Saturday, 27 April 2013

Interview with Sofie Ward

Monika: Today I would like to introduce to you Sofie Ward, a Swedish transgender musician, blogger, activist, and community leader. She grew up in Hässleholm, a small town in southern Sweden. Sofie is a member of the Zip of Fire band and a student at the Linnaeus University in Växjö. Hello Sofie!
Sofie: Activist and community leader seems a bit excessive. I just try to do my part in life. ;)
Monika: What are you doing these days?
Sofie: Right now I’m studying "Art with a specialization in Cultural Leadership" at the Linnaeus University in Växjö here in Sweden.
Monika: You are a member of the band named "Zip of Fire". How did you start playing together?
Sofie: Well, I knew the drummer since before, and had worked with the guitarist. When their old bass player decided to invest in another band, I was the obvious replacement.
Monika: How would you describe your music? Do you draw much inspiration from other artists?
Sofie: When it comes to the music we play with Zip, I try to find my way back to the old roots of Motown. Otherwise, I listen to all kinds of music and find inspiration in everything!
Monika: How does your transgender status contribute to your artistic perception of the world?
Sofie: Hmm ... Probably nothing. It depends more on what options you have as a child other than being transsexual. I don't want to believe that transsexualism affects an individual's life choices beyond the ones you do with your body.

Monika: Are you familiar with any other Swedish transgender musicians or artists?
Sofie: No, unfortunately not. But maybe I will be after this interview;)
Monika: There are more and more transgender ladies coming out in the USA. Unlike in the previous years, some of them have the status of celebrities or are really well-known, just to mention Lana Wachowski in film-directing, Jenna Talackova in modeling, Kate Bornstein in academic life, Laura Jane Grace in music or Candis Cayne in acting. Do you witness the same trend in Sweden?
Sofie: Unfortunately, we have no known transgender people who are known to have done anything other than that they are transgender. Many of these are more known to LGBT people than the rest of society.
Monika: What is your general view on the present situation of transgender women in Swedish society?
Sofie: It feels like trans women are equal with cis women. We also get poor wages and beaten by men. Could it be more equal?
Monika: Where did you grow up? 
Sofie: In Hässleholm, a small town in southern Sweden. A nice place really!
Monika: Could you describe your childhood? When did you feel for the first time that you should not be a boy or man?
Sofie: The feeling that something was "wrong" came in early puberty when I was around 11-12 years. But I did not understand exactly what it was until they showed documentaries about transsexualism on television. I also found a lot of information on the internet. At this time, I was maybe around 16 years.

On stage with her Bass.

Monika: For most transgender girls, the most traumatic time is the time spent at school, college, or university when they had to face lots of discrimination. Was it the same in your case?
Sofie: I did not come out until I was 20 years old when I had already left school. Thank god I never got to experience any direct attacks. At the university I am studying at now I have not experienced any problems. Students at the university level seem to be thinking people, and therefore more open to diversity than less educated people.
Monika: At what age did you transition into a woman? Was it a difficult process? Did you have any support from your family or friends? Did it have any impact on your job situation?
Sofie: My transformation began when I was 20 years old. I can not say how much support I got really, my friends supported me after all, but I felt that this was something I wanted to do myself, for myself.
Monika: Transgender ladies are subject to the terrible test whether they pass as a woman or they do not. You are a beautiful woman yourself but how about other transgender ladies that have to struggle every day to pass? What would you recommend to them? 
Sofie: Do it for yourself and not for anyone else! When doing my makeup or choosing clothes, I usually never think that I have to pass as a woman. I want to look good for myself and for my boyfriend. The less you think about the need to pass as a woman, the more relaxed you look. If people see that you are uncomfortable they will probably judge you for it.
Monika: We are living in times of modern cosmetic surgery that might allow transitioning even in the late 50s or 60s. Do you think it is really possible? What kind of advice do you have for transgender ladies at such an age?
Sofie: I do not feel I can give some direct advice to people who have lived three times as long as I have done. The only thing I can say is, "Do what you think is right for you"! 
Monika: At that time of your transition did you have any transgender role models that you could follow? What was your knowledge about transgenderism?
Sofie: Role models, no. Knowledge, mediocre. The large portion of undergoing transformation is to learn things about yourself and about what you are born with. But also to make contacts with other trans people.

With her band Zip of Fire.

Monika: What was the hardest thing about your coming out?
Sofie: Well. To take the first step. Just like doing it. It’s hard to say. Once I did it, it was not as difficult as I thought it would be.
Monika: Have you ever been married? Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Sofie: Love and a stable relationship are important for me to feel secure, but marriage is not so important. It may be because I am not religious in any way, I think that's important for those who believe in something.
Monika: What do you enjoy most in being a woman?
Sofie: Personally I do not think that is much of a difference between living as a "guy" and living like a "girl". I do the same things now as before. The major differences are really just how hormones affect emotions, and that feels just great!
Monika: Are you active in politics? Do you participate in any lobbying campaigns? Do you think transgender women can make a difference in politics?
Sofie: At the moment, no. But I like to talk about politics and perhaps make a difference that way. Most of the transgendered LGBT activists do much for human rights in general but seem interested in other political issues as well.
Monika: Do you think that in our lifetime we could live until the day when a transgender lady could become the Swedish Prime Minister?
Sofie: Well, we’ve yet to see a female prime minister, so it will probably take some time before we see a transgendered one. I like to think that a prime minister is chosen because of her experience and knowledge, and if a trans person turns out to have these, there should be no problem for her to become prime minister.
Monika: What do you think about transgender beauty pageants?
Sofie: I personally would never participate in such a contest, but I can understand that there is a need among people to show off their beauty and have it verified, not least among transgender people. Unfortunately, it seems that once again there is a distinction between transsexuals and "ordinary" people, which I believe will have a negative impact on how you look at transgendered people.

Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colors, or trends?
Sofie: Hell Bunny is my favorite brand when it comes to dresses! I like to shop in alternative clothing stores. Take a look at my pictures and you’ll get it!
Monika: Are you involved in the life of your local LGBT community?
Sofie: Involved to the point that I visited some parties that they have arranged, but not in their work in LGBT issues.
Monika: Many transgender ladies write their memoirs. Have you ever thought about writing such a book yourself?
Sofie: A book is probably too large a project and who the hell would buy it? I have the blog that fills that need for me right now. I'm probably not old enough to have collected myself enough wacky stories to tell to those who will live after me, maybe when I'm old and gray.
Monika: Could you say that you are a happy woman now?
Sofie: I would like to think so anyway!
Monika: Sofie, thank you for the interview!

All the photos: courtesy of Sofie Ward.
© 2013 - Monika Kowalska

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