Dr. Óttar Guðmundsson is simply wrong

Ugla Stefanía, who is a known activist in Iceland, rejects the claims dr. Óttar Guðmundsson put forward in an interview, which was published on GayIceland this morningUgla says that contrary to what dr. Óttar says, trans people in Iceland are urged by health care officials to dress and act in a certain way in order to get appropriate health care – even though it’s not always said flat-out. 

Ugla Stefanía Jónsdóttir, vice chair of Trans-Iceland. Photos of Ugla/Móa Hjartardóttir.
Ugla Stefanía Jónsdóttir, is an activist and the former chair of Trans-Iceland. Photos of Ugla/Móa Hjartardóttir.

“According to the experience of trans people, myself included, they have had very clear ideas of what is acceptable and what is not acceptable,” says Ugla. “Whether this is directly said or not, it is an impression almost every trans person has had at one point or the other.

Health care officials might be changing and their views adapting, but it’s very clear what they want. The fact that Óttar says that they ‘do not demand that people dress a certain way or change anything in their behavior, but when people choose to change certain things it’s usually helpful in the diagnosis process’ just tells me that health care officials have certain standards of the right way to behave or dress in order for the ‘diagnosis’ to be clearer.

And they shouldn’t be able to do that, to put those kind or any kind of standards on anyone. Trans people shouldn’t have to prove themselves to these health care officials. Trans people are the only ones who really know if they’re trans or not, and it’s not right that someone else has the power to say whether that is really their experience or not.”

“Trans people are the only ones who really know if they’re trans or not, and it’s not right that someone else has the power to say whether that is really their experience or not.”

Trans is still classified as a mental disorder in Iceland. When dr. Óttar was asked why that hasn’t been changed, he said that was something he couldn’t answer. But pointed out that in Iceland health care officials are no longer using “gender identity disorder” to diagnose trans people, a term associated with mental disorder. Ugla says that’s really not correct since the laws in Iceland clearly state that “gender identity disorder” should be used as a definition to diagnose them.

“In reality it’s out of their hands, since they are legally obliged to work under the terms of having to diagnose people with gender identity disorder,” says Ugla, referring to the trans health care team that dr. Óttar is in charge of at the National University Hosiptal. “And that has to do with a current law that was passed in 2012.”

Why the health care officials won’t advocate for a revision or a change on the definition of trans as a mental disorder in the laws, is however something that Ugla doesn’t understand. “Especially since gender identity disorder, which is the current diagnosis for trans people in Iceland, is no longer applicable and is now referred to as the more updated “gender dysphoria”, in other parts of the world.

Dr. Óttar Guðmundsson, is the head of the trans health care team at The National University Hospital. Photo/Screenshot of a photo of dr. Óttar from “Læknablaðið”.

The difference between the two is that gender identity disorder is based on the idea that trans people have a mental disorder and that a transition is a cure for that disorder. Where as gender dysphoria is described as the depression, anxiety or mental conditions that occur from being in the wrong gender and not getting access to the services that you need in order to live out your true and authentic self.”

In GayIceland’s interview with dr. Óttar, the doctor was asked why trans people can’t transition in Iceland, without first getting diagnosed by health care officials. His answer was that the diagnosis needs to be very meticulous “so that no one who has a serious, untreated mental disorder or a serious, untreated personality disorder goes through” the gender reassignment process.” Untreated disorders would make it impossible for a person to commence it. That’s something Ugla doesn’t totally agree with. 

“Meanwhile, I agree that it is important to make sure that people are not doing this on the wrong pretense and that people understand what everything entails, the fact that people are experiencing mental health issues are often directly related to the fact that they were assigned the wrong gender at birth and have not had the opportunity to live out their true and authentic selves. I think it’s important to underline and realize this, because if you are experiencing a mental disorder, anxiety or depression, being able to access a process like this is an important step in dealing with it and coming to terms with yourself.”

Ugla say that all of this goes to show that the health care system in Iceland needs to change. “Within Europe, these standards have been changing a lot. The current system in Iceland simply isn’t up to date and is in so many ways problematic. To say otherwise is simply not right.”

Main photo: Pixabay.com


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