Sweden’s LGBT Women You Need To Know

Today March 8 on the International Women’s Day we want to share our favorite Swedish women, we love to be inspired by! Sweden believes that women and men should have equal power to shape society and their own lives. Often considered as a gender equality role model, Sweden has come a long way. Still, there’s room for improvement. We at StandOut believe that the future should be gender equal, no matter who you are!

Barbro Westerholm, politician, doctor. Barbro Westerholm is a true superwoman for the LGBT+ community in Sweden. She was born in 1933 in Stockholm, graduated from Karolinska Institutet in 1959 in medicine and pharmacologist. In 1965-70, she was an executive member of the Swedish Medicines Agency’s Board of Appeal and in 1971-74 she was working for the medical council at the National Board of Health and Welfare. As a new Director General of the National Board of Health and Welfare, she declassed homosexuality from being a disease in 1979. She has also worked and pushed forward the same-sex marriage law. Now at the age of 85, she is still active as a politician and a favored speaker at our many pride festivals all over Sweden.

Foto: Staffan Claesson / TT

Eva Brunne, bishop. She was elected as a bishop in 1978. She was elected Bishop in Stockholm’s diocese in 2009 and became the first openly lesbian bishop in the world. Her sexual orientation created a massive discussion. Several bishops abstained from attending her bishopric and her appointment was appealed but rejected. When she, during the Regufee wave in 2015, suggested that churches could be temporarily opened up to people of Muslim faith and point out the way to Mecca to enable them to pray, she was met with hate and threats. We love Brune’s answer to the haters: – There is only one way and that is the way of love.

Efva Attling, jewelry designer. Efva grew up in a musical family in Högdalen, Stockholm, together with four sisters, a mum and a dad. Her dad was a pastry cook and part-time jazz musician. The way music and words touche and inspire people, has always been important for Efva, and this is what her concept “Beauty with a thought” is based on. At the age of 17, Efva was discovered by legendary Eileen Ford, founder of Ford Models Model Agency. Efva was signed to the agency and the assignments in Paris, Milan, London and New York started to reveal each other. A 12 years long modeling career took off with prestigious assignments for customers like Vogue and Fendi became part of her everyday life.

Over the years Efva has been awarded a number of prizes for her work. Most recently with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Swedish ELLE Gala 2018 with the motivation: “A dynamic multi-creator whose style-proof design embodies the most important moments of life. She has created a truly creative universe characterized by love, passion and positive messages. She has placed Swedish jewelry design on the international map.” 

In 1996 Efva together with Eva Dahlgren made headlines in the Swedish press when they came out as a couple. In 2009 they got married after Sweden passed its gender-neutral marriage law. We are so impressed and very proud of them both. Love wins! 

Pia Sundhage, football player and head coach. Named by FIFA as 2012 Coach of the Year and a nominee for Coach of the Year again in 2013, Sundhage’s impressive record includes coaching the U.S. team to 88-6-1 and winning 11 tournaments, including three Algarve Cups and two Olympic gold medals. Sundhage currently serves as the head coach for the Sweden Women’s Soccer Team. She is known for her uniquely positive and unassuming coaching style. She began her first practice with the U.S. team after they lost the 2007 World Cup by playing Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin’” on her guitar, and the team said farewell by singing her “You Are My Sunshine” and giving her a guitar they all signed.

Sundhage is also one of the world’s all-time greatest female players, earning the sixth spot in the 2000 FIFA Women’s Player of the Century list. She made her debut with the Swedish team in 1975 when she was 15. She led the team to win the first European Women’s Championship in 1984, when she scored the winning penalty kick, and to the bronze medal at the inaugural Women’s World Cup in 1991, where she scored four goals. She retired after the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, where she played every minute of the three matches. Sundhage amassed 71 goals over 146 international games throughout her 22-year career.

Christina Guggenberger, pioneer and LGBTQ activist. Christina is one of the world’s leading destination-marketing pioneers in LGBT+ tourism. Christina even took the unique path of successfully creating lesbian-specific outreach years ago, something many destinations are still struggling with. Ten years ago, Christina founded the Stockholm Gay and Lesbian Network of the Stockholm Visitors Board, a unique project for the city’s marketing organization that helped the city become a top global LGBT+ destination. Thanks to Christina’s efforts, Stockholm has won several LGBT+ travel awards. Today Christina is the founder of the StockholmLGBTnetworkproject. With a warm heart and shiny aura, Christina is a true inspiration for us at StandOut Travel!

Klara Johansson, pioneer and journalist (1875-1948) Not only was she of the first female university students in Sweden. In Sweden, she was also one of the first female journalists to be employed by a newspaper editor. She wrote books and later became one of the country’s foremost literary critics. She was lesbian and (for her time) very open with her orientation. She lived with Ellen Kleman for over 30 years and together they were passionately involved in the issue of voting rights.

Karin Boye, poet and author (1900-1941) At the beginning of her career, she wrote a novel and was afterward recruited by the socialist journal Clarté. Not completely different from today’s lesbians, she spent a year in Berlin (1932) exploring her sexual orientation. She was married to a man but the marriage ended when she came to be more comfortable in her sexuality. She returned to Sweden and after some time her Jewish girlfriend Margot Hanel came along. The couple lived together until Boye’s death in 1941. One month after her death, Hanel died – just three years before homosexuality became legal in Sweden.

Selma Lagerlöf, author (1858–1940) Selma made her writer’s debut with the classic Gösta Berling saga. In 1909, she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature and thus became the first woman to receive the prize and also the first woman in the Swedish Academy. She never lived openly with her orientation. But after her correspondence with Sophia Elkan and Valborg Olander was published in the early ’90s, she became a natural lesbian pride. In the letters, you can read about her powerful love for the two women.

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