LGBTQI ICELAND // QUEER ICELAND // TRANS ICELAND

Before you start reading we'd like to make one point. The words "gay" "queer" "LGBT" and "LGBTQI" are all used on the Pink Iceland website, and while we would never go so far as to suggest that they are in any way interchangeable, rest assured that we are fully inclusive of everyone in the queer alphabet. We use all these words on purpose. We do this to make sure that people who type any of these words into a search engine can find us. The majority of people who use our services are gay men and women who often search for services using words referring only to their identity. So when we say 'gay-friendly' we mean everyone's welcome. We would never do business with a company that gives preference to one letter of the queer alphabet over another. 

 

Iceland is a queer friendly destination. LGBTQI people largely enjoy the same rights as others, even though there is still progress to be made. Icelanders enjoy one marriage for all, regardless of sexual orientation or identity and LGBTQI people are protected against discrimination, regardless of sexual orientation, gender expression, gender identity and sex characteristics. Two women or two men walking hand-in-hand still evokes a reaction though - but nowadays the reaction is one of pleasant surprise and if you catch anybody eyeing you, you are more likely to be met with a beaming smile than a disapproving nod. 

With its gay friendly atmosphere Iceland has come a long way since the National LGBTI Association, Samtökin ’78, was founded in 1978 by a few brave people who decided enough was enough, and that they couldn't go on. No, no no.

 

Trans Iceland was founded in 2007 and is the only organization based solely on supporting and fighting for the rights of trans people in Iceland. Other organizations also include transpeople and their battle for equal rights; such as the previously mentioned Samtökin 78 and Q - Association of Queer Students in Iceland. Trans Iceland hosts regular meetings and events for their members, new comers, allies and visitors that are available on their facebook page. Trans-Iceland also hosts Transgender Day of Remembrance every year as well as taking active part in Reykjavík Pride.

 

The situation of trans people is comparable to the situation of other Nordic countries, and a recently passed legislation allows trans people to undergo a medical transition based on an informed consent model and get their legal name and gender changed without a medical diagnosis if they wish for it. Penal and Discrimination laws in Iceland also protect trans people against discrimination and hate crimes. Public awareness has slowly been rising in the past few years due to education and discussion in the public sphere.

In terms of gendered facilities such as swimming pools, especially in the capital area, most of them offer private, gender neutral and accessible locker rooms for people to use without any questions asked. Many transgender people have found these easier to use rather than traditionally gendered ones, as people are expected to shower naked before entering the pool. Some places will have more private showers or private cubicles within the gendered ones that are available to use. For those comfortable with using the women’s or men’s, transgender people are legally allowed to use them and some trans people actively do. For a list of trans friendly pools and facilities, see here.

For further information about Trans-Iceland, please visit www.trans.samtokin78.is or www.facebook.com/transisland

In the wider picture, there is still progress to be made. This includes rights for LGBTQI asylum seekers and refugees, allowing trans youth to change their name and gender without parental consent, bettering the sexual health of LGBTQI people in Iceland, some legal complications with parental rights of same-sex couples, trans people’s access to sports, for sex education to be fully LGBTQI inclusive, and other areas that require an ongoing conversation. One of the major holes in LGBTQI equality in Iceland is the fact that intersex people are not protected against uncessary interventions as infants. This means that intersex people are forced to have surgeries or other inventions as children, and are unable to give their consent to interventions that are not medically necessary. There is progress being made in this area, and hopefully all surgeries and interventions on intersex infants will be banned in Iceland in the next few years.

BEING TRANS IN ICELAND

We get a lot of requests from transgender travelers, and whether it is safe for them to travel around Iceland and use gendered facilities. In this short article we will discuss what you can expect when traveling in Iceland as a trans person.

Transgender rights in Iceland have progressed a lot in the past 10 years. In 2019 a new bill was passed that allows transgender people to access health care based on an informed consent model. It also allows transgender people to change their name and gender through the National Registry without a medical diagnosis. Kids under 18 can also change their name and gender with parental consent and have access to trans related health care as needed.

Iceland has always presented itself as a progressive country and many are proud of how LGBTI friendly we are as a country, so social attitudes towards LGBTI people are quite accepting and friendly in general. There are of course issues of discrimination, misgendering and misconceptions in Iceland, but as Iceland crime rates are quite low in general there is little serious crime. So living as a transgender person in Iceland is much safer than in many places around the world.

In terms of gendered facilities such as swimming pools, especially in the capital area, most of them offer private, gender neutral and accessible locker rooms for people to use without any questions asked. Many transgender people have found these easier to use rather than traditionally gendered ones, as people are expected to shower naked before entering the pool. Some places will have more private showers or private cubicles within the gendered ones that are available to use. For those comfortable with using the women’s or men’s, transgender people are legally allowed to use them and some trans people actively do. For a list of trans friendly pools and facilities, see here.

There are a few queer clubs and venues in Reykjavík, namely a club called Kiki Queer Bar and a new place called Curious. Most bars and clubs are queer friendly, although there have been issues with certain places downtown in the past. If you want to make sure you can party somewhere without a worry, Kiki and Curious are definitely your safest bets.

As a trans traveler, you shouldn’t have to be worried about your safety. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t incidents that can occur, but most places do make an effort to make everyone feel welcome, safe and respected. If you experience misgendering or anything of the sort from hotel staff for example, explaining to them what your pronouns and title is usually an easy solution and staff have to respect your wishes.

If you have any questions about your stay or want advice about specific places you’re planning to visit, don’t hesitate to get in touch. 

Reykjavík Pride

We can't talk about LGBT Iceland without mentioning Reykjavik Pride. Reykjavik Pride is unlike any other pride you’ll attend;  A celebration bringing together a nation in pride, respect, love and, of course, a lot of fun.  The Pride festival recently celebrated its tenth birthday and we say we’ve come a long way during this short time. During the first parade people pretty much ran down the street, afraid of being seen fighting for their rights as human beings.

 

Now we walk with pride and joy and almost third of the nation comes to celebrate and watch the parade. The parade is almost entirely free of sponsorship, focusing on people, where each float is often made up by a group of friends each deciding their own theme. The festivities extend from Tuesday to Sunday the second week in August. Through the years there have been movie premieres, plays, sports events, concerts, rainbow church ceremonies, gay history walks, gay cruises, a lavish opening ceremony, queer literature walks, family festivals, pride dances and of course the parade. This is Pink Iceland’s favourite time of year and we have created a fabulous Pink Pride Package around Reykjavík Gay Pride so you won’t miss a thing.

For LGBT news about Iceland check out GayIce and Gay Iceland

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