The Cursed Circle

History doesn’t repeat, but it does rhyme.

OPINION Andie Sophia Fontaine writes about how queerphobes recycle bigotry.

The queer community in Iceland is in danger. While it’s true that the current rising tide of queerphobia in this country comes entirely from a very tiny group of people–and by tiny I do mean tiny, like maybe a dozen people–without immediate and consolidated efforts, it may spread, much like a small cut can fester into a gangrenous wound that threatens the entire body.

While it’s true that the current rising tide of queerphobia in this country comes entirely from a very tiny group of people […] it may spread, much like a small cut can fester into a gangrenous wound that threatens the entire body.

I say this because I speak from experience. Older queers such as myself are forced to watch history not so much repeat itself, but rhyme. We have heard the same rhetoric, seen all the same tactics, that are now being focused primarily on trans people, and we remember when it was directed at others.
And we also remembered ways in which that rhetoric and those tactics were headed off, and at least significantly weakened (bigotry is never defeated once and for all).

The AIDS crisis

Today, in the days of PrEP and other effective treatments and preventative measures, avoiding or perhaps even living with the HIV virus is very much a part of our daily lives.

But this wasn’t always the case. For many years, due in large part to the ignorance and bigotry of powerful people, who were more than happy to see a virus kill queer people and IV drug users, little was understood about the virus, and treatments were scant to non-existent.

At the time, I was in my early 20s, newly out as bisexual, and scared out of my mind.

Not necessarily of the virus–I was not especially sexually active, and even when I was, I “played it safe”, if you will–but more because of the fact that HIV began to appear in straight people who didn’t use IV drugs. And they were furious.

Bisexuals were blamed for this. You would see newspaper columns, or hear pundits on television and radio, opine on how bisexuals had used deceptive practices to “trick” straight people into sleeping with them, thereby spreading the virus outside of the queer community. The underlying admission being that HIV was just fine so long as it was only killing queers, I suppose.

Won’t someone think of the children

Even some gay and lesbian folks began to get in on this. Some even denied the existence of bisexuality altogether. I’ll never forget one gay friend of mine angrily telling me that I needed to “make up my mind” and be either straight or gay.

Still others talked about how bisexuality was “trendy” and that those who claimed this identity were just seeking attention; that we wanted to be different in a low-stakes way. Which is pretty much exactly what you might hear from some binary trans folks talking about nonbinary people, but I digress.

What was truly dangerous was what was coming from the religious right in America, the country I grew up in, and even from some non-religious people. In fact, it was the non-religious types who were most dangerous of all.

You see, when you see the likes of Billy Graham, Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson talking about bisexuals being demonically possessed perverts out to destroy western civilisation, it’s pretty easy for garden variety liberals to dismiss that as the ravings of a religious lunatic.

When people present themselves merely as “concerned citizens” with “legitimate questions” about what is “safe for children”, that’s not so easy to dismiss. At least by people who don’t recognise this for the grift that it is.

But when people present themselves merely as “concerned citizens” with “legitimate questions” about what is “safe for children”, that’s not so easy to dismiss. At least by people who don’t recognise this for the grift that it is.

The grift

Every single day, you can open social media and see yet another bad-faith column from folks of all walks of life–journalists, teachers, maybe even has-been television comedy writers–engaging in dishonest engagement on the subject of trans people.

Just as a related note, let me introduce you to the concept of “begging the question”. This rhetorical trick is a logical fallacy wherein someone makes a statement or asks a question that assumes its premises are true, even when they are not. For example, “as trans women are engaging in a sexual fetish through wearing women’s clothing, should they really be allowed around children?”. The premise–that being trans is a fetish–is of course wrong, but the framing of the question is dishonest and puts the person being asked the question in the position of accepting the premise on its own terms–to simply consider whether fetishists should be allowed near children or not; not whether or not trans people are in fact fetishists.

In any event, just keep that in mind the next time you see such arguments being put forward: ask yourself if the premises are even true.

In any event, in the early 90s there were plenty of countless “concerned citizens” who gleefully and knowingly spread misinformation about queer people, and in the panic about bisexuals being purveyors of HIV, they were especially diligent at targeting us.

They made considerable names for themselves through columns in newspapers, or television appearances, or paid lectures and even book deals–making a business through misinformation. What we know as a grift.

I would advise that we use these same strategies today in fighting back against the current anti-trans rhetoric in Iceland.

The saddest part is, the grift worked a bit too well. People who were plenty progressive on other issues might fall for the grift. They would get bisexual teachers fired from schools. They would get bisexual medical care workers dismissed from their jobs. And yes, the grift would also encourage hate crimes against us, getting us assaulted, and some of us even killed.

The way forward

All this being said, we fought back like hell, and the reason why you don’t hear this bigotry as much anymore–as I said, bigotry doesn’t die; it’s very much still there, quieter though it may be–is because of how we fought.

I would advise that we use these same strategies today in fighting back against the current anti-trans rhetoric in Iceland.

First of all, we engaged in a massive information campaign, on many fronts. Brandolini’s Law states “the amount of energy needed to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude bigger than that needed to produce it”. Misinformation spreads quickly and easily; it takes a lot of work to fight against it.

And so we educated others in public. In our words, in newspapers, magazines and lectures. We gave talks at schools. We testified before city councils, spoke with state senators, lobbied folks in Congress directly. We held seminars in workplaces.

And we kept on doing this, over and over again.

We got representation in other media, too–radio, television, even films. We made sure our stories were being told and being told right. We worked hard to ensure correct information was reaching people–of all ages, classes and walks of life.

And we kept on doing this, over and over again.

Icelanders are by and large progressive people. And this backlash against the backlash; this multi-pronged campaign of education, it’s happening. And that’s good. We need to remember that this must be sustained, now and always, if we are to live in a truly free and tolerant society.

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.

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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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          Our Story
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