Joacim wants to live fully as Julia

She feels like a woman, wants to be a woman and lives like a woman. But Julia Marklund in Ursviken was born as Joacim. "It was in my teens that I understood that I am transgender," she says.

Julia looks forward to the day when she can fully live as a woman.

Julia looks forward to the day when she can fully live as a woman.

Foto: Karin Israelsson

Ursviken2023-02-17 12:21

A long corridor is shoveled into the snow from the road up to the house where 33-year-old Julia Marklund lives. The snow is deep on both sides. A sign with "Welcome" sits next to the front door. We take a seat at the small kitchen table and Julia begins to talk:

– It was in my teens that I understood that I am transgender. I felt different, she says with a small smile.

She thinks for a moment and adds that it was 2004.

You mean a bit like "trapped in one's own body?"

– Yes, roughly like that, she replies.

Being transgender means that your gender identity and/or gender expression, does not match the legal gender you were assigned at birth. Trans is Latin and roughly means transcendence or displacement.

According to the Swedish Public Health Agency, there have been surveys where 0.4 percent of the Swedish population are transgender. The site Genusfolket also writes that there are increasing numbers of famous trans people, so this may mean that more people feel comfortable coming out as trans. Therefore, Genusfolket estimates, it may be up to 0.5 percent of the population who identify as trans.

Julia's teenage years, and her everyday life well into adulthood, were marked by depression. Because the point is not knowing who you are, or who you want to be. Rather, that's when it starts. The journey towards feeling whole as a person, to be who you want to be with a body that feels comfortable to live in. We talk about it for a while and Julia now feels grounded and secure in herself. Something she has worked on a lot over the years, including with the help of a therapist and psychologist.

Julia Marklund lives in Ursviken.

It was on October 4, 2018 that she chose to "come out" as a trans woman, but she adds that coming out was mainly for the benefit others - not about herself.

– It was my decision, but I think others may have needed an explanation.

What felt a little difficult for Julia was that she had no one else to talk to about the decision to come out as a trans woman.

What reactions did you get?

– I would say that most people took it well, but my girlfriend left me because she didn't want to live with a woman. Obviously, it was a decision that I accept and we remain good friends and are in contact. She had understood for some time that this was something I was carrying, says Julia and continues:

– But I haven't heard anything negative from family, friends or at work. They mainly ask how I feel and such.

Julia was born and raised in Ursviken and has lived for some time in Skellefteå. Now she is back in her childhood neighborhood and enjoying herself. She works as a substitute teacher and student assistant, but has been on sick leave for some time due to back problems that cause severe pain and discomfort. Today, she is on her way back to working life and will start work training.

Do you think it is easier to live as a trans woman in a big city?

–  I haven't thought about it. I don't think it's important: it's more the attitude of people that is the difference.

She hasn't been mocked or harassed overtly, but says she does get some stares. She prefers to dress as a woman, precisely because she defines herself as a woman. It's as simple as that.

–  I have not come across pronounced prejudices and I am confident in myself, she states briefly.

Have you ended relationships since coming out? People who didn't accept who you were?

–  No, that hasn't happened, Julia replies, who quickly focuses on one social situation that feels awkward as a woman in a man's body: Going to a swimming pool.

Just choosing a changing room, something that is obvious to most people, can cause anxiety for a trans person.

–  In some places there are gender-neutral changing rooms and then there is no problem, but they're not available everywhere.

Her journey towards a body with which she is comfortable has basically just begun. Julia says that since 2019 she has been a patient at the Gender Identity Clinic in Umeå (KIM) for investigation and analysis of what she wants to do and how and when it should happen. A team with a doctor, psychologist and counselor is there for Julia.

To get a more feminine voice, she has gone to a speech therapist, undergone a number of painful treatments to reduce the growth of her beard and taken hormone patches to get a more feminine shape. She's currently using hormone gel.

She picks up her mobile phone and shows me pictures of her chin after a treatment session. It is red and slightly swollen and Julia explains that the procedure involved an instrument inserted under her skin to burn away the hair follicle itself, so as to eliminate beard growth. It was very painful, but worth it.

–  One hundred percent, she says.

Julia Marklund was born Joacim.

Are you planning on having surgery?

– Yes, there are plans for operations, but I haven't decided exactly which ones yet.

We talk about the whole process of correcting one's gender, partly physically, partly legally, and Julia says that it is not a quick fix but one that takes several years.

An important detail is also the legal aspect, such as getting a new social security number.

Julia also confides that she has had a girlfriend for six months. She lives in Bosnia-Herzegovina, but if everything goes as planned, she will move to Sweden. They met online, liked each other and now they have plans to live together.

Is there a difference in the climate for LGBTQ people in Bosnia-Herzegovina compared to Sweden?

–  Big difference. When I go there, I have to dress in men's clothes when we're out on the town.

They have discussed where they want to live and Gothenburg is an option. It has to do with logistics - it's easier to get to Bosnia-Herzegovina from southern Sweden.

Do you have any advice for others who would like to come out?

–  Yes, I've been to a psychologist and having others around you who you can lean on, and from whom you can get support is important.

She plans to join Saturday's Pride march and thinks the entire Pride week is an important part of the goal of gaining full acceptance, understanding and equality for LGBTQ people.

– However, during my lifetime, I doubt Sweden and the Swedes will have full acceptance for anything other than cis people (a term used to describe a person whose gender identity corresponds to their sex assigned at birth), she says.

How long do you think it will take before your gender reassignment process is complete?

– Maybe two to three more years. Living as a woman completely would bring me happiness in life.                                                           

Julia lives as a trans woman today.
Julia lives as a trans woman today.
Gender dysphoria

The gender identity clinic, KIM, is aimed at people over the age of 18 who experience gender incongruence/ gender dysphoria.

Transgender: Being transgender means that one's gender identity and/or gender expression does not match the legal gender that one was assigned when one was born.

Cisgender: A person who identifies as the gender they were assigned at birth.