Peter and Sara - a double life

By Lena Edenbrink. Photo: Maja Suslin
The text is published in Norrbottenskurien the 2nd of May 2001.

- It's like when you are hungry. Sure you can put off the sensation of hunger a moment or just think of something else, but in the end you have to eat.

To be a transvestite is similar to live a double life. The ways to handle this fact are numerous - but in the vast majority of cases it's to reach a compromise.

Already as a little boy Peter understood that the fact that he liked to dress as a girl was something shameful.

- It wasn't someting you should be proud about, but something you should hide. I also understood that I was abnormal. I saw myself as a monster. It was a feeling that I had while growing up. I was extremely shy in front of girls and I didn't want to have much too do with them. It was simply too dangerous.

He didn't imagine that he should experience his 30 birthday. Peter was convinced of a mistake like this‚ simply died.

In 1976 Peter meet the woman who eventually would become his wife. The love was keen and only after a few weeks they moved together.

"To tell" was out of the question.

- At the same time something inside of me died. It had to die. To tell the woman I loved was out of question, says Peter. I was convinced that there wasn't a human being on the earth who could understand my longings.

The relationship and the life were good - but Peter felt bad. He repressed everything that had anything to do with his femininity. Some words even became taboo. "Skirt" was such a word. He simply couldn't say it. It came too close.

To be a transvestite is similar to being hungry. Sure you can put off the sensation of hunger a while, but it always returns. Every time the feelings are stronger. In the end the only thing you can think of is to eat and then you simple have to do it.

Bought clothes in secret

Peter began to buy clothes secretly. The clothes he bought was kept in a bag at the attic. When his wife was away, or spent the day or evening somewhere outside their home, he saw his opportunity to get the bag and try on the clothes.

- The clothes in the bag became evil smelling over time. I rarely had the possibility to wash them. I think this is one of the worst aspects of being a closet transvestite. The hiding and the sneaking plus the fact that you hardly ever can be nice and clean, since you don't have the possibilities.
Then it happened. Peter's wife came home early and found out of something she shouldn't.

Smelled perfume

- When she went to bed she felt the smell of perfume on the bedclothes and moreover she found an empty tights packet. Of course she thought I had an affair.

I remember I said "There isn't anybody else. It's only me", but she didn't understand what I meant. Then I showed her my bag and said, "This is what it's all about. Actually it's only me. I'm a transvestite".

Almost every hour in the next week we talked about it. Actually my wife was more indignant over the lie than the contents of the lie. And the fact that I had been doing this for so long without telling her.

Wardrobe change

- Most of all she was indignant over that I actually thought she couldn't handle the truth.
Together they went through Peter's bag and scraped most of it.
- Karin thought that most of it had a nasty colour or style. It simply looked too cheap. The only thing I could keep was a pair of shoes.
- The we went to H&M and picked out some new clothes. We went together to the fitting room and I tried on the clothes we had chosen. We also bought a mothproof bag. Then I could try the clothes whenever I wanted to.

More over Peter and Karin decided to make rules, which should make their lives easier:

- Only nice and decent clothes in the right size and colour was allowed.
- Everything should be kept clean and neatly.
- I had to promise her that they shouldn't discuss transvestism every day.

We made a timetable which meant that I could "change" every second Sunday, but always only at home in our flat.

In the sun

To walk about in the streets in your feminine style and risk being recognized neither Karin nor Peter would risk.

Time rolled on and in May 1998 SaraClaes, whom Peter call his feminine side, emerged in the sun for the first time. In march 2001 - almost on the day 3 years later - Sara was one of the transvestites who took part in a seminar for the government about the conditions of life for transvestites in Sweden.

- To Sara transvestism is not only a matter of being around, to be able to walk the streets and shop for food or clothes. It's also about a need of confirmation that it's okey for a male to dress in female clothes. That Sara is allowed to exist!
- The reason for me to participate in the seminar was also very much about the fact that Sara need space and is allowed to exist. It's a part of my personality and without my feminine side I'm just a half person.

There are still limits for where and when Sara may and may not show up. It's no longer a problem for Peter to be recognized as a transvestite, as long he doesn't get recognized. That's why he only becomes Sara at home or outside the hometown.

- Sara could turn up at my job, no problem, but I thnk it's more a question of respect for the environment. I think it could be a problem for the staff if I sometimes showed up as Peter and sometimes as Sara .

Besides it's a questin of professionalism. No matter what kind of business you are involved in, you are always depending on your reputation and how your business partners look upon you.

People don't know enough

- Nowdays I know I'm not abnormal, maybe rare, and I know that people generally don't have any problems with transvestites. People simply just know to little about the way we are, but we are working on it. Everybody knows there are men and women. Now we must teach them abot the rest of us. People who are both men and women. Today Sara is a reality in the lifes of Peter and Karin and she takes up lots of space.

Peter doesn't hide that it is Karin that has made him realize that he had to take Sara serious and had to make plans for her in his life. This means that I build "island" to look forward to. Everytime I change into Sara I already know when to do it next time.

- If I have been Peter for too long time I cannot function. Often my wife feels before me that Sara wants to turn up, and she tells me to shift - "so you can be a man again".

This is the first article Sara appeared in. It was written almost 2,5 years before he decided to open up. That's why the author uses Peter and Karin instead of their real names Claes and Anita.-


Readers Reactions

Interesting to read about that transvestite. It was really surprising to see that he was married. I suppose I belong to the ones who believe that most transvestites are homosexual.
I of course wonder what it would be like to be married to a transvestite. I asked my wife what she would say if I told her I was one and she said she would leave me immediately.

Karl-Erik B

Interesting to read about transvestism och earlier to about the seminar.
I think it's important in a wider perspective that we get our prejudices and preconceived opinions turned around and I think Sara is very brave.
Very good written!

Edith J

Bäste chefredaktör!
Har prenumererat på Kuriren i mer än 20 år och alltid tyckt att tidningen är bra och informativ och håller en lämplig ton.
Döm om min förvåning när jag i dag slog upp tidningen och såg en nästan helsidesbild på en transvestit - är det verkligen sådant Ni tycker är lämpligt att vi läsare får oss till livs till morgonkaffet?
Tänker ni inte alls på att det faktiskt finns barn som läser tidningen också, och att kanske inte alla föräldrar hinner se riktigt allt de läser?

Jag tycker det är skamligt, och jag förväntar mig att slippa få se sådana artiklar i framtiden.

Christer E

Läste i tidningen om mannen som kallar sig Sara. Jag tycker det är bra att ni tar upp sådana ämnen också, mitt bland alla politiker och artiklar om de dåliga vägarna. Det är svårt att förstå hur man orkar leva sitt liv så där dubbelt, men det blir förstås en vana.
Skulle gärna vilja ha deras telefonnummer, man blir ju lite nyfiken på sådana människor. Du kan väl maila tillbaka det till mig om du tror att det är OK?

Eva S

Hej och tack för en bra artikel om transvestiter.
Skulle gärna vilja komma i kontakt med den där föreningen, hittar inte tidningen där du skrev hemsidesadressen och har inte lyckats hitta den när jag sökt på internet. Kan du skicka den till mig?
Tack på förhand.

Ola G

Fyll i namn, e-post samt ditt meddelande och skicka sedan formuläret så kontaktar vi dig inom kort.