From Iceland — Icelandic Queer Rights Groups Met With US Embassy Over Anti-Trans & Intersex Memo

Icelandic Queer Rights Groups Met With US Embassy Over Anti-Trans & Intersex Memo

Published November 1, 2018

Andie Sophia Fontaine
Photo by
US State Department

Four queer rights groups met with the US embassy in Iceland about a memo recently issued by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that aims to greatly limit the definition of sex, in addition to calling upon the Icelandic government to meaningfully respond to the actions of the US government. While the US embassy responded to the groups, that Icelandic government has yet to do so.

As reported, the agency’s proposed definition of sex would pertain to Title IX, a federal civil rights law that bans gender discrimination in education programmes that receive government financial assistance. The department seeks to define sex as “either male or female, unchangeable, and determined by the genitals that a person is born with”, according to the New York Times, who saw a copy of the memo.

Roger Severino, the director of the Office for Civil Rights at the department, has long been a critic of trans and intersex rights, which he has likened to “radical gender ideology”. However, this proposed definition of sex not only contradicts what decades of scientific research have taught us about gender, but also ignores the already medically established consensus on sex, as science understands that sex goes beyond simply “male” or “female”, and has done for decades.

Grapevine has now received a copy of a memo detailing the communications that The National Queer Organisation Of Iceland, Intersex Iceland, Trans Iceland and Reykjavík Pride had with both the US embassy in Iceland and the Icelandic government.

In a statement to the US embassy, the groups say: “The United States government must put an immediate end to all plans to deprive trans and intersex people of their legal rights and move to further strengthen anti-discrimination protections for these communities. Lofty promises in foreign policy are empty words if they do not go hand in hand with a strong policy on equality and human rights at home.”

The embassy quickly responded, and a meeting was arranged. There, embassy officials said that the proposed memo is not the policy of the United States government, and that the policy of the US State Department has not changed where LGBTI matters are concerned. The embassy further offered to forward the groups’ statement to the State Department, along with a memo about the meeting, with the promise to maintain continued contact with the groups about the matter.

The groups also called upon the Icelandic government to “condemn the proposed policy of the United States vigorously”, with the reminder that the Icelandic government has obliged itself to follow the human rights policies of the United Nations, which includes the rights of LGBTI people. The Icelandic government has yet to respond.

The initial statement from the groups can be read here (PDF).

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