Styrmir sports club and Samtökin 78 have organized a self-defense class for beginners which will take place at Ármann, Laugaból sports center, Engjavegur 7 (near Laugardalsvöllur) tomorrow night and on Saturday. The GayIceland team sat down with organiser Íris Ellenberger and found out why taking such a course might be a good idea.
“Throughout the years there have been regular reports on harassment against queer people in Iceland, though I’m not sure if it’s increasing or decreasing,” she says. “Only as recently as last spring a trans man was attacked by several males at the bar Faktorý just for wanting to use the men’s room. That incident was the reason I wanted to learn basics in self-defense and so we decided to offer this two-day course.”
But there is a law against hate crimes in Iceland which takes sexuality into account. “True, though it still doesn’t take transpeople into consideration even though it’s a known fact they’re often victims of discrimination and violence. The law sends out a message to our community. But there will always be assholes that have a need to abuse others, using sexuality or sexual identity as an excuse for violence. I’m sure they don’t take the law very seriously.”
Asked wether she’s ever experienced harassment she nods. “I’ve been called a fucking dyke several times. But more often I’ve been harassed for being a woman. That’s something that regularly comes up and sometimes things can get pretty gruesome, especially if I choose to stand up for myself. Of course we have to remember that the LGBT community consists of all kinds of people who are discriminated against not just based on sexuality, but other factors such as sex, skin color, nationality and so on.”
According to Íris this is probably the first time that a self-defense course is being offered specially to the Icelandic LGBT community. She adds that for a long time such classes have been a part of feminist activism abroad so she wouldn’t be surprised if the same goes for the feminist movement in Iceland.
However it took a long time to find an instructor that fully understood what queers need to know. “Which is to know how to avoid and get out of dangerous situations instead of learning cool but complicated tricks,” she explains and says they were very lucky to get in touch with Gulleik Lövskar, Taekwondo teacher at Ármann sports center. “He is going to teach us the beforementioned on the first day and on the latter we will deal with a rougher type of self-defense by learning some kicks and punches.”
Apart from that she hopes she will be better prepared to tackle risky situations after taking the class. “And of course that goes for the other participants. If some decide to learn more later on, that’s just a bonus,” she adds with a smile.
So can just about anybody participate or do you have to be really buffed up?
“Yes, you don’t have to be in really good shape or have any prior experience from martial arts or any other sports. We will also try to accommodate people with disabilities as best we can. This course is just open to everyone who is interested in staying out of trouble.”
Any last words?
“Hope to see you. Long live the queer revolution!”
The hours are: Friday 28th from 19.30-21.30 and Saturday 29th from 14-16.
Place: Ármann,Laugaból sports center, Engjavegur 7 (near Laugardalsvöllur), basement.
Price: 6.000 krónur, which needs to be paid in advance. We will try to help those who can’t pay for the course but feel they would benefit from it.
Registration and additional information: Send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
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