Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honour to interview Ugla Stefanía Jónsdóttir, an Icelandic transgender rights activist. Hello Ugla!
|Photo by Móa Hjartadóttir.|
In relation to that, I was also interviewed by the media I Lithuania and the interview was aired on the national television in Lithuania. We hope that this will underline the importance of giving transpeople access to the healthcare they need and should have.
There is nothing worse than feeling alone, and I think this is a feeling most transpeople have felt at one point or another in their lives. Networking, reaching out and supporting each other is vitally important for all activists and people in general. A feeling of sameness and solidarity is something so valuable.
|The Reykjavik Pride annual publication.|
Photo by Guðmundur Davíð Terrasaz.
People often refuse to acknowledge their true identities and people are very keen on saying that transpeople will always be the sex they were assigned at birth. This results in people insistently using wrong pronouns and names and the usage of transphobic slurs. Due to these ideas transpeople are medicalized and marginalized from their society, often leaving them with no other options but to live on the street and having to do sex work. These are issues we, as a society, need to combat, and something society needs to realize. Transpeople are extremely marginalized and their basic human rights are broken and not attended to in so many places around the world.
On a more social level, we are still dealing with a lot of prejudice and even hate crimes. Recently a transperson was attacked at a bar for going to the bathroom, so we are even seeing serious problems. But a lot has happened in the past few years due to extremely strong and outspoken people talking about transgender issues and we are slowly raising more and more awareness. We are still dealing with a lot of wrong usage of language and terms, but even the media has started becoming cooperative and are working more closely with us.
All in all, being in Iceland as a transperson is in many ways easier than in a lot of countries where they have no recognition, legally or socially. But that does not mean that we don’t have problems that we need to deal with.
|Photo by Móa Hjartadóttir.|
Like for everyone, it was difficult. But for me, the difficulty was a lot prior my transition. Just taking that step and getting there was the hardest I think. But after I decided to start the transition life become somehow easier, more natural and finally I felt as if I was doing something right with my life. I always had a very clear idea of where I was heading, so for me the process itself was not that hard.
Of course it had its difficulties, emotional moments, hard moments and everything that follows such a huge process, but I believe I am very lucky and very privileged to have had such amazing friends and family who supported me. Without them, I would not be where I am today and I owe them a whole.
I decided to become my own role model and sort of find my way in this world. I have to agree with one of my favorite transpeople, Laverne Cox, when she says she does not really like the word “role-model” but rather “possibility-model.” I think that people can definitely inspire you and give you some hope, but I think everyone should strive to be their own person and make their own way, such as I did when I came out.
I didn’t really have the words to explain, and just sort of finding the right way was very hard. I was also worried how people would respond and what they’d think. I was worried people wouldn’t understand and would confuse my gender identity with sexuality (which a lot of people did). So just being able to finally express myself was a step that I found very difficult.
|Photo by Móa Hjartadóttir.|
I think transpeople are often portrayed in very stereotypical ways. When they appear in films or newspaper the focus always seems to be on what genitals they have, rather than what they actually go through on a daily basis. And this is very common everywhere, I think. The focus sort of shifts away from the real problems they face: the discrimination, lack of legislation, access to health care and so on. Of course, I have seen some really good books and stories about transpeople, but the way they often portrayed in the media is often very problematic.
Personally I think these groups should work together, because so many of the issues we face are based on the same norms, the same values and the same prejudice. It is often difficult, but I think with time, hard work and awareness raising, transpeople can definitely raise their cause within the movements.
Monika: Is there anyone in the Scandinavian transgender society whose actions could be compared to what Harvey Milk was doing in the USA in the 60s and 70s for the gay activism?
Monika: Are you active in politics? Do you participate in any lobbying campaigns? Do you think transgender women can make a difference in politics?
I think that everyone can make a difference in politics, and I think the more diverse group of people we have, the better. So transwomen can definitely make a difference in politics, and I know some already have in many places in the world.
It is definitely harder to find love as a transperson, often due to people’s prejudice and preconceptions. But I have been very lucky and privileged to have someone by my side.
Monika: Many transgender ladies write their memoirs. Have you ever thought about writing such a book yourself?
Don’t let others guide you or tell you what to do or what not to do. Find other transpeople who are also struggling. Draw strength from each other. Support each other. Create support groups, create discussion groups. Nothing is as bad as being alone, so find each other. Search for others, and yourself. Be you.