“Standing Together is our Strongest Weapon Against Hate”

Iceland’s Bear Association recently donated the proceeds of their festival to Trans Ísland. GayIceland speaks with representatives from both groups to find out what motivated the gift, what it feels like to receive such a gift at this time, and the importance of community support.

In an era where self-expression and identity are at the forefront of societal conversation, the significance of community-based support for trans and non-binary individuals cannot be overstated. Despite decades of progress for LGBTQI+ people, trans and non-binary people still face a significantly higher suicide risk than other members of the community.

Recently, the trans and non-binary communities in Iceland have faced a concerning rise in hate speech. A notable incident occurred on an online forum, where an anonymous user openly discriminated against non-binary individuals, denying the validity of their identities and spreading harmful stereotypes. Even more alarmingly, a well-known public figure used their platform to voice transphobic sentiments, resulting in a disturbing endorsement of such views by a segment of their followers.

These instances of hate speech not only propagate misinformation but also create a hostile environment for trans and non-binary folk, undermining their personal security and emotional wellbeing.

In the face of this kind of adversity, having peer support and solidarity is invaluable and this very idea led to one of Iceland’s queer community groups called ‘Bangsafélagið’ (The Bears of Iceland) donating the proceeds of their recent festival to Trans Ísland.

GayIceland was lucky to sit down with Ólöf Bjarki Antons chair of Trans Ísland and Sigurður Júlíus Guðmundsson chair of Bangsafélagið to talk about what motivated the decision and the importance of community-based support in the face of discrimination and hate speech.

GayIceland: Ólöf Bjarki, could you begin by giving us a brief history of Trans Island?

Ólöf Bjarki: “Trans Iceland was formed in 2007 by trans people as a platform for them to get to know each other and form a community. The organisation developed into being more than that, quickly taking on advocacy and educational work.

Ólöf Bjarki Antons, chari of Trans Ilceand.

Today we host diverse events for trans people of all genders regularly. Trans Iceland hosts around 15 events a year, plus nearly weekly fitness group sessions in cooperation with community members. While doing this, a lot of our focus goes into advocacy work. That includes meetings with politicians and public administration. A large portion of our time and energy also goes into dealing with the healthcare system to promote trans issues and make sure our needs are met. That has been a big task for the past years, with a failing health care system that has not been doing gender affirming surgeries and the endocrinology ward denying to serve trans people with their hormone replacement therapy.”

GayIceland: Sigurður, tell us a bit about Bangsafélagið.

Sigurður: “Bangsafélagið was formed in 2019 by a group of bears who had been volunteering at the Bears on Ice festival. Bears on Ice had been the only real bear event throughout the year in Iceland and we decided that rather than letting it end we would start our very own festival named Reykjavík Bear, for bears and their admirers. We also set our sights on increasing bear visibility, raising awareness of body positivity, and building a proper bear community in Iceland.

We had a very slow start because of the pandemic, but we have tried to remain active members of the queer society in Iceland. We are now starting to have more local events along with Reykjavík Bear so we can hopefully reach even more of the local bears. Our main goal is for all the big hairy guys and queer folks out there, along with their friends and admirers to feel welcomed in a space that doesn’t judge them under conventional guidelines of appearance or who they like and where they can just come in and have fun and feel like they belong.”

The Icelandic community is lucky with how much we stand together. Other countries around us that have divided lgbti+ communities are having a harder time than us reacting to the hate.

GayIceland: What does it feel like to receive a gift like this?

Ólöf Bjarki: “The board of TÍ was thrilled when Sigurður contacted us with the news. We are grateful for them thinking of us in these times. It shows us how the queer community as a whole stands together even though we are not a part of the same letter in the alphabet.”

GayIceland: How did the idea of this gift come about and why did you choose Trans Island?

Sigurður: “Bangsafélagið took inspiration from a similar tradition from Bears on Ice. They supported other queer groups whenever they had a surplus after their event each year. I remember them supporting Samtökin ‘78 and HIV Ísland at various times. So from the start, we decided we would keep doing that. This year we had the opportunity of doing this and Trans Ísland was, for all of us, an obvious choice. With all the backlash and hate directed specifically at the trans community lately, it seemed only right. This is when the queer community needs to stick together and support each other and when one group is attacked the others should try to help as possible.”

GayIceland: Is there a connection between the two associations apart from the fact that both fit under the ‘queer’ umbrella or was there another reason behind this donation?

Sigurður: “I think there is a connection between all the queer associations just like you say. But on a practical term, not really, not yet. There are trans bears who come to our events and are valued members of our community. But as for the reason behind this donation, it is as I said before, we need to stick together in the difficult times we have been facing lately. But I will say I hope the two groups can collaborate on something in the future and make a solid connection.”

Sigurður (Siggi) Júlíus Guðmundsson, chair of Bangsafélagið.

GayIceland: Was Trans Island surprised by this donation?

Ólöf Bjarki: “Yes, this was not something we were expecting. These two organisations have never collaborated before, mostly due to Bangsafélagið being fairly new. But at the same time we knew that they were pro trans rights so it didn’t come out of nowhere. Other groups from the queer community have given us gifts like these, which are always appreciated. We never expect them, and that is a big part of it being such a pleasant surprise.”

GayIceland: There has been some targeted negativity towards the LGBTQ+ community in Iceland recently, especially towards trans and non-binary people. How important is it that those who don’t identify as non-binary or trans show their support and speak out against hate?

Ólöf Bjarki: “Support from outside the community is a necessity to tackle the hate directed towards trans people. Most human rights fights have been led by the community with external support. Often people are sceptical of what they don’t know, but when people see others joining the fight they are more likely to listen. Unfortunately marginalised people and communities are often not listened to, so they need people that are less marginalised to raise their voices to be heard. It is also simply just nice and reassuring to know other people have your back.”

GayIceland: Do you think it’s important for groups under the LGBTQ+ umbrella to stick together and get informed about issues that might not necessarily affect them?

Ólöf Bjarki: “Standing together is our strongest weapon against hate. The Icelandic community is lucky with how much we stand together. Other countries around us that have divided lgbti+ communities are having a harder time than us reacting to the hate. Our unity is our strong suit. So yes, even tho cis gay men do not have a lot in common with an asexual non-binary person for example, when it comes to identity, they both experience queer phobia and not fitting into a heteronormative society. The gay man, who often has more privilege when it comes to their queerness, does not benefit from ditching those who are less privileged, because the hate they experience comes from the same place. The aggressive hate we are facing now will slowly work its way up to the more privileged communities within the umbrella if it is not stopped where it starts.”

If we don’t answer the haters when they go after one group and we let hatred win, they will eventually come for the more privileged ones next. We can join in now and be strong together or we can wait until the hate finds us eventually

Sigurður: “I absolutely agree, it’s so important to stick together. It’s easy for more privileged queer people like me to just shrug off and ignore the hate other groups are subjected to. I can choose to just dial back my gayness and live my life almost like straight cis people do and leave the fight to those who don’t get a choice to be in it. But I also know what it’s like having grown up as a young closeted queerling in the 90s being too afraid to come out in fear of the backlash or thinking that living as my true self would condemn me to die from AIDS. And I also know if we don’t answer the haters when they go after one group and we let hatred win, they will eventually come for the more privileged ones next. We can join in now and be strong together or we can wait until the hate finds us eventually.”

GayIceland: Do you think your two groups might want to collaborate on something in the future?

Ólöf Bjarki: “I don’t see why not. We love to work with other lgbti+ communities and organisations to bring us even closer together.”

Sigurður: “I really hope we do. I think we just need to have more discussions and find the right opportunity for it. Bangsafélagið is just getting started but we really hope we can make some positive things happen and we will always want to collaborate on good things.”

If you would like to stay up to date with events and news from Trans Ísland, you can follow them on Facebook or Instagram. You can also send them an email if there is anything you feel they may be able to assist with: stjorn@transisland.is

To find out more about Bansafelagið you can visit their website or email: urr@bangsadelagid.is
They have also launched a community group on Facebook that you are welcome to join if you feel you may belong there.

Á. Óskarsson
Á. Óskarsson

Á. Óskarsson offers a variety of products and services to sports centers, swimming pools, schools, kindergartens, and the general public. The company specializes in sport-related products, activity-focused games, and a wide range of solutions for sports facilities.

Á. Óskarsson has been involved in numerous big projects related to building sports facilities and has made it their benchmark to offer good quality products and equipment since the company was founded.

See links to social media in the upper left-hand corner


Á. Óskarsson selur fjölbreytt vöruúrval fyrir íþróttahús, sundlaugar, skóla og leikskóla og einnig ýmsar vörur til einkaafnota. Fyrirtækið selur vörur til íþróttaiðkunnar og leikja ásamt því að bjóða upp á ýmsar lausnir fyrir íþróttamannvirki.

Á. Óskarsson hefur komið að fjölda stórra verkefna við byggingu íþróttamannvirkja og hefur frá stofnun kappkostað að bjóða vandaðar og endingargóðar vörur.

Tenglar á samfélagsmiðla eru í efra horninu vinstra megin.



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    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.

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        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.

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          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.

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          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.

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          You can read more about Ísey skyr on our website.

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