Now & Forever ABCs (Joe)

Josef Svenson

26 October 1985

Born Joséphine Svenson, Joe never much went in for girlish things.

By the time he started school he preferred to be called a boy, and to be called Joséphe.

At the time he started puberty Joe had, in every way he could, shed his feminine form, except features that he inherited from his maternal grandfather, which included a somewhat effeminate face – a genetic legacy that irked him. When puberty actually started to turn Joe’s body against him, he became rapidly depressed.

At this point Joe was seeing therapists, but as his body insisted on growing breasts instead of a beard he started taking drugs and engaging in other self-destructive behaviours – he preferred anything that could keep him from seeing the image in the mirror as it really was. His first menstruation left him in tears and a slight breakdown.

When he was sixteen, and living in Austria, his life began to turn around in little ways. His parents helped him change his name; he was now legally Josef Svenson (he had started using the German spelling and pronunciation instead of the French so it sounded, to him, less like his birth name). They also got him started on hormone treatments, and a hysterectomy – he would become depressed to the point of not eating on his periods. Also, in an effort to get him off of the drugs, by limiting his ability to get them and to avoid anyone attempting to force him to be female in any capacity, his parents home schooled him through private tutors.

Despite his best efforts to pickle his mind, Joe remained brilliant and had secured himself a place at Humbolt in Berlin at age seventeen. There he tried to better himself – by now he looked at least as masculine as his grandfather, Hrithik … not his ideal, but he could live with it – but as he tried again to start dating he found no end of trouble that put him back onto drugs. Frequently, upon finding out he was born female, and in fact still had a woman’s anatomy, women would dump him. Then word got around. He stopped being able to get dates with the better girls and found himself more and more with abusive predators who he couldn’t bring himself to dump; they at least pretended to think of him as a man. Eventually he quit school.

When he was nineteen, Joe had the last of the surgeries to make him male. This did a lot for his morale. Some deal, neither he nor they will discuss, was worked out between Joe and Hrithik & Theresa; whatever it was they paid his way though a technical school in Vienna, and he stayed sober. While there he cautiously tried dating again – it’s thought that his grandparents’ deal may have included them affirming relationships that lasted beyond a certain point, it’s known he was required to get back into therapy. Whatever the stipulation, he had better luck, fewer predators at least, but some worse heartbreaks … he had an uncanny knack for getting serious with women who couldn’t be with a man who could not give them children one day.

Eventually he met a young art student named Helen. And, along the way, she asked him to marry her. Joe’s life has steadily turned around from there. She works in graphic design, he in industrial design, and they are proving successful in their careers, both climbing the promotion ladder quickly. They’re even discussing children.

Joe still cannot see the handsome, exotic young man he has become. His home has few mirrors and there exist very few photographs of him. Their home is decorated in pictures of the couple’s parents, siblings, extended family, paintings, and many images of Helen. His wife lets him have that one, though she and many others argue constantly that he’s attractive, she lets him stay out of the lens of cameras on the condition that every few years he has one made or lets her take one of him just for herself. He agreed without hesitation.