France embraces progress after all 

Last night around 8 p.m. the results of the French elections were announced and to my relief Macron won with 65% of votes.

Lately I have been worrying more and more about the rise of the far-right in Europe and it has made me question some of my plans in life. If I get married, how do I know my legal union will not be made invalid in a couple of years? Dare I adopt any children? Will a far-right state one day take them away from me because they deem LGBTQ people unfit to care for kids? 

Many great things have happened in the last decades when it comes to LGBTQ rights. But there is so much hatred still, lurking beneath the surface. In many churches, even here in progressive Sweden, they still preach hate against people like us. I know because I grew up in one of those churches. There is far more enmity against us than they dare show openly and many are preparing, binding their time until they get a chance to strip us of our rights. 

But for now we can breathe a little bit more freely. France didn’t choose the path of bigotry and hopefully it will influence the rest of Europe. 

Next year there will be an election on my country. Two parties have actively been fighting LGBTQ rights. One is a small, nearly extinct Christian right party but the other one is a far-right party with roots in neo-nazism and it has increasingly grown in popularity over the last couple of years. 

I’m thinking about getting involved in political activism next year and join the fight against these destructive forces. I haven’t decided yet what party I’ll join but it will be either the Centre Party or the Liberal Party. Either way I’m ready and will not give up my rights without a fight. 

6 months on T and still waiting for a real change + some thoughts on the French elections

Today is exactly six months since I started testosterone. A lot of good things have happened. I’m definitely hairier than I used to be. My muscles are a bit more well-defined. My mood is more stable than it’s ever been. My voice has dropped, not as much as I’d like to but it’s definitely darker than before. 

But even with all that has changed, overall my life has not. I get read as female on a daily basis. Not even having my breasts remove in February has changed that. At work, at the store, on the train… It seems I’m just as invisible a man as I was six months ago. 

Even at home it’s the same. Like many Swedish people in their mid-twenties I have no choice but to live with my parents due to the housing crisis. I get called she and my birth name all the time. It’s obvious by now that my family will never respect that I am a man. I try not to care because I know it will never change. But it still feels shitty and with the state of the housing crisis I’ll be lucky if I get my own apartment before I’m 30. 

Socially and romantically things are also as dead as they were six months ago. I hate going out. I don’t like being around people because, apart from a handfull of friends who truly se me, I’m seen as someone I’m not wherever I go.

Romantically is where it hits me the hardest, though. The only people who find me even remotely desirable are queer women who think I’m a butch lesbian. But I love men. I want a man to love me as another man but I’m invisible to other men who love men. 

Apart from some sexual experiences with women, which I didn’t find arousing or even interesting, unvoluntary celibacy has been my lot. It will probably continue to be for some time. My first real relationship is another thing I’ll be happy if I get to experience before I’m 30. 

On a happier note: I’m expecting to get an appointment next month to the endocrinologist. Up till now I’ve had to go through a doctor in Britain to get my T prescription, which has been quite expensive but still worth it. I also hope the Swedish doc will put me on injections instead of gel. Not being able to do things like exercise or go swimming for must of the day is a real bummer and then there’s the whole thing with always having to worry about cross -contamination. I don’t know how true this is because I keep hearing contradictory statements from both docs and other trans guys but I’ve heard injections are more effective and bring on more changes more quickly, so let’s hope it’s the case. 

Not much else is happening in my life. I focus on my work and my writing, although the latter is going more slowly than I’d like due to problems with my computer. I paid to get it repaired but they fucked it up even more than it was before so now it’s in repairs again. Hopefully I’ll get it back soon and working properly. 

This hasn’t been a happy post and quite frankly I kind of feel like shit today. In an couple of hours the French elections will be over and then a gay-hating, racist bigot could be the new president. Everybody says the center liberal candidate Macron will win by a landslide but I don’t trust humans enough to just assume they’ll make the less insane choice. I mean, just look at what happened in the US elections.

It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if Le Pen won. It could be the start of a massive wave of LGBTQ-phobia and racism spreading all over Europe and that scares the hell out of me. 

But there is no point in despairing before we know the results. Whatever happens I’ll update with a post tomorrow. 

A World Tour of Books: Nip the Buds, Shoot the Kids by Kenzaburo Oe (Japan)

​This post will contain spoilers.


I have to admit that until recently I knew very little about Japanese literature (unless you count manga into that category). Haruki Murakami was the only Japanese author I could name and only because he has such an international success.  

I started looking into different writers from the land of the rising sun and one stuck out in particular: 1994 Nobel Prize winner Kenzaburo Oe. 

Oe is a writer who often writes about social issues and his style of writing (which he himself refers to as “grotesque realism”) points at the injustices in society. Many of his characters are marginalised people who challenge the statues quo and who, as the outsiders they are, can see through its lies and hypocrisies.

The Oe novel I have chosen to read for this post is his first published fiction work Nip the Buds, Shoot the Kids. It tells the story of a group of reformatory boys who are evacuated to a remote mountain village during World War II. There they are despised by the villagers and treated very poorly. When a plague breaks out they are forced to bury the animals that have died from the illness. Because the villagers couldn’t care less if these reformatory children catch the disease and die.

The next day the boys realise that they have been abandoned. Apart from them is just the corpse of a woman who has already died from the plague and her surviving daughter who refuses to leave her side. 

The boys try to make the best of their situation. Without the oppression from the villagers who hate them they enjoy a relative and short-lived freedom. They meet a Korean boy name Li, who teaches them the hunt small birds and together they organise a festival. The narrator and main protagonist even experiences his first love with the girl left behind by the villagers.

But she is soon infected with the plague and dies. Shortly thereafter the villagers return. 

After having disemboweled and killed a runaway soldier who was hiding in the village, they threaten the children and tell them to lie about the fact that they were abandoned for days. All the boys agree, except for the narrator. At the end of the novel he is chased into the forest by the villagers. What happens next is never revealed.

It is believed that the village in the novel is inspired by Oe’s own home village on the island of Shikoku. There he witnessed how war tore apart the people and the cruelties it led them to. His experiences during World World II led him to become a pacifist and peace activist, which he is to this day. 

Nip the Bud, Shoot the Kids is not for the faint of heart but it is an important and powerful story. A great place to start if you want to become more acquainted with Oe’s work and with Japanese literature in general.

A World Tour of Books: Zeina by Nawal El Saadawi (Egypt) 

We are now at the third stop on our world tour of books and at the first stop on the African continent: Egypt.

For this country I have picked a book by a brave and fascinating woman by the name of Nawal El Saadawi. She is a well-known social activist in the Arabic world and has been fighting for decades against social injustices such as the oppression of women. Her writing has caused her to be imprisoned and later having to flee her country. Still, she persists to fight for what she believes in. 

El Saadawi’s novel Zeina is about an esteemed literary critique named Bodour. She lives a comfortable upper-class life with her husband and daughter and it seems she should be enjoying herself. But Bodour is plagued by shameful secret: when young she abandoned her newborn baby, a child born out of a forbidden love. 

That child grows up to be Zeina, one of Egypt’s most beloved entertainers. Despite growing up as a poor child on the streets she becomes a singer and poet, fearlessly rebelling against social conventions through her art. 

Her classmate Mageeda both admires and envies the beautiful and talented Zeina. Not knowing that they are in fact sisters and have the same biological mother, Bodour, who tormented by memories is writing a fictionalised account of what happened in her youth.

But the novel goes missing. Who stole it? Will Bodour ever find it again? 

Zeina is one of the best written books I’ve read in a while. The prose is amazing and the way El Saadawi dissects both the emotional life of her characters and the hypocrisies of her culture is merciless and often shocking. 

One thing which was bit confusing at first was how often the perspective changed between characters, sometimes after just a few paragraphs. But you get used to it after a while and overall Zeina was a great read. I now understand why Nawal El Saadawi is so often named as a candidate to the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Numb

If there’s a word to describe how I’ve been feeling since Friday it’s that one. Numb. I didn’t feel much when I first heard of the terrorist attack in my country’s capital. Especially not surprise.

Terrorist attacks in Europe are so common now that when a new one happens it isn’t much of a shock even if it’s still horrifying. Sad to say but it’s starting to feel like the new normal. 

That it would happen in Sweden was more or less inevitable. We have one of Europe’s highest numbers of members and sympathisers of ISIS and the government here is known to be especially lack with punishing these fuckers. The only thing that surprised me a little bit was that the attack happened in Stockholm and not in my birth city of Gothenburg, known to be one of Europe’s biggest recruiting grounds for ISIS. 

I’ve been hearing people say that we need to keep doing everything the same to show the terrorists they aren’t winning. But realistically we can’t pretend we are just as safe as before. Earlier this year I already made the decision to not attend any Pride parades anymore. After the Pulse massacre and knowing the hatred these ISIS fucks have for LGBTQ-people, I can no longer feel safe doing that. And I’d rather avoid getting shot or ran over by a truck than make a statement about not being afraid. 

I’m probably not the only one feeling this way and maybe that’s a small victory for the terrorists in the short run. But they won’t win. Rationality, science and atheism are the way of the future. We must never stop fighting for a secular and logical society if we want the world to be a better place.

There is nothing these religious lunatics fear more than just that and maybe that’s why they hate the modern world so much. Maybe the childish minds of the very religious can’t handle living in a world where magical thinking doesn’t work and things aren’t real just because they have faith that it is.

Well, that’s their problem.  Willful stupidity and ignorance can win over science and rationality as much as a rabbit can beat an elephant to death. The religious terrorists’ childish fears cannot and will not stop progress.

Still, right now I feel numb. The nightmare inducing images (that some sick people shared on social media. Seriously, who does that?) from the attack are etched in my mind. The horror feels at once surreal and far too real to comprehend. 

But maybe it’s okay to take some time to let everything sink in. Recharge the batteries before planning what to do next. Because I sure will not just sit on my ass while religious fools are killing children on the streets of my country in an attempt to force their religion on everyone else. 

I haven’t decided yet what I’m going to do. I’m thinking about getting involved  in a Swedish organisation that fights for a secular society.

Right now, though, I’m going to go ahead and feel numb. Then I’ll probably feel dread and sorrow. And then, like my country, I’ll get back up and keep going.

Back at work 

I went back to work last week after my 6 weeks sick leave. It’s the same company and kind of work as before but it’s at a new location, an industrial area on the edge of town. A really boring place that looks like it was designed to reflect the mindset of someone with severe depression. 

It could put me in a shitty mood but mostly it’s just compels me to continue on working towards a better life for myself. One day I’ll get out of this drudgery. Just fucking watch me.

At least this boring fucking place inspired a poem I wrote the other day (based on real events):


Drowned in the grey 


Winter snow has turned to spring rain 

The black of the sky has faded to grey 

My soul is an animal trapped in a concrete cage

All around me are walls of stone and sand 

Metal bars holding it all upp, holding our hope out 

Beneath here is a river 

Its water as grey as the sky above and the gravel beneath 

My friend once found a body on its shore 

A woman tired of the drudge had thrown herself away

And drowned in the grey 

I’m 3,3% Neanderthal and other things I learned from my DNA test 

Back in December I ordered a DNA kit from the company 23andMe because I was curious about what my genome could tell me about me. Several weeks later I got this box in the mail:

In it was this little plastic tube I had to spit into:

Then I put the tube back into the box and had it shipped to the 23andMe lab in the Netherlands. Fast forward two and a half months later and I got an email that my results were in.

The first thing I checked out in my online 23andMe profile was how many procent of my DNA was inherited from Neanderthal ancestors. The reason is that I kind of have a nerdy fascination with this extinct species of humans and was eager to know if I’m in anyway related to them. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that I am actually in the 99th percentile, meaning 99% of 23andMe users have lower Neanderthal DNA than I have! 

It can seem a weird thing to be happy about but I’m kinda weird so there you go. Having a high procentage of Neanderthal DNA can also tell you something about you. It has been discovered for example that it can lead to having a higher risk for depression but also a better immunity to certain diseases.

Then I looked at my ancestry. Having a French father and a French-Swedish mother I was curious of what it might look like. This is what I found:

As expected I was mostly French. But as was a little bit surprised to find out I was more British and Irish than Scandinavian. Overall I think it was cool to be able to see my ancestry all over Europe, from Finland to the Iberian peninsula. 

Next I looked up what genes I may have that carried potential for different medical conditions:

To my relief I didn’t find anything unusual and worrying. But certain features were locked, like info on whether you have the genes for Alzheimers and breast cancer. It seems you have to ask to have that unlock, probably because a lot of people prefer not to know when it comes to these conditions. I’m myself still pondering whether or not I want these features unlocked.

You can also look up other interesting genetic traits you have:

Some are not that super interesting, like the texture of your earwax. But others can be very helpful to know. Like for example I learned I have a higher number of fast-twitching muscle fibers, which makes me better for strength training than endurance training: 

This has actually helped me make a decision. I’ve been pondering lately if I should focus on running or go back to weight training. As I’m genetically much more built for strength training that’s what I’ve decided to focus on. After the 5K I have in the beginning of May, I’ll get back to the gym! 

The 23andMe website has other cool features to help you learn more about yourself, like it can help you find genetic relatives. This has actually helped people who are adopted reconnect with their biological families. 

You can also browse raw data if you’re looking for specific genes:

There is even a website you can upload your genome information to and learn more about your genetic makeup. A word of warning though: you might learn some things you would have preferred not to know. 

Overall I’m glad I took this test. I learned a lot of interesting things about myself  that I wouldn’t have known otherwise. I’m definitely not done researching my DNA and I hope to continue learning more about it. 


Here is the link to the 23andMe website if you’re interested in taking their DNA test: 23andme.com

The Swedes are coming out of hibernation, first post-op picks and other random stuff

Yesterday marked my one month post top surgery and life is going pretty good. The infection I had cleared up nicely and it looks like I will get to keep both my nipples! 

I’ll put some pics at the end of this post if you wanna see or skip if you don’t want to.

My mood is definitely up. The sun is shining and it looks like spring is on its way. Winter is so depressing in Scandinavia, so cold and dark it feels like living in a fridge which has a broken light. So when it ends it feels like the world and the people in it are coming back to life. I say that spring is the time when the Swedes are reborn and coming out of hibernation.

The future feels brighter than it has ever been and not just because the sun is shining. With my top surgery done and my mobility soon fully recovered I will finally get to do so many things I’ve wanted to for I long time but never could. I’m looking forward to start dating, go to the swimming pool and walk with my shirt off in the sun.

I also registered for a 5k in a couple months and will start training for it as soon as I get a OK from the surgeon to start exercising against. Even bought myself a brand new pair of running shoes as a congratulation gift to myself for having top surgery. 

Another interesting thing that happened recently is that I learned my doc had been giving me the wrong dosage of Strattera, my ADD meds. Someone my age and weight should be on 80-90 mg a day but I have been on only 40 mg a day since starting. I’m definitely better off than before I was medicated but I still struggle a lot with a shitty attention span. Going up to the right dosage could improve my symptoms even more and help me reach my full potential. Perhaps I’ll even be able to be more productive in my writing. 

Below are my first post-op pics. I was a little nervous showing them since I’m a bit chubby and my torso has a weird shape (crooked spine) but here we go (that yellow stuff is not dirt btw, just residue from the bandages. Took this right before getting in the shower): 

A World Tour of Books: The Road by Jack London (United States)

When starting my World Tour of Books I decided to not go by any specific order. That way it will make things more interesting as my reader will not know from post to post where the next stop on our journey will be.
So, after having read the first book in the tour I had not specific plan on where to continue next.
One evening I was lying in my bed and happened to look up at a bookshelf in my room when my eyes landed on the two novels The Call of The Wild and White Fang by Jack London. These were my two absolute favorite books as a child and it hit me that I associated a lot of things in London’s work with the United States: rugged individualism, the great Western wild and what we call “The American Dream”.
I decided that one of London’s book would be a great choice for our stop in the US of A. I looked through a bibliography of Jack London and became immediately interested in his autobiographical work The Road when I learned it inspired Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, which just happens to be my favorite book of all times.
In The Road London tells of his time when he was a train hopping hobo. It was in the 1890s and the US was experiencing its worst economic crisis in its history up till then. London would travel from town to town and often had to resort to begging for a living. It was during that time in his life that he first mastered the art of storytelling, as he would make up sap stories to try and win the sympathy of those he begged from.
During his travels and his stay at the Erie County Penitentiary, where he spent 30 days for vagrancy, London met the poorest and most marginalised of society. He witnessed the desperation of his time, but also the resilience and ingenuity of people just trying to survive. This influenced him greatly and he would later become a passionate social activist.
The Road was a great read about a fascinating man in a difficult time. This book as well as Jack London’s other works are a must-read for anyone interested in American literary history.

2 weeks post-op: upswing in mood despite infection

TMI/Grossness Warning!

 

On Monday I had my second post-op check-up and has soon as the nurse removed my bandages I knew something was wrong. I had felt an odor since the day before and now I could see pus. The nurse left the room after cleaning my scars to get the doctor and he told me what I already suspected: I have an infection.

I’m now on antibiotics to try to fight it but the doc informed me that there is a risk that I could lose one or both of my nipples. The left one especially looks pretty bad while the right one seems to heal a bit better.

I was aware that this is one of the risks of top surgery and I took it into account. Top surgery was something I really needed so this doesn’t makes me regret anything but it still sucks.

The infection is only in the nipples so the good news is that the other scars are healing well.

Also on a more positive note: my mood in the last week has been much better than the previous one. I’ve been able to be more mobile so I have been more active, which is in my experience the most important thing for me to not fall into a depressive state. I’ve been doing a lot of writing and reading and been out on walks so that also helps.

Now I just hope this infection clears up soon. Fingers crossed.