide to have a sex-change operation?
Three years ago, but I’d been thinking about it for a while before that. When I was 17, a friend of mine asked me if I had thought about it at all and I said , “Yes I have, but I’m not a transexual”. But then I started feeling very bad for a couple of months and I started wondering why. That’s when I realised that my friend had a point in asking me and that I would have to go through this. It wasn’t the happiest time of my life.
Love now (left) and before his hormonal treatment.
What is the process like? Have you had to deal with a lot of bureaucracy, or is it relatively easy for someone to have their gender re-assigned?
It’s a whole process. First they have to make sure you are mentally stable, and actually psychologically a transexual, and then they start the hormone treatment. So I had to go through a lot of psychoanalysis before being finally allowed to take the hormones. The next step is the surgery – I’m somewhere in the middle.
Are you looking forward to it or are you happy to take it slow?
No, I want to have the surgery, but I’ll have to wait now until they revoke that stupid law. I’m really looking forward to having my breasts removed, though.
Are you planning to start a family in the future?
Yes, but I don’t want to get pregnant. I just want to be able to have my eggs frozen, so that my future girlfriend can get pregnant with them. Getting pregnant myself would feel very strange. I am a man and to me, the ability to carry children is the most representative characteristic of a female.
I hear you. Do you remember a few years ago this American guy, Thomas Beatie, got pregnant? It was a big story in the news.
Yeah he’s like a hero to me, even though he faced a lot of negative criticism.
You said you wouldn’t want to get pregnant. How do you feel about his decision to do so? Is there any way that could affect his children negatively in the long run?
Well, they might throw a tantrum or two once they hit puberty, but I think as long as there is love in the family they’ll get over it.
How did you end up becoming the face of this campaign?
Well, I’ve been involved with the RFSL Youth (the LGBT community of Sweden) for a while now – I used to work as an advisor for high school children. So, last Wednesday I went to the demonstration in Stockholm and some friends told me they were doing this video, and would I want to take part in it? So, we taped outside the Parliament.
Can you see the point of your opposition at all?
Well, no. I mean the whole thing is so stupid because what they are basically saying is: “We don’t want pregnant men on the street.” What they don’t realise is that I could stop taking the hormones and look like a woman but I am actually a man. It’s such a formality. Norway is the same, and the strangest thing is that these countries are supposed to be so liberal, really pro-LGBT rights and gay adoption. So, I guess those are just really old laws.
Does that mean you haven’t been a victim of hate crime?
Pretty much. The closest I’ve come to it was a couple of years ago, when a gang of skinheads bullied me on June 6, which was National Day. They thought my friend and I were a lesbian couple, which we weren’t. I got really angry and started shouting in their face, but my friends pulled me back and we walked out – they would have kicked my ass otherwise.
Fun. Do you feel hopeful the forced sterilisation law is going to get revoked soon?
I do. They are already discussing it in the parliament, and they are expected to reach a decision by this summer. The only people supporting it, are this really small Conservative party. What we want is to put maximum pressure on the Prime Minister, so that he realises this needs to go away soon.
Are there any other ways you are planning to work towards that, other than the video?
For the time being, I just want as many people as possible to watch the video and sign the petition, and get out on the streets and protest. I believe that alone can make a difference.
If only it worked that way more often. Thanks, Love!
If you'd like to sign AllOut.org's petition to end the forced sterilisation of transgender individuals in Sweden, please go here.