There’s so much more to Sophie Labelle than her vibrant pink locks. From inside the walls of her old classroom in Northern Canada, to her cozy Montreal flat, she is not your average girl next door. An elementary school teacher turned trans-author, cartoonist and public speaker, Sophie has become a voice for trans communities around the globe.

She has used her own creation, the internationally acclaimed web comic “Assigned Male” as a panel to propel her message. Ready to take on Iceland for the next month, we caught Sophie in her Chicago homestay, a day before her arrival in Reykjavík.

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The world-famous Canadian cartoonist and a trans-author Sophie Labelle has just arrived in Iceland and will be giving a lecture on her work at Samtökin ’78, tonight at 20PM

Denique: “It’s so early in your timezone, but I want you to tell us three things that people don’t already know about you!”

Sophie: “Firstly, I’m actually more into sewing than drawing. I’ve wanted to design theatre costumes since I was five, so I learned how to use a sewing machine long before I ever used a drawing tablet. Secondly, my [pink] hair isn’t natural. Thirdly, I love musicals. These days I’m really excited about Mathilda!”

Denique: “I thought the pink was natural! So you started the web comic “Assigned Male” over a year ago. When you wake up in the morning, how do you react to over 40,000 followers on Facebook? Did you ever think it would come to this?”

Sophie: “I still feel like Cinderella right now because before all this, I was simply drawing this comic for fun and suddenly, so many people seemed to relate to it. It’s really amazing. It’s also funny because when I wake up, I usually pick up my phone and ban 20-50 people from my pages as I want to keep those spaces safe, especially for youth. I have a lot of children reading my content, even though some comics discuss hetero/cis-normativity. Those kids are craving to find representation and are willing to read anything that includes a character like them.”

Denique: “That’s so responsible of you.”

Sophie: “Yeah, as an ex-elementary school teacher, that’s something that’s really important for me. Everyday I receive messages from people who share their story with me, and how my comic has helped them come out, so I want to keep the pages clean and free from any harassment.”

Assigned Male is a web comic that follows the life of a Transgender child named Stephie as she navigates cis-centered culture and fights for her rights.

Assigned Male is a web comic that follows the life of a trans child named Stephie as she navigates cis-centered culture and fights for her rights.

Denique: “What kind of support system did you have when you first began creating art?”

Sophie: “My family always supported my comics, as they are light and the format is easily understood. When I made comics in elementary school, people would pass them around and continued to ask for more. I think in second grade, I was known as the girl who made comics. It was a way for me to gain some self-esteem, especially during a time where I had experts trying to figure out my gender. It was a pretty bad time but my drawings helped me cope with all the stress linked to my transition.”

Denique: “So would you say the characters in “Assigned Male” reflect your own personal experiences being a binary trans woman?”

Sophie: “Not at all. I transitioned quite early in my teenage years and I was raised by my brothers and my grandparents, so it was a very different experience. I think the biggest thing that Stephie (main character) and I have in common, aside from us being white trans girls, is that we’re both outspoken and we “speak like adults”. Trans people often have to educate others on what they’re going through, which is why some people feel that the characters in my comics “speak like adults”. This definitely influenced how I made the characters talk. And we obviously both have a passion for gender studies.” (Laughs)

“ I was known as the girl who made comics. It was a way for me to gain some self-esteem, especially during a time where I had experts trying to figure out my gender.”

Denique: “Unlike what we’re taught from a young age, gender identity isn’t black and white. Do you think we’d ever see the day where gender labels don’t exist?”

Sophie: “That’s a utopia. It would never happen in my lifetime and it would be impossible to grow up without these labels. When we talk about identities, people often say, “Nowadays, there are too many labels that we need to get rid of!” but that’s not how society works at the moment. Especially talking about trans experiences, identities can mean so much to people who feel like it’s the first time they have a label that they can relate to. It’s like finding a word that perfectly describes how you feel in a particular moment; I see youth who thrive behind those identities. Right now, it’s unrealistic to think we could shatter them.”

Taking part in Gender Reel, "a film and art festival dedicated to enhancing the visibility of gender non-conforming, gender variant/queer and transgender people, identities and experiences."

Taking part in Gender Reel, “a film and art festival dedicated to enhancing the visibility of gender non-conforming, gender variant/queer and transgender people, identities and experiences”.

Denique: “Sounds frustrating. What is the biggest misconception about the trans community?”

Sophie: “Well it’s so hard to answer this question because sometimes these “misconceptions” might be true. We’re a part of society so we naturally get influenced by the sexist way that humans view trans people, and so many transgender people become affected by cis-sexism and internalize new ideas and concepts that are being used in society at large. And what we would call a “misconception” could actually apply to some people. One common misunderstanding would be the idea that trans people want to assimilate into the binary and I feel that it hurts a lot of people. It adds a pressure to conform to these stereotypes and it puts a lot of importance on the idea of “passing” as a specific gender. This is really stressful.”

Denique: “You’ve experienced criticism from men’s rights activists, but also TERF (trans exclusionary radical feminists) groups and transphobic cis gay people. If you could meet your critics for coffee, what would you say to them?”

Sophie: “First, they would see that I’m not the monster they’ve been trying to paint me as. (laughs) Anytime I’ve met someone with conflicting views, we got along fine. People think that, because I draw a feminist/trans comic, I want to pick fights online with randoms but I’m truly the last person who would engage in that sort of behavior. These people often try to dehumanize any trans person that has a positive discourse on their body, which is a common struggle for most trans-activists. As soon as we have control over the things that people say about our bodies, we receive negativity. We have forums dedicated to hating us and these people will often try to polarize the debates. The fact is, trans communities are addressing many issues that seem trivial to some people, which is a sign that these issues are important.”

“Society tries to otherise minorities by putting a label on them, without allowing them to label themselves. It’s almost trying to make trans people the opposite of male or female.”

For example, I’ve heard of some horrible things that trans people have done to themselves and their bodies, after being misgendered in public, something society doesn’t consider a “legitimate” violation. When someone is misgendered and speaks up, I’ve heard some men say, “Well, I have long hair and some people call me “miss” from time to time. I don’t care! I act like an adult and move on!” but it’s really not the same thing at all. When you’re misgendered every single hour of every day, it’s not the same as being misgendered once in a blue moon. People use that to invalidate the feelings of trans people who experience violation from society.”

Denique: “Is it harder to receive criticism from your peers in the queer community?”

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Assigned male appeals to both adults and children. Pictured: A drawing of Stephie made by a young fan.

Sophie: “I’ll tell you a secret here; there’s this rule in trans communities, often called the “Morgan M Page rule”, that specifies that trans women will not criticize another trans woman in public. I respect that rule and I don’t pick fights with other trans women or other trans folks as we already have so much bullshit to deal with every day. It’s hard to get criticism from other members of the community because I know what they’re going through, I’m going through it too.

Interestingly enough, the area I feel the most transphobia is often in Montreal’s village. Since we are seen as a part of sexual and gender communities but often left out of the acronym, cis gay people feel entitled to judge the way we do activism in the trans community. This can be damaging as I think there’s an assumption that since we’re both part of a marginalized group, we understand exactly what the others are going through and what they’re dealing with.”

Denique: “The gay community often refers to “pride”, being proud to be gay. Does the word “pride” resonate through the trans community?”

Sophie: “Being proud of our trans-ness is something that’s been developing for decades. I feel that we want to be accepted and to feel like we always have a safe space, but that isn’t happening right now. Society’s discourse on trans-ness always refers to our struggles, how hard we suffer. Well, we can’t just live our lives in the comfort of our own homes; it’s something that needs to be an ongoing push. It seems like it’s a positive thing to go on TV and say you’re proud to be gay, but to say you’re proud to be trans is something that’s unheard of. Navigating this can be really oppressing as people often assume that you can’t be proud of your transness, that you necessarily want to get rid of it. As gay and lesbian activism got institutionalized and stopped challenging heterosexism, I feel that trans-activism is the last chance we’ve got to change the way we all perceive gender, rather than finding ways to include trans people within cissexist structures and paradigms.”

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Sophie will be making an appearance tonight at the headquarters of Samtökin ’78, which are located at Suðurgata 3, downtown Reykjavík. Photo/Halla Þórlaug Óskarsdóttir.

Denique: “You recently posted a comic about Springfield, Illinois’ recent bill to prevent trans and non-conforming students to use regular restrooms. I’m curious to hear your thoughts on this.”

Sophie: “Well I don’t think it should be advertised as a third option because often, we try to put trans people in those washrooms but forget the fact that some want to use binary washrooms. This is something I’m nervous about; instead of destroying the “male” and “female” boxes that our society will often try to add a third box, which doesn’t make sense. Society tries to otherise minorities by putting a label on them, without allowing them to label themselves. It’s almost trying to make trans people the opposite of male or female. When I was in Sweden last year during my European tour, I was amazed at how many gender neutral restrooms I could find. And when I say gender neutral, I mean no gendered restrooms at all. It was simply a room with a bunch of separate stalls, open to anyone regardless of gender. I hope this becomes the norm in North America.”

“I was so surprised that the Icelandic people were even interested in what I am doing. It was such an amazing opportunity that I wanted to experience! I will be giving talks, workshops and possibly doing a book launch in Icelandic.”

Denique: “You know when you’re star gazing and as you stare into space, there’s that very particular sense of quiet discomfort, which stems from the fear of the unknown, having no conclusive answer to what you see… in society, do you feel that there’s a link between that same feeling and the trans community?”

Sophie: “I like the analogy. It’s very recent in human history that we started caring about people’s genitals, relating to their gender identity. Sometimes I feel like I’m in an alternate universe, as I go from community to community, giving talks within feminist and trans-friendly spaces and I’ll get into discussions where I still feel like my words don’t mean anything!”

Denique: “It seems like a huge component of your movement is to educate people and bring awareness to all these issues. But I can’t help but wonder… do you ever feel absolutely exhausted from it all?”

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“I’m so excited,” says Sophie about her visit to Iceland.

Sophie: (Laughs) “Well I’m not sure. Most times it feels empowering! All the people I meet, all the stories I hear… it gives me so much love. I feel so grateful to be experiencing this. What exhausts me the most is the amount of pressure I put on myself because I really love my job and want to do it for as long as possible. I haven’t spent a single day in the past two years where I haven’t drawn something. I’ve been doing this for almost two years and I’m still my own worst critic. I am struggling to create a barrier between my work and my personal life but I need to work on that myself! All that being said, it’s a very rewarding job.”

Denique: “Proudest moment so far?”

Sophie: “Well, my mom said she was proud of me and that meant the world to me. It’s not something I experienced as a child as I was a very good student, who got good grades, and that sort of became what was expected of me. I would always seek my parents approval, which was hard to get and my mom even suggested that I shouldn’t get into trans-activism, that I could continue making art without “that feminist thing”. Needless to say, my mom telling me she was proud of me was my own proudest moment.”

Denique: “Well we’re very excited that you’re coming to Iceland for a month. How did this opportunity come about and what will you be doing here?”

Sophie: “I’m so excited! I got into a discussion with my friends at Trans Ísland, who started sharing my comics and eventually we decided to collaborate and make something happen. I was so surprised that the Icelandic people were even interested in what I am doing. It was such an amazing opportunity that I wanted to experience! I will be giving talks, workshops and possibly doing a book launch in Icelandic.”

Denique: “Looks like you’ve got an exciting month ahead. If we travel into the future… what’s next for Sophie?”

Sophie: “I want to be a parent.” (Laughs)

Denique: “Think you’d have the time?”

Sophie: “Well, that’s my biggest goal, mostly. I feel very comfortable at this point in my life and I can envision myself as a comic artist for the rest of my life. I feel like being a parent is a next step. And of course, I’d really love to get more content in book stores. I guess I’m sort of internet famous, making web comics, but I’d like to find time to work on a project that’s a little more paper oriented.”

The Hamburger Factory
- gourmet burgers

Ok. You’re in Iceland. Most likely for the first time.

You will probably bathe in the Blue Lagoon and take a road trip to Gullfoss and
Geysir. That’s all well and good. But neither Geysir’s nor waterfalls are
something you eat. That’s why we have 15 brilliant and creative hamburgers at
The Hamburger Factory. And they are all perfectly square. Don’t miss out on
Iceland’s most beloved hamburgers.

The Hamburger Factory is Iceland’s most innovative gourmet burger chain.
Packed with burger-craving customers since it’s opening in 2010, among the
regulars is Iceland’s best known fisherman, Eric Clapton. In our restaurants we
welcome tourists with our newspaper like menu and smiley service. They are
packed with fun items and memorable connections to Icelandic pop culture.

Locations:

Omnom Chocolate
- award-winning chocolate maker

    Omnom Chocolate is an Icelandic craft chocolate company based in Reykjavík. We produce handcrafted chocolate from organic cacao beans sourced ethically and sustainably. We’ve developed direct relationships to create premium chocolate with fine flavor cacao beans.

    Our creative flavors are carefully crafted by meticulous chocolate makers. The cacao beans are roasted, winnowed, ground, and refined into melty-smooth chocolate.

    Omnom’s process is one of constant exploration, invention, and experimentation. If it doesn’t please us, if something isn’t absolutely delicious, there’s no reason to be doing it. So, we always start with our taste buds and follow our instincts. Our team searches for the finest ingredients in the world and new ways to improve chocolate. This obsession with knowing where our ingredients come from has led us around the corner to dairy farms in the Icelandic countryside and all the way to rainforest cacao farms of Nicaragua.

    In only a few short years, we’ve grown from our 50 sq. m. petrol station space and become an award-winning chocolate maker. Now, with our headquarters in 101 Reykjavík, our chocolate is sent out around Iceland and all over the world.

    At the end of the day, our goal is to make chocolate.

     

    Alfred’s Apartments
    - gay owned an operated

      Alfred’s Apartments and Alfred’s Studios is a gay operated and owned accommodation in the heart of Reykjavik.

      Alfred’s Apartments offers spacious apartments at a good price located just around the corner from Laugavegur shopping street. You can choose the apartment starting from a Small Studio for 2 persons to a large One-bedroom Apartment with balcony for 5 persons.

      Their staff will ensure your comfort during the stay and provide the most updated information about the city, gay and night life in Reykjavik.

      Each apartment has a private bathroom with a shower, fully equipped kitchen and free Wi-Fi. Guests can buy groceries at the local grocery store 50 meters from the apartments. Because of their very central location, numerous shops, restaurants and cafés are available in the surrounding area. The Church of Hallgrimur is located 350 m from the apartments, a tourist agency is just 50 m away and the nearest gay bar is less than 5 minutes walking distance.

      Laekur hostel
      In the hostel we have dorms for 4-8 persons with shared kitchen and bathroom facilities. The rooms are furnished with free internet, lockers, and a USB charger by each bed. The beds have linen provided and you can rent a towel in the cafe on the ground floor for 5 EUR.

      All the dorms are mixed with both genders. You can also book a whole room with 4-8 bunker beds.

      Blue Lagoon
      - a world of wonder

      Named by National Geographic as one of the 25 Wonders of the World, the Blue Lagoon is a shimmering expanse of warmth, relaxation, and rejuvenation. Its unique geothermal seawater comes from 2000 meters within the earth where sea and fresh water converge in a tectonic frontier of porous lava and searing heat. Propelled by extreme pressure, the water ascends to the earth’s surface, emerging enriched with silica, algae, and minerals: the elements that endow Blue Lagoon geothermal seawater with its radiant, healing properties.

      From its humble beginnings in the shadows of a geothermal power plant, Blue Lagoon has evolved into a world of wonder, now encompassing a hotel, a restaurant, a luxury lounge, a renowned line of skin care, a research center, in-water massage, and a wealth of spa and refreshment facilities.

      Achieving harmony with the volcanic landscape of Iceland’s Reykjanes lava plain, the lagoon and its surrounding architecture embody the unification of the man-made and the natural, and adhere to the highest principles of sustainability.

      Blue Lagoon. A wonder of the world. A world of wonder.

      Whales of Iceland
      - larger than life

      Whales of Iceland is the largest whale exhibition in Europe (and perhaps even the world), where guests can learn about the giants of the sea in a calm and modern environment. The permanent exhibition features whales like guests have never seen them before. It is truly a giant experience.

      Landsbankinn
      - leading financial institution

      Landsbankinn is a leading Icelandic financial institution. It offers a full range of financial services and is the market leader in the Icelandic financial service sector with the largest branch network.

      The present bank was established on 7 October 2008 but the history of its predecessor dates back to 1886. The bank is owned by the National Treasury of Iceland, which holds 98.2% of its share capital, and other shareholders who own 1.8%.

      Landsbankinn’s strategy is to provide comprehensive financial services that meet customer’s needs. It emphasizes providing exemplary service to customers, developing e-banking for their convenience, increasing the efficiency of support functions, modernizing its technology and ensuring effective utilization of its balance sheet.

      The bank’s vision is to be exemplary and its role is to be a trusted financial partner.

      Special emphasis is placed on promoting a performance-oriented culture in the bank. To follow up on the implementation of this strategy, the bank has defined key goals which are measured regularly to determine progress. These goals include, for example, customer satisfaction and loyalty, profitability, cost efficiency and the correlation between risk appetite and employee satisfaction.

      Landsbankinn wishes to lead the development of a sustainable society in Iceland by integrating economic, social and environmental concerns in its operations. The Bank aims to ensure that both its owners and society at large benefit from its activities.

      It intends to achieve this aim by building solid infrastructure and a strong team of 1.100 employees, by listening to its customers and by respecting and encouraging its employees to actively participate in their community. Landsbankinn was a founding member of Festa, a Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility, and is a member of the UN Global Compact.

      Landsbankinn has been a proud sponsor of the Reykjavik Pride since it was first celebrated in Iceland.

      Dohop
      - get inspired

      Dohop allows people to find the cheapest flights available with just one click. Founded in Reykjavik in 2004, it is the only Icelandic company of its kind and quickly became the go-to tool for finding cheap flights among the locals. Dohop finds the best deals among hundreds of different airlines and online travel agencies, to make sure that the user is getting the cheapest price. Dohop also offers hotel and car rental search engines, so users can make all of their travel bookings from a single website.

      Dohop‘s specialty is finding so-called “self-connect” flight options, which can save travelers money by booking a ticket through two or more different airlines. The ability to look for these self-connect option is what sets Dohop apart from its competition, as it can save people hundreds of dollars on certain routes.

      More recently, Dohop has developed a unique product called Dohop Go!, which allows users to check for the cheapest available flights from their home airport. This tool is perfect for those who are looking for travel inspiration but are not willing to overpay for their flight ticket. Dohop Go! is now available in the Dohop Flights App, both for Android and iOS, along with its traditional flight, hotel, and car search engines. “

      Macland
      - for all your Apple needs

      From starting out as a proper startup with only a good idea and the need to change things, to becoming an established company with 6 employees. Starting from scratch and expanding organically has allowed us to love our expansion and take our customers on the ride with us.

      Macland is located at Laugavegur 23 (101, Downtown Reykjavik)
      For all your Apple needs. We are here.

      Aurora Reykjavik
      - northern lights center

        Aurora Reykjavik is a Northern Lights Center situated in downtown Reykjavík at the Old Harbor next to Icelandair Hotel Marina and Vikin Maritime Museum.

        Aurora Reykjavík is Iceland’s first educational and recreational Northern Lights Center where multimedia is used to explain when, why and how the Northern Lights work, with the highlights being large HD projection of the Aurora’s. We also share myths and legends about what our ancestor thought about those mystical lights.

        The Northern Lights Center is for all ages. Children are our favorite guests and we created the exhibition in a way that children can have a look freely and parents don’t have to worry about things being broken.

        Aurora Reykjavik offers a great selection of souvenirs that are designed and made by Icelanders along with nice little coffee corner, where you can enjoy free coffee and tea while browsing through the souvenirs or just planning your next step.

        Contact Aurora

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        Ísey skyr
        - once tasted never forgotten

        Our Story
        Once upon a time, 1,100 years ago in fact, Nordic settlers began arriving in Iceland. They brought with them the skills and knowledge for producing skyr. As time passed, the know-how and recipe for this nutritious food slowly faded out elsewhere in the Nordic region. Luckily, the Icelandic skyr-making tradition continued.

        For centuries, Icelandic skyr formed a cornerstone of the national diet, helping to keep people strong in living conditions that were often harsh. On family farms countrywide, it was the women who nurtured this dairy and passing on both the recipe and the original Icelandic skyr cultures from mother to daughter.

        Ísey skyr builds on this remarkable legacy. It was some of those very same women, the recipients of their mothers’ expertise, who, around 90 years ago, taught Icelandic dairy scientists the art of skyr-making. The production process is more high-tech these days, and the quality standards more rigorous. However, the basic recipe and the use of original cultures to ferment the skimmed milk remain the same. Protein rich, fat-free, creamy and delicious – Ísey skyr is as relevant to consumers now as it was all those centuries ago.
        This is our secret and you are in on it

        You can read more about Ísey skyr on our website.

        Núðluskálin
        - noodle bar

        Núðluskálin is a small gay owned and operated fusion noodle bar.

        All of our courses are individually made from fresh ingredients and therefore highly customisable.
        We offer fully Vegan versions of all courses.
        Though originally a take-away we now seat over 30 people.

        Núðluskálin is located right in the heart of Reykjavík on Skólavörðustígur 8 (street leading up to the big Church) near the junction with Laugavegur (main street).

        Seatours
        - adventure cruise

        Ferry Baldur – the gate to the West fjords
        and VikingSushi Adventure – Bird & Nature watching Tour for everyone all year around

        The “VikingSushi Adventure” is the right boat tour for travelers who are adventurous and want to experience something new – close up to the nature seafood simply doesn’t come fresher than this! The archipelago area of the Breidafjordur Bay always surprises her visitors during winter or summer with spectacular sights. Where else you get to try delicious fresh scallops and sea urchin roe straight from the ocean served with soy sauce, wasabi and ginger.

        600x400-seatours-tasting

        This old volcanic area, characterized by the typical basalt formations of the islands, is the home of countless birds. Here you will also find the strongest currents in Iceland. The VikingSushi Tour takes roughly two hours and our captain is also the tour guide.

        600x400-seatours

        The VikingSushi Tour is a true adventure through incredible nature which should not be missed by any traveler to West Iceland.

        Birds, possible to spot:
        -puffins (from the middle of April until the middle of August)
        -eider ducks
        -shags
        -kittiwakes
        -fulmars
        -white-tailed eagle

        The car ferry Baldur is the bridge to the West fjords via the island Flatey
        Ferry Baldur crosses Breidafjordur Bay daily from Stykkisholmur on the Snæfellsnes peninsula to Brjanslaekur in the north. A ferry ride considerably shortens the route between the south and mid-west of the country and the West Fjords region. It also gives you the opportunity to experience a floating restaurant.

        Take a stopover at the charming island Flatey when you are crossing the bay or go to a day tour to Flatey and back to Stykkishólmur. At Flatey are no cars allowed and between the houses of the 18th century you get the feeling of a journey back in time.

        Contact Us


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