‘Intersex’ is being translated into Icelandic as ‘freak’ in a biological terminology, used in local schools. Disturbing says head of Intersex Iceland, who wants the glossary reviewed and republished, as this kind of foul language should never be used to describe minorities and is likely to foster prejudice.

Kitty points out that society has gone through a rapid change over the last 15-16 years. It is becoming aware of the variety of people living in it. And in light of that: “it's ridiculous when you stumble upon this kind of usage of words,” she says referring to the word ‘freak’ in the biology glossary. “We’re 15 years into a new century, this is something we should be getting rid of from our society.” Photo/Birkir Jónsson.

Kitty points out that society has gone through a rapid change over the last 15-16 years. It is becoming aware of the variety of people living in it. And in light of that: “it’s ridiculous when you stumble upon this kind of usage of words,” she says referring to the word ‘freak’ in the biology glossary. “We’re 15 years into a new century, this is something we should be getting rid of from our society.” Photo/Birkir Jónsson.

“I think it’s disturbing that this is being used as a teaching material in schools. By doing so we are telling a new generation that it is okay to use degrading words about a minority,” says Kitty Anderson, chair of Intersex Iceland, about the fact that the word ‘intersex’ is translated as ‘freak’ (i. ‘viðrini’), in a biology terminology (titled “Ensk-íslenskur orðalisti fyrir líffræði”) used in local colleges, including Reykjavik Junior College (i. Menntaskólinn í Reykjavík), Garðabaer College (i. Fjölbrautaskólinn í Garðabær) and Borgarfjorður College (i. Menntaskóli Borgarfjarðar).

According to a preface, written in 2010, it seems the glossary hasn’t been updated since at least 2006.

“It is just not acceptable for schools to be using a glossary which hasn’t regularly been fact-checked and updated,” says Kitty. “It just makes you wonder, is this the only misstatement in this terminology? Therefore I think that it should be removed from the schools, reviewed and republished this minute. We can’t afford to be teaching these kinds of misstatements anymore.”

How do you feel, as an intersex person, when you come across words like this in public glossaries?

“Honestly I can’t say I’m hurt. Because it doesn’t surprise me. People that don’t fit into the norm have had to take foul language and degrading speech about themselves. Intersex people are no exception. It is a constant battle for minority groups to be freed from this discourse. It’s something one expects and has to deal with on regular basis.”

On that note Kitty says this is not the first time she sees the word intersex translated this way. Not too long ago she contacted two different Icelandic public dictionaries because both used this exact same translation in their online glossaries. However the reactions she got from the two companies were very different.

“The first one I contacted was ‘Orðabanki Íslenskrar málstöðvar’(e. ‘The Icelandic Word Bank’). I e-mailed them on behalf of Intersex Iceland, in May 19th 2014, pointing out that: ‘… on the webpage of Orðabanki íslenskrar málstöðvar the word intersex is translated as ‘freak‘. This translation is both wrong and extremely prejudiced. We call on Íslensk málstöð to remove this translation as soon as possible.’ The same day I got a reply saying that: ‘The translation in question, in genetics from 1997, has been removed.’

“My mother actually came upon this exact translation in Icelandic dictionaries when I was a teenager and decided not to tell me about it. I’m very grateful for that, because I would have felt terrible,” says Kitty, about the word ‘intersex’ being translated as ‘freak’ (i. ‘viðrini’). “No one should go through school and have to read something like that about oneself. Not then, not now, never.”

“My mother actually came upon this exact translation in Icelandic dictionaries when I was a teenager and decided not to tell me about it. I’m very grateful for that, because I would have felt terrible,” says Kitty, about the word ‘intersex’ being translated as ‘freak’ (i. ‘viðrini’). “No one should go through school and have to read something like that about oneself. Not then, not now, never.” Photo/Birkir Jónsson

Subsequently I sent the same e-mail to the other dictionary, ‘Ordabók.is’. Their reply was: ‘Could you explain to me exactly what intersex means, that makes the registration of the word easier.’ So I sent the explanation and then they replied: ‘I now see that the translation ‘freak’, that you’re referring to, is a part of the biological terminology at Ordabok.is. Therefore you have to contact Hálfdán Ó. Hálfdánarson [the biological terminology manager at The Translation Centre of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs] and discuss with him if he is willing to review his definition.’

Then my correspondent wrote: ‘But I want to point out to you that ‘a freak’ is not only a negative word in Icelandic language. When you look the word up in a dictionary, this is the definition: ‘1. A hermaphroditic creature, asexual being. 2. a paltry person or a creature, something that’s neither fish nor fowl, something measly, ridiculous.’

That was when I contacted Hálfdán, the afore-mentioned biological terminology manager, and told him about the discussion I had with Ordabok.is. So Hálfdán contacted the head of Ordabok.is – he both wrote him and called him – and requested that the translation ‘freak’ be removed from the online glossary. Which the guy then finally did.

And Hálfdán wrote to me that he sincerely regretted the matter and that he understood my disagreement of this translation. He was also sorry that the translations could not be changed in previously published books.”

So is it possible that the terminology from Menntaskólinn in Reykjavík and the two online glossaries are then based on the same source?

“Yes, they are all based on Hálfdán’s biological terminology [in a preface in the school’s glossary his terminology is cited as a source]. But that doesn’t change the fact that people who are writing or publishing educational material should definitely look to other countries for reference. See what context this word is being used in abroad. Then, ‘freak’ would never have been chosen as a translation of ‘intersex’. It’s not a word that belongs to the academic community.

How does Intersex Iceland translate the word ‘intersex’?

“The reason why we’ve stuck to the English word intersex, which sometimes is shortened to ‘inter’, is also comparable to the reason why trans people stick to the word ‘trans’. It connects us to corresponding groups abroad. But maybe, as the group gets bigger, we will settle on a term that both fits our understanding of the word and Icelandic grammar. It is important that this kind of neologism springs from the group itself, not someone external. If certain minority conditions or minority groups are being discussed, then those groups should always at least be consulted.”

“The reason why we’ve stuck to the English word intersex, which sometimes is shortened to ‘inter’, is also comparable to the reason why trans people stick to the word ‘trans’. It connects us to corresponding groups abroad. But maybe, as the group gets bigger, we will settle on a term that both fits our understanding of the word and Icelandic grammar. It is important that this kind of neologism springs from the group itself, not someone external. If certain minority groups are being discussed, then those groups should at least always be consulted.”

“In ‘proper’ Icelandic we simply use the description: ‘People with atypical sex characteristics’ (i. ‘fólk fætt með ódæmigerð kyneinkenni’), when referring to intersex people. It’s a difficult word to translate, since the meaning of ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ merge with one another in Icelandic. That is not the case in English, where sex is a biological term but gender is a psychological term.

“…it is not okay to talk about…minority groups however you want.”

That is why we stick to the English word ‘intersex’. An umbrella term originally invented abroad because doctors’ discourse about the subject was very degrading and simply wrong. It’s a word that should be used here, not only about intersex people but in general [for animals and plants as well], or at least until we come up with a suitable word in Icelandic.

Because it is simply not okay to talk about minority groups however you want. It perpetuates certain groups being alienated from society. That people take permission to use bad names for a group of people who are a part of the society, only fosters prejudice. And we should not be teaching prejudice.”

About intersex
  • The biology glossary in question is taught in the oldest junior college in Reykjavík, Menntaskólinn í Reykjavík. According to its preface it seems that the glossary hasn't been revised at least since 2006.

    The biology terminology in question is used in several local schools. According to its preface it seems that the glossary hasn’t been revised at least since 2006.

    In short: Intersex people are people born with atypical sex characteristics.

  • The most cautious numbers, taken from a Dutch research, claim that 0,5% of people have atypical sex characteristics. Broader numbers go up to 1,7%.
  • Research shows that sex characteristics can be atypical in more various ways than thought before. As a result more people can be defined as intersex.
  • For some, intersex is visible at birth; for others at early childhood, some experience unusual puberty and for others this comes to light when people have trouble having children.
    Sometimes it has had no effect on people’s lives and is only realized during autopsy.
  • The discussion about intersex officially started in Iceland in 2014.
  • Intersex Iceland was officially formed in 2014 with the express purpose of raising awareness of the existence of intersex individuals.
  • Intersex Iceland has its own website.
  • You can also follow the association on Facebook.

Main photo shows Reykjavik Junior College (i. Menntaskólinn í Reykjavík), one of the colleges where the terminology is used. Photo was taken by Helgi Halldórsson/Freddi.

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.


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.

      - 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.

      - 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. “

      - 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.

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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.

        - 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).

        - 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.


        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.


        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
        -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.

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