A support group for foreign trans people founded in Reykjavík.
Jay Lalonde moved to Iceland in the summer of 2017 and soon found out that there was very little information on trans matters publicly available, and almost none of it in English. Something had to be done and Jay came up with an idea. To help foreign trans people get the information they need and strengthen the bond between them they have started an English speaking support group that meets twice a month at Andrými in down town Reykjavík. GayIcleand got in touch with Jay, to ask get more info on the group and how it began.
“My name is Jay, and I moved to Iceland in summer 2017. I am currently studying at Háskóli Íslands, and even though I knew some Icelandic before arriving, as soon as I started the medical transition process here in Iceland – or even when I was trying to find out information about it – I realised there is very little information publicly available and almost nothing in English. I was lucky to talk to some amazing people from the local trans organisation Trans Ísland and got most of the information I needed that way. Talking with other trans immigrants, I started to think about how foreigners are often excluded from queer events because most of them naturally happen in Icelandic, and also because most people in the community already know each other well so it is often difficult for newcomers to get involved.”
“The group is intended for trans and questioning people – i.e. those who are thinking they might be trans. The meetings are held in English, but foreigners and Icelanders … alike are welcome to come.”
Whom is the group intended for?
“The group is intended for trans and questioning people – i.e. those who are thinking they might be trans. The meetings are held in English, but foreigners and Icelanders (when and how does one become an Icelander, anyway?) alike are welcome to come.”
What’s the purpose of the support group?
“The goal of the support group is to both create a safer environment for trans and questioning people to meet and talk about anything we want without the usual stress and everyday trans phobia present elsewhere, and also to help people – especially foreigners who are not fluent in Icelandic – to access useful information, for example about the rights of trans people in Iceland, medical transition system, name changes etc. It is really important that the group is grassroots – trans-organised and intended for trans participants – and as inclusive as possible. The place we meet at, Andrými, is a self-organised radical social space which also means that people are not only welcome to come to our meetings but also to organize their own trans-focused – or not – events in the space.”
The group meets twice a month, every second and fourth Tuesday, and you can find detailed information and news about it in the Facebook event. But is the foreign trans community big in Iceland?
“I would say the foreign trans community is proportionate to the domestic trans community, but I think as some foreigner communities are sometimes a bit more closed off to an outsider like me it is often more difficult to reach them with information. I am always thinking about ways to make more foreigners aware of the support group.”
Based on your experience elsewhere how does the Icelandic health system stand in handling trans matters?
“I think the Icelandic system of medical transition and trans-specific healthcare is good compared to some other countries, e.g. those requiring sterilisation to change one’s ID documents etc., but medical professionals in Iceland are not always as educated as they should be in dealing with trans people, for example they very often ask intrusive questions about one’s sex life, partners, and other things that they would certainly consider private if dealing with a cis person.
The system is also not very flexible in letting people choose which parts of the medical system they are interested in – seeing a psychiatrist, psychologist, endocrinologist to access hormones, social worker etc. – and instead forces a “one-way-fits-all” approach which also causes waiting lists to be even longer than they would be otherwise, in my opinion.
“I would love to see everyone being able to just go to Þjóðskrá (Registers Iceland) and be able to change their name and gender, including to a gender neutral option, Icelandic citizens and non-citizens alike.”
Some people have been waiting for their medical appointments for a very long time, often for many months and even over a year, which understandably takes a toll on their mental well-being. It is also unclear what options are available to non-binary people wanting to medically transition in Iceland. I think the healthcare system could be truly great if it just gave trans people more agency over what and when do we want to do with our bodies.
I would love to see everyone being able to just go to Þjóðskrá (Registers Iceland) and be able to change their name and gender, including to a gender neutral option, Icelandic citizens and non-citizens alike.”
Anything else you want to convey to the readers of GayIceland?
“I think it would be great if the queer community always strived to be supportive of everyone in it; queer immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers, queers who cannot speak Icelandic, non-passing trans people, trans people who want to medically transition and the ones who do not, non-binary people, intersex people, and many other groups, instead of just using “queer” as a fashionable synonym for “gay,” so we can together make Iceland the queer paradise it is often described to be.”