Icelandic Sign Language Adopts Four New LGBTQIA+ Signs Skip to content
Photo: Gay Pride 2014.

Icelandic Sign Language Adopts Four New LGBTQIA+ Signs

Four new signs have been adopted into Icelandic Sign Language: eikynhneigður (asexual), kynsegin (non-binary or genderqueer), kvár (a gender-neutral identifier for non-binary adults that can be used in place of ‘man’ or ‘woman’), and stálp (a gender-neutral identifier for non-binary children/youth that can be used in place of ‘boy’ or ‘girl.’) RÚV reports.

Crowdsourcing New Icelandic Words from the Community

The new signs were crowdsourced from members of Iceland’s LGBTQIA+ Deaf community and selected by Samtökin 78, Iceland’s National LGBTQIA+ Organization, in partnership with the Language Committee on Icelandic Sign Language. The terms themselves were newly coined last January as part of Hýryrði, a competition that Samtökin 78 has held annually since 2015. The competition crowdsources new Icelandic words to correspond with terms that are important to the LGBTQIA+ community.

New coinages are submitted to the competition along with contextual rationales for their adoption into the language. Kvár, for instance, was one of many suggested terms for nonbinary adults. It had only been in existence for a few short months when it was submitted to the competition, but in that time, it had already enjoyed wide usage amongst Iceland’s LGBTQIA+ community. Kvár was coined by Hrafnsunna Celeste Ross.

Stálp has a lot of strong etymological roots in Icelandic. For one, it takes its root from the adjective stálpaður, or ‘adolescent.’ It begins with ‘st-‘ just like the Icelandic words for both boy (strákur) and girl (stelpa). It shares an -á with strákur and an -lp with stelpa. It was hoped that stálp’s clear roots and derivations would aid in its quick adoption and broad usage. Stálp was coined by Inga Auðbjörg Straumland.

‘All LGBTQIA+ people should be able to talk about their experiences and self-images’

“All LGBTQIA+ people in Iceland should be able to talk about their experiences and self-images, no matter if their mother tongue is Icelandic or Icelandic Sign Language, and this is an important thing for Samtökin 78 to support. We thank everyone who sent in suggestions for participating! Now it’s up to DEAF LGBTQIA+ people whether these symbols will gain traction and we look forward to seeing how things progress,” said Samtökin 78 chair Þorbjörg Þorvaldsdóttir in a press release.

Videos for the new signs can be seen below:

Eikynhneigður / asexual (sign coined by Mordekaí Elí Esrason):

Kynsegin / non-binary or genderqueer (coined by Kristín Lena Þorvaldsdóttir):

Kvár an identifier for nonbinary adults (coined by Anna Guðlaug Gunnarsdóttir):

Stálp – an identifier for nonbinary children (sign coined by Mordekaí Elí Esrason):

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