Trans Woman Denied Proper Name And Gender Registration, Despite Law - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Trans Woman Denied Proper Name And Gender Registration, Despite Law

Published September 20, 2019

Andie Fontaine
Photos by
Alda Vigdís Skarphéðinsdóttir

Alda Vigdís Skarphéðinsdóttir, an Icelandic trans woman with a legal address in Germany, was denied being able to change her name and registered gender with the National Registry. While the Registry cited her legal address as the reason for their rejection, Iceland’s gender determination law makes no such provision. In fact, the new law specifically abolished such hindrances when it was passed. Alda tells the Grapevine that she has filed an appeal on the matter.

Alda is an Icelandic citizen who has lived in Berlin for the past five years now and began her transition there about three years ago, as Stundin has reported. When Iceland passed their gender determination law—which grants every person 18 years old or over the right to change their name and gender registration without hindrance—Alda sought to do exactly that.

The Registry rejected the changes, specifically citing Alda’s legal address as the reason. In their response, they state that if an individual lives overseas and has their legal gender changed there, that they can submit documentation to the Registry for their consideration of approval in Iceland.

“I find it extremely unjust if Icelandic authorities insist on such things for their own nationals and others if they want to uphold this domicile principle for everyone without any exception or consideration.”

However, Iceland’s law on gender determination makes no such provision. On the contrary, the new law specifically simplified the process to include anyone in the National Registry who is 18 years old or older. Furthermore, as Alda is not a German national but an Icelandic citizen, German law does not provide her with the ability to change her registered gender there.

“I really can’t see how the German government or a municipality office in Berlin should have anything to say about what name or gender is specified in an Icelandic passport or other identity documents,” Alda told the Grapevine. “I had been waiting for the bill on the law of self determination of gender to pass as soon as I heard about it, as the requirement to turn in documents from one’s country of residence were going to be abolished. This was something that kept my hopes up for years.

“The new law is very clear on this as it states that any individual above 18 years of age has the right to determine their own gender. The Prime Minister’s statement that was included with the bill was very clear about such changes being processed by the National Registry without any conditions.”

Alda believes the Registry’s position stems from the idea that Icelanders living abroad must be “living in a country like Denmark where it is relatively simple for foreign nationals to perform this change towards the local authorities.” This, she correctly asserts, is not the case, and could have dangerous consequence for other trans Icelanders living abroad.

“I’ve essentially been on autopilot and spending what should be my working hours on this for the past two weeks, resulting in lost income and a lot of frustration and I know that my current determination is not going to last.”

“While such practices have been abolished here in Germany, we should not forget that many countries, even ones we may consider to be democracies such as Finland, do impose irreversible medical procedures, including sterilisation before accepting a new gender registration,” she points out. “I find it extremely unjust if Icelandic authorities insist on such things for their own nationals and others if they want to uphold this domicile principle for everyone without any exception or consideration.”

Alda tells the Grapevine that the matter is already beginning to take its toll on her.

“I’ve essentially been on autopilot and spending what should be my working hours on this for the past two weeks, resulting in lost income and a lot of frustration and I know that my current determination is not going to last,” she says. “And I know this is going to affect my mental health over time. My appeal is probably going to collect mould in a filing cabinet somewhere for months while the publicity dies out and I am worried that the case will be either dismissed or confirmed by the ministry.”

That said, she has appealed the Registry’s decision to the Transport and Municipality Ministry. In perhaps another telling example of the Registry’s lack of familiarity with the law, she told the Grapevine that the Registry had instructed her to send an appeal to the Ministry of Justice. However, the National Registry responded to her a couple of days later, finally pointing her to the correct ministry.

“This contradicts the law on gender determination, and Trans Ísland encourages the National Registry to respect Alda’s gender determination and change her legally registered name and gender immediately.”

Trans Ísland issued a statement on the matter, where they have put the onus on the Registry to rectify the situation.

“To have an ID and gender registration that contradicts a person’s true gender and name can create numerous problems when people seek services or travel abroad,” they write in part. “It can cause great stress and anxiety, and people can end up denied services or the right to travel aboard. It can at the same time be very hurtful to have to always use one’s older legal name, as Icelandic names are gendered, and so [these old names] misgender people constantly when they receive mail or public documents.

“This contradicts the law on gender determination, and Trans Ísland encourages the National Registry to respect Alda’s gender determination and change her legally registered name and gender immediately, rather than cause more pain and anxiety. Trans people have to deal with enough obstacles in our society, and it is completely unnecessary to create more.”

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