Despite Iceland’s reputation as a tolerant country, homophobia is still very prevalent. In fact, this reputation for tolerance may be making survivors of homophobia reluctant to come forward.
Úlfar Viktor Björnsson recently took to Facebook to recount an attack he suffered in downtown Reykjavík. He says he was approached by a stranger who asked him if he was gay.
“I said yes,” Úlfur reported. “I’ve never been ashamed of it. And I was punched, right in the face.” Úlfur went on to say that he has been disappointed by Icelandic society, which often overlooks attacks of this nature.
María Helga Guðmundsdóttir, the director of queer rights group Samtökin ’78, told Vísir that Icelanders are often very pre-occupied with how tolerant they are, which makes it difficult for survivors of homophobia to contradict them and speak up about their experiences.
“It’s difficult enough for people to speak up about having been subjected to violence, without having somehow also ruined this tolerant image, or thinking that you’re the only person who has been attacked,” she said. María added that attacks of this nature happen “regularly”, both in terms of physical violence and written threats, often through social media.
In point of fact, Iceland is lacking many crucial protections for its queer community. ILGA-Europe has pointed out in a recent report that Icelandic law “reveals a concerning lack of protections for LGBTI people in anti-discrimination legislation, gaps in hate crime legislation and no legislation or positive measures in the area of asylum.”
This is not just concerning gay Icelanders, either. As Grapevine pointed out last August, Icelandic legislation regarding trans and intersex folks leaves much to be desired. This includes intersex children being subjected to surgery and hormone treatment in order to conform to the gender binary. There is also no legislation at all regarding asylum seekers who identify as queer or trans.