Queer Issues Expressed in Icelandic Language

Highlights of this post:

að koma út úr skápnum – to come out of the closet. Translated literally into Icelandic.

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EPLABLÓM ER AÐ KOMA ÚT ÚR SKÁPNUM

hinsegin – etymology unknown – queer

hán – The currently most common gender-neutral pronoun in Icelandic.

kyn – related to English “kin”, “kind” – sex; breed; gender
kynhneigð – kyn + hneigja (to bend, bow towards) – gender/sexual orientation, literally “the gender/sex to which you are bent towards”.
kynferði – kyn + ferði – gender identity, gender roles, not biological sex.
kynvitund – kyn + vitund (awareness, consciousness) – gender identity
kynfæri – kyn + færi (opportunity, means) – genitals

gagnkynhneigt – useful-oriented, heterosexual
tvíkynhneigt – two-oriented, bisexual
samkynhneigt – same-oriented, homosexual
pankynhneigð – pan-oriented, pansexual

sís-kynjun – cis-gender
trans kona/karl – trans woman/man

lesbía – lesbian
hommi – gay.
hommar og lesbíur – gays and lesbians
“Although the word hommi can be used maliciously, it is the word mainly used when referring to homosexuals, and is itself used a lot by homosexuals.” — Wikionary

óháð kynferði – regardless of gender (usually in description of pansexual orientation)

orðið skotið í – have a crush on, literally “be shot [by the arrow of love?] at”
ástfangið af – be in love with
laðast að – be attracted to
Er þetta stelpa eða strákur? – is it a girl or a boy?

professor_oak

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The following paragraph is from the Icelandic Wikipedia page on Samtökin 78. The translation is mine.

Samtökin 78 eru aðal baráttusamtök hinsegin fólks á Íslandi. Samtökin 78 reka menningar- og þjónustumiðstöð á Laugavegi 3 í Reykjavík, 4. hæð. Þar er opið hús öll fimmtudagskvöld.
Samtökin 78 (literally, “The Associations 78”) is the main rights organization of queer people in Iceland. Samtökin 78 runs the culture and service center on Floor 4, Laugavegur 3, Reykjavík. There is an open house all Thursday night.

samtök – sam (same) + tak (SN. grip, hold) – SN. association, organization
baráttusamtök – barátta (WF1. struggle) + samtök (organization) – rights group
reka – drive (away); coerce; run (a business)
menningur – SM1. culture
þjónustumiðstöð – þjónusta (WF1. service) + mið- (central-) stöð (SF1. station) – service center
hæð – SF2. height

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The following paragraphs are from a leaflet titled “Hvað er hinsegin?/What is queer?” I found in Háskóli Íslands/University of Iceland.

Hvað er hinsegin?
What is queer?

Hinsegin er regnhlífarhugtak yfir allt það fólk sem er ekki gagnkynhneigt og/eða fellur ekki að viðmiðum samfélagsins um hefðbundið kyn. Til dæmis trans fólk, tvíkynhneigt fólk og samkynhneigt fólk.
Queer is an umbrella term for people who are not heterosexual and/or do not conform to gender norms. For example trans people, bisexual people and homosexual people.

hinsegin – adj. queer
regnhlífarhugtak – regnhlíf (SF1. rain-cover, umbrella) + hugtak (SN. concept) – umbrella concept.

kyn – SN. sex; breed; gender – related to the English word “kin”.
kynhneigð – kyn + hneigja (to bend, bow towards) – WF. gender/sexual orientation, literally “the gender/sex to which you are bent towards”.
kynferði – gender identity, gender roles, not biological sex.
kynverund – sexuality?
kynáttunar – gender orientation?

gagnkynhneigt – gagn (useful) + kynhneigt – heterosexual
tvíkynhneigt – tví (two) + kynhneigt – bisexual
samkynhneigt – sam (same) + kynhneigt – homosexual
pankynhneigð – pansexual

viðmiðum – criteria
samfélagur – community
hefðbund – SN. tradition

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Hvað er kynhneigð?
What is sexual orientation?

Kynhneigð segir til um það hverjum fólk getur orðið skotið í, ástfangið af og laðast að. Fólk getur laðast að einhverjum af öðru kyni, af sama kyni, sumt fólk laðast að körlum og konum og sumt pælir aldrei í kyni þess sem það laðast að. Aðrir laðast ekki að neinum. Kynhneigð getur nefnilega verið alls konar, hún getur tekið breytingum og er mismunandi hjá hverjum og einum.
Sexual orientation is about who you might have a crush on, fall in love with and be attracted to. Some people can be attracted to people of another gender or to people of the same gender, some people are attracted to men and women, some might not even think about the gender of the person they are attracted to. Some don’t feel attraction towards others at all. Sexual orientation is not necessarily set in stone, it can vary from person to person, and for some it can change over time.

orðið skotið í – have a crush on, literally “be shot [by the arrow of love?] at”
ástfangið af – be in love with
laðast að – be attracted to

Gagnkynhneigð: að laðast að manneskjum af öðru kyni
Heterosexuality: being attracted to people of an other gender

Samkynhneigð: (lesbía, hommi) að laðast að manneskjum af sama kyni
Homosexuality (lesbian, gay): being attracted to people of the same gender

Tvíkynhneigð: að laðast að tveimur kynjum
Bisexuality: being attracted to two genders

Pankynhneigð: að laðast að fólki óháð þeirra kyni (t.d. konum, körlum og fólki sem skilgreinir sig á annan hátt)
Pansexuality: being attracted to people regardless of their gender (e.g. women, men and people who define themselves differently)

Asexúal: að laðast lítið eða ekki að öðru fólki
Asexuality: being [sexually] attracted little or not to other people

Fordómar ríkja í garð þeirra sem eru ekki gagnkynhneigðir (t.d. sam-, tví- og pankynhneigðra). Mikilvægt er að gæta orða sinna og ekki uppnefna út frá kynhneigð eða gera grín að þeim sem eru öðruvísi. Við lifum í mjög gagnkynhneigðum heimi þar sem flestir gera ráð fyrir gagnkynhneigð og þarf hinsegin fólk stöðugt að koma út úr skápnum. Góð regla er að vera opin/n fyrir fjölbreytileika, ekki ganga út frá því að allir séu gagnkynhneigðir og mundu að fólk er alls konar!
People who aren’t heterosexual (e.g. homo-, bi- and pansexual people) face a lot of prejudice. It is important to think about the words you use and not to use sexual orientation to make fun of people or demean those who are different. We live in a very heterosexual world where most people assume everyone is heterosexual, which means that queer people constantly have to come out of the closet. Be open to diversity, don’t assume that everyone is straight and remember that thehre are all kinds of people!

Við lifum í mjög gagnkynhneigðum heimi. – We live in a very heterosexual world.
skápur – SM1. closet
að koma út úr skápnum – to come out from the closet
að vera opin/n fyrir – be open to.

Note the “opin/n” word… Icelandic adjectives change depending on who you are describing. “opin” is for describing women, and “opinn” is for describing men. it’s the effect of Icelandic grammatical gender, which we will say more about later.

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Hvað er kynvitund?
What is gender identity?

Kynvitund segir til um hvernig við viljum lifa og vera í okkar kyni. Kynvitund hefur ekki með kynfæri, líffræði eða útlit að gera, heldur með upplifun okkar af eigin kyni. Sumt fólk upplifir sig sem karla, sumt upplifir sig sem konur, sumt upplifir sig sem blöndu af hvoru tveggja, annað upplifir sig hvorki sem konu né karl. Sumt fólk fer í aðgerðir eða tekur inn hormón til að breyta líkama sínum og útliti og þannig samræma það við kynvitund sína. Annað fólk vill ekki fara í slíkar aðgerðir.
Gender identity tells us how we want to live and be our gender. Gender identity is not about genitals, biology or appearance, but rather about how we experience our gender. Some people feel they are male, others female, some people feel they are a mix of both and others feel they are neither. Some people have operations or take hormones to change their bodies in line with their gender identity, whereas others don’t.

Sís-kynjun fólk sem býr yfir kynvitund og/eða kyneinkennum sem samræmast kyninu sem því var úthlutað við fæðingu(er hvorki trans né intersex)
Cis-gender a person whose gender identity and/or sex characteristics correlate to their assigned gender (is neither trans nor intersex)

Trans kona er kona sem var úthlutað karlkyni við fæðingu
A trans woman (Male To Female/MTF) is a woman who was assigned male at birth

Trans karl er karl sem var úthlutað kvenkyni við fæðingu
A trans man (Female To Male/FTM) is a man who was assigned female at birth

Kynleiðrétting ferli sem sumt trans fólk fer í gegnum til að samræma líkama sinn og kynvitund
Gender reassignment, a process that some transpeople go through to coordinate their body and their gender identity

Trans er regnhlífarheiti yfir fólk sem fer út fyrir það sem er talið hefðbundið kyn, þar undir eru trans karlar og trans konur, fólk sem fer í aðgerðir, fólk sem vill ekki aðgerðir, fólk sem vill hvorki skilgreina sig sem konu né karl, eða vill blöndu af báðu.
Transgender is an umbrella term which includes all those that fall outside the realm of ‘traditional’ ideas of gender, which includes trans men, trans women, people who go through [sex-reassignment] operations, people who don’t want operations, people who do not wish to identify as male or female, or wish to identify as both.

Miklir fordómar ríkja í garð trans fólks og er mjög mikilvægt að spyrja ef þú ert óviss um nöfn og fornöfn. Trans fólk fær oft óviðeigandi spurningar en það er mikilvægt að gera ekki ráð fyrir að trans fólk vilji endilega ræða um kyn sitt, líkama eða kynjafortíð. Vertu opin/n fyrir því að kyn er ekki alltaf eins hjá öllum, það er engin ein uppskrift að kyni og ekkert rétt eða rangt þegar kemur að kyni!
Trans people experience a lot of prejudice. It is good to simply ask if you are unsure about names and pronouns. Trans people, however, get a lot of inappropriate questions, don’t assume that trans people will want to discuss their gender, bodies or gender past. Be open to the fact that gender isn’t just male or female, there is no single gender recipe and there is no right or wrong when it comes to gender!

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Hvað er intersex?
What is intersex?

Þegar börn fæðast er yfirleitt spurt, er þetta stelpa eða strákur? Þegar kemur að intersex einstaklingum er ekki alltaf augljóst svar við þeirri spurningu. Intersex er hugtak sem nær yfir fólk sem er ekki hægt að flokka líffræðilega sem annað hvort karl- eða kvenkyns. Mikilvægt er að intersex fólk fái sjálft að ákveða sitt kyn, rétt eins og annað fólk, og þá hvort og hvernig læknisfræðilegar aðgerðir það vilji gangast undir.
When a child is born, usually the first question asked is “is it a boy or a girl?” When it comes to intersex individuals, the answer may not be obvious. Intersex is a term that is used for people whose biological sex cannot be clearly categorized as either male or female. Intersex individuals should have full control over any medical procedures they may wish to undergo and should not be subjected to medically unnecessary gender normalizing procedures. It is important that intersex individuals get to determine their own sex and gender, just like everyone else.

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Hún, hann, hán…?
She, he, hán…?

Sumt fólk vill láta kalla sig hann, annað hún en einnig getur verið að fólk vilji hvorki láta ávarpa sig með kvenkyns né karlkyns fornöfnum. Þá getur fornafnið hán komið að góðum notum, en það er hvorugkyns fornafn og notast á eftirfarandi hátt: Hán hló / Ég hringdi í hán / Taskan háns er þung. Mikilvægast af öllu er þó að virða óskir og val fólks á sínum fornöfnum.
Some people prefer to be called he, others prefer she but there are also people who prefer neither female nor male pronouns. In that case the gender neutral pronoun “hán” might come in handy, for e.g.: Hán laughed / I called hán / Háns bag is heavy. However, there are many different gender neutral pronouns available so it is always best to respect people´s own preferences.

Gender-neutral language is extremely difficult in Icelandic, due to the extensive grammatical gender system.

Icelandic nouns have three grammatical genders: female, neuter, and male. Every noun has a gender, and the gender usually has no relation to biological sex, for example, “skápur” (“closet”) is male (“type 1 strong male” to be exact).

Pronouns, demonstrative nouns, and possessive nouns similarly have three genders. For example, “they” has three genders in Icelandic: þeir (male), þær (female), þau (neuter).

Icelandic adjectives take on different endings depending on what the gender of the noun is (as well as the definitiveness, singular/plural, and the noun case, but that’s not relevant here), even when the noun itself is not in the sentence! For example, “Be good!” will have three different versions in Icelandic:
Vertu góð!” (to female) “Vertu gott!” (to neuter) “Vertu góður!” (to male)
And “Hello.” has two versions:
Sæll.” (to male) “Sæl.” (to female)
as well as “Welcome.”:
Velkomin.” (to female) “Velkominn.” (to male)
Usually, to deal with such problems, the different endings are written in parentheses as “sæl(l)“, “velkomin(n)“, and so on.

Icelandic verbs and adverbs, fortunately, are never affected by noun genders.

All of these means that to make Icelandic gender-neutral is a lot more work, compared to making English gender-neutral, which requires only two pronoun substitutions.

English, Icelandic, as well as many European languages came from Proto-Indo-European (PIE), which had an extensive and complex neuter-male-female noun gender system, and most modern descendents of PIE still retain such grammatical genders, and is now causing all kinds of troubles with gender issues. English is one of the most genderless descendents of PIE, and yet there is still plenty of fighting over the issue.
One does wonder if one day English would be genderless like Mandarin, which doesn’t even have gendered pronouns.

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Bonus phrase:

gagnkynhneigt forræði – heterosexual hegemony, heteronormativity

 

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