LGBT plus rights. Photo / www.piqsels.com

Trans rights: Two steps closer to progress

Trans rights are being attacked everywhere, but Iceland is fighting back with activism and legislation.

Over the past decade, activism for trans rights, protections, and healthcare have gone into overdrive globally. More of the queer community is waking up to the discrimination the trans community is still facing, and those outside the community are as well. Although trans visibility and representation in the media has also gotten better, there’s still more progress to be made. Iceland is working to change the narrative in both big ways and small.

Pete Buttigieg. Photo / Gage Skidmore .

In late December, Iceland’s parliament voted almost unanimously on three laws to add protections for intersex and trans children. The laws revise outdated language, lower the age for changing your legally registered gender to 15, and allow children born with atypical sex characteristics to determine their own path when they’re of age.

This legislation is in direct contrast to the anti-LGBT+ laws we see developing in the US and across the EU. Most notably, Hungary is in a cultural war with the rest of the European Union over censoring out LGBT+ representation. Luckily the EU has decided some action is needed in response and people are demanding Iceland stand against Hungary’s actions.

It’s not all doom and gloom after all. Just last week past presidential candidate turned Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg was on The Late Night with Stephen Colbert saying “there are politicians who’ve decided it’s good politics to attack transgender kids, which are some of the more vulnerable people in our society.” He continued: “high school is terrifying for trans kids, hell high school is terrifying when you’re not transgender, right? And these kids have the courage to be who they are, and they just want to be accepted and go to the bathroom like everybody else and play sports like everybody else and live.”

Buttigieg then went on to mention how public villainization of transgender people impacts the mental health of young trans people. “The really dangerous thing is if you have people in positions of responsibility going around, who’s position is basically that transgender people don’t exist, some young people will hear that message as that transgender people shouldn’t exist. And some of them will believe it,” he said.

Sadly, Buttigieg’s comments align with research showing that rates of suicide and self harm among trans youth are higher when they feel they have no support transitioning. The solution is easy, less oppression and more acceptance will lead to fewer trans youth dying an early death. Visibility in these circumstances is of utmost importance.

“It’s also quite the contradiction to tell queer and trans youth to embrace their identities and aspire greatness, and that their lives get better, while inundating them with messaging solely suggesting they only get worse.”

Activist and media personality Ashlee Marie Preston said it best in a column for Bazaar: “We must highlight trans wins as often as we do the woes. When I transitioned back in 2004, there were virtually no movies, TV shows, books, or think pieces modeling the possibilities. Quite frankly, there still aren’t. The trans community and our supporters brought the ceiling crashing down in the Supreme Court when we won federal protections in the workplace. We’ve obliterated multiple bathroom bills, reversed the trans military ban, witnessed the first trans woman secure a seat in a state Senate, blocked bills to limit access to health care, and additional triumphs are still trickling down the pipeline.”

She continued: “If we center only the tragedy, trauma, and terror of the trans experience, we lose our connection to hope, the general public becomes desensitized to our plight, and the violence we endure becomes increasingly normalized. It’s also quite the contradiction to tell queer and trans youth to embrace their identities and aspire greatness, and that their lives get better, while inundating them with messaging solely suggesting they only get worse.”

“Reykjavík city has been emphasizing trans rights in the last few years, particularly through our council of human rights, innovation and democracy. I will be sure to build on that, and use the platform both to speak on those issues, but also to simply be an example,” says Alexandra.

Speaking of visibility and representation, this spring Reykjavik’s city council also elected its first trans council speaker, Alexandra Briem. In a statement for Grapevine, Briem mentioned “Iceland is progressive on queer and transgender rights, compared to the rest of the world, and while we have probably thought that it was quite possible for a transgender person to be elected to a high political office in this country, it’s always different to feel that it’s possible than to see it actually happen; to have it confirmed in real life. There is a substantial difference in how it feels.”

In a sign of more progress, the National Queer Organization of Iceland (Samtökin ‘78) recieved a four million Icelandic krona grant from the Minister of Health to improve counseling and education for gay and trans youth. In an interview with Fréttablaðið, Daníel Arnarsson of Samtökin said the funds would go toward meeting a 538% increase in demand for advice and counseling. It will also go toward professional development, educating the doctors and nurses at Landspítali on queer issues.

Then Reykjavik city proposed guidelines for pools and gyms throughout Iceland to welcome trans people. With swimming and hot pot culture woven into Icelandic life, it was a progressive step. The initiative, led by Pirate Party member Dóra Björt Guðjónsdóttir, aims to inform staff at gyms and pools on how to approach questions and concerns on trans topics so that if an issues arises, they’re ready with direct language from Iceland’s gender determination act.

To continue on this great progress, Svandís Anna Sigurðardóttir from the Human Rights Office of Reykjavik worked to compile a wealth of resources for trans children, their parents, and educators. Svandís previously helped to launch a translated version of the Trans Child, or Trans Barnið, a book covering topics like “is my child trans?” and the stages of transition. It also unpacks norms, expectations, and stereotypes so parents and educators can support trans youth effectively.

GayIceland chatted with Svandís about her work and what progress still needs to be made.

Svandís Anna Sigurðardóttir, from the Human Rights Office of Reykjavik

How’d you come to work on these projects and in the human rights office?
“My background is a masters in gender studies in which I focused a lot on queer studies and research. I’ve taught Queer Studies courses at the University of Iceland for a few years now and worked in the equality field for quite a few years. I was also a board member for Samtökin ‘78 a while back. The Human Rights and Democracy Office of Reykjavík advertised my position a few years ago and wanted someone with knowledge on queer issues. Since then I have  worked on many projects connected to the queer community and LGBT+ rights.”

You helped translate and share The Transgender Child with the Icelandic audience, a book that brought much more information to schools and parents of trans youth. What was the reaction? Have you heard the material being used by Icelandic educators or parents?
“I think the book was well received, both by parents and professionals, but also by university students. It seems to be a bit of a go-to book for people who are looking for more information about trans children in Icelandic, and especially for those who are new to the topic. There was definitely a need for a book of this kind. There was a little profit from the sale of the book which we passed onto Trans Vinir, who are working on translating and publishing trans themed children’s books.”

What kind of information did you compile? What things do a parent or teacher need to see most?
“The information on the website is constantly reviewed and updated, with the latest publications from the Human Rights and Democracy Office of Reykjavík City. I also regularly add new books and resources to the page. Most recently we published a gender support plan for trans children in schools which is a really important and valuable resource for trans kids, their families and teachers. It goes through basic but very important information about the child, their identity, support, others at the school, about sharing information (based on what the child wants) and what steps to take.

The idea is that the child, parents/guardians and teacher(s) go through the support plan together. It’s a way to lead them through some common sense steps with the child that are often forgotten or overlooked, or simply not thought about. The hope is that the child receives the support they need and information is shared with relevant people at the school (and elsewhere) so that they aren’t constantly questioned about who they are. It’s an attempt to limit micro-aggressions and minority stress as well as making everyone more confident going forward.”

When asked what progress Svandís thinks still needs to be made, she says general knowledge about trans and queer issues still needs to be improved in schools and workplaces.
“More resources are always needed! One thing I constantly find myself having to do when I’m educating people is to start by debunking the idea that Iceland is the best in the world when it comes to queer issues. While we certainly have gained certain rights and recognition here, we haven’t necessarily changed fundamental ideas and dominant norms about gender and sexuality.

We really don’t teach a lot about queer/trans issues and are often very reactive, especially when it comes to trans kids. Usually I’m contacted after kids come out as trans – which I am grateful for – but I’m not often contacted by schools who want to learn to be trans-friendly even though there aren’t any trans kids at the school. That said, I have published check-lists for schools to become more trans friendly, which are hopefully being used.

“We have our resources, open lectures and workshops, and now through Rainbow Certification which we set up for Reykjavík City workplaces to apply for and take part in. It is quite a new program.”

I definitely think that bullying of all kinds must be stopped and addressed and by that I also mean bullying and teasing someone for being “like a girl” or “like a boy”, for transgressing gender norms, and for being “gay”, all of which seem to be common place with primary school aged kids. We shouldn’t have to grow up listening to that and being affected by that.

Most schools have policies about bullying, but they need to specifically mention bullying that is homophobic, transphobic, and gender-based. They have to really work towards uprooting it.

When I educate people who work with children on trans and queer issues the overwhelming reaction I get is positive. Some people are hearing things for the first time, others are knowledgeable, and most people want to do more for trans kids. We need to improve teacher and professional training by making gender and queer studies part of the program at the university level where we train teachers and other professionals. We need books about LGBT+ people and other teaching materials, anti-bullying policies that mention queer bullying, more awareness and greater visibility. The problem is systemic and therefore the solution must be too.”

Trans Barnið, or The Transgender Child, is a collaborative new book of updated material in Icelandic for educators, parents, and anyone looking to further their understanding of LGBTQ+ concepts.

You previously mentioned that most schools are making inclusive improvements “after the fact,” instead of beforehand.” Do you think that’s changed since 2019?
“I have a feeling that there is slowly becoming more knowledge and understanding on trans issues in society, but it’s mostly driven by trans people themselves and a few allies. More trans kids coming out does help move the issue forward, but of course it shouldn’t be on them. At my office we constantly try to get information into the city system.

We have our resources, open lectures and workshops, and now through Rainbow Certification which we set up for Reykjavík City workplaces to apply for and take part in. It is quite a new program. Covid really slowed the momentum down. There have been a few workplaces that have been certified, but there is currently only one primary school that has taken part, Laugarnesskóli. They have been really great!

As with all training, it’s really what happens after the lectures and workshops that matters; it’s taking all that the staff have learned and applying it to their work. It’s often tricky to get equality work of any kind to be sustainable, but I have high hopes. I’m also currently in a work group for the city on gender and LGBT+ studies at the Department of Education and Recreation at Reykjavík City. We will finish our work next autumn and put forward some ideas about how to do better going forward. I’m hoping they will be well received and we will see more improvements. We are also currently putting together another work group that will stake out the situation in school and recreation buildings with regards to gender neutral facilities. So we are trying to tackle issues from many angles.”

“We are also currently putting together another work group that will stake out the situation in school and recreation buildings with regards to gender neutral facilities.”

Is there anyone in your group of family and friends that’s impacted greatly by the work you do? How does that affect you and how you approach your work?
“I think most people around me have been impacted in some way, just because of my ideology and the knowledge I’ve gained through my studies and work. My partner is of course impacted, and we are very much on the same page. We have two kids who are definitely impacted: I practice what I preach!”

This article is brought to you by GayIceland and sponsored by the city of Reykjavík.

The Hamburger Factory
- gourmet burgers

Ok. You’re in Iceland. Most likely for the first time.

You will probably bathe in the Blue Lagoon and take a road trip to Gullfoss and
Geysir. That’s all well and good. But neither Geysir’s nor waterfalls are
something you eat. That’s why we have 15 brilliant and creative hamburgers at
The Hamburger Factory. And they are all perfectly square. Don’t miss out on
Iceland’s most beloved hamburgers.

The Hamburger Factory is Iceland’s most innovative gourmet burger chain.
Packed with burger-craving customers since it’s opening in 2010, among the
regulars is Iceland’s best known fisherman, Eric Clapton. In our restaurants we
welcome tourists with our newspaper like menu and smiley service. They are
packed with fun items and memorable connections to Icelandic pop culture.

Locations:

Omnom Chocolate
- award-winning chocolate maker

    Omnom Chocolate is an Icelandic craft chocolate company based in Reykjavík. We produce handcrafted chocolate from organic cacao beans sourced ethically and sustainably. We’ve developed direct relationships to create premium chocolate with fine flavor cacao beans.

    Our creative flavors are carefully crafted by meticulous chocolate makers. The cacao beans are roasted, winnowed, ground, and refined into melty-smooth chocolate.

    Omnom’s process is one of constant exploration, invention, and experimentation. If it doesn’t please us, if something isn’t absolutely delicious, there’s no reason to be doing it. So, we always start with our taste buds and follow our instincts. Our team searches for the finest ingredients in the world and new ways to improve chocolate. This obsession with knowing where our ingredients come from has led us around the corner to dairy farms in the Icelandic countryside and all the way to rainforest cacao farms of Nicaragua.

    In only a few short years, we’ve grown from our 50 sq. m. petrol station space and become an award-winning chocolate maker. Now, with our headquarters in 101 Reykjavík, our chocolate is sent out around Iceland and all over the world.

    At the end of the day, our goal is to make chocolate.

     

    Alfred’s Apartments
    - gay owned an operated

      Alfred’s Apartments and Alfred’s Studios is a gay operated and owned accommodation in the heart of Reykjavik.

      Alfred’s Apartments offers spacious apartments at a good price located just around the corner from Laugavegur shopping street. You can choose the apartment starting from a Small Studio for 2 persons to a large One-bedroom Apartment with balcony for 5 persons.

      Their staff will ensure your comfort during the stay and provide the most updated information about the city, gay and night life in Reykjavik.

      Each apartment has a private bathroom with a shower, fully equipped kitchen and free Wi-Fi. Guests can buy groceries at the local grocery store 50 meters from the apartments. Because of their very central location, numerous shops, restaurants and cafés are available in the surrounding area. The Church of Hallgrimur is located 350 m from the apartments, a tourist agency is just 50 m away and the nearest gay bar is less than 5 minutes walking distance.

      Laekur hostel
      In the hostel we have dorms for 4-8 persons with shared kitchen and bathroom facilities. The rooms are furnished with free internet, lockers, and a USB charger by each bed. The beds have linen provided and you can rent a towel in the cafe on the ground floor for 5 EUR.

      All the dorms are mixed with both genders. You can also book a whole room with 4-8 bunker beds.

      Nasdaq

         

        Nasdaq (Nasdaq: NDAQ) is a global technology company serving the capital markets and other industries. Our diverse offering of data, analytics, software and services enables clients to optimize and execute their business vision with confidence.

        With over 4,300 employees in 39 offices around the world, at Nasdaq we all contribute to the success of the company and its culture, and each one of us has the ability to make a difference. When it comes to our core mission and values, we embrace the role of Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging (DIB) as a fundamental driver of our corporate growth, workplace culture and market development. We strive to create a culture that embraces the power of different perspectives—a culture where people’s unique backgrounds and different experiences helps us fuel innovation and support our clients around the world.

        Our unique position at the center of the capital markets allows us to see firsthand how these values have redefined corporate culture and success, deepening and accelerating our own commitment to champion inclusive growth and prosperity, as we strive to create more equitable opportunities to help people of all backgrounds reach their full potential. Most notably, we published our diversity statistics for the first time in 2020. These metrics serve as a quantitative assessment of where we are today and help determine what strategies we need to adopt to enhance diversity in the workplace. We recognize that we have much work to do, but we are steadfast in our commitment to creating a diverse and inclusive culture—one that reflects the communities in which we live, allows all employees to be their true, authentic selves and fosters individual growth and achievement.

        As we move forward together, we will continue advancing diverse ideas and perspectives that help fulfill the promise of a more inclusive and prosperous world. We aim to set the pace for rethinking capital markets and economies anywhere and everywhere. To learn more about the company, technology solutions and career opportunities, visit us on LinkedIn, on Twitter @Nasdaq, or at www.nasdaq.com.

        Blue Lagoon
        - One of the 25 Wonders of the World

        Named by National Geographic as one of the 25 Wonders of the World, the Blue Lagoon is a shimmering expanse of warmth, relaxation, and rejuvenation. Its unique geothermal seawater
        comes from 2.000 meters within the earth where seawater and freshwater converge in a tectonic realm of porous lava and searing heat. Propelled by extreme pressure, the water ascends to the earth’s surface, emerging enriched with silica, algae, and minerals—the elements that endow Blue Lagoon geothermal seawater with its radiant, healing properties.

        From its humble beginnings in the shadows of a geothermal power plant, Blue Lagoon has evolved into a world of wonder, now encompassing two hotels, three restaurants, three
        geothermal lagoons, a subterranean spa, a renowned line of skin care, a thriving research center, and a wealth of spa and refreshment facilities.

        Achieving harmony with the volcanic landscape, the lagoon and its surrounding architecture embody the unification of the man-made and the natural, and adhere to the highest principles of sustainability.

        The Blue Lagoon. A wonder of the world. A world of wonder.

        Whales of Iceland
        - larger than life

        Whales of Iceland is the largest whale exhibition in Europe (and perhaps even the world), where guests can learn about the giants of the sea in a calm and modern environment. The permanent exhibition features whales like guests have never seen them before. It is truly a giant experience.

        Landsbankinn
        - leading financial institution
        Landsbankinn

        Landsbankinn is a leading Icelandic financial institution. It offers a full range of financial services and is the market leader in the Icelandic financial service sector with the largest branch network.

        The present bank was established on 7 October 2008 but the history of its predecessor dates back to 1886. The bank is owned by the National Treasury of Iceland, which holds 98.2% of its share capital, and other shareholders who own 1.8%.

        Landsbankinn’s strategy is to provide comprehensive financial services that meet customer’s needs. It emphasizes providing exemplary service to customers, developing e-banking for their convenience, increasing the efficiency of support functions, modernizing its technology and ensuring effective utilization of its balance sheet.

        The bank’s vision is to be exemplary and its role is to be a trusted financial partner.

        Special emphasis is placed on promoting a performance-oriented culture in the bank. To follow up on the implementation of this strategy, the bank has defined key goals which are measured regularly to determine progress. These goals include, for example, customer satisfaction and loyalty, profitability, cost efficiency and the correlation between risk appetite and employee satisfaction.

        Landsbankinn wishes to lead the development of a sustainable society in Iceland by integrating economic, social and environmental concerns in its operations. The Bank aims to ensure that both its owners and society at large benefit from its activities.

        It intends to achieve this aim by building solid infrastructure and a strong team of 1.100 employees, by listening to its customers and by respecting and encouraging its employees to actively participate in their community. Landsbankinn was a founding member of Festa, a Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility, and is a member of the UN Global Compact.

        Landsbankinn has been a proud sponsor of the Reykjavik Pride since it was first celebrated in Iceland.

        Aurora Reykjavik
        - northern lights center

          Aurora Reykjavik is a Northern Lights Center situated in downtown Reykjavík at the Old Harbor next to Icelandair Hotel Marina and Vikin Maritime Museum.

          Aurora Reykjavík is Iceland’s first educational and recreational Northern Lights Center where multimedia is used to explain when, why and how the Northern Lights work, with the highlights being large HD projection of the Aurora’s. We also share myths and legends about what our ancestor thought about those mystical lights.

          The Northern Lights Center is for all ages. Children are our favorite guests and we created the exhibition in a way that children can have a look freely and parents don’t have to worry about things being broken.

          Aurora Reykjavik offers a great selection of souvenirs that are designed and made by Icelanders along with nice little coffee corner, where you can enjoy free coffee and tea while browsing through the souvenirs or just planning your next step.

          Contact Aurora

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            Dohop
            - get inspired
            Dohop

            Dohop allows people to find the cheapest flights available with just one click. Founded in Reykjavik in 2004, it is the only Icelandic company of its kind and quickly became the go-to tool for finding cheap flights among the locals. Dohop finds the best deals among hundreds of different airlines and online travel agencies, to make sure that the user is getting the cheapest price. Dohop also offers hotel and car rental search engines, so users can make all of their travel bookings from a single website.

            Dohop‘s specialty is finding so-called “self-connect” flight options, which can save travelers money by booking a ticket through two or more different airlines. The ability to look for these self-connect option is what sets Dohop apart from its competition, as it can save people hundreds of dollars on certain routes.

            More recently, Dohop has developed a unique product called Dohop Go!, which allows users to check for the cheapest available flights from their home airport. This tool is perfect for those who are looking for travel inspiration but are not willing to overpay for their flight ticket. Dohop Go! is now available in the Dohop Flights App, both for Android and iOS, along with its traditional flight, hotel, and car search engines. “

            VSÓ Ráðgjöf

               

              VSÓ Ráðgjöf er alhliða ráðgjafar- og verkfræðifyrirtæki sem leggur áherslu á trausta og faglega þjónustu sem tryggir viðskiptavinum hagkvæmustu lausnir hverju sinni, skilar raunverulegum árangri og stuðlar að samkeppnisforskoti.  Á skrifstofum VSÓ í Reykjavík og í Noregi starfar yfir 80 manna samhentur hópur verkfræðinga og annarra tæknimenntaðra starfsmanna.

              Macland
              - for all your Apple needs
              Macland

              From starting out as a proper startup with only a good idea and the need to change things, to becoming an established company with 6 employees. Starting from scratch and expanding organically has allowed us to love our expansion and take our customers on the ride with us.

              Macland is located at Laugavegur 23 (101, Downtown Reykjavik)
              For all your Apple needs. We are here.

              Ísey skyr
              - once tasted never forgotten

              Our Story
              Once upon a time, 1,100 years ago in fact, Nordic settlers began arriving in Iceland. They brought with them the skills and knowledge for producing skyr. As time passed, the know-how and recipe for this nutritious food slowly faded out elsewhere in the Nordic region. Luckily, the Icelandic skyr-making tradition continued.

              For centuries, Icelandic skyr formed a cornerstone of the national diet, helping to keep people strong in living conditions that were often harsh. On family farms countrywide, it was the women who nurtured this dairy and passing on both the recipe and the original Icelandic skyr cultures from mother to daughter.

              Ísey skyr builds on this remarkable legacy. It was some of those very same women, the recipients of their mothers’ expertise, who, around 90 years ago, taught Icelandic dairy scientists the art of skyr-making. The production process is more high-tech these days, and the quality standards more rigorous. However, the basic recipe and the use of original cultures to ferment the skimmed milk remain the same. Protein rich, fat-free, creamy and delicious – Ísey skyr is as relevant to consumers now as it was all those centuries ago.
              This is our secret and you are in on it

              You can read more about Ísey skyr on our website.

              Núðluskálin
              - noodle bar
              Núðluskálin

              Núðluskálin is a small gay owned and operated fusion noodle bar.

              All of our courses are individually made from fresh ingredients and therefore highly customisable.
              We offer fully Vegan versions of all courses.
              Though originally a take-away we now seat over 30 people.

              Núðluskálin is located right in the heart of Reykjavík on Skólavörðustígur 8 (street leading up to the big Church) near the junction with Laugavegur (main street).

              Seatours
              - adventure cruise

              Ferry Baldur – the gate to the West fjords
              and VikingSushi Adventure – Bird & Nature watching Tour for everyone all year around

              The “VikingSushi Adventure” is the right boat tour for travelers who are adventurous and want to experience something new – close up to the nature seafood simply doesn’t come fresher than this! The archipelago area of the Breidafjordur Bay always surprises her visitors during winter or summer with spectacular sights. Where else you get to try delicious fresh scallops and sea urchin roe straight from the ocean served with soy sauce, wasabi and ginger.

              600x400-seatours-tasting

              This old volcanic area, characterized by the typical basalt formations of the islands, is the home of countless birds. Here you will also find the strongest currents in Iceland. The VikingSushi Tour takes roughly two hours and our captain is also the tour guide.

              600x400-seatours

              The VikingSushi Tour is a true adventure through incredible nature which should not be missed by any traveler to West Iceland.

              Birds, possible to spot:
              -puffins (from the middle of April until the middle of August)
              -eider ducks
              -shags
              -kittiwakes
              -fulmars
              -white-tailed eagle

              The car ferry Baldur is the bridge to the West fjords via the island Flatey
              Ferry Baldur crosses Breidafjordur Bay daily from Stykkisholmur on the Snæfellsnes peninsula to Brjanslaekur in the north. A ferry ride considerably shortens the route between the south and mid-west of the country and the West Fjords region. It also gives you the opportunity to experience a floating restaurant.

              Take a stopover at the charming island Flatey when you are crossing the bay or go to a day tour to Flatey and back to Stykkishólmur. At Flatey are no cars allowed and between the houses of the 18th century you get the feeling of a journey back in time.

              Contact Us


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