Copyright © 2004-2007, Erica Zander
Erica Zander (Sweden)
A brief history:
I’m 50 years old and have been living full time as a woman since April 2001, the last 2-1/2 years as a legal female. I’ve known since age 5 or 6 that I should have been a girl, but the main obstacle to an understanding of my predicament probably was my sexuality: I loved and still love women & I’m totally uninterested in men …
… further complicated when my girlfriend didn’t have any problems to cope with my – as I thought – transvestism, and we had two lovely sons. When my two closest friends realized they were actually TS, it all got to be too threatening to my way of life, so in ’83 my trans side suddenly disappeared, and was gone without a trace for 7 years - the only “but” being that two years previously I had managed to get hormones without being officially classified as a transsexual. This took me 15 months with the Stockholm ‘TS team’ of the time – “You should know you are the first and probably also last non-TS to get estrogens !” – and as I was convinced this medication played a major part in the “disappearance” of my trans feelings, I never even considered dropping my hormones.
In 1990 I suddenly wrote a letter to one of my two TS friends saying that “maybe I’m a transsexual after all …?”, but it still took me seven traumatic years to accept the fact that I really was, and another year before I realized I actually had to do something about it. The first meeting with my doctor was in late Oct ’98 and – wanting to give me some credits for my 15 months 20 years ago – she sent my application to the authorities in early September 2000, when I had been living & working as a woman for only five months.
(The unofficial RLE standard in Sweden is “a year before your application”, which, with six months for a decision and another three for your appointment with Drs Kratz & Rinder, makes for a total of 21 months before your surgery. Add the extra months some doctors need to actually write the application, and a few doctors’ personal conviction that the RLE should be two years, and you have some trans people in Sweden being forced to a three year RLE …… but thanks to my very pragmatic doctor I would have managed with just 14 months – hadn’t it been for some vacations getting in the way, prolonging my wait with another 2,5 months.)
An interesting fact is that in spite of “not really understanding” during those traumatic years between ‘90 & ’97, the day when I finally dared to realize where it was at, I found myself already wearing waist length hair and five rings in my ears; The workings of the mind !
From my personal point of view, the most beautiful part of all this is that my partner of thirty years is still with me, and our sons & their girlfriends don’t seem to mind in the least that I’m now a woman.
On the other hand the most frustrating part was that Swedish law forced us to “apply” for a divorce, but having always been engaged in different kinds of trans activism, this was my excuse to get in touch with some trans & homo sympathetic members of the Swedish Parliament, and during 1999 & 2000 our very personal trauma was mentioned in at least five different political petitions. Now undeniably having left our footprints in Swedish trans and homo politics we had no big problems actually filing for a divorce in the summer of 2000 - the week after our 25th wedding anniversary.
As for trans/homo/whatever activism, it seems that either you are or you aren’t, either you have it or you don’t; I found the Swedish chapter of FPE when I was 18, and in spite of actually being too young to be a member, I soon found myself belonging to the core group, within a few years I was an experienced subject of academic interviews, newspaper articles, radio …
… and with time I was on the board of the organization, was in charge of their mail-box, took care of prospective members, was the cashier et cetera.
After 15 years of hibernation I had lost all contact with the trans/gay community, and when I took my first tentative steps into this world again, just over five years ago, I literally didn’t know anyone … but immediately was asked to participate in the planning of an Inter Gender seminar for that summer’s Euro Pride, I helped organize James Green’s visit to Stockholm that fall, wrote articles for the gay press and was featured in a very good newspaper interview on the queer community. Since then I’ve held numerous seminars on trans problems at small town local RFSL clubs and some seminars at different Swedish universities. I participated in an Amnesty discussion on trans discrimination in the world & - I love this one ! – was asked by the Anarcha feminists to explain transsexualism to them, so that they wouldn’t repeat the mistakes of the radical feminists with regard to trans women.
In December 2001 there was a widely acclaimed TV documentary about me on national television, and exactly a year later, the same journalist followed this success with a 1-hour documentary about me and my partner. It seated approx 10% of the Swedish population in front of their TV:s, and judging from the comments we had from strangers in town, this fundamentally changed their views on transsexualism. During last week’s Stockholm Pride, it was also obvious how much visibility like this means to everyone in the LGBT community; never before have I had so many gay guys telling me that the program was nothing short of lovely, or so many strange lesbians professing me their love.
To end this on a more sober note: Since March of this year I’m also on the board of RFSL – The Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights.
Erica of today
I have a Master’s degree in Technical Physics and work as a manager in a totally male dominated business, but so far have had no problems being accepted as a woman. Even the guys in my group seem to see my transition as an interesting change from the ordinary drag (sic!), and they all treat me with respect and friendly humor. As for my female colleagues, they very naturally let me into their special sphere.
Erica of today is probably considered to be slightly un-orthodox for her age, in that I still wear my hair very long, prefer dyke style silver jewelry, and love to drive really big motor bikes. Last summer I and my (former) wife even rented a Moto Guzzi California in Italy for our vacation - which was quite an experience, I can assure you; two middle aged ladies on a huge bike – and only a few weeks ago we drove from San Francisco to Vancouver B.C. and back in a convertible with the top down; I just love being a woman !!
My book TransActions was published in May of this year… and if you want to take a look at it, you’ll find it by clicking here.
What I set out to do was to write the kind of book I had wanted to read 20 years ago, but which didn’t exist at the time. Judging from the response I’ve had from both gay, trans and straight friends & colleagues, and very straight American relatives, I have actually succeeded in writing a book which most people find to be worth the while to read: an honest, serious and humorous book of which I’m very proud.
August 9, 2003.
Some photos of Erica:
Some photos from 2006:
Time sure flies when you're having fun, and without going through all my e-mails I really have no idea when we were last in touch - but I hope everything is just fine with you !
I wanted to tell you about the incredible& totally lovely events of Friday Oct 15th, at the Bitch Girl Club here in Stockholm .. an evening of such immense trans political proportions that I think it should be mentioned in other trans media; here are some stories about it in Swedish magazines:
Silvia Magazine, Oct 16, 2004
Corky Magazine, Oct. 16, 2004
This club first saw the light of day - or night . ? - in 1994, and for the next nine years Birgitta Jakobsson and her allies opened its gates to some 600-1000 women once every fortnight. This actually qualified 'Bitch' for the title of Europe's biggest lesbian club.
Birgitta & the others - her wife Ingrid, notorious safety guard Mille & wife Kateri, and then Helena, who is an explicitly open lesbian on a number of big business company boards - then decided to take a break, but of course sent internet & magazine invitations out for a grand 10-yr birthday party Friday two weeks ago - including a very personal invitation, by telephone, to yours truly, to make sure I would be there - which I probably wouldn't have otherwise, as I never knew these ladies especially well & visited the club only twice over the last six years.
Why they wanted me there . ? They had unanimously decided that I should have their tenth annual Woman Of The Year Award !?! Previous awardees (?) include author Mian Lodalen, photographer Elisabeth "Ecce Homo" Ohlson, documentary movie director Cecilia Neant-Falk, singer-songwriter & Swedish dyke icon Eva Dahlgren, and some other lovely lesbians .. and now they had decided to give it to a transsexual woman; Totally impossibly lovely, and probably one of the most powerful trans statements anyone ever made in Sweden !!
That this happened almost to the day two years after I was close to being lynched at the radical feminist hang-out Kvinnohuset - p. 336-339 in my book - only contributed to making it even more amazing & noteworthy !
Why they chose me ? I'm still dazed & confused, and never really grasped this, but I think that it's probably because of my stubbornness when it comes to being out & proud in the media, at conferences et cetera - both as a transsexual & as a dyke. But still - could this really suffice to make me into an icon also for young(er) lesbians . ? I seriously doubted this, but when Birgitta announced me as this year's winner of the award, all those 900+ women - most of them in their 20s or 30s - very noisily showed their approval, and when I gave my little speech about my more than thirty years in the LGBT community, they all stood there looking up at me with sparkling eyes & someone at the back of the room interrupted me with a loud "you're so fuckin' beautiful !" .. and Birgitta, our hostess, was there with me on the stage, in a blackish silver dress - not the most common choice for middle aged dykes ! - all the while looking at me with a lovely smile and absolutely heartwarming tenderness in her eyes.
Add that when we first got there, Mille - dressed in a stately tuxedo - met T & me outside the place, and after greeting us with a deep bow she escorted us through the crowd waiting to get in. She took our coats, and then showed us the way to the lounge, where we had as much free champagne as we wanted .. and that several of the in-crowd ladies tentatively asked me about the rumors that I would be the tenth name on the list . ? When I claimed not to know, they all said that they hoped the rumors were true .. that it was almost 1 a.m. before the ceremony started - which usually isn't the most suitable time to interrupt a party for serious stuff - but all those lovely young women acted like they were there just for me .. and that Birgitta seems to be at least as happy as I am; I'm almost embarrassed by this attention - and she invited us over for a nice, intimate dinner, with the other ladies on her club committee, just to thank me for being there for her. During this incredible dinner party - Mille used to be a restaurant chef, Birgitta still is, and once even created a brand new desert for a lunch where our king would be among her guests - Birgitta told us that the moment when she introduced me as this year's winner, and the audience simply didn't want to stop cheering & clapping hands, was the proudest one in her life, so far.
What did I do to deserve even half of this ???
e r i c a
Translation from the Swedish lesbian electronic/web magazine Sylvia. Published Saturday Oct 16th.
Text by the editors, no photos from this article available with enough pixels.
"To the day ten years after the first ever Bitch Girl party, a thousand dykes danced their asses off at Stockholm’s Bitch Girl Club."
It was just like in the good old days, when Bitch celebrated their first ten years as a club - loads of beautiful girls partying and dancing, Birgitta in her traditional silver lamé dress, and the annual Woman Of The Year award to be announced.
This year, the award was given to two women, both of whom, in their own rights, have been pioneers. Cecilia Neant-Falk, presently in India to introduce her “Don’t you worry, it will probably pass” documentary, about young lesbians, at the first ever Indian gay film festival.
The second award was given to Erica Zander, transsexual woman and author of “TransActions”, whose openness about her situation has been an inspiration to many. With her on the stage was Titti, her partner of more than thirty years.”
From Corky, published the same day.
Text by Emily Forler, photos by Chavah Selander.
“Bitch Girls Club ten years"
Bitch, the women’s club, woke up from its hibernation just in time to celebrate the tenth anniversary of its first ever party. In most respects things were like they have always been at this now classic dyke club, and loads of happy girls were there to celebrate the event.
As always, there was a Woman Of The Year Award ceremony, and this time the title was given to two women. Cecilia Neant-Falk was praised for her documentary “Don’t you worry, it will probably pass”, and Erica Zander, author of “TransActions”, was given the award for her openness as a transsexual woman. Cecilia, being in India for the time being, regrettably couldn’t participate in the ceremony, but Erica came on the stage to be enthusiastically celebrated by the audience.
Some Bitch history: There was no award the first year. In ’96, it was given to author Mian Lodalen, the following year Cecilia Neant-Falk & Nina Bergström shared the award for their “Women friends” documentary about aging lesbians, then “Ecce Homo” photographer Elisabeth Ohlson, singer/songwriter Eva Dahlgren [EZ comment: she and her registered partner Efva Attling are our first nation-wide dyke icons; Efva is a recording artist & silver smith whose necklace is worn by Madonna in one of her videos], and Corky creators & dyke party organizers Nenne, Gunilla & Jessica. In 2001 the award was given to Maria Ahlsdotter & Maria Rothberg, of Swedish national LGBT organization RFSL, for their Belarus project, then Jessica Johansson, of fellow web magazine Sylvia, and last year Tiina Rosenberg, Stockholm University professor excelling in theatre, gender & queer theory.”
Some photos from 2006:
August '06 issue of Swedish LGBT mag QX - their thickest ever - was available
across the country a few days before the inauguration of our magnificent
Stockholm Pride ... which made me even happier that chief editor Anders Öhrman
had asked lesbian jornalist Mian Lodalen to write the piece, and "Ecce Homo"
photographer Elisabeth Ohlson to take the pics."
"As for Elisabeth's lovely photo, it measured an impressive 35x35 cm (14"x14"), and was allowed more than one full page; It sure felt strange when, one evening shortly after Pride, the guy next to me at the Torget bar counter spread his mag open so that this photo was right next to my beer, and then read the two-page "From straight man to proud dyke" interview without giving me even a glance; The anonymity of cities ... I just love it!"
Photo by Elisabeth Ohlson
"V-Day, as in
Valentine, Victory & Vagina - a world-wide women's pride movement, celebrating
women's sexuality, denouncing violence against women & girls. Its foundation is
Eve Ensler's Vagina monologues. In 2006 more than 1050 V-Days were arranged in
54 countries. For the first ever Stockholm edition, 11th March '06, students,
professional actors, politicians, pastors, theatre directors - and one
transsexual woman - were asked to perform the monlogues. Master minds behind
this event were Tina and Helene Delilah from
the Stockholm Chapter of RFSU."
Photo by Carl Johan Rehbinder
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