Book of the month: Transgender in Copenhagen
Our Human Library Book of the Month is a series of portraits of our books created with the purpose of offering our readers a chance to understand the diversity and variety within our bookshelves around the world. It also provides unique insights into the motivations and values of being a book and volunteering for our organization.
For Aske becoming a book in the Human Library was something that happened by way of coincidence. One day at school the Human Library was on the schedule for the days program. After attending as a reader Aske was approached by a librarian and encouraged to join the Copenhagen Book Depot. That was three years ago and the rest is history as they say.
“The event made such an impression on me, that when I gave it some thought I realized that my journey could also be of value to others and so why not try and help people better understand”, he says.
“When I publish my primary topic has been Transgender, but I am also lent out to be open about my social anxiety, a skitzotypical disorder and my body modifications. I stay a busy book.”
Aske can no longer recall how many times he has been published, but attends as many events as possible, which usually means two events and sometimes more, each month.
Challenging the stereotypes
With 3 to 5 loans at each event, Aske is a very popular book and he has had many different conversations.
“Every loan is different, but usually I challenge the first three main stereotypes, before I even open my mouth: You see to most people I don’t look “transgender” and very many of them are expecting to meet a man dressed as a woman, or they expect a cross dresser to come out”.
With the body modifications, the many piercings and tattoos along with significant facial hair in the form of a beard, Aske also has the experience that many readers assume that it must be quite difficult to find a partner.
“I honestly have never ever had anyone turn me down because of my gender or body.”
The complexity of transitioning
After the first most common are out of the way, many readers also tend to assume that Aske is looking to go through surgery for a formal gender change.
“The thing is I have never wanted that. It is my impression that many of my readers are of the assumption that transgender’s transitions is a black and white thing. From one gender, to the other, with no gray zones. But usually it’s not, and actually most of the transgender people that I know, and that is quite a few, don’t feel like they need to change alot of things, because to us, there’s not really a change happening. We know who we are, we’re just telling the world how it is. To everyone else, it seems like a lot of change is happening, but really, we’re just finally living the life we always felt was right for us. And unfortunately, some changes need to happen to our body, for people to accept who we really are.
Most frequently answered questions
Aske explains that usually the conversations will include questions such as; What did your parents say, what is your sexual orientation, and when did you know. From there the loan can go in many directions.
“We talk about my feelings about transitioning, how society and the government treats me, what physically happens to my body when injecting hormones, how I wish to be treated, and so on”.
Helping people better understand
Becoming an open book made a lot of sense to Aske. Who loves to be the one to actually go and do something. He feels he does that by helping to offer a safe space where people can challenge the stereotypes and ask freely.
“It’s awesome for me to see it happening right in front of my eyes, and to know that I did something nice for everybody else from my community. Because after the 30 minute conversation, I know my readers will talk to their friends and family about what they learned.”
Aske is very aware that not all questions can be answered and that the takeaways from readers are as bountiful for him as they seem to be for them.
“To meet with someone, who actually really wants to listen to what I have to say, and take that in. Some of them ask questions, that I might have never thought about, and that helps me get to know myself better, and also to be completely open in my answers. I always do my best to answer honestly and sometimes the answer I have to give is – I have no idea.”
A valuable meeting for all involved
According to Aske, the Human Library creates something with value for all involved.
“I just honestly love the whole concept. This really brings people together. I talk to people I would otherwise never have had a conversation with. And I learn so much myself from both my readers, and the other books. I didn’t know much about blindness, deafness, incest, alot of mental disorders, and so on, before I got to meet them in the book depot. I even made friends with a police officer, that’s for sure something I thought would never happen”.
Something healthy about being open
As the years in the book collection add on, Aske remains in active circulation.
“It’s always healthy to challenge yourself, and to willingly learn or unlearn something. It opens up your world to meet different people, or it can be healing to mirror yourself in someone, and learn something about yourself”.
Aske Ravn is on loan at events hosted by the Human Library book depot in Copenhagen since 2016.