From Iceland — Trans Woman Pursuing Discrimination Case That Prosecutors Dropped

Trans Woman Pursuing Discrimination Case That Prosecutors Dropped

Published February 9, 2021

Andie Sophia Fontaine
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Two years after the incident originally occurred, prosecutors have dropped a case of discrimination against a trans woman. The woman in question is now exploring avenues in pursuing that case further, and she tells the Grapevine that a lack of basic knowledge of trans issues within the police force was a contributing factor in the case being dropped.

The incident in question occurred at the club Hverfisbarinn in November 2018. There, Sæborg Ninja Urðardóttir hoped to celebrate her sibling’s birthday with some friends. However, the doorman for the club denied Sæborg entry, saying that she was not dressed according to the dress code. When pressed further, he said “I just couldn’t let a guy in a women’s fur coat into the place.” Despite being told that she is a trans woman, the doorman continuously misgendered her in front of others, telling her to come back wearing a men’s suit jacket.

The matter drew considerable media attention at the time, prompting the university student group Röskva to cancel an event they had scheduled at Hverfisbarinn.

‘An easily fixed issue’

The matter is a clear case of discrimination, but police response left a lot to be desired, by Sæborg’s account.

“I’m aware of the feelings of unsafety this can instill in folks, and the stress that follows. These feelings are unfortunately warranted and until something changes, I’m still waiting to feel safe.”

“I believe the case has been mishandled from the start, police reports show the working police struggling with vocabulary and I’m uncertain what, if any, understanding there is of queer issues within the justice system,” she told the Grapevine. “There was a part, relating to kyngervi, kyneinkenni and kyntjáning, (gender identity, sex characteristics and gender expression) in the police report that read “kyntjáir sig sem kona” (“gender expresses as a woman”) which I found really funny. Because like, I get it, new terms you’re not familiar with, you’re trying. But it’s an easily fixed issue, really. I don’t know there’s been any educating the police force, prosecutors or cadets on queer issues, like Trans Iceland educates medical students about trans issues.”

Due to how the police have handled the case, prosecutors have considered it an unlikely case to succeed in court, and have declined to move forward.

“Part of the police’s commentary was critical of how wording of insults, thrown by the bouncer, wasn’t exactly the same [as one witness testified],” Sæborg says. “When they had waited to speak to said witness for a year. There might have been some testimony that had something to do with it, a recent one, but in the files the police gave me, I only got the part where said person claims to have been at Hverfisbarinn that evening. But, this on my behalf is pure speculation.”

May go the human rights court

As such, Sæborg has obtained a lawyer, who is now assessing the strength of the case. In the meantime, the situation remains emotionally taxing.

“Right now, it’s just a waiting game to see if this case will be if the case will be picked up again, and in that case my lawyer would become the legal guardian and if it stays dropped, we’ll see if it has feet to go to a human right’s court and take things from there,” Sæborg tells the Grapevine. “So there is still a lot of uncertainty about what lies in store, but I genuinely hope this can all be over soon. Last year really emphasized for me just how exhausting and shrinking media coverage of trans issues can be, especially when it’s really bad. Post Pride there was a wave of just ‘I need to go back to bed’ news and opinion pieces. So I’m aware of the feelings of unsafety this can instill in folks, and the stress that follows. These feelings are unfortunately warranted and until something changes, I’m still waiting to feel safe.”

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