Before Intersex Iceland, little else was known besides that one surgery a year was performed to determine an intersex child’s sex in Iceland. These issues were rarely, if ever, discussed from a human rights perspective. Icelandic doctors treated people’s fundamental rights to self-determination and choice as preposterous–even going so far as to claim that not performing these non-consensual surgeries was akin to dangerous experimentation with intersex children´s lives. Like elsewhere in the world, we heard the same excuses for these surgeries: to relieve familial distress, prevent stigmatization and ensure that the child would identify with the correct gender. We should always be extremely wary of any medical professional that uses this last reason, taken partly from Dr. John Money’s theory that one’s gender has zero to do with their nature, when making decisions for intersex children.
A small group of activists in Iceland decided to act and we organized to address these issues within our society. We were shocked that intersex issues were not addressed in a more humane fashion in a country perceived by the international community as scoring high in gender equality and LGBT rights. Thus, on the anniversary of Stonewall (June 28th), Intersex Iceland was officially formed with the express purpose of raising awareness of the existence of intersex individuals!
A month earlier an informational talk was held at the national LGBT headquarters. Over sixty concerned individuals were in attendance and many promised to lend their voices to raising intersex awareness in our society. They did a fantastic job! Shortly afterwards, the word intersex went from obscurity to mainstream.
The national LGBT association of Iceland assisted our fledgling organization by opening its doors to us and offering us its resources. Essentially, they provided us a home base from which we could operate and get our feet on the ground. The local pride committee decided to highlight intersex issues for Reykjavík Pride 2014 and got the ball rolling with an in-depth interview with Intersex Iceland’s chair, Kitty Anderson, in their publication.
The first formal Pride Week intersex event consisted of a cooperative project between Reykjavík Pride and Intersex Iceland. It featured a highly publicized screening ofIntersexion at Bíó Paradís Cinema followed by a Q&A session with our chair member. Amongst an audience of 300 plus—so many that some had to bring their own chairs or sit on the floor—were 30 members of the medical students union, a representative of the Director General of Public Health and members of our city council. Later that week we worked with Reykjavík Pride again to host an informal talk dubbed “The Intersex Experience.” It received lots of media attention, including interviews in Icelandic papers and radio segments that raised awareness of intersex issues. To top it all off, Reykjavík Pride committee decided to place Intersex Iceland first in the Pride Parade! This resulted in Intersex Iceland being seen by a crowd of over 90,000 Icelanders!
In the months that followed Reykjavík Pride, it has become certain that intersex is not about to lose its visibility in Iceland anytime soon. Intersex is now included in the nation´s peer education program that is available to all students ages 13 and over. University departments have also expressed interest and are hosting intersex education events for their students, staff and faculty. Even political parties have reached out and are inquiring about having representatives of Intersex Iceland hold educational talks with their members. The future is uncertain, but with so many dedicated members of our Iceland already committed to changing society for the better, we hope that the road to full human rights and self-determination will be a short one.