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Abstract

In recent years, transgender reproduction has become increasingly visible in public debates in Sweden. Heated debates and years of activism and advocacy ultimately led to a change in law in 2013. In the new law, the previously controversial demands for patients to be unmarried and sterile had been removed from the legal framework. As a consequence, transgender patients also became entitled to fertility preservation through assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs). This gave rise to a new patient group of fertility patients with specific medical and psychosocial needs.

Drawing on qualitative in-depth interviews with healthcare professionals in a Stockholm clinic for reproductive medicine, we discuss the professionals’ strategies for unlearning cisnormativity and what Riggs has called ‘mundane transphobia’ in the clinic. We also analyze the processes of relearning that the healthcare professionals (more or less successfully) went through. Our findings demonstrate that there is still room for improvement when it comes to meeting the specific needs of transgender fertility patients, but the clinic staff had taken a number of actions. They had gone through training with an LGBTQ organization, they had changed some of their materials such as medical posters and forms to less binary counterparts, and they had developed a number of mental strategies for being better prepared in patient meetings. One major conclusion of our study is that the reason for the remaining problems was largely associated with the fact that re-learning clinical everyday practices takes both time and continuous efforts, rather than there being any reluctance by staff to learn new habits. A major problem pointed out by the staff was that the legal reform increased the number of patients without increasing the clinic’s budget, and that this had required a ‘creative reallocation’ of funds from other patient groups.

Note on the Author

Theo Erbenius is an independent scholar with a Master’s degree in Ethnology from Södertörn University in Sweden. His current position is at Arkiv Sörmland where he develops methods to collect and preserve young people's digital memories to the future. He has published on issues of gender in Anthropology & Medicine.

Jenny Gunnarsson Payne is associate professor of Ethnology and research leader at the Centre for Baltic and East European Studies (CBEES), Södertörn University, in Sweden. She has published widely on issues of gender, sexuality and reproduction, and is co-editor of Transnationalising Reproduction: Third-party Conception in a Globalised World (Routledge 2018, with Róisín Ryan-Flood). She currently leads the research project Reproducing (In)Justice: Towards a Theory of Relational Reproductive Justice and Surrogacy in Baltic, Central and Eastern Europe. She has published in journals such as Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, the European Journal of Women's Studies and Gender, Place and Culture.

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