Justin Lundsten

February 1998

God!, the weather is so depressing and boring here right now, as it usually is at this time of year. I think boring is the key word here. Someone who comes to Sweden and hasn't heard a lot about the country, must think it's boring here.

SWEDE: You know, in summer the sun doesn't go down!

UNSUSPECTING FOREIGNER: Wow, that sounds cool, I would love to come to Sweden!

SWEDE (MUMBLING): But in winter though, the sun hardly comes up!

Summer in Sweden is mid-May to August, winter (we usually jump fall) from mid-September to March, and spring is April. Well, you get used to it...

So, who are we, the people who live in the north? What do we do except sitting in our living-rooms and discuss weather?

Well, we are few in a large space. It can be illustrated like this; Sweden is as big as California, Massachusetts and New Jersey put together. These States has a population of about 44 million. Sweden has a population of 8 million! We like to be for ourselves, and we definitely have the space to do it! We are known to be a bit grumpy and quiet - I think it has to do with the weather - and we are often oversuspicious towards other people.

We are shy and modest, which has to do with the typical Swedish thought that "You shall not think that you are better than anyone else" . We don't brag about our achievements, and bragging at all is a shameful thing. Bureaucracy rules here. We sit down quietly and fill in our forms and blankets, it is safe and simple, we say. We can't buy beer everywhere. Oh, No, "Systembolaget" -- A state run shop that has monopoly on selling alcohol. This shop isn't open on Saturdays! It's pretty cramped on Fridays. We have the usual age limits; you have to be 21 to buy alcohol and 18 to buy tobacco. We live in one of the cleanest countries in the world. Everyone recycles and has a compost, and only here and there exists an idling-prohibition for cars!

We love our Royal House and we are proud of it. "Isn't Princess Victoria smart! - And very good looking too, I wonder which prince she will marry?" Every day the papers write something about the Queen talking against child pornography, the King shooting a big elk during his hunting, the Prince having big parties at school, the youngest Princess Madeleine going through her confirmation and Victoria's love affairs. It is always something!

We are also very Americanized. If we get hungry we can grab a burger in McDonalds or Burger King, or if we crave for pizza we can pop into Pizza Hut. Television shows every thinkable American soap or talk show, from Oprah to Dallas and Beverly Hills 90210 to Ricki Lake. We think that America is fascinating. It is the country of contrasts, the country of the extremes.

Now, if the weather is boring, and the people grumpy, shy and modest, the words to describe us gays are far more intriguing. Here follows a little about the strange names we risk to be called on the grey streets of Sweden.

A gay man in Sweden is generally called "bög" (The "ö" is pronounced as "o" in the English "word"). This awful word (try to pronounce it and you'll see) derives from the English word bugger and the French bougar, and they come from the latin word bulgar; from a bulgarian religious group that was said to devote themselves to sodomy. Even if "bög" is an insult, a lot of gays has taken it on, and refer to themselves as being "bög", this to make it more general and accepted. A female homosexual is referred to as a "flata", which has an unknown meaning or "lesba", which is slang for "lesbisk", which we all know comes from Sapphos Greek island Lesbos.

Of course, there are a menagerie of synonyms, insulting, funny and colorful. It is almost a whole science to know and to know the roots of the words. Here are some of them. A male homosexual can receive a lot of names, and many are names of animals. Torsk (codfish), böckling (smoked Baltic herring), kråka (crow), lax (sammon), skata (magpie) and sutare (some kind of fish) are names a gay can have thrown to his face, the words are mostly old and are usually used in rural areas of the country.

The more insulting synonyms are; Bakomfumlare (literally "Behindfiddler", the meaning is clear), fjolla (tramp, bitch. Only used on feminine guys), häxa (witch), skitpackare (literally "Shitpacker"), stjärtgosse (literally "bumboy", both stjärt, which means "bum" and gosse, "boy" are strongly disparaging) and tarmtomte (literally intestine-gnome(!!)).

The rest are mostly similar to the original word; Homo, homofil, avvikare (diverger), inverterad (inverted), pederast, fikus (fag), med i firman (literally "in the firm"), peve, PV (both cars), putana (meaning unclear), vänstergängad (turned to the left), akterseglare, akterskytt, aktersnurra (all these words have to do with "akter" which means "rear", referring to the sexual activities of the gay community), fjas (like fjolla), grek (greek), kölsvin (meaning unknown), praktpugga (?), pulla (usually a slang word for feminine masturbation), stjärtis (version of stjärtgosse), schispa, schyspa and sjana (these words refer to feminine gays).

The lesbians are more priviliged (or are they?) with fewer insulting words. The words you can be called if you come to Sweden are; Tribad (from the greek word tribain, to rub), lotus (big flower), flatmurra, flatmacka, flatsmälla (more insulting versions of flata) and a masculine lesbian is called truckflata (truck meaning the same in English).

All these words are products of fear and lack of knowledge, and has equivalents in virtually all living languages of today. Many are just funny, some insulting and generally ridiculous. They have always been a part of everyday life, and will never disappear.

P.S. I have changed my name. My name is no longer Justin Lundsten, it is now Justin Parry. Thank you!!

[About the Author]

©1998 Oasis Magazine. All Rights Reserved.