Photo / Móa Hjartardóttir

Jog on, self-appointed experts

Elmar Bjarnason football player has gone on a rampage about trans people and trans rights calling trans people mentally ill. Today trans activist Ugla Stefanía (Owl Fisher) debunks the footballer’s claims.

Footballer Elmar Bjarnason. Photo: a screenshot from an article in news paper DV about his writing about women’s rights.

Who doesn’t love it when some guy appoints himself as the expert over a topic that doesn’t have anything to do with him, especially when he’s obviously never actually researched the topic?

I for one am a big fan. It really warms my heart to see someone with no connection to a topic to be so deeply concerned. I’d absolutely love to be so confident in myself that I could blabber on about something after watching a YouTube video or two and get a huge platform in the media to for said blabber—that would be ace.

“… it is a bit unclear where Elmar was getting his information from, but it surely wasn’t from the World Organisation of Health or the American Psychiatrist Organisation.”

All kidding aside, this is literally what happened earlier this week. A random footballer in Iceland named Elmar Bjarnason decided to go on a crusade against feminism and women’s rights, which also resulted in him going on a rather embarrassing rampage about trans people and trans rights. He seemed to be under the impression that being trans was indeed a mental illness despite the fact that neither the ICD nor DSM, which are the diagnosis manuals for mental disorders, state so.

In 2013 the diagnosis of gender identity disorder changed into gender dysphoria in the DSM-5, meaning that being trans is no longer seen as a mental illness in of itself. Instead, gender dysphoria is the deep rooted distress about your assigned gender, which can result in a serious negative impact on a person’s mental health and well-being if they do not get access to the health care. Access to health care and social support can therefore alleviate dysphoria and give people a better quality of life.

In the ICD-11 which was published this year, being trans is no longer considered a mental illness. It has therefore been removed from it’s previous category and gender incongruance has been added to the sexual health category. This means that health care for trans people will still be seen as a necessity (because it certainly is) and covered by insurance, in order to ensure that trans people still get access to life saving services.

One shining beacon of light for many trans youth is their access to puberty blockers, which can prevent permanent physical changes that will cause them distress, dysphoria and severe trauma.

So it is a bit unclear where Elmar was getting his information from, but it surely wasn’t from the World Organisation of Health or the American Psychiatrist Organisation. Or any leading experts and research on trans health care for that matter, such as World Organisation of Transgender Health. But I suppose a random youtube video is as good as.

He also seemed deeply concerned about trans children and their access to adequate health care. I myself am deeply concerned about trans kids in today’s society, but probably for very different reasons than Elmar.

My concerns mainly lie in the fact that a body of research shows that between 30% – 45% of trans youth are attempting suicide worldwide. This is in direct relation to the high levels of stigma, bullying and discrimination kids face at school, at home and from society in general. Similar numbers exist for trans adults for very much the same reasons. Trans people face heightened levels of hate crime, discrimination and even violence for simply being themselves, which if fueled by stigma and anti-trans media coverage world wide. This results in less access to health care, education, housing, people being disowned by their families, legal protections being stripped, harassment, violence and murder.

One shining beacon of light for many trans youth is their access to puberty blockers, which can prevent permanent physical changes that will cause them distress, dysphoria and severe trauma. Puberty blockers are entirely harmless, as all they do is put a pause on puberty to give trans kids a time to breathe and decide whether or not they want to continue onto cross hormones once they get older.

Puberty blockers have actually been used successfully for about three decades and were originally meant for cisgender children with precocious puberty and cis kids generally use them for much longer than trans kids, who only use them for a few years at best. Puberty blockers have been used to help trans kids since the early 90’s, and have been hugely successful.

Research shows us that trans kids that have had access to puberty blockers benefit massively and this tired false narrative that the majority of kids grow out of being trans once they hit their teens has been debunked so many times. Anyone that would take time to read recent research about trans youth would know that those that have access to puberty blockers and social support show the same levels of depression and anxiety as their cisgender peers. Those that don’t end up having serious mental health issues, they self harm or literally kill themselves. A kid that wants to kill themselves because they cannot cope are old enough to know who they are and what they need to feel at ease in their own skin. And it’s our duty as a society to listen to them.

Dear Elmar, I also am concerned about trans youth. But my concerns are based on my own experiences, from making meaningful and actual connections with trans people around me, from advocating for trans rights for more than a decade, from acquiring a master’s degree in gender studies, and from evidence based research and facts. Not in fear mongering articles and youtube videos that are wheeled out by right-winged, anti-trans campaigners or organisations.

“Dear Elmar, my advice to you is to leave this to the experts and perhaps you should focus on football. 

Dear Elmar, my advice to you is to leave this to the experts and perhaps you should focus on football. You wouldn’t expect me to give you a lecture about football, so what makes you think you are qualified to give anyone a lecture about trans issues?

The research and evidence is there.

When are you going to stop talking, and start listening?

Á. Óskarsson
Á. Óskarsson

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Á. Óskarsson hefur komið að fjölda stórra verkefna við byggingu íþróttamannvirkja og hefur frá stofnun kappkostað að bjóða vandaðar og endingargóðar vörur.

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