• Sweden's news in English

Swedish transgendereds battle for forced sterilization payouts

27 Feb 2013, 08:23

Published: 27 Feb 2013 08:23 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Sweden is often hailed as a forward-thinking society promoting equality for all, but transsexuals who had to accept to be sterilized to complete their sex changes on paper are pushing for compensation after a change in the law.

Nova Colliander, 31, who completed her transformation from man to woman in 2010, says she suffered discrimination when she was irreversibly sterilized as part of the sex change process.

"Beautiful Sweden, with its pretty red wooden cabins... But (the reality is that) forced sterilizations of transsexuals existed until 2013," she says.

"A lot of people want children, and it's crazy to think that we are different than anyone else in this regard. We want children just as much as anyone else."

Until last year, the operation was obligatory for transsexuals who wanted their sex change to be officially recognized by authorities, with their personal identity documents reflecting their new gender.

But in December, a Swedish court ruled that the practice of forced sterilizations, which dated back to a 1972 law on sexual identity, was unconstitutional and violated the European Convention on Human Rights.

The ruling was not appealed, and a ban therefore entered into force on January 10th.

"We didn't have the right to become parents, we didn't have the right to freeze our eggs or our sperm," explains Love Elfvelin, a 22-year-old who recently had a double mastectomy to become a man, and who will not have to undergo sterilization to complete the sex change.

The Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights (RFSL) is now preparing to help transgendereds who were sterilized under the old law to obtain damages.

So far, the government has refused to pay.

"Reading between the lines, they're saying they didn't do anything wrong," says Colliander.

"And by doing so, they're legitimizing the kind of violation we face."

Kerstin Burman, the lawyer who represents the 135 transsexuals who plan to file a complaint against the state in a few months' time, explains that "since lawmakers are not taking the initiative, we are building a legal case".

With the law now scrapped by the courts, "we have the state up against a wall", says Colliander.

"I'm disappointed, sad, and a little angry, I had expected more of my elected officials," she says.

"Sterilization was an unnecessary price to pay but if you indicated that you weren't willing to do it, that could have put an end to the (sex change) procedure, which was a matter of survival," she recalls matter-of-factly.

She says the government's refusal to pay damages is disappointing, given the fact that Sweden previously paid compensation to 230,000 victims of forced sterilizations under a eugenics programme from 1935 until 1996.

In 1999, the parliament adopted a law granting damages of 175,000 kronor ($27,000) to those victims.

At the RFSL offices in central Stockholm, Colliander and Elfvelin speak freely about their sex changes.

Colliander, a woman of a strong build and long sandy hair, wearing little make-up, is clad in black jeans and a long-sleeved T-shirt, a woolly cap on her head. Outgoing and friendly, her voice is that of a woman but she admits she is often "mistaken for a man".

Elfvelin, sitting with his legs comfortably spread apart, is slender with short brown hair and a few days' stubble, dressed casually in jeans and a plaid shirt.

There is little to indicate that he was born a woman except perhaps that he is not quite as tall as most Swedish men.

Both become more reserved when the subject turns to what the future holds for them.

Colliander, who got married on December 1st to someone whose gender she refuses to disclose, does not plan to have children.

But things are different for Elfvelin, who is in the process of officially changing his identity documents to show that he is now a man. He is one of the first transsexuals in Sweden who does not need to be sterilized to do so.

And he is ready to take another pioneering step, though he is not sure he will succeed.

"I think I'll be able to have my own biological children, but at the same time I'm very aware that that is something I really have to believe in in order to have the strength to fight that battle," he says.

Contrary to his idol, American "pregnant man" Thomas Beatie who retained his female reproductive organs to give birth to three children, Elfvelin does no plan to bear his own.

The first step will be to retrieve some of his eggs.

Story continues below…

"But first I'll have to stop taking my testosterone. Nobody knows how long I would have to stop for, and if my eggs are fertile" after taking testosterone for three years, he says.

"We don't know if it's going to work."

"I'm heterosexual but my partner isn't a woman," Elfvelin says, using the gender neutral pronoun "zie" to refer to his partner who he explains "doesn't want to be (gender) defined".

However, "zie will probably carry our child," he says.

For that to happen the couple would need a sperm donor, and then the embryo would be inseminated into Elfvelin's partner.

But since the egg is not his partner's and the sperm is not his, the insemination would be considered an embryo donation, which is banned in Sweden.

"With activism and politics we plan to try to get the law on embryo donation changed," Elfvelin says.

The next battle.

Camille Bas-Wohlert/AFP/The Local/dl

Follow The Local on Twitter

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

20:32 February 28, 2013 by HenryPollard
If the Swedes are weak enough to pay out on this issue, I have decided that I will be moving all of my money and businesses offshore. I can't contribute to the funding of something so illogical.

The Swedish state already pays for transsexuals to get boob jobs, penis removal, creation of a fake vagina, facial feminisation surgery, creation of a fake penis, breast removal.

This stuff is extremely expensive, and now they want more money because someone suggested that people who are claiming to be women shouldn't have sperm.
23:46 March 1, 2013 by theobserver
It is called Eugenics:

Practiced by the Nazis (until the end of WWII, 1945) and by Swedes (until 1975):

13:47 March 8, 2013 by rohermoker
Anything for a Dollar mean Kronar. Do they not understand contract law?
Today's headlines
Refugee crisis
Asylum requests in Sweden down by 70 percent
Sweden's migration minister Morgan Johansson. Photo: Christine Olsson/TT

Sweden received 70 percent fewer requests for asylum in the period between January and September 2016 than it did during the same time last year, the country’s justice and migration minister Morgan Johansson has revealed.

The unique story of Stockholm's floating libraries
The Stockholm archipelago book boat. Photo: Roger Hill.

Writer Roger Hill details his journeys on the boats that carry books over Stockholm's waterways and to its most remote places.

Refugee crisis
Second Stockholm asylum centre fire in a week
The new incident follows a similar fire in Fagersjö last week (pictured). Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Police suspect arson in the blaze, as well as a similar incident which occurred last Sunday.

More misery for Ericsson as losses pile up
Ericsson interim CEO Jan Frykhammar presenting its third quarter results. Photo: Claudio Bresciani/TT

The bad news just keeps coming from the Swedish telecoms giant.

Facebook 'sorry' for removing Swedish cancer video
A computer displaying Facebook's landing page. Photo: Christine Olsson/TT

The social media giant had censored a video explaining how women should check for suspicious lumps in their breasts.

Watch this amazing footage of Sweden’s landscapes
A still from the aerial footage of Sweden. Photo: Nate Summer-Cook

The spectacular drone footage captures both Sweden's south and the opposite extreme, thousands of kilometres north.

Sweden could be allowed to keep border controls: EU
Police ID checks at Hyllie station in southern Sweden. Photo: Stig-Åke Jönsson/TT

Sweden could be allowed to keep ID controls on its border with Denmark beyond the current end date of November, following discussions among EU leaders in Brussels last night.

Why women in Sweden will work for free by November
File photo of a woman working in a Swedish office. Photo: Anders Willund/TT

A new study into the gender pay gap suggests Sweden still has some work to do.

Look familiar? Meet your jawbone's ancestor
Thank God for evolution, eh?

There's something fishy about the human jawbone – it has its origins in the placodermi, a jowly species of fish that lived 400 million years ago, Swedish and Chinese researchers say.

Isis claims unremarked arson attack in Malmö
The arson attack took place on Norra Grängesbergsgatan in Malmö. File photo: Emil Langvad/TT

An arson attack in Malmö that caused only minor damage and was barely reported in the media has been claimed by terror group Isis.

Sponsored Article
This is Malmö: Football capital of Sweden
Fury at plans that 'threaten the IB's survival' in Sweden
Sponsored Article
Where is the Swedish music industry heading?
Here's where it could snow in central Sweden this weekend
Analysis & Opinion
Are we just going to let half the country die?
Blog updates

6 October

10 useful hjälpverb (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hej! I think the so-called “hjalpverb” (auxiliary verbs in English) are a good way to get…" READ »


8 July

Editor’s blog, July 8th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hej readers, It has, as always, been a bizarre, serious and hilarious week in Sweden. You…" READ »

Sponsored Article
7 reasons you should join Sweden's 'a-kassa'
Angry elk chases Swede up a lamp post
Sponsored Article
Why you should 'grab a chair' on Stockholm's tech scene
The Local Voices
'Alienation in Sweden feels better: I find myself a stranger among scores of aliens'
People-watching: October 20th
The Local Voices
A layover at Qatar airport brought this Swedish-Kenyan couple together - now they're heading for marriage
Sponsored Article
Stockholm: creating solutions to global challenges
Swede punches clown that scared his grandmother
Sponsored Article
Swedish for programmers: 'It changed my life'
Fans throw flares and enter pitch in Swedish football riot
Could Swedish blood test solve 'Making a Murderer'?
Sponsored Article
Top 7 tips to help you learn Swedish
Property of the week: Linnéstaden, Gothenburg
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Swedish school to build gender neutral changing room
People-watching: October 14th-16th
Sponsored Article
'There was no future for me in Turkey'
Man in Sweden assaulted by clowns with broken bottle
Sponsored Article
‘Extremism can't be defeated on the battlefield alone’
Nobel Prize 2016: Literature
Sponsored Article
Stockholm: creating solutions to global challenges
Watch the man who discovered Bob Dylan react to his Nobel Prize win
Sponsored Article
Why you should 'grab a chair' on Stockholm's tech scene
Record numbers emigrating from Sweden
Sponsored Article
'There was no future for me in Turkey'
People-watching: October 12th
Sponsored Article
Where is the Swedish music industry heading?
The Local Voices
'Swedish startups should embrace newcomers' talents - there's nothing to fear'
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
How far right are the Sweden Democrats?
Property of the week: Triangeln, Malmö
Sweden unveils Europe's first elk hut
People-watching: October 7th-9th
The Local Voices
Syria's White Helmets: The Nobel Peace Prize would have meant a lot, but pulling a child from rubble is the greatest reward
Missing rune stone turns up in Sweden
Nobel Prize 2016: Chemistry
jobs available