Large Income Gap in Iceland Based on Sexual Orientation

Crowds gathered at Austurvöllur to show solidarity with Norway.

Despite being on average more educated, homosexual men in Iceland make roughly 33% less than heterosexual men, a new study has found. The new data gives the country an opportunity to make improvements, the chairman of the Icelandic Confederation of University Graduates (BHM) says. RÚV reported first.

The study was conducted by BHM in collaboration with The Federation of State and Municipal Employees (BSRB), the Confederation of Labour (ASÍ), the National Queer Organisation of Iceland (Samtökin ’78), and the University of Iceland’s Institute of Economic Studies. It involved a survey as well as analysis of jointly-taxed men and jointly-taxed women’s tax returns for the year 2019.

Job insecurity higher among LGBTQ+ community

While the study found that gay men made around a third less than straight men, it also found that lesbians made around 13% more than straight women. Vilhjálmur Hilmarsson, an economist at BHM, wondered why this was the case. “What people consider masculinity, is there a premium for that on the Icelandic labour market?”

Of the groups that were compared, gay men fared worst in the COVID-19 pandemic: nearly four out of every ten received unemployment benefits during the pandemic, which the study’s authors contributed to the fact that many homosexual men work in the service industries.

The study also showed that trans people experienced higher job insecurity: seven out of ten stated that they had experienced unemployment.

BHM Chairman Friðrik Jónsson stated that the new data made the problem impossible to deny. “We need to respond, we need to take action. That’s the main thing this work shows, for me. Having the evidence gives us the weapons and tools to say, alright, how can we solve this? How can we improve our society? Because at the end of the day, that’s what we all want. We want to live in a better society, for everyone.”

New United States Ambassador to Iceland Appointed

Carrin F. Patman

The United States Senate has confirmed Carrin F. Patman as the next US Ambassador to Iceland. Patman is a lawyer by training and was a major fundraiser in both Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden’s electoral campaigns in 2016 and 2020, respectively. Vísir reported first.

Patman, 65, was nominated for the position by Joe Biden in February. At the time of her nomination, she stated she had picked up some basic Icelandic, though in her words: “Just a little.”

Patman has been chair of Houston Metro in Houston, Texas since 2010. She was previously a partner at Bracewell LLP, where her specialisations included class action litigation and environmental violations. She was a founding board member of the Center for Women in Law and has been a leader in women’s rights organisations in Texas.

In a statement, Patman said she hoped to “strengthen our cooperation and understanding between the governments of the United States and Iceland.”

The last US ambassador to Iceland, Jeffrey Ross Gunter, was a controversial figure, not least for the social media posts he made throughout his tenure. A US government report published late last year revealed that embassy staff were still recovering from the “threatening and intimidating environment” created by Gunter.

Eruption Site Closed Today

Meradalir eruption, August 2022

The Meradalir eruption site is closed today, Monday, August 8, due to bad weather and poor conditions on the trail, the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management has announced. Crews will use the time to repair the main route, known as Hiking Trail A. Access to the eruption site will be reopened tomorrow, August 9, at 10:00 AM.

Suðurnes police emphasise that no search and rescue crews will be on duty today at the eruption site to respond to emergencies.

At least five times larger than last year’s eruption

The eruption in Meradalir began on August 3 at 1:18 PM. While it is at least five times larger than last year’s eruption in nearby Geldingadalir, it is still considered a relatively minor eruption. Currently, the lava flow is not threatening roads, infrastructure, or inhabited areas.

The hike to the eruption is challenging and not for those who are inexperienced or unprepared. Gas poisoning is a risk that visitors need to be aware of, and staying upwind from eruption fumes is crucial. The site was closed yesterday due to gas pollution.

Read more about visiting the Meradalir eruption.

‘What colours the lives of all nonbinary people is invisibility’

A new study finds that one of the most significant challenges faced by nonbinary people in Iceland is a lack of visibility, as well as difficulty and discomfort in accessing even basic medical care. RÚV reports that Birta Ósk, a master’s student in gender studies at the University of Iceland, is currently conducting a study on behalf of the Icelandic Women’s Rights Association to determine what obstacles nonbinary people regularly face in their daily lives, as well as how the government can better serve this community’s needs.

“When I talk about obstacles, that can mean both obstacles in general and systemic ones,” says Birta Ósk. “But in general, what colours the lives of all nonbinary people is this invisibility. Society doesn’t take nonbinary people into account.”

There is a great deal of awareness-building taking place in Iceland right now, says Birta Ósk, and the general public is still learning how to speak in gender neutral language, for instance. But the issues faced by nonbinary people in Iceland has not yet been researched much, particularly in regards to sexism and gender inequality. “[Nonbinary people] have been somewhat left out of reports on gender equality,” says Birta Ósk, whose research specifically aims to rectify this disparity.

Birta Ósk says that space is rarely made for nonbinary people. Restrooms are frequently gendered for men and women, and registration and profile systems do not often offer gender-neutral or genderqueer options. The situation extends into interpersonal interactions: when meeting someone for the first time, Birta Ósk says people rarely consider that that individual they’re meeting could be nonbinary.

See Also: Iceland’s Gender Autonomy Act is a Step Forward for Trans and Intersex Rights

Iceland passed a landmark law on gender autonomy in 2019, which Birta Ósk says was an important step forward. “A lot of things have gotten better but there’s still a lot that needs improvement in both the healthcare and school systems.”

Trans and nonbinary individuals can seek assistance from the so-called “trans team,” which, per Trans Iceland, is “a loose team of doctors (a psychiatrist, endocrinologists, and a plastic surgeon), psychologists, and a social worker within Landsspítali (the national hospital) that oversees trans-specific care.” The team can help individuals access hormone replacement therapy, all standard surgeries, and therapy. But Birta Ósk says there’s a lot that needs to change about the team and its diagnosis process in particular.

“People have to undergo four diagnostic interviews with a psychiatrist and a psychologist before anything can begin. So they feel a bit like they have to convince doctors that this is something that they want and that they are really nonbinary.” These interviews are particularly onerous because there can be a very long wait—up to a month’s wait for the first interview, for instance. “So it can be a really long wait before you start on hormones, for instance,” explains Birta Ósk.

A nonbinary person could have potentially been in this process for a year and a half, then on hormones for six additional months, and then decide they need to have an operation. Then the process has to start all over again. “They have to go through four diagnostic interviews again,” says Birta Ósk, “go through the same wait before they can book themselves for a procedure which there’s maybe another long wait for.”

Nonbinary people ‘can never completely relax’

Birta Ósk says their interviewees also spoke about the difficulties they generally experience in basic interactions with healthcare professionals, from dentists to GPs. These doctors ask a lot of questions about their nonbinary patients’ gender and often don’t know how they are supposed to speak to them, even when gender is not relevant to the medical service being provided. This makes nonbinary people feel insecure about accessing even basic medical care.

There’s a pressing need, Birta Ósk continues, for a general awareness-raising in both the healthcare and school systems about what it means to be nonbinary how to use pronouns correctly. “I think it’s a serious thing that healthcare professionals don’t really know and even within the Trans Team—that they don’t exactly understand the experience of nonbinary and trans people.”

In the course of their research, Birta Ósk has interviewed nonbinary people of all ages. “My interviewees have explained to me how they have to constantly be on the lookout for risks in their environment—they can never completely relax because they don’t know how people will receive them.” Nonbinary people continue to have to justify their right to existence, Birta Ósk continues, and are often put in the position of having to educate people themselves when this responsibility rightly belongs elsewhere.

“When people use hate speech against nonbinary people, it suppresses all the good awareness building and makes people feel even more insecure about being themselves.”

Birta Ósk’s report will be published in September, at which point they will have suggestions for measures the government can implement to better serve the nonbinary population of Iceland, such as better enforcement of the 2019 Gender Autonomy Law, increased visibility for nonbinary people, and more educational outreach.