A Troubled Time for Transgender Healthcare in Iceland
Members of the transgender community in Iceland are saying their current health system involves the medicalization of gender identity, gatekeeping and outdated stereotypes about gender roles. The video was shown on October 14th at the University of Iceland, during a seminar labeled “Trans people and the health care system”.
“THEY SAY THAT THEY NEED TO PUT ON AN ACT, A CERTAIN ROLE, AND PLAY ALONG JUST TO GET THE HEALTH CARE SERVICES THAT THEY NEED.”
“The people I interviewed all talk about this very strong requirement to fulfill a certain gender role, heavily based on outdated ideas about men and women, their behavior, clothing, hobbies, interest and general expectations about them,” Fox told Gay Iceland. “They say that they need to put on an act, a certain role, and play along just to get the health care services that they need. It’s all very binary and seems like the health care system is very concerned with making sure people fit into a very specific, narrow box.
In addition to being forced to conform to binary gender norms, transgender people need to be diagnosed with a mental illness to receive any transgender related care. “You see in Iceland trans people still need to be diagnosed with a mental disorder to be able to get health care, and they put up with it even though that’s not the case, even though they’re perfectly sane, just so they can get the health care they really need,” Fox explains. “And by mental disorder I’m referring to the outdated definition “gender identity disorder”, which health care officials in Iceland are using as a diagnosis for trans people, instead of the most recent and up to date diagnosis “gender dysphoria”. Though transgender people in Iceland have made great strides with social acceptance, their transgender related medical programs are falling behind when they were once considered ahead of the curve.
Dr. Óttar Guðmundsson, the head of a trans health care team at the National University Hospital in Iceland, is rejecting these allegations. “The team respects the criticism that is put forth in the video. We cannot comment on individual comments, but we disagree with a lot that is said in the video. All definitions of gender roles and gender identity have gone through massive changes in the last years, in both the trans community as well as the therapeutic community,” said Óttar. “We don’t talk about gender identity disorder any more. We use the term gender dysphoria which is in accordance to the DSM-5 which was recently published.” When asked why gender dysphoria is still considered a mental illness in Iceland when other countries no longer do so, Óttar responded, “We cannot answer that question.”