Building Blocks

architecture Kirkjusandur apartments

“Our city belongs to all of us. It’s so much more than a collection of buildings.” To architect Jórunn Ragnarsdóttir, a city is an organic entity, a collaboration between the architects who design its buildings and the inhabitants who populate them and traverse the streets between them. Jórunn is one of Iceland’s most respected architects […]

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Long Waits for Gender Confirmation Surgery in Iceland

No gender confirmation surgeries have been performed in Iceland since 2020, Fréttablaðið reports. Trans people in the country who request surgery face a long wait. Bríet Blær Jóhannsdóttir, a 27-year-old trans woman who has been on the waitlist for 65 weeks, argues that gender confirmation surgery should be formally classified as urgent.

Bríet requested to be placed on the waiting list for gender confirmation surgery in November 2020. “I [was] told that no surgeries had been performed that year, 2020. But they were working on performing four surgeries in December, I get this information in November.” In January 2022, Bríet learned that no further gender confirmation surgeries had been performed in Iceland since December 2020, meaning her wait would be extended even further. The news was hard to bear.

“In my opinion, trans people are very vulnerable, this is a very vulnerable group in society, based on what we have had to endure throughout our lives and how difficult this process is,” Bríet says. “Then to get this slap in the face, that after a year of waiting there is still a two-year wait – the only thing that comes to mind is a gut punch.”

Waiting periods stretch process to three years

Bríet says that the whole gender transitioning process in Iceland is very long and full of obstacles in Iceland, and has been so since before the pandemic. “It starts with six months of doctor’s appointments to confirm that the individual is physically, mentally, and socially in a good enough place to start the process in the first place,” she stated. “That’s followed by a pointless six-month waiting period before you can start on hormones. Then a year after that you go on a waiting list for surgery, a wait that takes a year. So it takes three whole years, before COVID.”

“Can I live for two more years?”

Bríet says that gender confirmation surgery is not formally defined as urgent in Iceland, but says that classification is wrong. “From the point of view of mental health, it’s something that has to happen. I can only speak for myself when it comes to this, but when I got the news [about the additional two-year wait], I just thought: Can I live for two more years? It’s really difficult, to have to wait like this.”

Not receiving the surgery affects her relationships, what activities she participates in, and travel abroad, Bríet says, in addition to increasing the chances of experiencing harassment and assault. “There are so many things that are difficult for trans people to live with today. But surgery is something that is possible to act on, now. It’s not possible to change how people view trans people all at once, but it’s possible to help with [surgery].”

“Blood Farms” Documentary Shocks the Nation

Icelandic horses are a unique breed, bred in isolation in Iceland since settlement times.

Since the 1980s, horse farmers in Iceland have been able to gain extra income by extracting the hormone Equine Chorionic Gonadotropin (eCG) from their pregnant mares. This hormone exists in pregnant mares’ blood and can be removed and sold for hefty sums. To begin with, blood farming was a secondary practice on horse farms, but […]

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Quarantine Hotels Prepare to Scale Down

Fosshotel quarantine Reykjavík COVID-19

The number of people isolating in government-run quarantine hotels in Iceland has decreased in recent days, RÚV reports. The Iceland Red Cross, which oversees the operation of the hotels, expects to close some in the near future.

“One week ago the average was between 50 to 60 per day, but yesterday just over 20 people requested to stay [in a quarantine hotel],” Gylfi Þór Þorsteinnson, director of the quarantine hotel program, stated. “Currently we have 230 guests, which is fewer than we’ve had recently.” Gylfi added that quarantine hotel staff will soon begin preparing to vacate the hotels, as the need for them has decreased.

Despite relatively steady infection numbers, Gylfi says the number of people who request to stay at the quarantine hotels has dropped, and those that do have milder symptoms than before. “Most are in pretty good shape when they arrive and even better shape when they leave.”

Prices Expected to Keep Rising in Iceland

Finances in Iceland

Commodity prices on world markets are at an all-time high and Iceland has not escaped the effects of that development, RÚV reports. Price increases are not expected to slow in Iceland in the coming months, according to Andrés Magnússon, CEO of the Icelandic Federation of Trade and Services (Icelandic: SÞV). Andrés says the Central Bank of Iceland has no tools at its disposal to combat rising prices.

“We have not seen such increases during peacetime, those are the facts. All indexes, all commodity indices confirm it. No one would think that companies, whether large or small, in whatever form, could take this on [alone],” Andrés stated. “When there is such a large increase in the purchase price, it affects pricing, that’s nothing new.” He says the timing is particularly unfortunate in Iceland, as collective agreement negotiations are approaching.

“The government must be concerned about this. We must draw attention to the fact that the government has already come to the aid of farmers, because fertiliser prices are doubling, apparently, and has given farmers a grant of ISK 700 million [$5.4 million, €4.9 million]. It will be interesting to see whether the government intends to come to the aid of the entire public, which will inevitably be affected by this.”

Housing market impacts inflation

Andrés says the Central Bank of Iceland has no tools to tackle so-called “imported inflation,” when the price of imports increases. “This is a situation we have no control over here [in Iceland] and the Central Bank has no tools or equipment in its arsenal to respond. So in that sense it’s entirely new, dealing with what we call imported inflation.”

Social-Democratic Alliance MP Kristrún Frostadóttir stated that rising prices on the housing market played a big part in driving up inflation. “The largest part of the inflation that is above the inflation target is due to rising housing prices in these incredible times,” Krístrún stated, adding that the government could do more to address the issue. “A 17% increase in housing prices in one year is not normal and we are seeing this spread to other areas now. Now there is talk that domestic inflation is starting to pick up, why do you think that is? It’s because housing is the largest single item in individual accounting.”