Why The Eff Is Sweden Sterlizing Its Trans Citizens?

Medical care in Gaza
Creative Commons License photo credit: proisraeli

Sweden apparently has a 1972 law on its books where in order to get a sex-change operation you have to be over 18-years-old, a Swedish citizen, be unmarried and get sterilized. We have no idea how this law made it onto the books, but it came about at a time when Sweden forced sterilization on 63,000 mentally disabled people, epileptics, and people with alleged social problems so that they could get married or be released from mental institutions.

So… that means that Sweden thinks only people with mental problems want a sex change? Ugh.

The National Board of Health and Welfare and Liberal Party want the sterilization requirement revoked but the Christian Democrats and the Sweden Democrats want to keep it. Swedish Democratic minister for children and the elderly Maria Larsson said, “A sex-change means that you willingly subject yourself to treatment in order to change your gender, and if you do that it is also reasonable that you give up some gender-specific properties of your old sex.” But she’s getting pushback from her own party. Fellow party member Olle Sandahl recently said in a speech, “This is state-imposed surgery that is mandatory in a certain situation, a mutilating surgery, and you should have very strong reasons to force that on people,” said party member in a speech.

So they should drop the sterilization for trans people, but how about for the mentally disabled? Should the mentally disabled be able to have kids that they might not be able to care for?

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  • Ian

    It’s strange they have to be unmarried. If they were, you’d automatically end up with a gay couple. I guess Sweden doesn’t want that.

  • missanthrope

    Ireland and a couple of other European countries (I think Finland) have these laws also. Though it’s not codified into law, this is the usual defacto policy of most countries also.

    Most states and the Social Security administration also require genital surgery as a requirement to change your birth certificate, so it’s also a de-facto policy in the United States unless a person bank your sperm or freeze their eggs. And we all know how expensive IVF can be.

  • Ellis

    Many countries have the same law so I don’t see why you would pick Sweden to blame them? Because, unlike those other countries, they consider changing this law? Way to go…

  • Dorothea from Germany

    Right, there’s no need to pick on Sweden. Mr Villarreal might want to consult Wikipedia for a reality check.

    Legal aspects of transsexualism:

    Until recently, Germany as well required trans people to be permanently infertile in order to have their gender marker changed. In January, the Federal Constitutional Court ruled that the requirement to be permanently infertile violates the people’s right to physical integrity.

  • Kevin

    It’s been a big issue here in Sweden during Stockholm Pride, looks like it’s getting some international attention too.

    One little correction: Maria Larsson is a Christian Democrat, not a Sweden Democrat. The Christian Democrats are the party that’s part of the governing alliance and who were the only ones who opposed the vote for gay marriage in 2009. The Sweden Democrats are the far-right anti-immigration party who managed to get a few seats in parliament in the last election but who are not in government.

    I suspect the Christian Democrats will be overruled again if this comes to a vote in parliament as the opposition parties and the other parties in the alliance government are all more socially liberal.

  • Dorothea

    Germany still has that law, they talked about it at the CSD Hamburg this weekend…

  • prince_albert

    It seems like a sensible requirement. No one wants a repeat of the “man” giving birth controversy.

  • Liz

    As a trans woman, I am 100% OK with this.

    You can’t say “I’m a man” and “I’m trying to get pregnant,” nor can you say “I’m a woman, but I love my penis and I want to be someone’s dad,” and expect to be taken seriously.

  • missanthrope


    I do and should try not to police other people and their bodies, as a fellow trans woman you should know better.

  • missanthrope


    I do and you should try not to police other people and their bodies, as a fellow trans woman you should know better.

  • Riker

    The mentally handicapped part of this post is an interesting question, one that merits debate.

    If somebody is too handicapped to take care of themselves, much less a child, and they are a ward of the state, I don’t think it is unreasonable to require people of childbearing age to have vasectomies or take birth control. I’m no expert on Swedish law, but it does advance a compelling government interest. A vasectomy or birth control pills are much cheaper than raising a child in the foster care system for 18 years. As governments around the world are struggling to come up with money for essential services, not having to care for hundreds or thousands of children is a valid purpose.

  • Dorothea from Germany

    “You can’t say “I’m a man” and “I’m trying to get pregnant,” nor can you say “I’m a woman, but I love my penis and I want to be someone’s dad,” and expect to be taken seriously.”

    Why not?

    A man is a person with a male gender identity regardless of how his body looks.
    A woman is a person with a female gender identity regardless of how her body looks.

    There are many different kinds of women: Some women are butch, many are femme. Some women are lesbians, most are straight. Many women wear makeup, others hate it. Some women like skirts and dresses, others prefer trousers. There are women with a lot of boobage, others are as flat as a pancake. Some women are good at doing domestic work, others are great car mechanic. There are women with short hair and others with long hair… What I am trying to say with thsese examples is that every woman has her own definiton/understanding of womanhood. So why not have women with a penis. Who cares? What matters is that these people feel comfortable in their own skin. Shouldn’t a state want its citizens to be happy? Reproductive organs are a very personal matter. They are no one else’s business, especially not the state’s business. It is not okay that a state is so intrusive and forces its citizens to alter their bodies according to a legal definiton. People must be recognized as who they are and how they are. Every person is unique.

  • Sweetbrandigirl2004

    @Liz: You and I are in complete agreement. But we must remember that our logic ONLY applies to MTF and FTM “Transsexuals” which are in the minority when it comes to Trans people as the vast majority are transgender ie: cross dressers, Transvestites, and DIY transitioning non-ops. HBS diagnosis GID Transsexual are driven to genital surgery and fully expect to lose reproductive abilities as part of the transitional process, thus if they want to maybe have children later they make arrangements before hand.

  • Mercedes Allen

    The logic that was used to enact this was that hormone therapy and related surgeries would render a trans woman or trans man sterile, and therefore constituted a change of physical sex. Two years ago, when Thomas Beatie made news for parenting a child, Sweden reacted very negatively to the media coverage, and either further codified sterilization into law by making it a requirement it for document change, or else defended the practice on that basis (I don’t remember quite which). It’s likely because of the current pushback against the sterilization requirement (sort of in defiance of it) that Beatie has been invited out for Pride celebrations.

    And with regard to people with mental health issues, I don’t know about elsewhere, but I believe that Canada did away with this requirement (which had been a holdover from offensive eugenics-based laws) decades ago.

  • John

    What the eff? I find it similar to someone wanting to chop off their ear but being outraged they’re being forced to give up hearing. A very weird situation all around, but I guess to say so isn’t PC.

    We’re supposed to believe that removing a penis will make one feel alright, whole, etc. I just don’t buy it.

  • Cece

    @John: People tend to put more stock in their gender identity and genitals than their ears. If you walk up to a stranger and touch their ears, they might be creeped out, but if you touch a stranger’s genitals, you get sued or put in jail. We care more about our gender, so it makes sense that one would take more offense to being force to have a surgery to sterilize them when it is not necessary in order to transition to a place where they are able to present themselves to the world in a way that makes them feel happy.

    Also, giving up hearing and being unable to raise a child that you know you had a part in making? I’m afraid I do not see how you find anything similar between the two.

  • bhj

    Sweden currently has a four-party coalition government, and one of those parties (Christian Democrats) was against changing the law.

    But hey have now changed their minds, the three highest leaders of the party yesterday (18 Feb) published an article in Dagens Nyheter that it was time to abolish the sterilization requirement.


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