Transphobia in Iceland

My last post on this blog was in Icelandic and it raised quite a furor in Iceland. Only about an hour after I posted it it had been talked about in a newspaper called DV, quickly after that I received a phone call from a DV journalist, the next day I was contacted by Stöð 2 and I met up with one of their journalists for an interview for the news. I was also interviewed by a lady from Rás 2 and I went to the X-ið 97.7 studio for another interview.

The topic of my last post was the beating a friend of mine took in town early in the morning on the 26th of March. He was quite drunk, he’d been having a good night out with friends, and after the club Gay 46 closed he headed over to Faktorý for a few more drinks. While there we went to use the toilet, and since he’s a trans man he went to the men’s room. Three men took offense and started shouting abuse at him. He decided to leave to get away from this confrontation, but they followed him out and beat him to the ground.

He eventually managed to get away and get into a taxi. Unfortunately, instead of the sympathy and help he should have received, the taxi driver gave him a verbal beating that left him even more shaken than he’d been. According to the driver there is no proof that trans people exists and therefore gender identity disorder is obviously a mental illness. He says he knows this because his mother is some kind of specialist in Sweden.

Just so you know, he is wrong. But even if there were no indication that GID had a biological basis, that still wouldn’t change the fact that we exist and we have a right to be treated equally and given the chance to live our lives safe from physical and verbal abuse.

After my friend made his way home he called me. He was crying, in shock, and talking about how he was starting to feel that the fight to be who he is is just hopeless and too painful. I went to him and sat with him for an hour or two as he cried and shook and hated himself.

I knew he didn’t want people to know who he is. He has small children he wants to protect and a family that isn’t entirely supportive. But I also knew that people needed to know about this. Icelanders like to tell themselves that they are so tolerant and free from prejudice, but they are wrong. Expressing homophobia/transphobia is not acceptable, but the hatred simmers under the surface and this hidden problem needs to be exposed if we are supposed to tackle the issue and make some changes.

Trans people ARE discriminated against. There is no mention of trans people in Icelandic law, and it is technically legal to deny a person a job or housing based on their gender identity. A new bill was introduced to Alþingi recently which is meant to deal with this problem and bring the issues of trans people into the real world. If this bill goes through we will be granted equal rights to medical care, our rights to our children will be protected, and there will be a legal recognition of our existence. This is incredibly important, especially in light of what happened to my friend.

We need to get the information out there and open people’s eyes. We are here, we will continue to exist and challenge the heteronormativity of this society and people will just have to adjust dammit!

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