The University of Iceland has now made it possible for students undergoing gender reassignment process to change their names within the school. The head of Trans Iceland believes it’s a step in the right direction and hopes for more positive change.
“We can imagine that this process is extremely difficult for these students,” says Anna Birna Halldórsdóttir, head of the centre service desk at the University of Iceland. “So hopefully this will help.”
The university has now made it possible for students, who are in the process of undergoing gender reassignment, to change their names inside the school. This is done so the students don’t have to use their given name while attending the school, i.e. so they can avoid using the names that are listed at Registers Iceland (Þjóðskrá) until gender reassignment is complete.
Asked why the university decided to move forward with this, Anna says it’s because of the many requests the university has been getting from students. “We are still in the early stages,” she points out. “Just last week we sent word to those who had requested a name change, to let them know that it was now possible. For the time being students, who want to change their names within the walls of the school, can turn to me. But in a few weeks time this will be in the hands of career and guidance counselors, who are especially trained in dealing with sensitive matters concerning students,” she explains and underlines that the university’s staff will handle all requests with care.
“We believe we can make this happen, so that there will be no mistakes made,” she says. “But, if students need a certificate of some sort from us to confirm that they are in fact students at the school, we will have to use the names they go by at Registers Iceland.”
“This is a certain acknowledgment of self-identity … it also spares you the tiresome process of having to explain … why ones name doesn’t fit ones gender expression.”
The University of Iceland is not the first university in Iceland to enable students to change their name. For the last two years it has been possible at The University of Reykjavík, with good result according to the school’s career and guidance counselors.
Alexander Björn Gunnarsson, head of Trans Iceland, hopes more institutions and companies will follow the universities’ example. “I’m pleased about this,” he says, “and I believe it was high time these changes were made. This is something that modern technology allows for and it shouldn’t be complex to execute. Now, I just hope more institutions and companies will offer this possibility to people who haven’t yet changed, or cannot change, their name at Registers Iceland.”
These steps, at both the University of Iceland and the University Reykjavík, have been taken to make life somewhat easier for trans students within the educational system. Alexander says that these kind of measures can help in many ways. “This is of course a certain acknowledgment of self-identity,” he points out. “And it also spares you the tiresome process of having to explain to total strangers why ones name doesn’t fit ones gender expression. A process that has the effect that a lot of trans people choose to live their life stealth, so that few are aware that they are trans.”
Despite being happy about these changes Alexander believes there is still a lot of work to be done in order to guarantee trans rights in Iceland. “In regards to names and gender registration I think it would be a good step forward to discontinue the Icelandic naming committee (Mannanafnanefnd),” he says. “It’s getting pretty old that boys can only have certain names and girls have certain names.
“I just hope more institutions and companies will offer this possibility to people who haven’t yet changed, or cannot change, their name at Registers Iceland.”
I also think it would then be best to have the possibility of changing ones gender registration at Registers Iceland and have an option called X for non-binary people and others who don’t fit into these male and female categories.
Today, trans people have to undergo the gender reassignment process for 18 months before they can apply for a change of gender registration. Then they have to apply for three different papers and get permission from Directorate of Health (embætti landlæknis) before they can apply for gender registration change and name change. Such a tiring and needlessly complicated process.”
Going back to the development at the universities, Alexander hopes for more positive change. “It would be ideal if restrooms and locker rooms within the school system were gender neutral. I think we should also be careful about dividing children into groups based on gender in elementary schools and rec centers,” he says.