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By Erica Zander
Photo: Loove Broms
Acouple of months before my surgery, my ex-wife and I bought a
last minute ﬂight to Turkey. Genitally I was still male but my new
passport identiﬁed me as female.
And? After a few days on Turkish ground I regrettably had to concede that
if people don’t know about us, they won’t even see us. Some Scandinavian
tourists obviously read me, but to the Turks even my conspicuously husky
voice didn’t give me away. At 48 years of age I was called “vackra svenska
ﬂicka” (beautiful Swedish girl) on a number of occasions. Our major prob-
lem was that if we were too friendly, the young men invariably asked to see
us when they had ﬁnished work, countering our ‘no thanks’ with eager ‘but
have you ever tried Turkish boyfriends?’ I almost giggled out loud when
my wife, T, calmly claimed that she wasn’t interested, ‘as I do have a lovely
As we strolled the deserted
beaches late at night, invita-
tions from lovely Turkish
women also followed -- in-
viting us into their gardens
for tea, olives and cheese.
We ‘discussed’ the mean-
ing of life with old women
in ancient villages – ever so
fascinated by our tattoos but
laughingly disapproving of
my numerous earrings and
The men usually stayed
out of our way on those oc-
casions, carefully protecting
their precious male dignity --
which did not stop these usu-
ally fat, furry guys from going for a swim in ugly white transparent-when-
wet underpants, prancing around on the beach, proud as peacocks.
A hint for other women going to Turkey: one evening we dressed in long
skirts for our walk to dinner in town. Thin and light as they were, they nev-
ertheless made us look more like local women, covering our oh-so-enticing
female legs – and as if by magic ninety percent of our persistent cavaliers
disappeared without a trace.
As for passing in Turkey, my self-conﬁdence grew almost by the minute,
and after a couple of days it felt like I could get away with almost anything -
dreading returning to Sweden, more tired of being read than I had known.
Information undeniably makes people aware of our existence, opens their
eyes and makes us visible. But invisibility also has its price in the form of
ignorance, hate and possible violence, and Turkey is not a country where I
would like to grow up being homosexual or transgendered. Even in the tour-
ist metropolis of Alanya our otherwise oh-so-nice waiter made ugly faces at
two gay men passing in the street.
In this light I see no alternative to openness and visibility, even if it means
that some gay and trans people involuntarily become political activists just
by being there.
The aftermath of our beautiful meetings with the women was a convic-
tion that contrary to ﬁrst impressions, it’s probably ever so much nicer to be
female than male in Turkey. Perhaps it’s even that the women let their men
believe they are the heads of their families, while in reality it’s the women
who run the show?
A fascinating thought: to Turkish women, who go by their feelings and
instincts, I was undeniably female - to some radical feminists, who ‘know’
where it’s really at, I will never be anything but a man.
As for passing in
Turkey, my self-
confidence grew al-
most by the minute,
and after a couple
of days it felt like I
could get away with
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