Out of the body, out of the rose

by Jo Hart | Posted in Interviews Les på Norsk

Characterized by limitation and imagined war between identity positions. This is how Theodor Hildeman Togner describes the political terrain in Sweden.

As an impossibility, as a hybrid, as a trans person – where, in such a terrain, can one really be? How can one escape suffocation by categories, and by one’s own body? For Theodor, the way out was to create a space in which ambiguity was allowed to reign.

This space became the book “Ut” (“Out”), where Theodor could be “non-girl”, be “impossible”, and still exist in the world.

THE VOICE Would you say you suffer from panic disorder?
ME Flowers. Not diagnoses.
THE VOICE Is there any way to talk about this at all?
ME I thought you were the flower doctor.
THE VOICE Try. Just give me something small.
ME Look into my face. I mean look really closely. Do you see a girl?

Photo: Vide Koli
Photo: Vide Koli

Theodor explains that the inspiration behind Ut was twofold: On one side dysphoria, but also a pure desire for something beautiful. In the book, this beauty is partly illustrated through descriptions of flowers – roses, lilacs, poppies, windflowers, lilies, orchids – they fill up rooms and houses, they stream in and out of the body, they interchangeingly trigger the senses in euforic and sickening ways.

The smell of roses… I inhale it. Bring the smell deep into me. I want it to fill the head.

I open the mouth and churn the roses in there.

Yuck. It’s too strong. They must be old. Rotten. I spit them out in the hands.

Despite their beauty, the flowers also operate as wild, uncontrollable. Branches start growing out from the body, petals stick themselves to the skin, leaves appear in unwanted places. Nature has always been a central part of Theodor’s texts, but has never been so explicitly linked to gender before Ut.

Photo: Vide Koli
Photo: Vide Koli

– It is as though nature had to do with me or my body in an uncomfortable way, as though it stood there glowing on the outskirts of the city like an implicit reminder of who I should be.

Out, but not in
Ut is a revolt against such implicit reminders, and rather than describing a transition from one identity to another, it is simply a break out of dysphoria: Out of the body, out of the girl, out of the rose.

– From the very beginning I didn’t even want to enter into something else, I just wanted to get away, to get out. It is a painful, but all the same a silent process.

Without necessarily defining what he is out as, “writing himself into his own coming out-process” has given Theodor a platform from where he can discover what he describes as other impossibilities, or maybe even possibilities.

– The book has helped me come “out of girl” in a way, and it is easier to move my body now, compared to before.

Ut is published by Lesbisk Pocket. If you happen to read Swedish, you can order Theodor’s book here.

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