Sweden calling

Sweden is close to Finland, geographically and culturally. The countries share a long common history, and nowadays the societies are similar in many regards, both being Nordic welfare countries. Despite this, in my field we have had astonishingly little exchanges. I have now, past month, done my best to remedy the lack of co-operation!

Firstly, I and some members of my team participated in a conference on transgender health in Umeå. Previously we have co-operated more with Dutch and British experts, excellent exchanges. But social trends are particularly similar in the Nordic countries, so discussing concurrent phenomena with Swedish colleagues was reassuring. During the conference we had dinner in a mansion where the Russian troops celebrated after taking Finland from Sweden in 1809! In the morning the Swedish had their headquarters there, in the evening the Russians dined in the place. And what did they gain? Wilderness … (modesty is deeply rooted in Finnish soul landscape… we had nothing to offer…)

Week thereafter, I acted as the opponent when Therese Åström defended her academic dissertation in Karolinska Institute. Therese Åström’s research focused on how a structured violence risk assessment, SAVRY, improves the accuracy of risk assessment by social workers with adolescents who have committed crimes.

I was delighted to participate as the opponent as in our adolescent forensic unit (EVA) we have since its opening used SAVRY assessments with all adolescents, and I have myself translated the SAVRY to Finnish in 2003.

But as things always happen at the same time, I had still another opportunity to be involved in scientific developments in Sweden within a short time, by acting as the opponent for Hedvig Engberg’s academic dissertation in Karolinska Institute a week later. Hedvig Engberg’s research concerned psychosocial adjustment and mental health in women with disorders of sex development (DSD). I have not exactly researched DSD:s, but many topics relevant for psychosocial adjustment in DSD:s are familiar to me from my own research work with transsexual health, psychiatric epidemiology – and involuntary psychiatric treatment! Namely, very actual issues in this field are human rights questions, stigma, health policies and self-determination – all discussed in related fields where I have worked both clinically and scientifically.

I had great fun and an opportunity to learn a lot when preparing for all these events –and I hope I could give something to others involved, too. About half of this programme was carried out in Swedish, an extra challenge for me, but also a source of great personal satisfaction as I felt rewarded for hard work, being able to carry out professional discussions in Swedish.

This done, it is time to focus on Christmas season. This period is always busy with lots of performances, like Christmas concerts and end of the fall term shows. Our ballet school also had a show, and it was again great fun to finalize the dances, fit the dresses, and spend the big day in dance theatre in the charming chaos of tulle, lace, glitter and pointé shoes… I am delighted about learning more in dance as well as in science.