On January 10th, Sweden officially ended its long-held practice of forced sterilization for transgender patients undergoing gender reassignment procedures. The forced sterilizations dated back to a 1972 law, which was recently ruled unconstitutional and a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights by the Stockholm administrative court of appeal. Because the appeal period has ended, so too will the forced sterilizations.
We chatted with Maceo Persson, Operations Manager, about his reaction to the news.
Tell us a little bit about your background. And, when did you move to the United States?
Well, my mother fled the military coup in Chile and moved to Stockholm where she met and married my father. My parents immigrated to the U.S. in the 80s for work, where I was born, but then we moved back to Sweden where I grew up as a child. Swedish was my first language and Spanish became my second language. My father’s work took us back to California when I was ten years old which was the first time I enrolled in a U.S. school and learned English. Now I hold dual citizenship from both the U.S. and Sweden.
I moved up to Oregon to attend school and to be able to pursue a life where I could live as my authentic self. At this point I also started my transition when my parents approached me with a difficult decision. They decided to move back to Sweden and offered for me to move back home with them or to stay in school at the University of Oregon. At this point I felt like I had to chose from two core identities, 1) Move back to my home country and put my transition on indefinite hold or 2) Stay in Oregon and grow further apart from my home and family and to continue to pursue my transition.
I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunities and experiences my choice to pursue education and transition in Oregon has given me. My choice has allowed me to fully transition into who I truly am and to continue my work to ensure that all transgender and gender nonconforming people have the opportunity to live as their true self.
What is your role at Transgender Law Center, and what do you like about working here?
As the Operations Manager, I take care of the office logistics and finances of the organization. I love working with a team of people who feel passionately about advancing rights and opportunities for all people to fully be themselves.
How do you feel about today’s news that Sweden will end forced sterilization?
I am overjoyed.
Today’s news is huge. It lifts a dehumanizing law that traces back to the dark times of the eugenics movement. The sterilization law is Sweden had also been joined with a law that didn’t allow transgender people to be married in order to go through a legal and medical transition. These policies sent a very clear message that the government saw transgender people as unfit to have a family. It is astonishing that we still had to have a legal battle in order to remove this archaic practice and it is a huge victory for transgender Swedes.
This decision reaffirms our stance that a person’s medical transition is a process that should only be decided by the individual and their medical provider.
For me personally, this victory signifies that I can confidently change all my Swedish documentation to reflect who I truly am. It signifies that the government of will fully recognize me as a human being who is deserving to be a productive member of society with their own family. To me this means that I can confidently go home, as my true self.
You’ve mentioned having different gender markers in Sweden and the United States. Why is that? How has that made you feel? What complications has it presented?
I transitioned in the United States, and I’ve been fortunate to be in a state where we have great laws. It’s easier to transition ID documents in the State of California. I’ve been able to change my passport in the United States, but I’ve been unaware and a bit overwhelmed by what the process is in Sweden.
I feel more disconnected from my Swedish identity because of this.
What gives you hope about transgender justice and equality heading into 2013?
I think seeing these changes happen very rapidly – the legal advancements in California, Argentina, Cuba, Sweden and beyond – is showing us the world is ready for change, and contrary to my childhood beliefs, I can be truly accepted.