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11 Dec, 2008 03:54

Gender bender upsets Church in Finland

A vicar in Helsinki has joined what appears to be a nationwide rush to change sex in Finland. After more than half a century as a man, Olli Aalto has chosen to become a woman. He’s one of 1,000 Finns who’ve chosen to switch gender.

For more than 20 years, Olli Aalto has been a vicar in an Evangelical Lutheran church in Helsinki. The 54-year-old says that he already feels like a woman.

“This is something I have been waiting for for a very long time,” Aalto said.

Before Aalto, who plans to change his first name to Mary, decided to go public, he consulted his ex-wives, children and grand-children, who were all very supportive.

When he “came out” to his parish, most worshippers responded positively.

However, some were not so supportive. So he went public so that everyone could understand his reasoning.

“I wanted everything to be based on the facts, not gossip,” explained Aalto. “There is nothing very sexual about this, it's just something in my head.”

Aalto also turned to the Trans Centre, which helps people who are contemplating a sex change with information and support for them and their families.

“Often people feel they are alone. This way they meet other people and talk with them so they know they are not alone,” said Jana Helmenin of the Trans Centre.

In order to start the process, Aalto began to undergo hormone therapy, which will be followed by a complete sex-change.

The decision, while supported by people around him, will put the church in a very awkward position.

The Lutheran church has already had issues with allowing woman ministers, and this latest event will force it to come to a decision on trans-genders serving in the church. The church says that it respects his decision.

“This is a completely private matter, there is no theological stand, the Church is completely neutral,” Theo Pesonen of the Evangelical Lutheran Church said.

Aalto is currently on leave but hopes that he will be welcomed back once the procedure is complete. If not, he says, he is prepared to take them to court.

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