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Þann 13. október 2020 fór fram norrænn fundur, skipulagður af Samtökunum ’78 og Norræna húsinu, sem bar heitið A Queer Utopia? The Dissonance Between Legal Rights and Societal Acceptance in Iceland. Fundurinn var  hluti af norrænni málstofuröð sem spratt af samstarfi norrænu jafnréttisráðherrana, með það að markmiði að efla vernd og bæta líf hinsegin fólks á öllum Norðurlöndunum. Á íslenska fundinum var sérstök áhersla lögð á lagalega stöðu hinsegin fólks á Íslandi og gekk fundurinn framar vonum.

Eftirfarandi er ræða formanns Samtakanna ’78, Þorbjargar Þorvaldsdóttur, sem hún flutti á fundinum:

Dear guests,

It is a great pleasure to have the opportunity to address this meeting, and to discuss this important issue for Iceland as well as for the other Nordic countries. As we have just heard, there is a dissonance – a gap, if you will – between the societal acceptance of LGBTIQ+ people in Iceland, and our legal rights.

Survey after survey has shown that we here in Iceland are in fact leaders on a global level when it comes to the societal acceptance of queer people. However, we still lag behind on legal protections, policy and other positive governmental measures. This is true when we compare Iceland to many of our Nordic neighbors, and this is also true when we compare ourselves to other countries in Europe.

So, while Iceland is no utopia – no country is – it is one of the most accepting nations on earth. At the same time, to name a few things: There is no law that tackles violent hate crime in Iceland. There is no ban on conversion therapy. There is no specific law that protects queer asylum seekers.

We are often celebrated, but not always protected.

This is a fact. In my mind, a rather embarrassing fact. But embarrassing facts can be useful if we use them to spur ourselves into action. And the question that the people following today’s event might be asking themselves is: How do we do better? New laws and measures for the protection and welfare of a minority group in society certainly do not just come to light on their own.

The title of my talk has probably given my main point away: Countries that want to secure human rights for all people and install protections, policy and positive measures on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity or sex characteristics must invest in queer rights.

And what do I mean by invest? Invest time, invest funds, and invest in people.

Invest time. There is a fundamental difference between allies in spirit, and allies who are ready to invest their time and do work on behalf of the queer community. Iceland has multiple politicians that are allies and supporters of queer rights, and in that we are extremely lucky. Painting rainbow streets and openly celebrating pride as an ally to LGBTIQ+ people is a good thing. However, it is another thing entirely to speak up on our behalf and to protect and push for our rights, even when it isn‘t easy. And one thing that our allies that have political power can advocate for, is: The investment of funds.

Yes, we need financial security for NGOs such as the one I lead, Samtökin’ 78. As an organization, we are absolutely vital in providing services and support to queer people in this country. And when funds are granted to NGOs, it must be done with long-term contracts. To quote a real example: Recently, we had to let all of our staff go – just in case – because our funding isn’t secure from year to year. We hope to be able to rehire everyone as soon as new contracts are made, but this instability is not sustainable. This shouldn’t have to be our main concern. Also, we shouldn’t be the only ones working toward equality. The public sector should invest in people.

When it comes to legal rights and concrete systemic change we need more people. We need specialists in queer issues appointed to positions within both government bodies and within municipalities. Apart from the amazing four person staff of Samtökin 78, there is only one person in the entire nation that has a full time job focused solely on queer issues. Iceland can do much better, and I‘m sure that other Nordic countries can too.

I am happy that the current Icelandic government, lead by prime minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir, has taken concrete steps in the right direction over the past few years. Supported by almost everyone in the opposition, I should also note. We finally have workplace protections in place, we have new laws that secure gender autonomy. The government has shown – and this is especially true when it comes to global leadership and initiative – that Iceland wants to lead on queer rights. We are on the right path, but we must do better and never lose sight of the goal. Which should of course be to occupy the first place of ILGA Europe’s Rainbow map. That’s our goal at least, and I think we as a nation should share that goal.

But to end this talk on a sober note: There is good reason to invest in queer rights these days. Fascism, homophobia and especially anti-trans rhetoric is on the rise across our continent. Now is not the time to ignore queer rights or to pretend that our relatively safe place in society is everlasting.
We cannot face the storm without proper anchoring. Legal rights must be secured.

Við vekjum athygli á að hægt er að horfa á fullt streymi frá fundinum hér: