Written by: Sara Lund, translation: Karin Sellberg, photography: Åsa Petré
Usually my name is Claes Schmidt.
Together with my wife, Anita, I run the conference- and entertainment centre Slagthuset in Malmo.
I am also a transvestite, which means that I sometimes use a set of feminine gender expressions.
I am happy with my biological sex and do consider myself to be a man also when I dress as "Sara". The clothes and attributes, however, help me to escape the narrow confines of the masculine gender role and bring out something else within me.
I change dress solely for my own sense of wellbeing, and I never intend to deceive or hurt anyone. I don't change sex just because I change the "sexed" connotations attached to my choice of gender expression! I do, however, allow a personality within me to take shape, which I very much enjoy being. I consider it to be an expression of "masculine femininity"
You don't have to be a woman to experience "femininity" just like you don't have to be a man to experience "masculinity".
On Wednesday, August 13, the newspaper KvällsPosten increased its issue with about 17.000 copies when an article about my experiences as a transvestite was presented. The interest was huge and many people wanted to know! Expessen Sydsvenskan (Sept,14), Aftonbladet (Sept, 21) and other medias were not late to follow suit. When the well known stand up comedy artist Anna-Lena Brundin and I were guests at Lena Frisk in "Lena 21:trettio" Wednesday, November 19, we had 870.000 viewers, which is the highest rate that show ever had.
Like many other transvestites, I lived with transvestism since I was very young. Already around the age of 5, I realised that I was different from my friends. I immediately understood that something was "wrong" and that this "something" should stay hidden from the people around me. To this day, I still don't know who or what it was that made me think like that, but I didn't even dare to tell my mum.
At the end of my teenage years I experienced a strong urge to be a part of the other sex, and practically saw myself as a transsexual. I wished every day that I would wake up from the nightmare that had placed me in my body, and be a girl instead of a boy. I considered myself to be "abnormal" and turned my back on the people around me. For several reasons, however, I never acted on these thoughts.
The years past, and my feminine "self" was hidden in a suitcase in the attic. I only dressed as a woman in secret, and I was generally feeling terribly unwell. It wasn't until I was in my forties, that I finally shared my secret with another person -my wife.
She found traces in our home one day of "another woman" so I was forced to tell her the truth. To my great relief, she understood my dilemma better than I did. Since she's a very wise and considerate person, she didn't even consider it particularly odd that a man would experience the need to feel feminine sometimes. She was, however, rather upset because I hadn't told her anything about it earlier. She felt slightly offended that I didn't trust her to be able to handle such a confidence.
The life that opened up in front of me, with my wife's complete acceptance, and the opportunity to express my femininity whenever I felt the urge, also entailed a drastic change in the way I viewed myself. I realised that I wasn't abnormal - just slightly unusual: that the essence of a person doesn't have a sex, and that the senses of masculinity and femininity aren't necessarily tied to the sex of the body.
And that a man can - and is allowed to - occasionally feel a bit feminine, just like a woman feels feminine sometimes. Since I realised that my feelings were unconnected to my biological sex, the man within me was finally allowed to thrive, and for the first time in my life I felt secure in my masculinity.
Nowadays I know that I am a man and I have worked through the feelings of "guilt" and "shame", which often follow when you in one way or another break the commonly accepted norms of society: the "shame" of not being like all the others and the "guilt" of being unable to live up to the expectations of the people around you. I now lecture in a number of different public forums abo ut the way in which social norms and values create both alienation and possibilities. There's many of us that don't "fit in" and I believe that the famous quotation from the old radio comedy broadcast "Mosebacke Monarki" has never been more appropriate than in today's society: "The minorities in Mosebacke now constitute the majority of the people!".
Because that is how it is. If we combine all the people that for one reason or another don't fit into the social norm ... there's going to be quite a few of us. If we count in all the people who aren't heterosexual, aren't Christian, don't have children, aren't "Arian", aren't disabled, aren' Swedish, don't have jobs, aren' either men or women ... we're going to be such a big crowd that we'll actually constitute the majority of the Swedish population. We can thus conclude that it's more common to be outside of the social norm, than to be within it.
This is no big news - it's always been like this, but it's not until now that people have dared to come forward and openly admit that they'rere outside of the norm. It used to be each person's latent secret. Everybody has at some point secretly felt strange or different. By the fact that we today have several spectra of visible minorities, nobody any longer needs to feel lonely or aberrant. Even if you choose not to tell the people around you, your "oddness" doesn't have to constitute a depression.
It's never been so common to be "uncommon"!
I've chosen to "come out" about my "disposition", because I've grown tired of sneaking around with something so harmless, as the fact that I sometimes like to dress in the same manner as about half of the planet's population. And maybe also because I have a slight wish to protest against the social norms that make us feel that we need to be a certain way and act in a certain manner, in order to fit in. People talk so much about female emancipation, that they forget the fact that the one in most need of mental liberation is the man.
Since I'm doing this completely for my own sakes, it's not important to me whether you consider me to be a "man" or a "woman", a "he" or a "she", or whether you want to call me "Claes" or "Sara" when you speak to me or about me. As long as you feel that you can respect me as I am, I will allow you the choice to consider me and address me in any way that you personally find appropriate and comfortable.
I've made my home page primarily in order to play down and demystify the phenomenon of transvestism, and to increase people's knowledge and understanding of transvestites. So far, there's only been academics, psychologists, and journalists who, for all their own reasons, have shaped the image of us. It's time that we come forward and show people what we actually are: completely ordinary people, who most of the time live an ordinary "2.4 children" life, with the one difference that we, unlike most people, don't live according to a philosophy of "either/or".
If you, yourself, are a transvestite, I want you to straighten up and realise that you are fine just like you are. I'm 183 cm (6 ft) tall in my stockings, I weigh about 85 kg (13st, 4pd), and I'm shoe size 43 (British size 8). Read about some of my experiences, and you'll soon realise that you don't have to sneak around or try to "pass", in order to make other people feel comfortable. The opposite! Life begins when people realise who and what you are!
Be honest and respect yourself - and people will respect you for what you are!
I also want you, who are married to- or live with a transvestite to understand that the world doesn't stop turning when you find out that the person you love is a transvestite. The opposite! Talk the situation through, in an open way, and you'll see that it's not as bad as you might first have thought. Possibly, my site can create interesting discussions -and maybe even increase your knowledge of the forms transvestism can take. There are practically as many ways to express your transvestism as there are active transvestites, and none of these ways are aberrant. Consider the fact that your partner has probably been a transvestite for as long as you've known each other, and that it's also probably because of the fact that he/she is a transvestite that you love him/her. Transvestism has most likely been a part of your loved one's personality from the very first time you met - even if you didn't know it from the start. Nothing has changed, except that you now know something about him/her that you didn't know before.
My experiences as a public transvestite have certainly enriched my life and I ruthlessly enjoy every moment of it. The best thing about being a transvestite is that you don't have to confine yourself to being "either/or". I can be both or ... neither. I can concentrate on being the person I am and want to be, regardless of what the social norms or the rules of sexual affiliation tell me that I should be.
I am personally absolutely content with being a man who sometimes expresses his femininity.
If people only knew how wonderful it is to be able to change gender expressions, according to your own desire, the world would be full to the brim with transvestites. I really can't comprehend why I waited so long to let Sara free - now I'm making it up to her, with interest!
I wish to propose a cheer for the gloriously delightful thing that is life!
Claes Schmidt/Sara Lund
Translation from Swedish: Karin Sellberg ( länka till: firstname.lastname@example.org )
A transvestite is a man or a woman, who is satisfied with her/his biological sex, but wishes to more or less often dress and feel like a part of the other sex.
Transvestism exists in all cultures, all over the world, and has been nown of throughout history. It's unrelated to sex, profession and education, even though it's mainly the male transvestites that attract a lot of attention (at least in our society!).
Nobody chooses to be a transvestite. Although, the transvestite does choose the forms of expressions he/she wants to develop from this part of his/her personality, as well as the amount of space or attention he/she wishes it to take.
Transvestism is not directly connected to sexuality.
We are like most people in this aspect, that is, most of us are probably heterosexual, although there are obviously also some homo- and bisexual transvestites.
Transvestites are brave people, who, in a constructive way, question society's confining norms relating the proper way to dress, behave, think and act.
Transvestites live and function like most other people, with the one difference that they more or less often want to dress and live like the opposite sex. This entails a sort of double life, with double wardrobes - a masculine as well as a feminine one.
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