Across Iceland, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced people to stay home and practice physical distancing to prevent the spread of the virus. For the queer community, this means that important community networks and connections have had to adapt to this new reality. GayIceland speaks with queer people in Iceland about how they are coping with the isolation.
Viima Lampinen has lived in Iceland for about a year and a half, after moving from Helsinki to Reykjavík in 2018. With flights cancelled and borders across Europe and around the world effectively closed, Viima tells GayIceland about the challenges of living through the COVID-19 pandemic so far from home.
“I am especially worried for my parents,” Viima says. “They go to Thailand every winter to escape the cold. It was really a close shave that they made it back to Finland because all the flights were getting cancelled. The foreign ministry was calling for all Finns who were abroad to return immediately. They’ve been home now for a little over a week, and I’m just so glad that they are showing no symptoms.”
The last time Viima saw their parents was at Christmas. “If they were to catch the virus, in the worst case that could have been the last time I would have seen my mom or dad,” they say. “So waiting for news from home is terrible.”
“There are strong online communities for trans people which are very meaningful. But not all trans people are introverts, not everybody likes to just stay in.”
At first, Viima says they were hoping the travel bans would be lifted by August so they would be able to return home at the end of the summer. “Now I’m just thinking about next year and planning for next year,” they say. “Next year I’ll have my birthday in Helsinki, and next year I’ll spend Christmas there.”
“These are nice things for the future, but I’m trying not to plan for things to happen too soon because then it will just be a disappointment after disappointment when the quarantines and travel bans that are in place will be extended.”
Viima is also the vice-chair of Trans Iceland and the co-chair of ILGA-Europe, and throughout the COVID-19 lockdown they have tried to stay in touch with Iceland’s trans community.
“Some people have started voicing the fact that they are struggling because they can’t see people of their own community,” they say. “They are having to only hang out with family members or flatmates, or people who are maybe not very understanding of what it is to be trans.”
“There are strong online communities for trans people which are very meaningful. But not all trans people are introverts, not everybody likes to just stay in,” Viima says. “We are also in need of hugs and kindness and companionship and all sorts of things that everyone else needs.”
“I do see a lot of self-care tips circulating among the trans community, which is really great.”
The day GayIceland spoke with Viima happened to be the International Transgender Day of Visibility, which they said was particularly challenging. “We can’t be very visible right now,” they say. “We’re having to try to be visible through the internet. And how do modern technologies and social media algorithms play into that — do they help or not? I have a lot of questions about that.”
On a day when they would usually be celebrating with members of their community, instead Viima was stuck at home, along with the rest of the country. “I do see a lot of self-care tips circulating among the trans community, which is really great,” they add. “That’s a way of helping others to help themselves, because right now we really can’t.”