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One tram change, 11 years of life

The place I work at right now is rather fancy and caters mostly to the upper-class, including the super rich. Like the kind of people who – I kid you not – owns a different luxury sports car for each day of the week. I’d known before that this obscene amount of wealth existed even in Sweden, but seeing it with your own eyes is a different thing.

Then I contrast it to the place where I live. It’s considered to be a bad neighbourhood, although not nearly as bad as right-wing media portrays it to be. Most people there are not violent or in gangs and it’s certainly not a no-go zone. But there are some problems with gang violence and drug trafficking. There is also more widespread poverty with what it brings of things like substance abuse and homelessness. It’s really not a place you’d like your kids to grow up in.

I think about these two places and the distance between them. I don’t know how much it is in kilometers but it’s a 45 min tram ride, with one change near the central station.

45 minutes, one tram change and it feels like worlds apart. One world with great opportunities, no economic anxiety and high status. The other with low status, low income and little opportunities. As well as an 11 years difference in life expectancy.

Studies have shown that the lower classes are sicker and get less and worse healthcare than the rich. Even in a country known for its welfare state, this is a pattern. In the city where I live, your income still has a great impact on your health and how long you are expected to live. How sick is it that the rich get to have on average over a decade more to spend with their loved ones? And how telling that we almost never hear about it.

As a temporary background character in the lives of the rich, I think about these things a lot. While people in my neighbourhood have to struggle to make ends meet because of the rising food prices, I see the rich throw away ridiculous amounts of high quality food on a daily basis. Are they unaware of their great economic privilege or do they just not care? I honestly don’t know. But it tells me something is profoundly broken in our society.

World’s oldest known runestone found in Norway

Fascinating news from Norway: Archeologist say they have found the oldest known runestone!

Found during the excavation of a grave in Tyrifjorden, west of Oslo, the stone has several inscriptions. Not all make linguistic sense but one on the front reads ”idiberug”, which could be the name of a person or family.

The archaeologists estimate the runes to have been inscribed between AD 1 and 250, which would make them the world’s oldest known carved on stone. Older rune inscriptions have been found before, but not on stone. The world’s oldest known runes were found on a bone comb i Denmark.

Archeologists examining the stone. Photo credit: The Associated Press

Gender in the soul

I was reading an interesting article on them.us the other day. It’s about the transmasculine body in horror fiction and what it reveals about society’s fears about transmasculine people. It delves particularly into Hereditary, my personal favourite horror movie and which I consider nothing less than a masterpiece.

But the part that got me thinking is this:

”Arguing for the existence of a primordial gender — not a clothing preference, not an affinity for a certain color scheme, not a set of stereotypical behaviors — is like arguing for the existence of a soul. The only language we have is spiritual, and more often than not we are preaching to nonbelievers.

Unlike many biographical films depicting transmasculine characters, which tend to conflate transmasculinity with butch lesbianism, Hereditary takes for granted the existence of a gendered spirit. Paimon is male, even when disembodied, even when growing up a girl; he is ‘covetous of a male human body’ because it complements his essence.”

Is there such a thing as a male, female or non-binary essence? If your beliefs about the world are purely materialist, that the world and us in it are nothing but a bunch of atoms swirling around in the universe, then you cannot take that possibility seriously. But I am not a materialist.

Yet, I’ve been wary of even considering that my soul might have a gender. Which I now realise is a little strange considering that as a Polytheist, I worship Deities who are not material beings but are yet referred to as female, male, both or neither. If the Deities I love and worship have primordial gender, why have I been afraid to consider the possibility that the same goes for humans? Even for me? Do I really, deep down, believe that gender is nothing but some genetics and brain wiring that sometimes go awry and cause gender dysphoria? Honestly, if I’m fully honest with myself, I don’t think it’s that simple.

If, for example, you could change the brain wiring that causes physical dysphoria, would that automatically change someone’s innermost identity? Or if you could alter a cis person’s brain to experience this dysphoria, would that change their identity and make them trans? And if physical dysphoria is all there is to it, then why does it manifests so differently in people who have the same gender identity? Why do some trans people experience no dysphoria at all?

The more I thought about it, the clearer it became to me why I’ve been afraid to consider that gender could come from one’s soul: because I can’t empirically prove it to cis people.

And yes, I can’t empirically prove it to other trans people either; but they’re not the ones demanding I give an explanation for why I am who I am.

For so long, I’ve worked under the assumption that I owe cis people proof of who I am and that I don’t deserve to be respected and believed if I can’t make a convincing case. Even as I’ve tried to rid myself of this harmful and deeply ingrained belief, it still influences a lot of my thoughts and behaviours. Whenever I write or speak on trans issues, I’m always feeling the need to prove that being trans is who you are, not something you choose to be. That it’s not – as the right wants you to believe – some new, trendy ideology trying to recruit your kids.

Trans people have been around probably as long as there has been people. Are we like this because our genders are part of our souls, our essences? Perhaps. Either way, we don’t owe you an explanation. Just like you don’t owe us an explanation for being cis.

The question of whether the human soul has a gender and what different spiritual traditions have to say on the matter certainly is an interesting topic, one I’m already delving more into.

Arthur Eddington on the mystical experience

Interesting quote by physicist Arthur Eddington on the truth revealed in the mystic experience. From an academic book I’m currently reading, and quite honestly struggling with because it’s very intellectually challenging.

Healthy(ish) vegan banana cacao cookies

This has to be one of my favourite recipes among the new ones I tried this year! Here’s how to make it (measurements for one serving).

Mash 1,5 large bananas in a bowl. It doesn’t have to end up smooth, just not very lumpy. Then add 0.8 dl (0.3 cups) peanut butter and mix. Afterwards it should look something like this:

Add 0.8 dl (0.3 cups) raw cacao powder and mix again. Using two tablespoons, scoop out the dough and put on a baking sheet.

Bake for 15 min at 175 C° (350 F°). The result might look like poop, literally. But don’t let appearances deceive you. These soft cookies are deliciously sweet and decadently chocolatey. The consistency is soft but chewy, more like that of muffin tops than cookies.

Plant-based banana cocoa cookies. Far more delicious than they look 🙂

What is the oldest known depiction of Thor?

Januari is a month when many Heathens pay extra tribute to Thor. In pre-Christian Northern Europe, mid-january would be the traditional time for Yule and blóts were often held in honour of the Deities of the season, among which is Thor. The Yuletide often ended with a feast and a blót to Him. And since this is the season of honoring Thor, I’d like to pay extra attention to the Thunderer and write more about Him.

Today, I wanted to write about the beginnings of the worship of Thor. It’s hard to pinpoint an exact time but there is evidence that the Proto-Indo-Europeans worshipped a Thunder God who was depicted as wielding either a hammer or an axe. Different cultures and languages evolved from the PIE group and different Names and imagery were attributed to Him. It is not unlikely that Thor and a God like the axe-wielding Slavic Perun have the same origin.

When it comes to Scandinavia specifically there is hints that the Thunderer was worshipped already back in the Bronze Age and this 3000 year old petroglyph is believe to be the oldest known depiction of Thor:

This petroglyph found in Tanum, Sweden, is interesting for a number of reasons. Firstly, the figure rides in a chariot pulled by what could be a goat and Thor rides a chariot drawn by two goats. Secondly, the figure seems to be wielding something that could be a hammer or an axe. And thirdly, the figure sports an erection, a sign of being a bringer of fertility. It also looks like a thunder bolt could be shooting out of the penis. Later depictions of the Thunderer rarely involve erections, but Thor is very much a fertility Deity who is often called on to bring fertility to humans, animals and crops.

So, the worship of Thor in Scandinavia could be as old as 3000 years!

Fun fact: Dylan Sprouse is a Heathen

I was mindlessly scrolling social media, as I far too often do, when I stumbled across a video mentioning that Dylan Sprouse, former Disney Channel child star, now runs a mead brewery. I noticed that he was wearing a Thor’s hammer in the photo. Curious, I did some web searching and learned that he’s been a Heathen since he was fifteen.

It’s funny, I never considered the possibility that anyone famous could be a Heathen. Our religion seems so… obscure? A lot of people don’t even know we’re still around. It’s kinda cool that more people could take an interest in our faith when they learn someone they admire is part of it.

Dylan did an interview with Vice a few years ago where he talks about his religion and his brewery and how they intersect. I love this particular quote:

“For me, and for many Heathens…I don’t think you ever really divorce yourself from your spirituality, what you are is your spirituality, and a lot of the times the things that I do are spiritual in nature just because I’m doing them.”

The 5 queer books who moved me the most in 2022

One of the goals I had set myself for this year was to read more LGBTQ+ books and I’m happy to say that I did. Here are the five books that moved me the most of the ones I read.

Lesbiska ligan by Mian Lodalen

Swedish language novel. The title translates to ‘The Lesbian Gang’.
A fictionalised account of a true story about the last women in Sweden to be convicted of the ”crime” of homosexuality. Written by one of my favourite lesbian authors, this book seeks to reminds us that our freedoms are not to be taken for granted. It also brings attention to one of many human rights violation perpetrated by the Swedish state. Lodalen believes the state should apologise for their past persecution of gay people. To this day, they have not.

Mian Lodalen

Hästpojkarna by Johan Ehn

A Swedish language book, the tile translates to ‘The Horse Boys’.
Two boys in Czechoslovakia in the 1920s escape from their orphanage and join a circus. Over the years, their feelings for each other blossoms into something more than friendship. But the Nazis are rising to power and their love cannot have a happy ending.
Part of the book also takes place in modern Sweden, where a young home care worker meets an enigmatic elderly man who refuses to speak. But he will find a way to connect to him through their shared love of horses.
This is one of few books this year that brought tears to my eyes. The story is heartbreaking but so very important.


Je suis en vie et tu ne m’entends pas by Daniel Arsand

French language novel which translates to ‘I am alive and you can’t hear me’. Also available in Swedish and Italian.
A young man returns to his hometown after having spent years in a concentration camp where he was sent because of his homosexuality. Deeply traumatised, he struggles to return to a normal life and finds it hard to connect to others. Decades will pass before he finds the strength to tell the story of what he went through.
The author has a special writing style, very stream-of-consciousness, which can take a bit to get used to. But it also fits well with a story about trauma. You can sense how trapped in his own thoughts the main character feels.
Je suis en vie et tu ne m’entends pas is an emotionally difficult read, the most difficult I’ve had this year, but this story inspired by real historical events needs to be known.

Ett lyckligare år by Jonas Gardell

I’ve previously written about this book, which won the QX Gaygala prize for Book of the Year. An important read for anyone interested in the history of the fight for LGBTQ+ rights in Sweden.

We Both Laughed in Pleasure: The Selected Diaries of Lou Sullivan, 1961-1991 edited by Ellis Martin and Zach Ozma

Lou Sullivan is one of the most important figures in the history of trans activism. He founded one of the first organisations for transmasculine people, FTM International, and was also the one who campaigned for the right of gay and bi/pan trans men to access medical transition.
A common – and erroneous – view of transness is that it is an extreme form of homosexuality. Trans men are seen as a step above butch lesbians, who in turn are seen as more gay than femme-presenting lesbians. So, the very idea that a trans man could be attracted to men seems impossible to a lot of people. And for a long time, this was also the opinion of the very medical professionals who were supposed to help us. If a trans man revealed that he was attracted to men, he would not be allowed to medically transition. Lou Sullivan fought tooth and nails to change this and brought attention to the fact that gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation are all separate things.
Up until his untimely death, Sullivan fought for trans rights. He continued to campaign and write articles as well as the FTM International newsletter. He also wrote a book about Jack Bee Garland, a gay trans man who lived in San Francisco in the late 19th and early 20th century (here is the only place I’ve been able to find it).
Lou Sullivan was a lifelong journaler and in We Both Laughed in Pleasure, you can read selected journal entries from his days as a school kid infatuated with The Beatles, to his very last days before dying of AIDS at the age of 39.
Lou Sullivan has long been a personal hero of mine. As a gay trans man, I owe him a lot and it felt like an honour to get to read his most intimate thoughts.
This is the only book on the list available in English and I cannot recommend it enough.

Trans pioneer Lou Sullivan

Poem: Sleeping with Ghosts

Content warning: death, suicide, transphobia

This is the text I was trying to write for Transgender Day of Rememberance, but I couldn’t find the words then.

Sleeping with ghosts

I have a head full of ghosts
And the air I breath is full of ghosts.
Do you not see? Can you not hear?
Everywhere I go, they go with me.

I knew a girl of twenty-three,
Knew her in life, but she still stays near,
Wherever I go, she whispers in my ear:
”Don’t forget me. Don’t forget I was here.”

I have a heart full of ghosts
And my dreams are full of ghosts.
Do you not see? Can you not hear? Everywhere I go, they go with me.

Another I knew,
Weary and battle-scared,
She layed down her weapons,
Too tired to fight on against your hate.
Forty-four years she lived,
An eternity for people like us.

I have a home full of ghosts
And memories full of ghosts.
Every night, them I hear.
They sing in my ear about every stolen year.

A beautiful lad I knew,
More handsome than most,
Always I was in awe
Of his humor and charm.
But the pain was hidden beneath.
He died on a waiting list,
Like so many still.

I have a head full of ghosts,
And my future is full of ghosts.
Always they’ll go with me,
Never I’ll forget,
I was one who lived,
While many perished.

Those of us who lived can never forget the ones who did not. We will speak up in their memory.

Happy Winter Solstice!

Now the longest night of the year has begun. While Sunna was still visible in the sky, I made a small offering of herbal tea and one of the cookies I made especially for the occasion, using the same recipe I did a few days ago. I just substituted the cacao for 0.5 dl (0.2 cups) of wheat flour mixed with 1 tbsp of cinnamon and 1 tbsp of cardamom.

A piece of amber gets to represent Sunna. The offering is left on the window sill, where Her light reaches most.

May the return of Sunna bring you all joys and blessings!