«Peculiar story about dual gender in Sweden»

Telemark Arbeiderblad, fredag 9. juli 1948. (Nasjonalbiblioteket.)
Telemark Arbeiderblad, fredag 9. juli 1948. (Nasjonalbiblioteket.)
An English transgender person feared for Swedish residence permit.


In the summer of 1948, Telemark Arbeiderblad (Norwegian regional newspaper) published this story from Swedish bureaucracy. It speaks volumes about how transgender people were perceived at the time.

"Medical expertise has found that he does not suffer from homosexuality, but that he has a pronounced uneasiness that only disappears when he appears in women's clothing."


In the spring of 1946, the Immigration Commission in Sweden receives an unusual inquiry, according to the newspaper. An English citizen would like to know wether there would be any consequences for the residence permit if he appeared as a woman?

Byråsjef Lindencrona took the question seriously and called the person in for a conversation. The Swedish bureaucrat became completely «convinced that there was a mental need for the person in question to be able to work as a woman and then study her own mental reactions. It was obviously the only way to get the man away from his psychopathological condition."

Both man and woman.

As man he had worked as a language teacher, cleaning assistant and clerk, the newspaper wrote. "As a woman, he has been a maid and babysitter. Some employers knew his right gender, others did not. " The brit had even appeared as both a man and a woman during the same day.

A Chief Physician Goldkuhl was also consulted in connection with the matter. He believed that "the man's condition would be significantly better if he could [...] dress in women's clothing for a period of three to six months."

When the physichian met him later, he saw him as "much calmer and well."


The newspaper wrote about this two years later, because the Chancellor of Justice got interested inthe case. He was not happy. He thought the procedure was "so peculiar that it should not have been used, even though reasons of a humanitarian and medical nature prevailed," the newspaper said. The Chancellor of Justice also noted that the person in question had on three occasions been granted a work permit for women's professions. "His real name should have been used."

The byråsjef in the Immigration Commission nevertheless had his good motives emphasized. "He just wanted to help a person in a difficult situation." Finally, the Chancellor of Justice is quoted as saying "there is no reason to assume this has been to any detriment."

But then...

This story is published only four years prior to an event that propelled the trans issue to the front pages of newspapers around the world. In 1952, the former American soldier George Jørgensen is transformed into Christine at a hospital in Copenhagen. This transformation triggers a series of events that will have consequences also for transgender people in Norway. This is described by Sigrid Sandal, who was awarded master's scholarship in 2016, by The Norwegian Queer Archive.