A group of trans allies and two trans men launched a second iteration of a campaign aimed at gender inclusivity in Reykjavík public pools.
Prodhi Manisha, a trans man and activist who started the first iteration in a campaign called Ég Fer Með Þér (eng. “I’ll go with you”), helped organised the event, which took place at the Vesturbæjarlaug pool.
As last time, this campaign had people in the reception area of the pool dispensing information on the City of Reykjavík’s Human Right policy; in particular: “Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, and sex characteristics is prohibited. It shall not be assumed that all persons are heterosexual, cisgender or dyadic.” At the same time, some people went into the showers of the pool, not only as an act of solidarity with trans people in the showers of their gender, but also to stand up for them if they were confronted by pool staff or guests.
Prodhi tells Grapevine that the event was quite successful.
“It actually went swimmingly,” he said. “we had more people join the campaign after last time, so that growth is great to see. We didn’t have staff bothering us at all. There were a couple of people who were looking around curiously, and there was one person who asked, ‘Hey, are you sure you’re in the right showers?’ It was really fantastic not having to deal with that all alone by myself. It’s really interesting to observe the weight of someone validating your gender identity. When someone else is also speaking up along with you.” The person from the showers who asked for clarification reportedly apologised, with no hard feelings.
A few people did have questions, and the people in the lobby were happy to answer them whilst dispensing pamphlets pointing out the city’s relevant policy.
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.
“[This campaign] is about building up momentum in terms of cis solidarity, but it’s also setting an example in demonstrating that trans people have a right to these spaces,” Prodhi says.
One of the more common responses to the notion that trans folks should be allowed to use spaces specific to their gender is that gendered spaces should simply be made gender-neutral. Prodhi tells Grapevine that there are more immediate goals that need to be met.
“More than gender neutrality, the matter at hand is really about ‘gender inclusivity’, such that there is the choice of both being able to access facilities that are not gender-segregated and the inclusion of folks into binary spaces according to their gender identity,” he says. “The biggest obstacle to either of these is an archaic imagination of gender according to the cisheteronormative gender binary, both by public and by authorities at times in their reading of ambiguous laws and policies that still don’t outright exclude trans folks out of any spaces anywhere. At some point in the future, removing the binary segregation in these spaces would make life easier for everyone, but right now, we’re not even going towards gender neutrality. What we are asserting here is: trans men are men, trans women are women. It’s a fight complementary to the one for providing access to non-gendered facilities for those who need it as well.”
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.
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