For the first time in its 80 years history the Icelandic women’s magazine Vikan has put a trans woman on its cover as Snædís Yrja grazes the cover of the magazine’s latest issue, published this week. GayIceland got in touch with Vikan’s editor in chief, Steingerður Steinarsdóttir, to discuss the magazine and the cover story.
Boundaries have been broken for the LGBTQ+ community once again thanks to the latest cover of Vikan magazine, which features a trans woman for the very first time in its 80 year history. Vikan is known for featuring powerful women with interesting stories, what was it about Snædís Yrja’s story that made you decide to put her on Vikan’s latest cover?
“We were dazzled by her honesty and frankness,” Steingerður says. “She is also a confident woman, with a strong sense of self. It is my policy to try and empower women by introducing strong personalities with compelling stories.”
Vikan is a magazine that emphasises the diversity of women, by featuring all kinds of women, was this a part of that ideology?
“Yes, definitely. I believe that kindness and tolerance are the keys to a better society, better existence and happier lives. To listen to other people’s stories, finding the matching points between them and you is important in order to learn, increase and exercise those keys. Whenever we are moved by another human as we get a glimpse of his or her thoughts and feelings we take a further step towards a society that is open, inclusive and kind. You could say that this has been my guiding light the seven years I have been in this job. I have had women of colour on the front page, Icelanders with foreign roots, lesbians, an asexual woman and women of all ages.”
“We were dazzled by her honesty and frankness. She is also a confident woman, with a strong sense of self. It is my policy to try and empower women by introducing strong personalities with compelling stories.”
In the interview Snædís Yrja talks about some gruesome things, such as rape and other kinds of sexual abuse and abuse in general from men. Were you shocked by some of the details she shares with the readers?
“Actually I wasn’t. I don’t think any woman would be. 30% of women are raped at some time in their lifetime and if you include sexual abuse the number is far higher. We have covered a lot of stories detailing violence against women so it didn’t come as a surprise that she had had to endure a rape. I was on the other hand so sorry that it had happened to her and so sad that we haven’t been able to pull together and put a stop to sexual violence. But I live in hope. Now that the offenders can no longer take shelter in silence and deliberate ignorance of society we might have an opportunity to rectify this social wrong.“
Snædís also talks about how some of the men she’s been with want to keep it a secret because she’s trans, like they are somehow ashamed of it. Was that something that surprised you?
“Again the answer is no. It saddened me that still in this day and age people are afraid of following their hearts if that means going against the mainstream. I do wish though that the interview and the courage of Snædís Yrja will make a dent and move us forward.”
Is that something you can connect to stories of other women in Vikan?
“Yes and no, there is a lot that we need to discuss about the way we treat each other. Men do not have a right to disrespect the feelings of women and vice versa. I would like to see more courage, more honesty and kindness in the way people form relationships and sustain them.”
Snædís Yrja also talks about the fact that some of her family members reacted badly when she was coming to terms with who she is. Did that come as a shock to you, to find out that people can still be like that in Iceland in this day and age?
“Yes, that did surprise me. I have a cousin who is a trans man and I both admire and love him and I think that the same goes for all other family members. We are so glad that the option to rectify his sex was open to him.“
Was there something in the interview that stuck with you or surprised you in any way?
“Just how beautiful, funny, honest and charming Snædís Yrja is.”
“I do wish though that the interview and the courage of Snædís Yrja will make a dent and move us forward.”
Did nothing else come as a surprise?
“Only the fact that her loved ones could not support her totally right from the beginning.”
How long have you been the editor of Vikan?
“For seven years now.”
In that time there have been interviews with queer women in Vikan, what has it felt like to see Iceland steadly become one of the most LGBTQ+ friendly countries?
“Yes, like I said earlier, we have had gay women on the cover and basically all types of women. I am proud and sincerely happy that Iceland is moving forward at such a steady pace. We have room for all and we can be proud of all the talented, intelligent and beautiful youngsters of our country today, because in their mind there are no distinctions or stigmatas, just individuals, and who you fall in love with is not an issue.”
What does it feel like to be one of the people who are breaking the boundaries for the LGBTQ+ community in Iceland?
“To be honest I did not think of myself as a boundary breaker. I am just
trying to do my job well and to the best of my ability. But if having put Snædís Yrja on the cover opens the mind of some and eases the way for others I will be extremely happy.”
Photos of Snædís Yrja by Unnur Magna for Vikan magazine.