On the 17th of June each year Iceland celebrates its declaration of independence that happened in 1944. The celebration is held all around the country and celebrates Icelandic culture and society. While I have never personally been a fan of national holidays or national celebrations (I actually stay away from them as much as possible), this year’s celebration marked a historic step for the Icelandic trans community.
It was the first time a trans woman was in the role of the Lady of the Mountain during the celebration. This happened in the town of Hafnarfjörður which is a part of the capital area and the trans woman who had the honor of being the Lady of the Mountain was Eva Ágústa Aradóttir.
The Lady of the Mountain is considered a pure and beautiful symbol of Iceland and holds an important role during the celebration itself. As is custom, she dresses up in garments according to the earliest depictions of her in literature and addresses the crowd with a speech or Icelandic poetry. She symbolises Iceland’s independence, our culture and is considered one of the most pure depiction of the people of Iceland.
The fact that Hafnarfjarðarbær (the town council) chose a trans woman to do this role is a historical step and is a bigger step for the trans community than most people realise. Trans people often experience discrimination and stigma for their identities and all around the world trans people’s identities are scrutinised, medicalised and questioned. This causes trans people to have less access to education, housing and jobs and they are often excluded from their own families and often suffer from poor mental health as a result. Research shows up to a whopping 48 percent of trans youth having attempted suicide and every year there are between one and two hundred trans people reported killed all around the world.
“The fact that Hafnarfjarðarbær (the town council) chose a trans woman to do this role is a historical step and is a bigger step for the trans community than most people realise.”
While Iceland is often considered a very accepting country when it comes down to LGBTQIA issues, there are many aspects in which Iceland lacks. When compared to other countries in Europe and according to ILGA-Europe’s rainbow map (which records the legal situation of LGBTQIA people in Europe), Iceland only fulfills 47 percent of the requirements needed for LGBTQIA people to have full legal rights. This has largely to do with it’s poor or non existing laws on trans and intersex issues when it comes down to health care and discrimination.
In a world where trans people’s identities aren’t fully respected, it is therefore a huge acknowledgement for a trans woman to be the Lady of the Mountain during the national holiday. The town of Hafnarfjörður has made a historical declaration that trans women are women and should be recognised and respected as such.
This decision has thankfully received an overwhelming amount of positive feedback within the society, but as always there are those who will challenge inclusion and diversity. The very fact that there are people speaking out against this and saying that a trans woman should not be allowed to have this role only underlines the importance of it. It goes to show that we still have a long way to go when it comes down to recognition and acceptance and sends a strong message about what sort of society Hafnarfjörður wants to build. It is a declaration that trans women and trans people in general should be recognised and respected for who they are and their identities are authentic and real. It is a declaration of solidarity and the town of Hafnarfjörður exemplifies what it is to show support to underrepresented and marginalised groups in society. Eva Ágústa’s role is symbolic, and it goes to show that there is not one way to be a woman. She symbolises diversity and equity and I hope she will be the first of many diverse women to take on this role.
I truly hope that this is only the start and that we will see other diverse women from all backgrounds and spheres of life being given the opportunity to take on this role. Because women are of all kinds, shapes and sizes. I want women of colour, disabled women, fat women, poor women, women of different sexualities and with different backgrounds to have this opportunity. I want to see women in their full diversity as the Lady of the Mountain.
Congratulations Eva Ágústa, and thank you for representing trans women and trans people so well and so eloquently. We could not have asked for a better person for the job.
Main photo: Twitter