Personal Stories from the Cases

Forced Sterilizations and Financial CompensationRFSLPhoto: Sharon Wagiella

The eight people who are pilot cases in the plaint have given their stories to the court. They are published here as a whole, with fictitious names.

Jen

Jen received a male legal gender (social security number) at birth. Jen felt bad during her teenage years, and after a suicide attempt at 17 she was referred to a doctor that she kept on seeing sporadically during the following years and was able to articulate her thoughts on her gender identity as a woman.

After two years Jen and her doctor decided that she should start taking hormones in order to be able to live more as herself, and up until then that was the happiest day of her life. She talked to the doctor about wanting to have children, but was informed about the process and that she wouldn’t be able to have kids in the future if she wanted a new legal gender, and that she wouldn’t be able to save any germ cells.

In 1983 she started a formal gender investigation. Jen and her doctor sent in an application to change her legal gender (including sterilization) and was called to a meeting at the National Board of Health and Welfare and was then told that the sex change (with the permission of castration) wouldn’t start for a year. She was first to live in the “role” as a woman for a year. Before that she had to be sterilized so that she wouldn’t have any children before she started her sex change. After that she would get a new legal gender and get permission to have gender reassignment surgery (including castration).

At the meeting she got the question if she had kids and was told that she couldn’t have kids in order for the application to be granted. Neither could she have children after a granted application. She also got a number of integrity violating questions at the meeting that had nothing to do with her gender identity.

“At 28, Jen was sterilized”

At 28, Jen was sterilized. At that time they didn’t know that the spermatic ducts could be re-joined, and cutting the spermatic ducts was seen as an irreversible method. When the certificate of sterilization had been sent to the National Board of Health and Welfare they made the decision of granting her a new legal gender and gave their consent to castration, which meant that she would get access to gender reassignment care the following spring.

Jen lived as a woman with a male social security number for years. That led to problems when she was to identify herself, get medication at the pharmacy, when traveling abroad, etc. She couldn’t go on living a life where she didn’t have the right to her identity in the eyes of the state or society, she would probably have killed herself. She is very happy about her new legal gender and the gender reassignment care, but her biggest sorrow in life is that she hasn’t been able to have children. She feels that the demand of sterilization was very violating  as if she wasn’t worth as much as everyone else in the eyes of the State.

Jen would have wanted the opportunity to discuss sterilization as a voluntary choice and what it would have meant to live with the ability to procreate, and at least would have wanted to have been offered to save her germ cells. By not offering this, the State hasn’t considered her right to bodily and personal integrity according to the European Convention and the form of government. She has been discriminated against because of her gender identity and wish to have a legal gender that reflects her gender identity. Skiss tre personer

Mina

Mina had known that she was a woman for a long time, and that the male legal gender she had been given at birth was wrong when she “came out” to her family and colleagues in June, 1997. She then lived as a woman full time. She had started treatment with a private doctor, and the formal gender investigation started in August, 1998, after a referral.

Before the gender investigation started she had already been given hormones, diathermy (removal of facial hair), and gotten sterilized. She had discussed the legal requirement of sterilization with her private doctor. She was told that the sterilization provided by the hormones wasn’t enough to fulfill the the demand since it wasn’t sure that it wasn’t reversible. Mina had been told that if you came to the National Board of Health and Welfare without having been sterilized you would have to wait for a decision about social security number (and at that time permission for a new name) until the National Board of Health and Welfare had received the account of the surgery. If you wanted the decisions immediately you had to have the operation before going to the National Board of Health and Welfare.

That is why Mina got sterilized privately, by cutting off the spermatic ducts, in order to be able to change her legal gender as quickly as possible.

Unfortunately she later found out that the operation was not viewed as irreversible since she might be able to re-join her spermatic ducts. So Mina had to apply for the more drastic operation castration when she applied to change her legal gender, for the application to be sent to the National Board of Health and Welfare.

The applications were granted and because of this, Mina underwent genital surgery in the autumn of 1999, which included castration. Mina was also told that she wouldn’t be able to save any germ cells.

The purpose of the gender investigation for Mina was to change her legal gender rather than undergo surgery. It was very important to her to get a new social security number quickly to be able to start a new education, in a new town where no one knew her identity.

“Mina would have declined the surgery had that been an option”

Mina would have declined the surgery had that been an option, or would at least have waited to make a decision. She would have wanted to save germ cells. By not giving her these opportunities, the State hasn’t considered her right to bodily and personal integrity according to the European Convention and the form of government. She has been discriminated against because of her gender identity and wish to have a legal gender that reflects her gender identity.

Nohelia

When Nohelia started her gender investigation in  1999 she had known for a long time that the male legal gender she was assigned at birth was wrong. During the investigation, Nohelia was informed about the demand of sterilization, and that after the investigation and surgeries were over she would never have a normal life. She could never have a family or become what the investigator considered to be a “real” woman. Her investigator wanted to make sure that she knew this and that she had no illusions about a family. Nohelia replied that she knew the consequences, but she felt that she had no choice or opportunity to answer any differently. The answer was rhetorical, and the discussion did not continue.

Nohelias final goal with the investigation was to send in an application to change her legal gender to the National Board of Health and Welfare. When it was time to sign the application her investigator had a colleague with him, which he had never had before. The colleague was there as a witness. Nohelia remembers this vividly, since it was the first time she had felt truly vulnerable. Not by the investigator, but by something bigger, the whole situation. The investigator showed her the application form but continued to hold on to it and said that she had to sign the application of sterilization first, before she could apply for a legal gender change. Nohelia hesitated, but finally signed the application for sterilization and after that the application for a new legal gender.

Nohelias application for changed legal gender was postponed by the National Board of Health and Welfare until they had gotten proof of her sterilization/castration. Noheila was sterilized when she was 26 years old.

“Complications after the surgery”

Noheilia experienced complications after the surgery and got an infection that caused permanent damage as tissue loss, loss of sensation and scarring. All this in spite of getting a second surgery because of the complications. During 2002 Nohelia was granted a female legal gender by the National Board of Health and Welfare since they had received evidence of her sterilization/castration.

Noheila has thought back on this period in her life many times. She is relieved that she listened to good advice and didn’t bring up the subject of kids during the investigation since that would have prolonged the investigation. Before she received the right gender identity she had no passport to use, no possibility of acquiring a public identity and no chance of normalcy and stability. But that she conceded to the sterilization also means that she has had to live with the feeling of being unwanted and without rights and the knowledge that society refused her having children and that society don’t think that she is like everybody else.

Nohelia would have wanted the opportunity to discuss sterilization as a voluntary choice and what it would have meant to live with the ability to procreate, and at least would have wanted to have been offered to save her germ cells. By not offering this, the State hasn’t considered her right to bodily and personal integrity according to the European Convention and the form of government. She has been discriminated against because of her gender identity and wish to have a legal gender that reflects her gender identity.

Karin

In her late teens, Karin could finally put her finger on what had felt wrong for such a long time, and she understood that the male legal gender she had been given at birth was wrong. Karin started her formal gender investigation when she was 19. She was in great need of getting gender reassignment surgery and a male legal gender.

During the investigation the demand of sterilization was mentioned as a given, as if she wasn’t even considering having kids. She never got to reflect on her wish to have children since the issue never came up. She herself was so young that it din’t feel quite real, people have children later in life. At the time she felt so bad that her only focus was to change her legal gender and get gender reassignment surgery.

The meeting with the National Board of Health and Welfare was very strange with a lot of questions that had nothing to do with her gender identity. She felt like she was in the hands of the members of the council since they were about to make a decision that was so important to her. The National Board of Health and Welfare decided to postpone her application until they had received proof of sterilization/castration. Karin was sterilized when she was 22, and after that the National Board of Health and Welfare granted Karin’s application of female legal gender since the proof of sterilization/castration had been delivered.

“Today the longing is huge”

Today the longing for children is huge and Karin is very critical to having been sterilized at such a young age. Karin would have wanted the opportunity to discuss sterilization as a voluntary choice and what it would have meant to live with the ability to procreate, and at least would have wanted to have been offered to save her germ cells. By not offering this, the State hasn’t considered her right to bodily and personal integrity according to the European Convention and the form of government. She has been discriminated against because of her gender identity and wish to have a legal gender that reflects her gender identity.

Leo

When Leo started the formal investigation in 2006 he had known for a long time that the legal female gender he had been given at birth was wrong. During the course of the investigation he was informed about the demand for sterilization. That happened at the end of the investigation when the team was to decide whether to diagnose him as transsexual. He was never asked if he wanted biological children, but was just told about sterilization.

Leo wasn’t offered any possibility to discuss the consequences of sterilization or wanting to have children. To wait to change his legal gender was not an option for Leo, since having female identity documents and a female name caused great psychological suffering. Partly because his identity wasn’t publicly recognized, and partly because people’s reactions to meeting a man with female identity documents.

The investigation team submitted Leo’s application and the National Board of Health and Welfare decided to postpone his application of male legal gender until they had received proof of sterilization/castration. Leo was sterilized when he was 24 years old. The National Board of Health and Welfare granted Leo’s application of male legal gender since the proof of sterilization/castration had been delivered.

Leo would have wanted the opportunity to discuss sterilization as a voluntary choice and what it would have meant to live with the ability to procreate, and at least would have wanted to have been offered to save his germ cells. By not offering this, the State hasn’t considered his right to bodily and personal integrity according to the European Convention and the form of government. He has been discriminated against because of his gender identity and wish to have a legal gender that reflects his gender identity.

Helli

When Helli started her gender investigation in 2008 she had known since she was a child that the male legal gender assigned to her at birth was wrong. Helli said during the course of the investigation that she wanted children, but she was told early on that she had to be sterile and was not allowed to have children in the future if she wanted gender reassignment surgery and wanted to change her legal gender.

Since Helli hade had heard that the methods of surgery were better abroad, she chose to go abroad and perform both the sterilization and the gender reassignment surgery there. When she was to apply for changed gender status she had to enclose a certificate that she had undergone surgery that had made her irreversibly sterile. Helli was sterilized in 2012, when she was 23 years old. The National Board of Health and Welfare granted her application of a new legal gender.

Helli is very dissatisfied with the sterilization demand and would have liked to be able to decide for herself. Helli would have wanted the opportunity to discuss sterilization as a voluntary choice and what it would have meant to live with the ability to procreate, and at least would have wanted to have been offered to save her germ cells. By not offering this, the State hasn’t considered her right to bodily and personal integrity according to the European Convention and the form of government. She has been discriminated against because of her gender identity and wish to have a legal gender that reflects her gender identity.

Carl

Carl had long known that he had been assigned the wrong legal gender at birth when he started his gender investigation in 2010 at the age of 18. His investigator informed about the sterilization demand in the beginning of the investigation. When it came time to have surgery he also got the information from a surgeon that explained that he had to remove the whole uterus, that the operation was irreversible and that he wouldn’t be able to have biological children. He was informed that those were the demands for getting a male social security number.

During 2012 the National Board of Health and Welfare postponed Carls’ application of changed legal gender until proof of sterilization/castration had been presented. No one informed him that there was an ongoing case that questioned the demand of sterilization, where the National Board of Health and Welfare was the opponent. On March 9 2012, the Administrating Court announced its verdict in case number 45723-10 and declared that the sterilization demand was no longer to be applied. Carl wasn’t told about this and was sterilized.

“Carl would of course have wanted to retain the possibility to have biological children”

Carl would of course have wanted to retain the possibility to have biological children. After the sterilization, Carl has been forced to undergo three additional surgeries because of complications from the sterilization surgery, which has been very painful. The National Board of Health and Welfare granted Carl a male legal gender, since they had proof of sterilization/castration.

RFSL_C654-20160411115440

Carl would have wanted the opportunity to discuss sterilization as a voluntary choice and what it would have meant to live with the ability to procreate, and at least would have wanted to have been offered to save his germ cells. By not offering this, the State hasn’t considered his right to bodily and personal integrity according to the European Convention and the form of government. He has been discriminated against because of his gender identity and wish to have a legal gender that reflects his gender identity..

Anna

When Anna started her investigation in August 2011 she knew that the male legal gender she had been assigned at birth was wrong. At the first investigation meeting she was informed about the demand for sterilization. She was also told that you could not save any germ cells if you wanted to change your legal gender.

During the investigation Anna was asked if she wanted children in the future and replied that she had one and would like to have more with her wife. Anna perceived that the investigator understood her wish to have more children and did not agree with the law and the demand for sterilization, but the fact was the demand was there. Anna started a hormonal treatment that induced a chemical sterility, but the National Board of Health and Welfare postponed her application until they had received proof of her sterilization. Anna’s surgery took place in February 2013.

In Januari 2013 the Administrative Court of Appeal’s verdict in the case acquired legal force. The verdict meant that the demand of sterilization would no longer be applied, since it was viewed as forcing, was contrary to the constitutional law, to the European Convention and was discriminatory towards transsexuals. The National Board of Health and Welfare was the opposition in the case, and thus knew about the verdict as early as December 2012.

“No one told me that there was no longer a demand of sterilization”

No one told Anna that there was no longer a demand of sterilization and that she didn’t have to go through the surgery to change her legal gender, or, that if she wanted to have the operation she could save her germ cells. So Anna was sterilized in February.

Before Anna started the hormone treatment she and her wife got pregnant again, but both Anna and her wife wanted to have more biological children together. Anna would have wanted the opportunity to discuss sterilization as a voluntary choice and what it would have meant to live with the ability to procreate, and at least would have wanted to have been offered to save her germ cells. By not offering this, the State hasn’t considered her right to bodily and personal integrity according to the European Convention and the form of government. She has been discriminated against because of her gender identity and wish to have a legal gender that reflects her gender identity.