From Iceland — Trans Activist And Allies Launch Campaign In Response To Multiple Cases Of Discrimination

Trans Activist And Allies Launch Campaign In Response To Multiple Cases Of Discrimination

Published December 12, 2018

Andie Sophia Fontaine
Photo by
Art Bicnick

Prodhi Manisha, a trans activist living in Iceland, has launched a campaign that encourages people to stand up and say something if they witness transphobia. Part of the inspiration for the campaign is the repeated conflicts trans people in Iceland often run into at some at Iceland’s public pools.

The campaign, #ÉgFerMeðÞér, literally translates as “I’ll go with you”, and is inspired by the international campaign of the same name. While the I’ll Go With You campaign has a particular focus on public bathrooms, #ÉgFerMeðÞér pertains in large part to Iceland’s public pools.

“The basic idea here is for people coming from a place of greater privilege to publicly indicate that they are ready to be there for a trans person if they’re being harassed or discriminated against,” he says. “The onus and responsibility is on cis folks, but really anyone who feels comfortable taking part may do so.”

Part of the inspiration for the campaign has been the multiple instances of discrimination that trans people can face at some of Iceland’s public pools. As many readers may know, showering before swimming in Iceland is pretty much mandatory, but how pool staff respond to a trans person using showers specific to their gender can vary widely. As Grapevine and Stundin have reported, Prodhi has himself been subjected to the arbitrary whims of pool staff on numerous occasions, and he isn’t alone, either.

Reykjavík City Council and the Human Rights Office have made attempts to address this issue for about a year now. While Article 7 of Reykjavík’s Human Rights Policy expressly states “It is forbidden to discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression or sexual characteristics”, the Human Rights Office recently issued an opinion that trans people must use showers specific to their “external genitalia”, primarily for the comfort of cis people. In addition to this contradiction with the existing Human Rights Policy for the city, the opinion itself is not based on any Icelandic law, and carries no legal weight.

“That opinion took a massive toll on me,” Prodhi says. “It implies that trans people are some kind of threat to others.”

Rather than fold completely, Prodhi decided the best response was action. Last week, he and several others visited Sundhöllin public pool in downtown Reykjavík (shown above). Prodhi and some of the group went into the men’s showers, while others stood in the main entrance with information pamphlets, talking with pool guests and staff alike.

“It felt like walking on a cushion of acceptance,” Prodhi says. “The staff were very respectful. It definitely helped to have a bunch of people go with me.”

Prodhi and others involved in the #ÉgFerMeðÞér campaign have made stickers that trans allies can wear, and he also encourages people to change their Facebook or Twitter cover photos to this image, which displays the hashtag on the trans flag. For context, they may also share a summary of his experience at the demonstration and the basic gist of the movement here in Icelandic and in English.

“Even if you don’t have the stickers, keep your ears and eyes open,” Prodhi advises. “If you see a trans person being harassed, stand up for them. I hope cis people know that doing something as simple as this can make a world of difference.”

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