Readers of GayIceland and a jury panel have chosen the person of the year 2017. And that person is … Anna Kristjánsdóttir!
Anna Kristjánsdóttir was the first trans woman to talk about her gender correction in the local media in Iceland. For decades she was at the forefront in the fight for equal rights for trans people in Iceland. This year a book detailing her story came out and reminded Icelanders of the groundbreaking work she has done for the trans community here and abroad.
“Anna Kristjánsdóttir, for her subtle, one woman’s campaigning for an awareness of trans people in Iceland. With others having stepped into the spotlight too in recent years, we still must never forget the resilience of the first openly/publicly transgender woman in Iceland.”
Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, Iceland’s first female Prime Minister and also the world’s first openly lesbian head of government. Before last Christmas a book detailing Jóhanna’s life, Minn tími, came out.
“Jóhanna has for years been an inspiration and a role model to LGBTI+ people all over the world. Last year we were reminded of how much Jóhanna has done for the queer community when she was presented with an Alan Turing Award at an event celebrating LGBTQI business, culture and tourism in Tenerife, Spain. Jóhanna was given the award in recognition of this milestone, and in recognition of her continued work promoting the rights of LGBTI+ people.”
Ugla Stefanía has dedicated their life to fighting for trans rights and equality in Iceland and globally. Ugla has been on the board of every major LGBTQIA organisation in Iceland and worked for a long time as the educational advisor of the National Queer Organisation. They are currently an Advisor for All About Trans in the UK, an organisation working on better media representation for trans people in the UK.
“In 2017, Ugla became the first Icelander to be invited to 10 Downing Street for their work in trans activism. Additionally, they were invited on Good Morning Britain to debate their existence with Piers Morgan, turning a 4 minute segment into a 15 minute feature, making it the longest segment on non-binary issues to date in the UK mainstream media. They also have worked for the past 2 years, setting up a committee in Iceland to update Trans and Intersex policies, and when this goes through, it will put Iceland on the map as the leading country in the world for trans and intersex rights. Additionally, Ugla is often in the media, writing articles and speaking on radio and television on trans rights. They are co-creating My Genderation (an ongoing film project), working with global organisation Stonewall on two trans related campaigns, and co-created the first free film on being Trans in the Workplace. They also co created the first feature film on non binary issues in the UK, titled I AM THEY.”
Asylum seeker Amir Shokrgozar. “Amir’s case shows that in no way is Iceland the “Gay safe heaven” a lot of foreigners think it is. We often see articles online that considers Iceland as a very “gay” destination, and the recent mass tourism encourages it. It kind of hides the fact that there is a lot of room for improvement here on LGBT+ rights and LGBT+ acceptance, such as easier access to STD diagnostics or more queer-friendly health procedures.
It also shows how badly asylum seekers are treated in general, and how hard it is to be a foreigner in Iceland, with bureaucracy being sometimes idiotic or totally inefficient. A good example is that Amir had to pay 700.000 ISK to cover the government’s expenses to deport him.
In the end this is a year-long case, with his deportation in the early days of the year 2017 and him coming back -married- a few weeks ago. A story that ends well, and we desperately need that!”
Last year was Eva María Þórarinsdóttir-Lange’s, former chair of Reykjavík Pride committee. “2017 was Eva’s las year as chair of the committee. For the past four years she has taken the festival to a whole new level that has not only attracted around one third of the population every year but guests from all over the world. On top of the Reykjavík Pride is now officially a city festival thanks to Eva and her team. Eva María is also one of the founders and owners of Pink Iceland, a LGBT travel agency and Iceland’s leading wedding planner service that has helped fulfill the dreams of so many couples. Eva María should be chosen the person of the year for all the wonderful work she has done for the queer community in Iceland – and internationally.”
Guðjón Valur Sigurðsson is the captain of the men’s national handball team of Iceland. “For being an ally of the queer community and a spokesperson for queer rights. For being outspoken about prejudice in sports and encouraging The National Olympic and Sports Association of Iceland to take up queer education for coaches within the organization. For showing his support for LGBTI+ rights by sporting the rainbow flag on his shoe at the World’s Championship in men’s handball For taking the responsibility of being a role model for everybody, of any orientation and any gender, seriously and spreading love for all human beings everywhere, both on and off court!”
Hilmar Hildar Magnúsarson and Björg Valgeirsdóttir
“Person of the year 2017 should be two people: Hilmar Hildar Magnúsarson, former chair of the National Queer Organization Samtökin ‘78 and Björg Valgeirsdóttir, attorney (currently working as legal assistant to judges).
The reason is this: In December 2017 the Supreme Court of Iceland passed two breakthrough judgments on hate speech against the queer community. This is fundamental in the fight for equality and respect for the human rights, dignity and safety of our group. For the first time, we have received confirmation from the Supreme Court that there are limits to free speech when it threatens the rights and safety of queer people.
Hilmar was the chair of Samtökin ’78 who back in 2015 had the courage to go ahead and press charges, as hate speech had become more and more prominent. Björg was the attorney who passionately and tirelessly worked on the case – and this she did pro bono. This year, all of us are reaping the benefits of their important work. I couldn’t think of worthier people.”
Jonathan Duffy is a stand up comedian, artist and the author of the popular gay comic strip Bruce the Angry Bear. “With his podcast Icetralia, Jonathan reaches an international public and promotes Iceland, it’s culture and comedy to an international audience. Together with artist Hugleikur Dagsson he supports an open discourse between straight and gay people and helps these groups to communicate without any inhibition or prejudice. In 2017 we have to value our bridge builders in society.”
Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandsson is the Minister for the Environment and Natural Resources in the new government of Iceland. “For being the first openly gay man to become a minister in Iceland and thereby turning a page in the political history of Iceland.”
“Todd moved to Iceland just a year ago and in that time he has achieved quite a few good things for our community. He is part of the counseling team at the National Queer Organization Samtökin ‘78 and has had a special focus in giving therapy to asylum seekers, giving a voice to the foreigner community living in Iceland, and dedicating much of his time to understand, enhance and join the LGBTQI community of Iceland. In his time here, he has provided counseling to many members of the community, suggested new ideas and organised events to grow together as a community and celebrate diversity, that is why I would like to propose him as person of the year.”
Ingileif Fridriksdóttir and María Rut Kristinsdóttir
Ingileif Fridriksdóttir and María Rut Kristinsdóttir “for establishing Hinseginleikinn and encouraging all kinds of queer people to share their stories through Hinseginleikinn’s snapchat, getting them to speak about various queer issues and give insight into the lives of queer people. Ingileif and María Rut are great role models and deserve praise for their work.”
For the first time in Iceland’s history, a trans woman took on the role of the Lady of the Mountain, the national personification of Iceland, on the country’s National Day June the 17th. In Hafnarfjörður, a neighbouring town of Reykjavík, “the town’s organisers asked Eva Ágústa Aradóttir to take on the duty of being Lady of the Mountain and doing it with dignity. By taking on the role Eva Ágústa turned a page in the history of Iceland.”
Lilja Sigurðardóttir has written not one, not two but three books that center on a lesbian character. Her Reykjavík Noir Trilogy, Tangle, Snare and Cage – which came out before last Christmas, tell the story of a lesbian drug smuggler. “In a time when the publishing world is, oddly enough, still hesitant about publishing books with LGBT protagonists Lilja deserves to be commended for still going ahead and writing her books, something that could have worked against her but turned out be a good bet with all the good reviews the books are getting, not only in Iceland but also on mainland Europe. Also, for giving readers insight into a “gay world” – which is uncommon in the crime genre and the Icelandic literature.”
Alexander Björn Gunnarsson “for being the first trans man to undergo radial forearm phalloplasty in Iceland and talking openly about his experience on his blog, Phalloplasty in Iceland, with the goal of educating others about phalloplasty and how it works, and hopefully helping and encouraging other trans boys at the same time.”
“For years, Andres Pelaez has been a force of positive change for the gay community but this year, in particular, he has been a major personality.
International Nights is an important gathering that unites the global LGBTQIA+ community. Andres, one of the creators, has moved the group from social to activism. Andres has inspired discussions about the challenges in Keflavik, unfair working environments, and human trafficking conditions. The group continues to explore how we can support each other.
In an act of true social justice, Andres took what he learned from these meeting and created signage to march during various significant days including Multicultural Day and Pride making their stories visible to the Icelandic community. He has highlighted the struggle with working conditions in Keflavik as well as the abuse within the asylum seekers housing.
Distant Voices was a project created to explore the relationship between the stories of LGBT refugees, immigrants, and asylum seekers with how they are held by the Icelandic community. Tirelessly reaching out to the community to collect stories from refugees, immigrants and asylum seekers then finding local Icelanders to read the stories in front of an audience during Pride. Not only did this project allow these stories to be heard but the performance ignited a conversation that has been echoing ever since.
The Hump Day Social is a monthly event for gay men to meet up. Every month, Andres meets with local businesses to create a conversation about the need to support the gay community. These conversations lead to the bar/lounge extending their happy hour and creating a signature drink for the social event. More importantly, these conversations create a personal awareness for local businesses about the need to support our community.
With most of these project, Andres has worked tirelessly with various teams. He has given our community the most value gift: his time. He has volunteered all of his time and received no monetary gain from his work.
Andres has shown true allyship and activism with his continued active commitment to creating spaces for voices to be heard and providing a voice for those who are silenced. It is because of this that I believe Andres in the Person of the Year.”
Hannes Óli Ágústsson and Anna Margrét Grétarsdóttir
Actor Hannes Óli Ágússton “for staging a play, She’s my dad, (in co-operation with the stage group Trigger Warning) last year about his experience of his father coming out as a trans woman. Anna Margrét Gústavsdóttir, who is Hannes Óli’s previously mentioned father, had already told her story in a book titled She is my dad. It takes a lot of courage coming out with a story like that. Hannes Óli and Anna Margrét are exceptionally brave people.”
Sigurður Heimir Guðjónsson a.k.a. dragqueen Gógó Starr “for fostering and creating a platform for drag and queer variety, for doing lectures in social centers and for being a living proof that it gets better. Gógó Starr as Lady of the Mountain in (Fjallkonan) 2018!”
Einar Másson “for being a cis-straight man who has illustrated the first gay comic strip in Icelandic history: Bruce the Angry Bear. He has taken part in telling the stories of a community that doesn’t really effect him and has done so with a great deal of compassion and respect.”
Director Erlingur Óttar Thoroddsen “for his beautiful and horrific film Rift (Rökkur), a story of a gay male couple. Erlingur’s film is the first Icelandic film that centers on the relationship between two gay men. It has been praised all over the world and awarded at festivals.”
Feminist and activist Hildur Lillendahl Viggósdóttir. Following a clash between Tara Margrét Vilhjálmsdóttir, chair of the Association for Body Respect in Iceland, and anchorman Sindri Sindrason on TV, Hildur, made a comment on Facebook, that roughly translates: “The marginalizing of Sindri Sindrason is never going to end. All the fiddles and candles for him. I feel like putting my hair on fire for the poor oppressed white body-abbelled white Epal-gay with all the TV-shows”(Epal is a company that sells design products).
“Hildur as person of the year, for showing us that even a person who has done so much for one particular group in society, can mock/talk down to someone who belongs to another group, a marginalized one, by calling that persons names based on a stereotype of his/hers/their group. What has come out of that is a much-needed and heated discussion of stereotypes and stereotyping and it shows a growing need for interaction between marginalized groups. That these groups need to learn from one another and work together to achieve a more just society. It’s the only way forward!”