Trans people dehumanized in Icelandic magazine

The Icelandic magazine Lifandi vísindi (e. Living Science) has caused an outrage in the queer community by publishing a highly controversial article about trans people in it’s latest issue.

The article had previously been published in other countries where it had been met with harsh protests and the finnish LGBTI association, Seta went so far as to award it’s publication the anti-award Kunniarotta – “the razzie” of journalism – for the worst piece of journalism in Finland this year.

Viima Lampinen, the chair of Seta – LGBTI Rights in Finland, and they are outraged about the articles publication, especially in a magazine that has the word science in it’s title.

GayIceland contacted Viima Lampinen, the chair of Seta – LGBTI Rights in Finland, and they are outraged about the articles publication, especially in a magazine that has the word science in it’s title. They urge the Icelandic queer community to demand apologies from the publishers of the magazine and that this issue of the magazine be removed from bookstores and taken out of circulation.
“The article in question was published in Finland in April 2018. The queer community and also our allies were shocked to see something this biased, unreliable and unscientific being published in Finland and in our own language. Social media was pouring with expressions of devastation,” Viima explains.

“The article even includes a “spot the trans” section where photographs of a number of women are presented and readers are encouraged to try to pick the trans women out of the lineup.”

Did you get any kind of reaction from the magazine that published it?
“Possibly due to the nature of the publication, what their business model is, I understand they are not interested in the quality or lack thereof of journalism in the publication. In Finland the magazine is published as Tieteen Kuvalehti which is published by Bonnier Publications.
Their business model seems to be to publish own magazine titles and just try to sell as much of them and also sell as much advertisements in the magazines as possible. On their website I could not find any mentioning of journalism, only information relating to sales.

In this sense I understand that they are not interested in the power they hold as a magazine and a magazine publisher. They do not take part in civic dialogue. This I think is very unethical, because the readers, the people, the civic society sees magazines as a part of our society but this magazine does not come with a warning of the content not always being fact-based, peer-reviewed science.”

The magazine includes a “spot the trans” section where photographs of a number of women are presented and readers are encouraged to try to pick the trans women out of the lineup.

Would you be kind enough to explain to our readers what it is about the article that the queer community has objections to?
“The article is sensationalist, wildly scientifically inaccurate and completely dehumanizing of trans people, it enforces harmful stereotypes of trans people. The article refers to trans people repeatedly by incorrect names, genders and pronouns – highlights include: “A trans woman is a man who …” -, and even includes a “spot the trans” section where photographs of a number of women are presented and readers are encouraged to try to pick the trans women out of the lineup.

This constant emphasis on difference and otherness is extremely harmful to trans people, who already have to contend with a great deal of prejudice and alienation in society – especially when it is presented in the legitimating guise of “science”. To sum all of this up: The article is transphobic.”

What is your opinion of it being published, unchanged, in Iceland?
“The publication of this article is shameful in any context, but given the amount of criticism it has already sustained in neighboring countries, it’s even more offensive and irresponsible to not listen to the experts on the subject in question and still print it in Iceland unchanged.

This indicates a complete lack of communication among the network of publishers and an attitude of carelessness about the quality of the publication, which is shocking and disappointing in a magazine that purports to be committed to science.

I think the queer community in Iceland and its allies should demand that the publisher remove the magazine from circulation immediately, and if that is unsuccessful, should boycott the magazine until the publisher has apologized.

“… given the amount of criticism it has already sustained in neighboring countries, it’s even more offensive and irresponsible to … still print it in Iceland unchanged.”

This is also a matter that is bigger than the queer community. This is a good example of media using its power to harm people, to divide people, to further and uphold oppression of marginalized people. It may spring from ignorance, but a publication that has the word science in its name has no excuse to slack off on science and journalism.

The Icelandic magazine Lifandi vísindi (e. Living Science) has caused an outrage in the queer community by publishing a highly controversial article about trans people.

This case should be made into an example of how our allies can help change the society. Our allies should step forward and use their resources to demand reliable information about trans issues instead of inaccurate sensationalism.”

GayIceland got in touch with Guðbjartur Finnbjörnsson, the editor of Living Sience in Iceland, when working on this article to get his response to the criticism, but he claimed complete ignorance of the controversy of the article.
“We did not know about the response to the article in other countries,” he says. “I did not realize at all that it was prejudiced and I truly appologize if we have hurt someone’s feelings. That was not the intention at all.”

Main photo: Viima Lampinen, the chair of Seta – LGBTI Rights in Finland, on the right and Sonja Huhtaniska, journalist at Lapin Kansa, pictured at Helsinki Pride 2018. Seta awarded Sonja with the “apple of no-nonsense information“ award. They awarded Science Illustrated with the “the razzie” award for the translated article on trans people.” Photo: Eliisa Alatalo/ Seta.

Á. Óskarsson
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