There is always talk

Elísa Björg Örlygsdóttir Husby is the new chair of Trans-Iceland. She had to fight the system for eleven years before she was allowed to get sex reassignment. Shortly after she had started the process she met the love of her life who was also in the process of reassigning her sex. The ride has been a bit rocky for Elísa but today she is married to her love, living in her dream house in a village just outside Keflavík and enjoying life to the fullest.

Though she is the new chair of Trans-Iceland, the association for transgender people in Iceland, Elísa by no means a newby in the association. She has been a chair before and before her election a few weeks back she was responsible for the finances of the association.

“So there won’t be many changes in how Trans-Iceland is run,” she says with a broad smile, when I start by asking her about her new position. “I’ve been a member of the association since the beginning in 2007 and always as a member of the board, so I have always had a say in how we represent ourselves and been a chair twice before.”

We chat for a while and Elísa goes on and tells me that she underwent her sex reassignment operation in 2009, when she was 40 years old, but she had been trying to be allowed to correct her sex for 11 years. Why did it take so long?

“I don’t really know,” she says. “The only answers I ever got didn’t specify any particular reason, just that I didn’t meet the requirements for the reassignment. My psychiatrist said that I was confused and that I was just associated with too many gay and lesbian people and wanted to be like them.”

Elisa and Guðmundur Helgason, former chair of Samtökin '78 (The National Queer Organization) celebrating a law objective is to guarantee that transgender people are treated equally before law according to human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Elisa and Guðmundur Helgason, former chair of Samtökin ’78 (The National Queer Organization) celebrating the passing of laws back in June 2012 which objective was to guarantee that transgender people are treated equally before law according to human rights and fundamental freedoms.

After two refusals Elísa applied one more time and by that time her psychiatrist had “seen the light”, she explains, so her application got the green light. Asked if she does not think it is unfair that transgender people have to undergo all these psychiatric valuations she shakes her head.

“No, I think it’s absolutely necessary. This is a very big decision and if you have the reassignment without being absolutely sure it can have horrible consequences.”

But you were always sure that you were a woman? “No, not really. I was not sure what I wanted to do. I started dressing as a woman when I was 23 years old and I always wanted to have breasts, but I was not certain that I wanted to have my penis removed. I had suicidal thoughts on and off for years, but eventually I came to the conclusion that I wanted to be a woman all the way, that’s who I am.”

Shortly after Elísa started the process of sex reassignment in 2008 she met the love of her life, Íris Arna Smáradóttir, who was also in the process of reassigning her sex and within weeks they had started living together. Elísa had the operation in 2009 and Íris in 2010 and suddenly the couple that neighbours knew as two guys were two women. Didn’t people find that “strange”?

“Yes, of course there was talk, there is always talk,” Elísa says. “Some people had a hard time understanding why we both wanted to be women, even after we had found love in each other. My mother tried very hard to understand why, but I told her, as I have told everyone who wonders about us, that it’s OK not to understand. You don’t have to understand everything in life. Accepting people as they are is way more important than understanding why they are like that. Do we ever know what makes people the way they are?”

“Yes, of course there was talk, there is always talk. Some people had a hard time understanding why we both wanted to be women, even after we had found love in each other.”

On the whole Elísa is very understanding of other people’s confusion regarding trans people issues. Íris, her spouse, has a son who in the beginning had a hard time accepting that his dad was now a woman and Elísa says that she completely understands that.

“It is hard for a ten-year old child to come to terms with that and we have to respect that. Sex reassignment is a great change and it can be hard on the people closest to us to deal with that change. The prejudice in Iceland may be less than in some other countries, but we have them here as well and our families and close ones have to deal with them too. How do you explain to society that the father of your child is now a woman, for example? It is no easy task.”

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Fooling around for the camera.

Elísa tells me life has not always been a bed of roses for her and Íris as shortly after Elísa had her operation in Sweden she started getting epileptic seizures that got steadily worse and have made her unable to work. She says that the doctors refuse to associate the seizures with the operation and the heavy use of morphine and other pain killing drugs that are necessary after the surgery.

“They say that there is no connection,” she says. “And I have no cause to doubt them. Nobody knows why this happened. But I really do miss my job at the old people’s home of Grund. I had worked there for thirteen years and I absolutely loved it.”

Elísa has a passion for helping other people and she has found outlet for that passion in the unlikely place of the Salvation Army, an organization that people would not necessarily associate with broad mindedness and toleration. How did that happen?

“I have always been religious and after I had to stop working I started to volunteer for the Salvation Army in Keflavík, mostly helping immigrants and asylum seekers to settle in the Icelandic community. It’s really rewarding and I really enjoy helping the people who come from horrible backgrounds but are, almost without exception, wonderful. I have never met any prejudice there. Not from anyone. That’s more than I can say for the rest of society.”

But luckily all has worked out well for Elísa’s family and Íris’ son has happily stayed with them for long periods of time.

“It took time, but now we are just a normal family and very happy together,” she says, smiling from ear to ear. “Some people find it strange that we used to be men. One of our new neighbours just threw her hands up in the air and stammered ‘Ok, would you like to barbecue?’ when she was told that we were transgender. That is not something you are supposed to talk about in our community. But people are getting more open to the idea and on the whole it’s not such a big deal. We are just these rather strange women living in this small village on the Reykjanes peninsula minding our own business.”

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Elísa fighting for LGBT rights.

Main photo (courtesy of Elísa): Elísa alongside Ugla Stefanía, vice chair of Trans-Iceland.

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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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