A less catastrophic election than expected – but we’re not out of the woods yet.

Yesterday was election day in Sweden. It was a day many anticipated with anxiety because of the increasingly popular far-right Sweden Democrats. Some polls put them at 25-28% of the votes, which would have made them the strongest party.

Luckily, those polls were wrong as in the end SD got about 17,6% of votes. Which is still higher than what they got in the last election, when they got 13%.

The party which won was the Social Democrats with 28,4% of the votes. But to rule a party needs at least 50% of votes. Since we have eight different parties in the Riksdag, this very rarely happens. So the Social Democrats have to form a coalition with other parties so that they together can get over 50%. Or they can make a deal with the other side to allow a minority government.

But other parties can also get together. If the right-wing parties would join forced with the Sweden Democrats, they could do just that. Then the far-right SD, a party started by an ex-SS and two neo-nazis, could become part of the government.

There are several different coalitions that could be made and right now the political parties of Sweden are negotiating a deal. Will fascists be let into the government? People’s lives depend on the Swedish traditional right standing against these forces of evil and saying no.

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Bottom dysphoria and the curse of comfortable numbness.

Trigger warning: suicide, depression, dysphoria.

 

I’ve been on SSRI antidepressants on-and-off since my late teens. I tried to quit several times but couldn’t last more than a few months without becoming extremely depressed so I’ve always gone back to the pills. The dysphoria was driving me insane and I needed to get back that feeling of nothingness to pretend it wasn’t there.

I think the pills were both a curse and a blessing for me. A blessing because it’s likely that I would have offed myself a long time ago without them. A curse because they allowed me to slip into a comfortable numbness that made me ignore my problems for years.

Now is the first time since I started my transition that I’m off antidepressants. The reason at first was an accident: my doctor had gone on vacation and forgotten to refill my prescription. I wasn’t able to get a hold of him until weeks later but by then I was so happy to be able to feel a full range of emotions again that I didn’t want to get back on the meds.

I feared I would become depressed again but that hasn’t happened. I have days when I feel sad but it’s nothing like the crippling depression I used to experience. I think that it’s likely because I don’t feel as dysphoric since being on T and getting top surgery.

Being able to feel more emotions, both good and bad, has really shaken me up over the last few months. I’ve had to confront a lot of things about myself and I feel I’ve grown more as a person in months than I did in years.

The latest truth I’ve had to learn to accept is that I do have bottom dysphoria, no matter how much I like to pretend that I don’t. This will come as no surprise to those who have followed my blog for a while. I’ve gone back and forth a lot with whether or not I want bottom surgery. I even started a bottom surgery journey blog during a period when I was dead set on having phalloplasty, only to change my mind and delete it.

I don’t know how much I’m going to blog about my phalloplasty. It probably won’t be until years in the future (universal healthcare is great and I’m happy I won’t have to worry about paying for it but the waiting lists are long as hell) and quite frankly I’ve reached a period in my life when I’m sick of talking about being trans. I just want to get a body as close as possible to the one I should have been born with and get on with my life as just another guy.

Maybe I’ll do a Q&A post when the surgery is done, I don’t know. I’d prefer not to think about it too much for now since thinking about bottom surgery reminds me of what’s between my legs now and it triggers dysphoria.

If there’s one thing I’d like to end this post with it’s a message to other trans guys that you don’t need to feel ashamed of having bottom dysphoria or wanting bottom surgery. You might think “well, duh” but there is so much shitting on the surgery alternatives for trans men (often based on myths) that I feel it needs to be said. There also this message going around that having “vagina pride” and being a “proud man with a pussy” is the most empowering thing for trans men. Of course, some trans men don’t have bottom dysphoria and that’s awesome but getting surgery if it’s the right thing for you is just as empowering.

A World Tour of Books: The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón (Spain)

Not so long ago I began to see Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s books popping up in the recommended section of many book stores. I made a mental note to check them out eventually to see what all the fuss was about but never got around to it.

The reason I finally got my hands on an exemplar of his novel The Shadow of the Wind was because it was gifted to me by an aunt. She is also an avid book reader and had a feeling I would like this particular one. And she was right.

The Shadow of the Wind I would say is a book for book-lovers, which is probably why it is one of the best selling novels of all times.
It tells the story of Daniel Sempere, a little boy who is one day taken by his father to a secret library called The Cemetery of Forgotten Books. He is told to choose one book to take home and protect for the rest of his life. The one he picks is a novel called The Shadow of the Wind, a tragic odyssey about lost time and unhappy love.

carax

Fascinated, Daniel tries to find out more about its mysterious author Julián Carax. But it turns out to be more difficult than expected since his books have only been printed in a couple hundreds copies each. To make matters worse: an unsettling figure calling himself Laín Coubert, the name of the devil in Carax’s novel, is tracking every remaining book to burn them.

Years pass as Daniel investigates what happened to Julián Carax and why. Strangely, his own life starts to resemble Carax’s. Will the same tragedy and heartbreak befall him? And will he once and for all learn the truth about the author and why someone is so desperately trying to erase every sign that he ever existed?

The Shadow of the Wind is a heartwarming novel about love, loss and redemption. It is melancholic but sometimes humorous and has many complex characters, both likeable and unlikable. It is a real page turner which most definitely has earned its immense popularity.

 

 

A World Tour of Books: Raif Badawi: The Voice of Freedom: My Husband, Our Story by Ensaf Haidar. (Saudi Arabia)

In 2013 a Saudi man by the name of Raif Badawi was sentenced to 7 years in prison and 600 lashes. The next year, it was increased to ten years and 1000 lashes. His crime? Creating an internet site where he criticised Saudi Arabia’s authoritarian government and where people could freely discuss political ideas.

Since modern Saudi Arabia is a theocracy based on Wahhabism (an ultraconservative, fundamentalist branch of Islam), the authorities do not tolerate any criticism of the country’s cleric or any promoting of secularism. When they saw Raif Badawi do both these things, they decided to make an example out of him and gave him this cruel sentence.

Ensaf

This book tells the true life story of the love between Raif Badawi and his wife Ensaf Haidar. It began when they unintentionally ended up talking to each other when Raif called on Ensaf’s cell phone, which her brother had borrowed to call his friend Raif a few days earlier. Ensaf and Raif fell in love and a conflict ensued with her family who found their relationship inappropriate in a culture where men and women who aren’t relatives are not supposed to have any contact.

Eventually, they were allowed to marry and had three children. Raif ran a school and made a good living for them. But everything changed when the authorities discovered Raif’s website.

A long campaign of harassment began, both from the religious authorities and from Raif and Ensaf’s own families. Eventually, they decided to leave the country. Ensaf moved away first with the children but before Raif could join them, he was arrested.

Ever since, Ensaf has campaigned to bring attention to her husband’s situation. Many human rights organisations have taken an interest and Raif Badawi has won many awards for his activism. But as of 2018, he is still not free and has 950 lashes left on his sentence.

Raif Badawi: The Voice of Freedom: My Husband, Our Story is a shocking but inspiring tale of two brave people’s struggle for freedom in one of the world’s most conservative countries.

For more information on Raif Badawi’s situation and how you can help, please visit: https://www.raifbadawi.org/

An Accidental Manifesto

My thoughts are always the most restless when I wake up. I don’t really no why. Maybe because it’s before I take my ADHD meds. It’s both a blessing and a curse because it tends to make me anxious but it’s also when I get my best ideas.

I was having such a morning the other day when I suddenly felt the urge to write down my own political beliefs. Not as a statement anyone else was going to read but rather to clarify them to myself. I grabbed a pen and some paper and wrote down this:

Nothing is mine. There are the things I use and the things I do not use, but nothing in this world exists solely for me. Only I am entirely my own.

As I am entirely my own, so do every other person belong solely to themselves. I shall not bend them to my will through force or exploitation any more than I would strike my own flesh. I expect in return that they will respect me in the same way.

If you see me in bounds then will you help me, my friend? Whenever it will be in my power to do so I will help free you from your own chains. I will not turn a blind eye whenever I see oppression – this great enemy of freedom.

As I wish to be free, so I wish every human to be free. How could I truly enjoy the sweet taste of liberty when I see it denied to my siblings?

And so I say: let us all be free. Let us tear down the walls between us and burn the bounds around each of us. Let liberty be for each of us and for us all.

When I feel I had written everything I needed to write, I added the title “A Individualist-Solidarist Manifesto” on top of the page. I realised then that I had ended up writing a statement of my own political beliefs and values.

The term “Individualist-Solidarist” to me means someone who believes in personal freedom but that it can only truly exist in a world where people help each other out and help protect each other’s freedom. I used to think the problem with a lot of individualistic ideologies was that they took it too far. Now I’ve come to the conclusion that they don’t take it far enough.

For example: Ayn Rand was a big proponent of individual rights. But her philosophy of Objectivism when applied to political policies leads to nothing less than Corporate tyranny and individual freedom for only a very small percentage of the population. If she had been serious about individual liberty she would have wanted it for everyone. She would have wanted all things that keep people from being their own to be abolished, not just the oppressive structures that come from the state.

Individualist-Solidarism, I believe, is the core principle of Libertarian Socialism and it’s what has drawn me to this particular ideology.

But how exactly do we create a world where everyone gets to be their own person? Well, that’s an issue you can’t really answer in one post. Not that I claim to have all these answers. But I sure will continue to bring up these questions and look for ways to help liberate both myself and others.

A World Tour of Books: The Vegetarian by Han Kang (South Korea)

The first thing that intrigued me about this novel when I saw it in the bookstore was its titel. Being a vegetarian myself, I felt compelled to pick it up and after reading the synopsis I knew I had to give it a read.

The topic of vegetarianism is briefly touched upon in this novel but isn’t really the main theme. Through the story of Yeong-hye, a housewife in a traditional Korean marriage, Han Kang examines the potential consequences of a person rebelling against conventions.

When the homely and quiet Yeong-hye one day decides to stop eating meat, she is met with staunch opposition from the people in her life. Her parents, husband and even her sister all try to persuade her to give up her new diet. The situation soon turns into a power struggle which is about much more than just what Yeong-hye wants and doesn’t want to eat.

How much can a person take? What does it do to a person to not fully own herself but to be restricted by tradition and the opinions of others? What happens when someone finally breaks or rebels? These are some of the questions asked in this Man Booker prize winning novel which will leave you feeling shocked, moved and disturbed.

A new ID and a brighter future

I haven’t posted a life update in a while so here comes one.

The first big thing that’s happened is that I’m now officially legally male. Along with the change from a F to a M on my IDs and passport, I’ve also been given a new social security number because of this silly Swedish law that says men and women must have different kinds of SSNs. It makes the process of changing legal gender a bit more complicated than it needs to be. A new SSN means a completely different legal identity and that creates trouble for a lot of trans people. Just to name one example: you can be denied a bank loan if you haven’t lived in the country under the same identity for more than three years.

The second big think that’s happened is that I’m soon going to start a course to become a certified accounting clerk. I’ve actually worked as one in the past but as I’m mostly self-taught and don’t have an official education I’ve had a hard time finding work in the field. After this course I will hopefully one day be able to leave the janitor job I currently have and which I probably shouldn’t even be doing since I have such bad joint problems.

My long-term goal is to be self-employed in my own accounting bureau or to start a cooperative one. Either way, I think it’s important for workers to own their own means of production. That’s the socialist in me, I can’t help it.

Which brings me to the third big change: my political activism. I’ve had a strong interest in politics for a long time but have only been politically active since becoming a libertarian socialist. After being a hardcore individualist (and really kind of a douche) for years, I’ve now realised how isolated I was all this time. Ironically, going outside of myself to help others has help me find myself in a way solely pursuing my own individual freedom never could. I have made many connections and doors have opened for me which I never dreamed possible. Solidarity among workers really is a great liberator.

Between political rallies and planning my future career, I still find time to write. The last part of my fantasy trilogy is about 70% done. I’ve also recently decided to make all my books free. Bringing money into it kind of ruined a lot of the fun and put a certain pressure on me to write something people would be willing to buy rather than simply write from my heart. It feels like a burden has been lifted from my shoulders and right now I don’t much care if I ever make another cent from writing.

I have been slacking a bit when it comes to reading but I’m still working on reading a book from every country in the world. At the moment I’m reading a fascinating novel from South Korea and will be posting a review in the coming week.

My Political Evolution

Ever since taking an interest in politics, I have been concerned about one issue in particular: freedom. Having grown up in a conservative and highly repressive religious environment where Church elders decided everything from what you were allowed to wear and what movies you could watch to who you were allowed to marry, I had never known what it was like to be my own individual. From a young age I have to been conditioned to ignore all personal wishes and dreams and to submit entirely to my religious leaders’ wills. Now that I was free, I promised myself that I would never let anyone rule over me like that again.

Because of my experiences, I had an almost visceral reaction to words like “group” or “collective”. Even the term “solidarity” made me cringe because of how I had heard it being used growing up. To name one example, the notion of “solidarity among God’s people” was used as an argument to justify covering up sexual abuse of minors within the church.

The idea, which I would hear from time to time from leftist friends, that certain types of collectivism could be liberating to the individual sounded to me like the dumbest thing I had ever heard. I’ve since changed my mind on that issue. But more on that later.

The political ideologies which I was first drawn to were strongly individualistic. Right-wing Libertarianism, Objectivism and even anarcho-capitalism all captured my interest because they focused primarily on self-determination, something I had been denied most of my life. I became a die-hard individualist who believed that the best thing one could do was to focus on one’s own goals and not worry about trying to make the world a better place. I also wholeheartedly embraced capitalism, which for all its destructive aspects I couldn’t imagine could ever possibly be worse than a system where the group was placed above the individual.

Liked many people, I assumed that the notion that there is a fundamental conflict between the individual’s longing for freedom and the well-being of society as a whole was true. But after pondering about it I realized that not only does this not make sense but that the one cannot truly exist without the other. How can an individual be happy if the society around them is turning to shits (unless maybe they’re a sociopath)? Likewise, how can a group thrive if the individuals that make it up are not happy?

I witnessed first-hand an example of the later in the church I grew up in. We were often told that our congregation was made up of “the happiest people in the world” but the broken dreams and repression of individual wills made us miserable. Alcoholism, mental health issues, spousal abuse and suicide was rampant. We lived only for the church, the collective, but the collective felt like a prison.

Getting out of that environment was incredibly liberating and I have been passionate about freedom ever since.

I considered myself an individualistic, pro-capitalist libertarian for a long time because I genuinely believed it was the best system for liberty. But some things made me reconsider my position.

The first was the fact that freedom is far from accessible to all under capitalism. As a working-class person, it became increasingly clear to me. I realised that what I had loved all along about capitalism was that it gave the possibility of liberty. Because under this system you can have an incredible level of freedom – if you can find a way to amass enough capital. Freedom then becomes a prize you have to prove yourself worthy of, it’s the carrot dangling in front of the donkey to urge him to keep running. Most people, the working-class, are never allowed to catch that prize.

If I truly love freedom as much as I claim, I asked myself, why do I support a system that denies it to the majority of the world? But on the other hand, what would even be an alternative? Centralizing everything and letting the state redistribute the resources in a way some self-proclaimed Benevolent Overlords deem just? That has been tried before and it always ends in tyranny. Socialism then was not an option, I concluded.

But that was because I had a fundamental as well as common misunderstanding about politics: that it’s all about centralised socialism/communism vs. decentralised capitalism. Discovering thinkers such as Noam Chomsky and other left-wing anarchists and libertarians opened my eyes to another option: voluntary socialism. That is: people of their own free will joining forces in a decentralised fashion to gain freedom from the shackles of the corporations as well as of the state, both which struggle for ownership of the people.

Voluntary solidarity among workers has already achieved a lot. Without workers’ unions, for example, child labour would still be common. So would 14 hours work days and workers having no paid vacations or even days off. Worker cooperatives are another example of how workers can help liberate each other.

Of course, raising solidarity among the oppressed takes a hell of a lot more time than some violent revolution to overthrow the current system. But if the culture does not change first, can the change brought on by a revolution persist?

Today I believe free, voluntary cooperation between workers is the greatest way we can liberate ourselves. Since becoming involved in workers’ rights activism, I witness every day both big and small ways people help each other out. Whether it’s holding demonstrations, starting co-ops together and just lending emotional support. There is so much we can do without having to ask for permission from the state or private exploiters.

I will be writing more on this in the future but for today I would like to end this post with a slogan we shouted at the syndicalist manifestation I attended yesterday (translated from Swedish):

We free the people and the people are us!

Winter is coming (in September)

2018 is election year in Sweden. A new government won’t be voted in until this fall but it’s already keeping me up at night.

Every poll shows the far-right Sweden Democrats to be either the second most popular or the most popular party. As September steadily approaches, I have to start planning what to do if a party who wants to strip me of my rights comes to power.

Because SD is a party who is known for its bigotry against minorities. Mostly racial (the party has its roots in the white power movement that swept the nation in the 90’s) but they have also shown that they despise LGBT people. High-ranking SD politicians have said vicious things about us and the party has voted against every single reform to improve our rights. Among other things, they were the only party who voted to continue the forced sterilization of trans people.

Being white, the racism of SD is one thing I know will not affect me personally. But I worry about what will happen to people of colour. Racist bigots will likely be emboldened by a SD victory and racist bashings could very well increase after the election. And who knows what racist reforms SD are going to try and pass.

Then there the many rainbow families I know. Will the government try to destroy them by taking children from their same-sex parents? Will same-sex marriage continue to be legal? Will trans people still have the right to change their legal gender? Or is it going to be like SD wants, that a person can only be legally defined by their biological sex?

These are some of the many questions I have and which have been giving me insomnia. I also ask myself what I’m supposed to do if the unthinkable happens and the Sweden Democrats actually win. My first thought was to get out of the country, perhaps immigrate to a more progressive place such as Iceland.

But then I got angry. Like in really fucking pissed. I don’t want to fucking run. This is my country too and I’m not going to leave. If SD, and the people who support them, want people like me out of Sweden, they’re going to have to push me out themselves.

The nice thing about anger is that when you’ve got enough of it, you stop giving a shit about the consequences. Maybe I’ll run out of it soon and get on a plane to Iceland with my tail between my legs. But right now I’m up for a fight. Bullies have tried to break my spirit since I was in freaking kindergarten, they haven’t succeeded yet and I’m not ready to let them win.

I’m not sure exactly where to go from here. I’m planning on connecting with likeminded people in my area and together we could make a game plan to fight SD. Not in a violent way. But somebody’s got to do something and there are many who are prepared to stand up for what’s right. If I don’t stand among them, I’ll never forgive myself.

I’m going to try and catch up on getting enough sleep and I’ll get to it. Definitely going to use my love of writing in this, so heads up, a lot more political posts coming.

 

A World Tour of Books: Terra Nullius by Claire G. Coleman (Australia)

Terra nullius is a Latin term which means “nobody’s land” and describes a territory free to be taken by whoever wishes to. Australia was declared such a terra nullius when it was colonised by Britain, despite the fact that it was the home of one of earth’s oldest cultures. Or rather cultures, as there are around 500 different Aboriginal groups.

The reason the British considered Australia to be nobody’s land was because they didn’t view the natives as human but rather part of the fauna, like kangaroos and koalas. They subsequently didn’t treat them with the dignity afforded to other humans and the history of the colonization of Australia is one filled with blood and oppression.

Terra Nullius is also the name of a novel by Aboriginal author Claire G. Coleman. It tells the story of the invasion of Australia – but with a twist.

This colonization does not take place in the past but the future, and the invaders do not come from beyond the ocean but from beyond the stars. Just like the British did not view the native Aboriginals as people, so do the new reptilian settlers not see the humans as their equals. They therefore do not allow them the same rights.

Many are kept as slaves, some women even used like breeding cattle. Children are taken from their families and communities, which are considered too stupid to take care of their own offspring. Everywhere, the colonizers of Earth are doing what they can to oppress the native humans and eliminate their desire to be their own people.

But there are still humans willing to fight for their freedom, despite seemingly impossible odds. Even a few reptilians, derogatorily referred to as “toads”, are prepared to stand by their side.

Terra Nullius is a fictional work but the truths it tells are very much relevant to us. It draws parallels between an imagine future and a real past to teach an uncomfortable but important lesson.

Lastly, I want to say: read this book. The story it tells will touch your heart and open your eyes.