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Transsexual granted right to change name to Immanuel

Charlotte West · 9 Apr 2009, 15:21

Published: 09 Apr 2009 15:21 GMT+02:00

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Both the Swedish Tax Agency (Skatteverket) and the county administrative court have previously denied the request for a name change on the basis that Immanuel was an unsuitable name for a woman.

This is not the first such case to come before the Swedish courts. In November, Jan-Olov Ågren, a male cross-dresser from Norrbotten in northern Sweden, was handed a similar victory in his bid to go by the name Madeleine.

But the Swedish Tax Agency (Skatteverket) had previously rejected Ågren’s application to have his name changed to Jan-Olov Madeleine Ågren on the grounds that it is not appropriate for a man to have a woman’s name.

Both Immanuel Brändemo and Ågren had their cases heard in Sundsvall.

“This is the first time that the administrative court of appeals has ruled that gender shouldn't play any role in an adult's choice of name. You can be called Madeleine even if (your birth certificate) says 'man', and you can be called Immanuel even if it says 'woman' - at least until the Supreme Administrative Court has its say,” Brändemo writes in his blog.

Brändemo and Ågren have anxiously waited to see if the Tax Authority will appeal the decisions. After the ruling in his favour, Ågren said he was holding off changing the name on his official documents, lest his new name be taken away.

“What’s important is the general feeling of having the right to a name which I’ve always considered my own,” he told Norrbottens-Kuriren newspaper.

Brändemo also welcomed the positive ruling, even it the final outcome is still uncertain.

“Together we (Jan-Olov Madeleine and I) have, if only temporarily, changed the prevailing legal norms. In other cases, people have referred to the fact that gender SHOULD matter, and when people's names have been approved it's been due to personal reasons, for instance a medical confirmation of transsexualism,” he writes.

Brändemo continued that he might have been able to get medical documentation to support his case, but he opted not to:

“It's not about me; the question is not whether I am transsexual enough to pass the 'test', but if gender really should matter. Sex does matter sometimes, but sometimes justice is temporarily gender blind. It requires legislative action to change legal precedents, and for me personally, it has taken more than two years before I received a single affirmative ruling.”

Lars Tegenfeldt of the Tax Agency recently confirmed that Skatteverket is planning to appeal.

“The administrative court of appeals in Sundsvall has granted two individuals the right to have names that do not normally belong to their gender. At the same time, the administrative court of appeals in Gothenburg has denied similar petitions.

"Therefore we are unclear about which should apply. And to clarify the matter we are planning to appeal to the Supreme Administrative Court of Sweden,” he told Norrbottens-Kuriren.

Story continues below…

The Swedish Ombudsman against discrimination has spoken out in support of the recent rulings.

“The administrative court of appeals has upheld the principle of everyone's equal value and rights, which is an important cornerstone of our democracy,” said Equality Ombudsman Katri Linna.

“Names are an important element of person's identity. This ruling therefore is of great significance to all transgendered individuals.”

Since January 1st, Swedish anti-discrimination measures have also applied to sexual orientation or identity. An individual may not be discriminated against if he or she breaks prevailing gender norms.

Charlotte West (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

21:42 April 9, 2009 by Stüpid
So, I hope she can find Immanuela some day in her life.
21:55 April 9, 2009 by Gwrhyr
Good ruling, I hope it sticks. I never liked how the state gets involved in people's names here. That power is always stretched too far in the wrong direction. If they're going to limit names, they ought to keep gender out of it and just prohibit profanities, since the only argument touted for the state being able to approve or disapprove of names is so people don't name themselves or their child Poopface or Bastardette, yet when this issue pops up in the news, it's never about names like that, but rather names that are perfectly fine for people in the 21st century to have if they want. (Yes, I'm talking about Sofia Dark Knight. Honestly I think if the tax agency denies your name, you should be exempt from paying taxes, but still receive all the benefits paid for by taxes).
15:16 April 10, 2009 by Shark99 - The Great Catsby
I found those name changes tame, and should have been allowed. Afterall, some nutter here in the States named their son Adolf Hitler.
15:27 April 10, 2009 by Miss Kitten
I remember reading an article about how they attempted to sue Walmart for refusing to write "Happy Birthday, Adolf!" on a birthday cake for the kid.

That same couple also has a daughter named Aryan Nation. Nice, huh?
18:28 April 10, 2009 by Mzungu
Which brings to the point,who the bloody hell cares?

*it's open season*

23:44 April 10, 2009 by Princess P
I would take that one step further and say that, although I think Poopface is a really bad name for a child, it should be the right of the parents to name their child Poopface is that is what they want. When the tax office carry the child for 9 months and then spend 24+ hours labour squeezing it out, then they can have a say. Until then they should sod off and do tax stuff.

When I have a son I'm going to name him Sue!
23:48 April 10, 2009 by 7
yeah, i still don't get the majority of the restrictions, especially the gender-based ones. you can name a boy annika if you have it as a gårdsnamn in the family. you can't name a boy annika if you don't.
15:06 April 13, 2009 by Madeleine Å
Yes, it is really strange that Swedish courts and authorities so far have denied grownup people the right to freely choose among quite common first names regardless of biological sex. Or rather legal sex to be more precise. Since that is all that they know and can base their decisions on. All this without any support in the law itself.

Hopefully these two court rulings is a step away from "traditional" normative thinking and a step closer to less intervention from the state in these matters.

Please note that these court decisions are about improving grownup peoples right to name themselves. Not about parents right to name their children in any way they like. These are really two different matters.

The fact that the authority handling peoples names is called Skatteverket (the Tax Authority) does not mean that it is only dealing with taxes. It has other missions as well. Keeping track of people's names is one of them.
09:07 April 14, 2009 by Nemesis
In Swedden transsexual people have been able to change there name legally since 1972.

If a person does not go through the transsexual medical process, they will be refused by the Skat office.

The two people mentioned have not went through medical process's, so therefore are not transsexual. Most likely they are transvestites, trying to use a law for transseuxal people.

Journalists should check the legal facts in these cases before printing a story. If they journalist had, it would have been noticed that these people have not supplied the relevant medical/legal material to the Skat office.

If someone claims to be trnassexual, ask for proof, such as a letter from a clinician. A lot of transvestites claim they are transsexual when they are not.
09:58 April 14, 2009 by 7
people shouldn't have to provide any proof of a sex change to decide their own names even if it doesn't match their sex.
10:36 April 14, 2009 by Madeleine Å
Nemesis, you are really not checking the facts here. "The two people" in question have not even in their application to add new first name claimed that they are transsexual. That's the whole point. This issue is about not having to be transsexual to decide what names to have. Grownup people should be allowed to decide that for themselves.

Besides, the Swedish name law says nothing about transsexuals. Actuallt it says nothing about so called gender contrary first names at all. That concept has been invented by authorities and courts and has no support in the law itself.

You are talking about the law that regulates how transsexuals (and intersexuals) are assigned new official sex. That is another thing. Where in that law is it written about name changes? And why should that limit other people's freedom of choice?
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